Chennai is often considered the cultural capital of South India. With dozens of historic sites, stunning beaches, beautiful temples, best food, its diverse neighborhood and hidden sights make it an excellent city to explore. Here’s a compiled list to give a better understanding of why it is one of the most visited destinations of India.

Check Out These Unexplored Places Of Chennai

While in Chennai do not limit yourself by visiting only the famous tourist attraction places. Chennai also has some unexplored and fun places that are a must visit. Here’s a quick rundown of the offbeat things that are worthy to add to your bucket list.

Explore The Hidden Caves Of Little Mount

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Light Coming from the Entrance of the cave

Little Mount in Saidapet is said to be where the apostle St Thomas lived and preached when he came to India. St. Thomas was one of Christ’s 12 apostles and is believed to have stayed in these caves for several years. As these caves are well preserved, one can still see the huge footprints of St. Thomas’ feet on the rocks. Another highlight of this place is as a tiny spring located a little away from the cave. Again it is believed to have been in existence from the time of St. Thomas and surprisingly it never dries. Devotees consider this water to be very sacred and hence come all the way here to carry this water back along with them. Caves of Little Mount are said to have huge historic and religious importance.

Go On A East Coast Road Drive To Mahabalipuram

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highway travelling road trip

The East Coast Road (ECR) along the Bay of Bengal, is a popular route for road trips. A drive through the ECR (NH32 and SH49), offers stunning views of the coastline. It is not merely a road connecting Chennai with Mahabalipuram, but is also a hub for many activities, making it perfect for a weekend getaway. This drive deserves to be high on your list of activities to do in Chennai city for the sheer thrilling experience. Once you reach Mahabalipuram, take a pit stop to explore this town situated on the Coromandel Coast. Besides the historical and cultural element, the seaside town is also a popular spot for surfing. Mahabalipuram is declared a UNESCO world heritage site for its stone-carved and architectural wonders.

Check Your Photographic Skills At The Broken Bridge

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Located in Adyar, this derelict and disused bridge to nowhere is an unusual attraction in Chennai. It is in the middle of a thriving river estuary and is the perfect place to view the beautiful sunset. This is the place where the Adyar River estuary joins the Bay of Bengal. The bridge partly collapsed in the year 1977 due to strong currents of the river, and has never been repaired. It was originally built to facilitate the movement of fishermen from Santhome beach to Elliot’s beach over the Adyar River. Today it has become a popular shooting location and a great location for youngsters to hangout. A visit to the Broken Bridge is sure to get you those perfect Insta-worthy pictures. 

Stroll Through The Semmozhi Poonga Botanical Garden

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Semmozhi Poonga, one of the most visited botanical gardens in Chennai attracts a lot of tourists and film makers because of its good collection of exotic flora. Set up by the horticulture department of the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2010, this botanical garden covers an area of 20 acres. It is built opposite the American Consulate, on what was previously the Woodlands Hotel. It has many quiet walkways, water bodies, and over 500 species of plants, medicinal and aromatic herbs. A huge parking lot, a canteen that serves delicious food are also set up here keeping the visitors requirement in mind. This is one of the best places to visit in Chennai for people seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city life.

Visit St Andrew’s Church

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You have to visit Chennai to see the architectural marvel of St. Andrew’s Church. Popularly referred to as “The Kirk,” this church was built in 1821 for the Scotsmen in the British army. It was inspired by St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London’s Trafalgar Square and is one of the oldest churches in the city. A mix of the Georgiana and Neo-Classical architecture style has gone into the construction of this Church. Everything about this Church: its design, shape, and form display a uniqueness that cannot be put into words. The interiors of the church have been a subject of study for architecture students since generations.

Stop At The Chepauk Palace

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Widely regarded as one of the first buildings constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, this palace was completed in 1768 by British Architect Paul Benfield for the Nawab of Arcot. It is known for its intricate carvings, wide arches and red brick walls. The palace covers a sprawling 117 acres and has two blocks (the Kalas Mahal and the Humayun Mahal). While both faced several structural problems and fires over the past few years, the palace has recently been renovated and is open to visitors. This majestic red building is now known as the Revenue Board Building which is a site for government offices. It was part of Chepauk Palace, which was the official residence of the Nawabs of Carnatic/Arcot.

Experience The Cholamandal Artists’ Village

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Spread across 10 acres of land near Adyar in Chennai (in the village Injambakkam), this fascinating self-supporting artists’ village is among the most successful in Asia. Founded by artist K. C. S. Paniker, it is home to several resident painters and sculptors who produce all kinds of amazing arts and crafts. Here one can find works of established and upcoming artists, painters and sculptors from South India. It also houses an art gallery, museum and an open-air theater. This village is India’s largest self-supporting artists’ village equipped with all that is needed for an artist. It has earned a reputation from all over the world and is now one of the major interesting things to do in Chennai.

