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Things To Do In Chennai


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Rhona Early



Welcome to Chennai, the bustling capital city of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. Chennai, also known as Madras, is a vibrant metropolis that seamlessly blends tradition with modernity. With its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning architectural marvels, Chennai offers a plethora of experiences for visitors.


As you explore this fascinating city, you will be captivated by its unique charm and the warmth of its people. From ancient temples and historical sites to beautiful beaches and serene parks, Chennai has something for everyone. Indulge in mouthwatering street food, immerse yourself in the vibrant art scene, or simply take a leisurely stroll along Marina Beach, the second-longest urban beach in the world.


In this guide, we will take you on a journey through Chennai, highlighting the top attractions and activities that make this city a must-visit destination. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or a food aficionado, Chennai has it all. So, let’s delve into the diverse and captivating experiences that await you in Chennai.


Historical Sites

Chennai is home to a rich history that is reflected in its numerous historical sites. Explore the following landmarks to get a glimpse into the city’s past:

  • Fort St. George: Built-in 1644, Fort St. George is the oldest surviving British architectural marvel in India. The fort served as the headquarters of the East India Company and later became the administrative center for the British in South India. Visit the Fort Museum housed within the premises to discover artefacts, paintings, and memorabilia from the colonial era.
  • Kapaleeshwarar Temple: This magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is a fine example of Dravidian architecture. Built in the 7th century, the temple is adorned with intricate carvings and vibrant sculptures. Don’t miss the grand annual festival, Arubathimoovar, celebrated here with great pomp and splendor.
  • Sri Parthasarathy Temple: Located in Triplicane, this ancient temple dates back to the 8th century and is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The temple is renowned for its beautiful gopuram (tower) and intricately sculpted pillars. Explore the temple complex and soak in the spiritual atmosphere.
  • Vivekananda House: Also known as the Ice House, this historical building on the Marina Beach was once the residence of Swami Vivekananda, a famous spiritual leader. The house now serves as a museum, showcasing his life and teachings. Take a glimpse into the life of this influential personality and his contribution to the Indian independence movement.
  • Dutch Cemetery: Visit the Dutch Cemetery, which dates back to the 17th century, to explore the final resting place of Dutch colonists. The cemetery is a serene and peaceful spot, offering a unique insight into the city’s colonial past.

These historical sites in Chennai not only offer a glimpse into the city’s past but also provide a serene and culturally enriching experience. Explore them to connect with Chennai’s fascinating history and architectural heritage.



Chennai is known for its numerous temples that showcase the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of the region. Here are some of the prominent temples you should visit during your stay:

  • Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is one of the most significant and beautiful religious sites in Chennai. Adorned with intricate carvings and a towering gopuram (entrance tower), the temple is a splendid example of Dravidian architecture. Explore the inner sanctum and witness the vibrant rituals that take place here.
  • Parthasarathy Temple: Situated in Triplicane, this ancient temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is believed to be one of the oldest temples in Chennai. Adorned with magnificent sculptures and pillared halls, the temple is an architectural marvel. Don’t miss the exquisite chariot festival held here annually.
  • Kandaswamy Temple: Located in the heart of Chennai, this temple is dedicated to Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of War. The temple is renowned for its intricately carved pillars and a stunning gold-covered Rajagopuram (main tower). Participate in the vibrant ceremonies and experience the spiritual ambiance.
  • Ashtalakshmi Temple: Situated in Besant Nagar, this temple is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and her eight forms. The temple complex showcases stunning architecture, with separate shrines dedicated to each form of the Goddess. Experience the divine energy and seek blessings for prosperity and happiness.
  • Marundeeswarar Temple: Located in Thiruvanmiyur, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva as the divine healer. The temple, surrounded by lush greenery, is believed to possess healing powers. Take a dip in the temple tank and experience the tranquility of the surroundings.

Visiting these temples in Chennai offers a chance to immerse yourself in spirituality and witness the architectural splendor of these ancient structures. The intricate carvings, vibrant rituals, and peaceful atmosphere create a truly divine experience.



