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World Travel Guide > Guides > Asia > India > Chennai (Madras)

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Things to see in Chennai (Madras)

Tourist Offices

Government of India Tourist Office

Address: , 154 Anna Salai, Chennai, 600002
Telephone: +91 44 2846 1459.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0900-1800.

Website: http://www.incredibleindia.org

The national tourist office is the best place for information on things to do and see in Tamil Nadu and across the country. They have reams of brochures and maps that may steer you towards attractions you might not have thought of.

Attractions

Government Museum and National Art Gallery

Constructed as part of the 18th-century Pantheon Complex, the Government Museum is housed in one of the finest colonial buildings in the subcontinent. The museum displays the state's archaeological collection, including impressive galleries of South Indian Buddhist and Hindu stone sculptures and bronzes, plus displays on natural history, and anthropology. Also in the complex are the Connemara Public Library and National Art Gallery.

Address: Egmore, Pantheon Road, Chennai, 600008
Telephone: +91 44 2819 3778.
Opening times:

Daily 0930-1700.

Website: http://www.chennaimuseum.org
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Valluvar Kottam

Opened in 1976, this massive auditorium was constructed in memory of the poet-saint Thiruvalluvar. All 1,330 verses of his epic work, The Thirukkural, are inscribed on the surrounding granite pillars. The central feature is a 30m-high (100ft) sculpture of a chariot, inspired by ancient Dravidian temples like the Sun Temple at Konark. There is a life-size image of the poet inside.

Address: Nungambakkam, 47 Valluvar Kottam High Road, Chennai, 6000034
Telephone: +91 44 2817 2177.
Opening times:

Daily 0830-1730.

Website:
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Kapaleeswarar Temple

Steeped in mythology, the striking 30m-high (120ft) gopuram tower of this ancient Dravidian temple dominates the street. Said to be founded in the 7th century, its oldest inscriptions date to AD1250. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, 63 Shaivite saints adorn the courtyard – the only area non-Hindus are permitted to enter.

Address: Mylapore, Off Kutchery Road, Chennai, 600004
Telephone: +91 44 2464 1670.
Opening times:

Tue-Sun 0530-1215 and 1600-2130.

Website: http://www.mylaikapaleeswarar.tnhrce.in
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

George Town

Named after King George V, George Town has long been the historical and also commercial hub of the city. Along Popham's Broadway are the beautiful Armenian Church (1772) and Wesleyan Church (1820). Chennai's longest road, Mint Street, starts near Central Railway Station and threads 4km (2 miles) towards Vallalar Nagar. Also look out for the High Court Buildings and Old Lighthouse Tower.

Address: , George Town, Chennai, 600009
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website:
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Fort St George

Named after England's patron saint, this fort was built in 1644 and was the first bastion of power for the British East India Company and the oldest British construction in the country. The sprawling compound houses the State Legislature and Secretariat. The Fort Museum contains assorted relics from the British Raj, including weaponry, silverware, portraits and military uniforms, as well as Indian antiquities, porcelain and silverware.

Address: , George Town, Chennai, 600009
Telephone: +91 44 2567 1127.
Opening times:

Sat-Thu 0900-1700.

Website: http://asi.nic.in/asi_museums_chennai.asp
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Marina Beach and Elliot's Beach

Stretching 18km (11 miles), Marina Beach is the world's second longest beach, though strong currents mean visitors don't tend to swim. Instead, people watch in the evening when the sands overflow with families, fortune-tellers and vendors. The promenade has statues of scholars and local heroes. Further on, Elliot's Beach holds Velankanni Church, and the Ashtalakshmi temple, which enshrines eight forms of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.

Address: , Marina Beach, Chennai, 600001
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website:
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Guindy National Park

Adjacent to Raj Bhavan, this forest reserve is home hundreds of native species, including rare black buck, spotted deer, jackals, mongoose, snakes, geckos, plus over 60 types of butterfly and 100 species of bird, including parakeets, kingfishers and lapwings. It's nature trails and lakes are great for getting away from the noise and chaos of urban India for a few hours.