Go Back In Time At The Ripon Building

The Greater Chennai Corporation (Municipal corporation) ribbon building CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, INDIA, January 25, 2020

Chennai is one of the oldest colonial cities in India and retains much of the elegant architecture of the era. One of the best examples is the majestic all-white Ripon Building standing near Chennai’s Central railway station. The construction of this royal rectangular shaped building with a 43 meters tower that has a 2.5 meter clock was completed in 1913. The Indo-Saracenic style architecture has a smooth blend of Ionic, Gothic and Corinthian styles. The Ripon Building is among the most magnificent architectural buildings in Chennai and a main attraction for visitors ever since it was built. Apart from the building, its other attractions include parks, gardens and the four bells cast by Gillett and Johnston. This all white building serves as the headquarters of the Chennai Municipal Corporation.

Find Inner Peace At Gangaikondan Temples

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Gangaikondan is a small village on the trunk road from Madurai to Tirunelveli. One can find two temples in this village, one dedicated to Kailasanathar (Lord Siva), and the other dedicated to Venka-tachalapati (Lord Vishnu). This stunning Shiva temple near Chennai is almost a thousand years old. It was built to commemorate the Chola victory of Rajendra Chola over the Chalukyas and is often overlooked by visitors.

Don The Intellectual Cap At Anna Centenary Library

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Close up of books on desk in library.

The Anna Centenary Library located at Kotturpuram, is named after a former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, C. N. Annadurai. Completed in 2010, this is one of Asia’s largest libraries, with over 1.2 million books spread over 9 floors. You will find books in all subject areas published by leading publishers from across the world here. It is frequented by students, locals, and experts from all across the country. From novels to poems, short stories to drama and essays to humor, you can find them all here. Other attractions here are, a Braille section, children’s corner, replica of the “Tree of Knowledge,” an auditorium and an amphitheater. So if you are a book lover, this is the place for you.

Head To Arignar Anna Zoological Park For A Lion Safari

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African Lion Resting on a Big Rock in a Sanctuary

Chennai’s Arignar Anna Zoological Park, also called the ‘Vandalur Zoo’ is the largest in the country. Covering an area of 1,260 acres, this zoo is home to over 2600 animals in a naturalistic habitat and is also home to several exotic and endemic animals. It is one of the most famous picnic spots for families with children who love to explore the flora and fauna. A lion safari and deer safari in the zoo are not to be missed. This safari will let you get a glimpse of lions, elephants and tigers from their habitat. Apart from the lion and deer safari you can also enjoy elephant rides. Explore the zoo by hiring a bicycle or battery-operated cars. The great white tiger at Anna Zoological Park attracts large crowds every day. 

Indulge In Some Adventure Sports

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Surfer on Blue Ocean Wave in the Tube Getting Barreled

When the heat gets the better of you, indulge in some amazing water activities like parasailing, paragliding and scuba diving. What better way than to cool off in the cold waters of Chennai. Covelong Beach is an ideal location for scuba diving. You get to explore the underwater marine life and the shipwreck sites. On the other hand, paragliding is held on Marina Beach and parasailing is held on a small coastal town called Kovalam. All the three activities give quite an experience with a lot of adrenaline rush. These are perfect activities that can be done as a solo traveler, as a couple or with your friends and family.

Relax In Solitude At ‘Side Beach’

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Long wave on the coast, dawn on the sea, large foam waves in the sand, diagonal clouds, yellow light of dawn in the blue sky

While everyone heads to the more famous Marina and Elliot’s beaches, this beach is often overlooked and sidelined. This small beach is located very close to Thiruvanmiyur. A few minutes’ walk on Thiruvanmiyur road will take you to this beautiful beach. Dubbed ‘Side Beach’ by the locals, it is usually empty. Here you can enjoy the Bay of Bengal amidst peace and quiet. As this beach is usually empty, one can have a relaxed time here.

Have A Glass Of Rose Milk At Kalathi 

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Rose moon milk for a better sleep with little splash in a glass. Ayurveda warm drink consumed before bed. Nice in case of sleeplessness, anxiety and insomnia

This legendary 90-year-old store is perhaps one of Mylapore’s best-kept secrets. Located near the famous Kapaleeswarar Temple, it sells a creamy concoction of chilled milk and rose syrup. This small shop which has been around for almost a century was initially a shop selling newspapers. But today it is an iconic food spot attracting people from across the city. The very moment you step in here, it gives a feel of stepping into the 60s. Just like in the earlier days, there are light snacks kept in those little glass bottles. You will always find a long queue of customers waiting in front of Kalathi Rose Milk Shop every day to have that one glass of frothing rose-milk. 

