Chennai City Guide
Chennai is the capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu in India. The city was previously known as Madras and is one the four largest metropolitan cities in India. It is home to more than 8 million people.
In 1996, the Tamil Nadu government officially changed the name of Madras to Chennai as it wanted it to reflect the origin antecedents of the city rather its colonial past.
The coastal city of Madras was founded in 1639 when the British East India, represented by Francis Day and Andrew Cogan, was granted the land to build a trading center by the local ruler, Damerla Venkatapathy Nayak. The document that stipulated this grant was dated August 22nd 1639 and hence Chennai commemorates the anniversary of this day every year as Madras Day.
Madras was one of the first outposts of the British in India and they went on to build a fortification here in the form of Fort Saint George. Chennai is a busy, bustling city that is largely an industrial hub. The city hosts industries like automobile manufacturing, computer software and technology and healthcare. Chennai features prominently on the business travel map though many tourists also choose it as a vacation stopover en route to other intriguing religious and tourist sites located within close proximity to the city.
Where to stay in Chennai
As a major industrial hub, Chennai offers a large inventory of business-centric hotels that cater to the needs of the numerous business travelers who arrive on the city’s shores all throughout the year. Aside from these business-oriented hotels, this southern Indian city is also equipped with opulent, luxury hotels and an adequate number of discount hotels and budget accommodation options like bed and breakfast inns, which are located in various parts of the city.
Downtown Chennai- Anna Salai
The upscale Anna Salai neighborhood (also known as Mount Road) of Chennai lies to the south of Central Chennai and is the prime residential neighborhood of the city. However, Anna Salai also hosts much commercial activity as it is home to many diverse hotels, restaurants, stores and I.T companies as well as the verdant oasis of the Visweswararya Tower Park.
Around Chennai International Airport
Chennai International Airport consists of the Anna international terminal and the Kamaraj domestic terminal is the main gateway to the city. The area around the airport is equipped with various luxury and mid-range hotels, which cater to largely business travelers who require easy access to the airport.
The neighborhood of Egmore lies to the south west of Chennai city center and hosts attractions like the Government museum that features the splendid National Arts Gallery. Egmore also provides easy access to the historical center of Chennai, Georgetown and hosts some of the city’s most well known luxury hotels, clubs, hospitals and shopping centers. If you enjoy the hustle-bustle of a lively neighborhood, Egmore should be your choice in Chennai.
T.N. Nagar or Thyagaraya Nagar
T.N. Nagar or Thyagaraya Nagar is a prominent commercial neighborhood of Chennai that hosts banks, hotels and the city’s main markets like the Pondy Bazaar, and Annai Sathya Bazaar, which are counted amongst the best places to shop in the city. If you have shopping on your mind for your visit to Chennai then perhaps T.N.Nagar should get your vote for where to stay in the city.
Places to see in Chennai
Fort Saint George
Fort Saint George is the most prominent landmark in Chennai, which encompasses several monuments within its folds, one of which is the beautiful St Mary’s Church. St Mary’s is known for its gorgeous stained glass windows, wall frescos, teak plaques and is today one of the oldest surviving churches in India that was built by the British.
Another important landmark located here is the Fort St George Museum, which houses a display of a wide range of artifacts from the British era. In front of the museum stands a statute of Lord Cornwallis, the first Governor General of India. The Archaeological Survey of India has declared the fort as a protected monument and is responsible for its upkeep.
Marina Beach is one of the world’s longest beaches and is the best known beach in Chennai. The beach is not particularly clean and is an important recreation center for the citizens of Chennai. Marina Beach is adorned with statues of famous Indian personalities like Mahatma Gandhi(the father of the nation), Kannagi(a famous Tamil woman), the famous poet Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, film personalities like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan amongst others.
Guindy National Park
Guindy National Park is one of the smallest National Parks in the country. The park is located within the city limits of Chennai and extends over. This verdant enclave was originally a game reserve that was owned by Gilbert Rodericks, a British citizen. The government gained control of the park after his death. The park contains over 350 species of plants, herbs, trees and grasses.
In addition to the flora, the park is also home to animals like spotted deer, black bucks, hyenas, jackals, the Indian mongoose, bonnet monkeys and civet cats. In 1958, the Indian prime minister allocated a portion of the park to a Children’s park. The Children’s Park now has playgrounds, swings, a mini train, a zoo and other attractions for children like pony and elephant rides. In 1972, a Snake park was established within the Guindy Park, which has displays of reptiles like King Cobras, vipers, pythons and many more. If you are on a visit to Chennai with your kids in tow, then a trip to the Guindy National Park is highly recommended.
The Birla Planetarium
The Birla Planetarium, which is located at Kotturpuram, is the most modern planetarium in the country. The planetarium is named after B.M. Birla, a well known industrialist and visionary and is often thought to be the most modern planetarium in India. This planetarium is another attraction which cannot be missed especially if you are on a vacation in Chennai with your children.
