An exhilarating mix of ancient and modern makes Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, one of the highlights of South India.
The first British outpost in India, Chennai combines compelling sights such as eighth-century temples with cutting-edge 21st-century developments. While skyscraper headquarters of multinational corporations line the city’s self-styled IT Corridor, Chennai’s historic quarters recall not just the era of British colonial rule but also the days of the first-century Pallava dynasty.
Discover the city’s rich past in its many excellent museums before hitting one of Chennai’s street-food stalls or trendy sophisticated restaurants.
Start in the narrow streets of George Town, where the 17th-century Fort St George takes you right back to the days of the British Raj. Get up to speed with colonial history with a visit to the fort’s museum. While you’re there, you can pop into the 17th-century St Mary’s Church, the oldest surviving British church in India.
Chennai’s cultural high points include the massive complex of museums and galleries that makes up the Government Museum. See the seventh-century bronze statues in the Bronze Gallery before going back to prehistoric times in the Anthropology Galleries. If you’ve got kids in tow, take them to the Children’s Museum within the complex to see the collection of antique dolls and toys.
Enjoy the views of the Bay of Bengal from Marina Beach, where locals play games of cricket on the sand among the market stalls and fortune-tellers. For panoramic views without having to work for them, take the lift in Madras Lighthouse on the southern end of the beach.
If you love the outdoors, spend the day in Guindy National Park, which has a Snake Park as well as a Children’s Park within its forested trails. For shopping, check out Chennai’s countless silk and jewellery shops as well as lively market stalls.
For an exciting taste of the Tamil Nadu region, explore Chennai’s fascinating history, mouth-watering street food and dramatic location facing the Bay of Bengal. This gateway to South India will whet your appetite for other delights along the coast, including the former French colonial city of Puducherry.