Address: , Rangeguindy, Chennai, 600025
Telephone: +91 44 2230 1328.
Opening times:

Daily 0900-1730.

Website: http://www.forests.tn.nic.in/wildbiodiversity/np_gnp.html
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

San Thome Basilica

This elegant cathedral is believed to mark the spot where St Thomas the Apostle was buried after being killed by a mob in AD78. The Portuguese built the original church in the 16th century, but the current basilica dates from 1896. Its stunning stained glass window portrays the story of St Thomas, and the central hall has 14 wooden Stations of the Cross.

Address: Mylapore, 38 San Thome High Road, Chennai, 600004
Telephone: +91 44 2498 5455.
Opening times:

Daily 0700-2100.

Website: http://santhomechurch.com
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

High Court Building

Built in 1892, this red Indo-Saracenic structure is one of Chennai's main landmarks. The world's second largest judicial building after the Courts of London, it remains a working court, with Madras Law College in the same complex. Thronging with lawyers, students and defendants, tours and courtroom visits are available through the registrar.

Address: George Town, Parry's Corner, Chennai, 600104
Telephone: +91 44 2530 1000.
Opening times:

By appointment only.

Website: http://www.hcmadras.tn.nic.in
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Little Mount Church

This church is centred on a tiny, rock-hewn cave where St Thomas is believed to have lived when he came to India around AD58. Reputedly fleeing villagers who objected to his teachings, the saint left an imprint of his hand near the entrance. Entry is via a church built in 1551, which enshrines a stone cross that St Thomas is said to have clutched as he died, after being fatally speared by the mob.

Address: Saidapet, Lodge Road, Near Saidapet Bridge, Chennai, 600015
Telephone: +91 44 2235 1863.
Opening times:

Daily 0600-1900.

Website: http://littlemountchurch.org
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Featured Hotels

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The Park Chennai

Converted from the old Gemini Film Studios, this 5-star deluxe property offers sleek modern design with a spattering of movie magic. Original film posters fill the stylish lobby and the movie theme extends to the rooms and hallways. Rooms are modern and stylish, with wood flooring, frosted glass and sumptuous fabrics. There is also a rooftop pool and stress-banishing spa, plus several bars and restaurants.

ITC Grand Chola Hotel

Vast and opulent, the Grand Chola lives up to its ostentatious name, with 522 rooms and 78 luxurious serviced apartments in a veritable palace with lush grounds in the heart of Chennai. The décor evokes the wealth and luxury of the Chola Dynasty, the greatest maritime power to rise in South Asia, with carved columns, curving stairways, granite statuary and vast open spaces.

Vivanta by Taj Connemara

There are several lavish Taj properties in Chennai, but Vivanta by Taj Connemara is the closest the city has to a proper heritage hotel. Set in an art deco mansion, the hotel was founded in 1854 but remodelled extensively during the colonial period. Rooms are calm and sophisticated, the dining options are top notch and there's a gorgeous palm-shaded pool.

The Residency Towers Chennai

Offering top value for excellent facilities, the Residency Towers has stylishly furnished rooms and suites in a handy location between Thyagaraya Nagar and Teynampet. It's a smart modern property, with a swimming pool, a small gym and good eating and drinking options on site, including South Indian restaurant Southern Aromas, and the popular Bike & Barrel bar.

E Hotel

Located in the Express Avenue mall, this boutique property has excellent shopping right on the doorstep, and a crisp, modern style that marks it out from the competition. The 44 rooms are equipped with flatscreen TVs, Wi-Fi, tea and coffee making facilities, a mini bar and plush bathrooms, with some pretty textiles to add a splash of colour.

Hyatt Regency Chennai

Offering the usual Hyatt Regency package in a convenient location close to the attractions of Mylapore, this hotel provides the comfort of familiarity in this often hectic city. There are 327 comfortable rooms with excellent facilities, plus three restaurants, a spa and fitness centre and a tempting pool to cool down from the heat.