Chennai: The Gateway to South India

chennai-travel-guide

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chennai, the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu is spread across an area of around 1189 square kilometers on the Eastern Coastal Plains. The city has two major rivers flowing through it, the Cooum or Koovam River through the center and the Adyar River to the south. The city has a coastline spreading across around 25 km.

Chennai History

kapaleeshwarar-temple-chennai

Before the arrival of the British in 1639, Armenian and Portuguese traders were living in the San Thome area of what is now present-day Chennai. On arrival, the British built a fort and factory in a fishing village called Madraspatnam. Madras was a shortened name of this village. By 1801, the English had started controlling most of South India with Madras as their administrative and commercial capital. The name of the city was changed to Chennai in 1996.

The name Chennai is derived from the name of a Telugu ruler, Damarla Mudirasa Chennappa Nayakudu, father of Damarla Venkatapathy Nayak, a Nayak ruler who served as a General under Venkata III of the Vijayanagar Empire from whom the British acquired the town in 1639.

Known Facts About Chennai

kovalam-beach

Here are some interesting facts –

  • Chennai has many names – the Gateway to South India, the City of Temples, the City of Flyovers, Banking Capital of India, Detroit of India, Healthcare Capital of India, Cultural Capital of South India, IT hub of Tamil Nadu, Automobile hub of Asia, and the birthplace of the South Indian film industry.
  • The second-longest beach in the world is present here– Marina Beach.
  • Bharatanatyam is a popular dance form.
  • There are two ports – the Ennore Port and the Chennai Port (one of the largest artificial ports in India)
  • As of 2019, the city had a green cover of around 19%.
  • The city is home to the oldest prison in India.
  • The Vandalur Zoo is the largest public zoo in India. It is also the first public zoo in the country.

Chennai Places to visit

Here is a quick list of the best places to visit in the city:

santhome-church-chennai

Temples

  • Parthasarathy Temple – This is a sixth-century Hindu Vaishnavite Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It has icons of five forms of Vishnu – Yoga Narasimha, Rama, Gajendra Varadaraja, Ranganatha, and Krishna as Parthasarathy.
  • Vadapalani Andavar Temple – This is a 19th-century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Muruga. According to the sthalapurana, when a devotee of Lord Muruga, Annaswami Nayakar was worshipping the Lord, he experienced divine power entering his body and inspiring him to speak surprising things later found to be true. His utterances were labeled ‘arul vakku’ (‘God blessed statements’) and could cure diseases, provide jobs, solemnize marriages, and more.
  • Kapaleeshwarar Temple – This is a seventh-century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are many mythological stories associated with this temple and it is one of the must-visit places.
  • Other Hindu religious places to see – are the Marundheeswarar Temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, Kalikambal Temple, Thirumala Thirupathi Devasthanam Temple, Ashtalakshmi Temple, Shree Chandraprabhu Jain Naya Mandir, Mangadu Kamakshiamman Temple, Adeeswar Temple, etc.

Beaches

  • Marina Beach – This is one of the best outing places. It is the longest beach in India and the second-longest beach in the world. While swimming in the waters is prohibited, the panoramic views are mesmerizing.
  • Besant Nagar Beach – Named after the first woman President of Indian National Congress, Annie Besant, this is an arch-shaped beach and one of the most popular places to visit for couples.
  • Kovalam Beach – This beach is along the Coromandel Coast and is one of the best tourist places in India. The highlight of this beach is the availability of water sports activities like jet skiing, paragliding, parasailing, etc. This makes it one of the places to visit with friends.
  • Other beaches that are also an ideal picnic spot are the Breezy beach, VGP beach, Santhome beach, Thiruvanmiyur beach, Palavakkam beach, Kasimedu beach, etc.
muttukadu-chennai

Churches

  •  Santhome Church – This is a 16th-century church is also known as St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica and National Shrine of Saint Thomas. It is believed that St. Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ had lived in this place during 52-72 A.D.
  • St Mary’s Church – This was built in the 17th-century by the East India Company. It is popularly known as the Westminster Abbey of the East.
  • Velankanni Church – This is one of the most famous religious tourist places. Around one million people visit this Shrine every year.
  • Other churches like the Armenian Church, CSI Holy Cross Church, St. Andrews church, Descanso church, etc.
  • Other places to go – include Dakshina Chitra, Guindy National Park and Snake Park, Royapuram Fishing Harbor, Birla Planetarium, Madras War Memorial, Valluvar Kottam, Connemara Public Library, Prakasam Salai, etc.

Best Time to Visit Chennai

Winter is the best time to visit the wonderful city since the weather is more pleasant allowing travelers to move around during the day without worrying about the sun. The temperature ranges from 22 to 31 degrees C during the winter months of November to February. Summers (March to June) can be relatively hotter with the temperature ranging from 26 to 38 degrees C. Rains can be harsh in due to the proximity to the sea.

How to Reach Chennai

how-to-reach-chennai

Chennai is connected to all important cities via a network of highways and well-maintained roads. Here are some ways to travel to the city:

By Train

You can take a train from almost all corners of the country to reach Chennai. You can avail a local taxi in Chennai to go around the city with ease.