When it comes to beaches, Chennai has something for everyone. From serene and secluded spots to bustling and lively stretches, here are some of the top beaches in and around the city:

  • Marina Beach: Stretching over 13 kilometers along the Bay of Bengal, Marina Beach is not just a popular destination but also holds the title of being the second-longest urban beach in the world. Enjoy a leisurely walk or indulge in activities like horse riding and beach volleyball. Don’t forget to savor the delicious street food stalls lining the promenade.
  • Covelong Beach: Located about 40 kilometers from Chennai, Covelong Beach is a tranquil and picturesque spot. The beach is known for its soft white sand, clear blue waters, and gentle waves. You can try your hand at water sports like surfing and jet skiing or simply relax and soak up the sun.
  • Elliot’s Beach: Also known as Besant Nagar Beach, Elliot’s Beach offers a more laid-back and peaceful atmosphere compared to Marina Beach. It is a popular spot for locals to unwind, jog, or enjoy a picnic with family and friends. Discover the famous Ashtalakshmi Temple and the prominent Velankanni Church located nearby.
  • Golden Beach: Situated in the East Coast Road (ECR) stretch, Golden Beach is known for its golden sands and pristine waters. The beach offers a range of activities including beach sports, camel rides, and even an amusement park for children. Take a break from city life and enjoy the tranquility of this beautiful beach.
  • Muttukadu Beach: Perfect for a fun-filled day out, Muttukadu Beach is located about 32 kilometers from Chennai. The beach is famous for its backwater boating and water sporting activities like kayaking and canoeing. Spend quality time with loved ones amidst the scenic beauty of the backwaters.

Whether you are looking for a serene escape or an active beach adventure, Chennai’s beaches offer a variety of options. So, pack your sunscreen and beach essentials and prepare for some fun and relaxation by the shimmering waters of the Bay of Bengal.


Parks and Gardens

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Chennai’s parks and gardens. These green spaces provide a refreshing respite and are perfect for a leisurely stroll or a picnic with family and friends. Here are some must-visit parks and gardens in Chennai:

  • Guindy National Park: Spanning over 270 acres, Guindy National Park is a haven for nature lovers. It is home to a variety of flora and fauna including deer, jackals, and a wide range of bird species. Take a safari through the park or simply enjoy a peaceful walk amidst the lush greenery.
  • Theosophical Society: Located in Adyar, this sprawling 260-acre campus is not just a garden but also a center for spiritual and philosophical pursuits. The lush gardens, serene lakes, and ancient banyan trees create a serene atmosphere. Explore the library and attend talks on various topics related to spirituality and philosophy.
  • Lalbagh Botanical Garden: Situated in the heart of the city, Lalbagh Botanical Garden is a treat for nature enthusiasts. The garden showcases a diverse collection of plants, flowers, and trees from around the world. Take a leisurely walk, spend time by the lake, or visit the bonsai garden for a unique experience.
  • Huddleston Gardens: Also known as the Egmore Museum Complex, this garden is located adjacent to the Government Museum. It offers a peaceful environment with well-manicured lawns, flowering plants, and a variety of trees. Take a break from exploring the museum and relax amidst nature.
  • Arignar Anna Zoological Park: Popularly known as Vandalur Zoo, this sprawling zoo is home to a wide array of animals, birds, and reptiles. Spanning over 1,500 acres, the zoo provides a natural habitat for the animals and offers visitors a chance to observe and learn about various species.

These parks and gardens in Chennai provide a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Whether you are a nature lover, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, these green spaces offer a refreshing experience amidst the beauty of nature.


Museums and Art Galleries

Chennai is a city rich in art, culture, and history, and its museums and art galleries offer a fascinating glimpse into its heritage. Here are some of the top museums and art galleries that you should explore during your visit:

  • Government Museum: Located in the Egmore neighborhood, the Government Museum is a treasure trove of art, archaeology, and history. It houses an impressive collection of artifacts, including Bronze Age sculptures, archaeological finds, and ancient coins. Don’t miss the Roman antiquities and the Amaravati Gallery.
  • National Art Gallery: Situated within the Government Museum complex, the National Art Gallery is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. It showcases a vast collection of Indian paintings, sculptures, and handicrafts from different periods and regions of the country. Admire the works of renowned artists and learn about the rich artistic heritage of India.
  • DakshinaChitra: Located on the outskirts of Chennai, DakshinaChitra is a living museum that showcases the culture, art, and architecture of South India. Explore traditional houses, artisans at work, and exhibitions that depict the traditional way of life in the region. Participate in workshops and cultural programs to further immerse yourself in the heritage.
  • Kalakshetra Foundation: Founded by renowned dancer Rukmini Devi Arundale, the Kalakshetra Foundation is a center for the preservation and promotion of Indian art and culture. Visit the museum to learn about Indian classical dance and music forms, and explore the beautiful campus adorned with sculptures and murals.
  • Cholamandal Artists’ Village: Located in Injambakkam, Cholamandal Artists’ Village is a haven for contemporary art lovers. It is one of the first artist colonies in India and is home to a community of artists who live and work together. Visit the galleries to admire and purchase artworks of various mediums, including paintings, sculptures, and ceramics.