Government Museum or the National Art Gallery
The Government Museum, which consists of six buildings and 46 galleries, hosts a spectacular permanent collection including modern and historical works including a superb collection of Chola Bronzes and other Indian artworks. If you are at all interested in Indian art then the Government Museum should definitely be considered a must-do attraction on your itinerary for Chennai.
Temples and Churches
Chennai offers several religious sites worth visiting. The Parthasarathy temple is located near Marina Beach and is believed to be Chennai’s oldest temple. This temple is dedicated to Krishna and was extensively renovated by the Vijaynagar Kings in the 16th century. The Kapaleshvara temple is another famous temple of Chennai and is an exponent of Dravidian architecture topped as it is with a typical ‘gopuram’(ornate monumental, tower). Yet another religious site in Chennai that is worth visiting is the Church of our Lady of Expectations, which is located atop St. Thomas Mount and was built in 1523. This little church was built by the Portuguese and affords gorgeous views of the city.
Best time to visit Chennai
Chennai is bestowed with a tropical climate and the city is hot and humid for most of the year. The hottest period in Chennai is usually between late May and early June when the city is known to experience scorching temperatures of 100-108F(38-42C). The city also experiences a monsoon season that lasts from mid-October to mid-December. The best time to plan a trip to Chennai if you are planning to vacation in the city, is during the month of January when temperatures area a pleasant 18–20 °C (64–68 °F).
Getting around in Chennai
Chennai is easily accessed via its Chennai International airport, which is composed of two main terminals, an international terminal and a domestic terminal. This airport is located at Tirusulam, 4.3 miles (7 km) south of Chennai. The Chennai airport is India's third busiest airport in terms of both international and overall passenger traffic and welcomes numerous flights from around the world every day.
Fare Buzz routinely announces cheap flights for Chennai and if you are currently planning a visit to Chennai, then perhaps you should contact Fare Buzz via its online or telephone resources to explore the many flight deals to Chennai that it has to offer.
Chennai is a large and sprawling city served by a public transport system that is made up of taxis, auto-rickshaws (a three wheeled contraption) and public buses. Taxis in Chennai cannot be hailed in the street but have to be called on the phone.
The city is also equipped with car rental services that are operated by well known international car rental agencies as well as numerous private operators. Chennai car rentals are usually provided with a chauffeur and if you require a car rental for your visit to Chennai, then Fare Buzz can easily arrange one for you. Your Chennai car rental reservation can be made at the same time that you make your other travel bookings with Fare Buzz using the same platforms that you use for your flight and hotel bookings.
Where to shop in Chennai
Historically Chennai’s shopping scene was centered on its main markets and commercial hubs like Pondy Bazaar, T.Nagar, Anna Nagar and Burma Bazaar. However, in recent years, the city seems to have succumbed to the mall culture and now hosts many glitzy malls and shopping centers which offer a comprehensive shopping experience. Some of Chennai’s leading shopping malls include Spencer Plaza, Chennai Citi Centre, Abirami Mega Mall, Fountain Plaza and Express Avenue.
Additionally, Chennai is renowned as a shopping destination for silk and silk sarees; some of the highly reputed stores in Chennai for silk shopping include establishments like Nallis, Moksha, Sundari Silks, Diva, Roopali, Rair Designers, Varshidi and Man Mandir.
Where to eat in Chennai
Chennai’s culinary landscape is largely rooted in the city’s native Southern Indian fare though the city does host a few restaurants that offer other popular cuisines and their tribe is increasing, as dining tastes in the city evolve and change. Popular restaurants in Chennai include eateries like Barbeque Nation (Indian and Continental eats), Zaitoon (multi-cuisine), Sam’s Pizza, Wang’s Kitchen (Chinese), Fusion 9(multi-cuisine), The Flying Elephant (multi-cuisine) the Main Street (European eats), Vasco’s (multi-cuisine) and Samco(biryani).
For local South Indian fare, your best bets include Madras at the Raintree Hotel, Southern Aromas at the Residency Towers Hotel and Dakshin at the Sheraton Park Hotel.
Popular stand-alone restaurants for South Indian eats include joints like Ente Kerelem (housed a lovely old-world bungalow), Annalakshmi@Egmore, Ponnusamy Hotel (a Chennai institution), Saravana Bhavan and Anjaappar.
Nightlife in Chennai
Chennai’s still evolving nightlife scene is centered on bars largely located within the city’s various upscale hotels. Popular watering-holes in this rather subdued Southern-Indian city include spots like the Westminster and Dublin at the Hotel Park Sheraton, the Winchester Bar at the Radisson Blu Hotel, the QBar, a the roof top bar at the Hilton Chennai, Bay 146 a bar at the Hotel Savera and The Chipstead at The Taj Coromandel hotel), and the Leather Bar and Pasha Night Club at the Park Hotel.