By Road

Chennai is well-connected with most cities in the region. You can reach the city from the following cities with ease:
~ Bangalore to Chennai – 335 km (via NH75 and Vellore – Chennai Road)
~ Hyderabad to Chennai – 626 km (via NH16)
~ Madurai to Chennai – 462 km (via NH38)
~ Coimbatore to Chennai – 507 km (via NH544 and NH79)
~ Mysore to Chennai – 472 km (via Bengaluru – Chennai Highway)

By Flight

Chennai International Airport, formerly known as Madras Airport is an international airport that serves the city. There are flights from around the country and major parts of the world to the city. You can book a Chennai airport taxi for a convenient ride to your hotel in the city.

Download our Savaari car Booking app for a smooth and pleasant journey.

Things to Do in Chennai

Chennai has something to offer to all kinds of travelers. Here are some things that you can do while you are in the City of Temples.

Shopping

chennai-bazaar

Chennai is the shopping center of South India with some suburbs being exclusive shopping districts. The city offers handicrafts, eco-friendly products, international brands, and a wide range of options for all kinds of shoppers. For street shopping, you can consider Thyagaraya Nagar and Pondy Bazaar, Ranganathan Street, Sowcarpet, Ritchie Street, Parry’s Corner, Pantheon Road, Besant Naga, Burma Bazaar, or Moore Market. If you are looking for malls, then you can consider Phoenix Mall, Express Avenue, Ampa Skywalk, Abirami Mega Mall, Spencer Plaza Mall, etc.

Temple Hopping

Chennai is also known as the City of Temples. Whether you are a religious tourist or someone who appreciates architecture and art, opt for a tour of the temples in the city. If possible, get a guided tour and learn about the history and mythology surrounding each temple.

Entertainment Places in Chennai

Here are some fun places in the city:

  • Hit the dance floor at Hell Freezes Over
  • Unwind at the Dublin Pub
  • Play like a child at the Express Avenue gaming arcade
  • Have a blast at the VGP Universal Kingdom
  • Go bowling at Fun City
  • Visit the amusement park Dash-n-Splash
  • Relax while boating at Muttukadu

Places to eat in Chennai

street-food

Chennai is synonymous with delicious food. Here are some places that you can eat in the city.

Street Food

  • George Town, Sowcarpet – for some lip-smacking North Indian snacks
  • Anna Nagar – for local street food
  • Mount Road – for samosa lovers
  • Burma Bazaar – for Burmese food

Restaurants

  • Eden, Besant Nagar – Indian and Continental cuisine
  • Dindugal, Thalappakkati, Besant Nagar – for some amazing biryanis
  • Southern Spice, Nungambakkam – South Indian food (fine dining)
  • Nair Mess, Triplicane – for South Indian meals
  • Benjarong, Alwarpet – Thai food and some pan-Asian dishes

Popular Places to visit near Chennai

Chennai is well-connected to surrounding cities and states making it a good starting point for many interesting locations.

chennai-travel-guide

Weekend Getaways from Chennai

Here are some tourist places for quick reference.

1. Tirupati

Tirupati, located in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, is 3 hours away from Chennai. It is considered one of the most important pilgrimages and is home to the Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple. Take a road trip from Chennai and enjoy your sojourn in Tirupati.

2. Mahabalipuram

Located at a distance of around 60 km from Chennai, Mahabalipuram is one of the most interesting places to visit around the city. It is known for its temples, monuments, architectural marvels, and golden sandy beaches.

3. Tranquebar

tranquebar

A tiny beach town 270 away from Chennai is best known as the Danish town of India. Beautiful shores and brilliant architecture across the town, Tranquebar is best known for its scenic beauty. Temples, churches and museums, one can see mixes of the Danish, British, German and French colonies that once made Tranquebar their home.

4. Pondicherry

Located 160 km from Chennai, a tiny coastal town with just about a million people living in harmony, Pondicherry is certainly a place that deserves your time. Artsy and ‘too-French’ in design, this beautiful town has some of the cleanest beaches in India, quirkiest cafes and the serene Auroville.

5. Ooty

The most popular and favorite hill station of South India, Ooty is a land of lush tea gardens, hilly landscape, and sparkling lakes and waterfalls. With beautiful estates, and pleasant weather, Ooty makes for a perfect holiday destination. This beautiful tourist hotspot is best explored by taking a road trip from the city.

There are many other getaways near Chennai. Ensure that you research well.

Places To Stay In Chennai

  • Grand Chennai by GRT Hotels, Sir Thyagaraya Road
  • Nestlay Rooms Oragadam (Hostel), Goutham Nagar Extension Vallam Village
  • Red Lollipop (Hostel), Ramakrishna Mutt Road
  • Kriyates The Palms Villa, Off Periyar Salai and Neelathiri Street
  • YWCA International Guest House, Close to Egmore Railway Station
A quick summary
Chennai: The Gateway to South India
Article Name
Chennai: The Gateway to South India
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Chennai, the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu is spread across an area of around 1189 square kilometers on the Eastern Coastal Plains.
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Reading between lines - the ones that rhyme, on a journey with no stop sign.

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