These museums and art galleries in Chennai provide a platform to appreciate and learn about the art, history, and culture of the region. Immerse yourself in the creative expressions and artistic pursuits that make Chennai a vibrant hub of heritage and creativity.



Chennai is a shopper’s paradise, offering a wide range of shopping experiences that cater to different tastes and preferences. From bustling street markets to upscale malls, here are the top shopping destinations in Chennai:

  • T. Nagar: Considered the shopping hub of Chennai, T. Nagar is a bustling commercial district famous for its vibrant street markets. Explore the narrow lanes filled with shops selling traditional silk sarees, jewelry, clothing, and accessories. Don’t forget to bargain and sample the local street food during your shopping spree.
  • Pondy Bazaar: Located in T. Nagar, Pondy Bazaar is another bustling shopping area known for its variety of shops and stores. From clothing and footwear to electronics and accessories, you can find a wide range of products here. It’s the perfect place for bargain shopping and exploring the local market culture.
  • Phoenix MarketCity: If you prefer a more modern shopping experience, head to Phoenix MarketCity, one of the largest shopping malls in Chennai. The mall houses a wide range of national and international brands, as well as restaurants, entertainment options, and a multiplex cinema. Shop for fashion, accessories, electronics, and more under one roof.
  • Spencer Plaza: Located in Mount Road, Spencer Plaza is one of the oldest malls in India, offering a blend of traditional and modern shopping experiences. The mall features a mix of retail outlets, boutiques, and food courts. Explore the various floors to find clothing, books, electronics, handicrafts, and more.
  • Express Avenue: Situated in Royapettah, Express Avenue is another popular shopping destination, especially for fashion and lifestyle brands. The mall boasts a mix of national and international retailers, along with a variety of entertainment options such as a multiplex cinema and a gaming zone.

Whether you’re seeking traditional handicrafts or the latest fashion trends, Chennai offers a myriad of shopping options to suit your preferences. So, get ready to shop till you drop and bring home unique souvenirs and memories from your Chennai shopping spree.


Street Food

One of the best ways to experience the local culture and flavors of Chennai is through its vibrant street food scene. From savory snacks to sweet treats, the city’s street vendors offer a variety of mouthwatering delights. Here are some must-try street food items in Chennai:

  • Idli and Medu Vada: Start your day with a classic South Indian breakfast of soft idlis (steamed rice cakes) and crispy medu vadas (lentil fritters). Served with coconut chutney and sambar, these delicious and wholesome treats are a perfect way to kickstart your day.
  • Dosa: Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, dosas are a popular South Indian delicacy that comes in various flavors and fillings. From the classic masala dosa filled with spiced potatoes to the paper-thin ghee roast dosa, Chennai is a haven for dosa lovers.
  • Pani Puri: Also known as golgappa or puchka, pani puri is a beloved street food snack across India. It consists of hollow crispy puris filled with a mixture of tangy tamarind water, spiced mashed potatoes, and chutney. Indulge in the burst of flavors as you savor each puri.
  • Chaat: Chennai offers a variety of chaat options that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. From dahi puri (puffed hollow balls filled with yogurt and chutney) to bhel puri (a savory mixture of puffed rice, vegetables, and chutneys), the chaat stalls in the city are a treat for your palate.
  • Jigarthanda: Beat the heat with a refreshing glass of jigarthanda, a popular Chennai summer drink. Made with a concoction of milk, almond gum, nannari syrup, and ice cream, this sweet and cooling beverage is the perfect thirst quencher on a hot day.

As you stroll through the streets of Chennai, the aroma of these delectable street food items will entice you to try them all. Embrace the local flavors and indulge in the culinary delights that Chennai’s street food scene has to offer. Just make sure to choose reputable vendors and eateries to ensure a safe and hygienic experience.


Cultural and Dance Performances

Chennai is renowned for its vibrant and rich cultural heritage, which is beautifully showcased through its traditional dance and music performances. Immerse yourself in the vibrant arts and witness the captivating performances that Chennai has to offer. Here are some cultural and dance performances you should experience:

  • Bharatanatyam: Known as one of the oldest classical dance forms of India, Bharatanatyam is synonymous with Chennai. The city is home to numerous dance academies and schools that offer performances showcasing this graceful and expressive dance form. Watch a live Bharatanatyam performance to witness the intricate footwork, emotive expressions, and captivating storytelling.
  • Carnatic Music: Chennai is considered the cultural capital of South India and is famous for its vibrant Carnatic music scene. Numerous music festivals and concerts take place showcasing the melodic and soul-stirring renditions of Carnatic music. Attend a live performance to experience the magic of this classical music form.
  • Kalakshetra Dance Performances: Kalakshetra is a renowned institution in Chennai dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Indian art and culture. They regularly host dance performances and music concerts showcasing various traditional dance forms such as Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, and Odissi. Attend a performance at Kalakshetra to witness the expertise of the performers and the beauty of Indian classical dances.
  • Contemporary Dance: Chennai also boasts a thriving contemporary dance scene. Numerous talented choreographers and dance groups present innovative and thought-provoking performances that blend traditional elements with modern expressions. Keep an eye out for contemporary dance performances happening at cultural centers or theaters in the city.
  • Puppet Shows: Traditional puppetry is an art form that has been passed down through generations in Chennai. Witness the mesmerizing puppet shows that feature colorful puppets depicting mythological tales, folk stories, and cultural narratives. These shows bring delight to audiences of all ages and provide a unique cultural experience.

Attending cultural and dance performances in Chennai is a wonderful way to appreciate the city’s rich artistic traditions and immerse yourself in its cultural heritage. So, book your tickets and prepare to be enthralled by the talented dancers and musicians who bring these art forms to life.


Day Trips to nearby attractions

While Chennai itself offers a plethora of attractions, there are also several fascinating destinations located within a short distance from the city. Embark on day trips to these nearby attractions to expand your exploration of the region. Here are some must-visit destinations:

  • Mahabalipuram: Located around 60 kilometers south of Chennai, Mahabalipuram is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its ancient rock-cut temples and magnificent stone sculptures. Visit the iconic Shore Temple, marvel at the intricately carved Arjuna’s Penance, and explore the Five Rathas – a set of monolithic rock temples. The beach in Mahabalipuram is also a great spot to unwind and enjoy the tranquil coastal scenery.
  • Kanchipuram: Known as the “City of Thousand Temples,” Kanchipuram is a holy city located around 70 kilometers from Chennai. It is famous for its beautiful silk sarees and its ancient temples. Explore the temples dedicated to various deities, such as Ekambareswarar Temple, Kailasanathar Temple, and Varadharaja Perumal Temple.
  • Pulicat Lake: Situated around 60 kilometers north of Chennai, Pulicat Lake is the second-largest brackish water lake in India. It is a haven for birdwatchers as it is home to a wide variety of migratory birds. Take a boat ride through the lake, spot flamingos, pelicans, and painted storks, and enjoy the serene natural beauty of the surroundings.
  • Muttukadu: Located around 36 kilometers from Chennai, Muttukadu is a backwater paradise. Indulge in a boat ride along the tranquil backwaters, go fishing, or try your hand at various water sports like windsurfing and kayaking. Take in the picturesque views and enjoy a relaxing day amidst nature.
  • Tirupati: Situated in the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati is a famous pilgrimage destination known for the Venkateswara Temple. The temple attracts millions of devotees from around the world. Climb the steps of the temple or opt for a cable car ride to reach the shrine, and experience the spiritual aura of this sacred place.

These day trips from Chennai offer a chance to explore the cultural, historical, and natural treasures of the surrounding region. Plan your itinerary accordingly and delve further into the wonders that await just a short distance away from the city.



Chennai is a captivating city that offers a blend of history, culture, art, and culinary delights. From its historical sites and ancient temples to its beautiful beaches and serene parks, Chennai has something for every traveler. Explore the architectural marvels of Fort St. George and the intricate sculptures of Kapaleeshwarar Temple. Unwind on the sandy shores of Marina Beach or indulge in water sports at Covelong Beach. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of Guindy National Park or witness the vibrant performances of Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music. Sample the flavors of Chennai’s street food or embark on day trips to nearby attractions like Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram.


As you navigate the bustling streets of Chennai, you will be greeted by the warmth of its people and the richness of its cultural heritage. The city’s museums and art galleries showcase its artistic prowess, while the shopping destinations cater to diverse tastes and preferences. Chennai’s vibrant cultural scene with its dance performances, music concerts, and puppet shows add an enchanting touch to your journey.


Whether you are a history enthusiast, a nature lover, an art aficionado, or a foodie, Chennai has something to offer. Discover the charm of this vibrant metropolis, embrace its heritage, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


So, pack your bags, immerse yourself in the colors, flavors, and traditions of Chennai, and embark on an unforgettable journey through this fascinating city in the heart of South India.