Transform Yourself At The Theosophical Society

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This is a place where one can bring about a transformation of the individual and that of society. The core mission of this society is to bring people closer irrespective of their religion. The Theosophical Society based in Adyar campus, which was founded in 1875 belongs to no particular religion or to no one. Its peaceful and calm environment makes it a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. This is a perfect place to experience rhythmic bird calls and walk deep to see a variety of trees dotted with vintage mansions. All the buildings have a European architecture style to it. There are Temples and Shrines dedicated to various faiths and also the Adyar library and research center that has a magnificent collection of books.

Walk Through The Tunnel Aquarium

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Large beautiful round glass tunnel under water in the aquarium with different fish.

VGP Marine Kingdom, located in Chennai is India’s first ever and the largest walk-through aquarium. The 72-meter acrylic tunnel aquarium is the first of its kind in India. There is a walkway in the tunnel through which one can step in and walk around the tunnel and back to the entry point. The whole idea of the aquarium is to bring about a commitment to conserve nature and save fishes from extinction. It is home to different marine species from both freshwater and marine water. The aquarium is designed with five zones based on the different marine environments like a rainforest, a gorge, mangrove, coastal and Deep Ocean. Main objective of the VGP Marine Kingdom is to provide visitors with excellent underwater experience while creating marine consciousness among them.

Relish The City’s Culinary Wonders

Masala Dosa Dish

From idlis, to sambar rice, from dosa to bajji and pongal, Chennai serves a dizzying variety of dishes. You will be spoilt for choices as this place is dotted with restaurants and food joints, both big and small at every nook and corner of this fun city. A must try for vegetarians is the idli, sambar and rasam rice, kuzhi paniyaram, and pongal. Non vegetarians can try the famous Ambur biryani, Dindigul-style biryani, chettinad chicken, kothu parotta, and nethili fry, among others. Don’t forget to wash down your meal with a steaming cup of filter coffee. This fine blend of South India’s culinary wonder is sure to drive you crazy.

Go On A Shopping Spree In Pondy Bazaar

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Low angle view of cheerful family having fun during a shopping day in the city.

Nobody leaves Chennai without shopping as this place is heaven for shopaholics and silk lovers. Pondy Bazaar, is a one-stop destination for all your shopping needs. From safety pins to jewelry, you can find them all here. The shops offer heavy discounts on most of the items, hence shopping here is pocket-friendly. If you are looking for branded items, one can find them too here. This place is like a second home to every Chennaite. Spending an evening here is among the top fun things to do in Chennai. Do remember to put on your best pair of sneakers and fill your wallet with cash, for this is the place to shop until you drop.

What To Pack For A Chennai Trip

When packing, keep in mind that this place sits on the coast of the Bay of Bengal and has a tropical climate. The average high temperature is 33°C, so wear light breathable clothes. Pack a few t-shirts, jeans, shorts, capris and light dresses. Chennai Temples  follow strict dress code, so pack salwar, saree or long skirts for women and long pants, dhoti or lungi for men. In mosques, you are expected to wear loose-fitting clothing. Muslim and non-Muslim women have to wear a headscarf or cover their head while visiting the mosque. Men are expected to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Jain temples also expect one to cover their shoulders and knees. Please note that leather items are not allowed inside Jain Temples.

Some Interesting Facts About Chennai

  • Chennai was formerly a fishing village which was called Madraspatnam. 
  • Chennai was India’s first metropolitan city.
  • The world’s second-largest beach, Marina Beach is here in Chennai.
  • This city was the first city in India to have a vast network of Wi-Fi.
  • India’s first Cancer Hospital was established in 1920 here.
  • This city is served by two major ports, Chennai Port and Ennore Port.
  • The oldest Banyan Trees (450 years old) is housed at Theosophical Society in Chennai.
  • The Government of Tamil Nadu officially changed the name from Madras to Chennai in 1996.
  • The oldest prison, oldest cricket stadium and the oldest engineering college of India are all here in Chennai.
  • Chennai is the only city in India that was attacked during World War I between 1914 and 1918.

A lot has been said about the many offbeat experiences that the city has to offer. It’s only when you experience them that they become memories for life. Go visit these places of this heart-warming city to uncover what makes the city so special. Do share your experience with us in the comment box below.

What is the best time to visit Chennai?

The best time to visit Chennai is between October to February. The weather in Chennai during this time is not very hot and sticky.

How many days is enough for Chennai?

Generally three days are good enough to explore the city, but if you are planning to explore the unexplored areas, you can add a few more days.

Does Chennai have nightlife?

Chennai may not be very popular for nightlife when compared with the other metro cities but they do have a pretty good lineup of clubs to party at. 

What is famous to buy in Chennai?

Chennai is known for producing the renowned mulberry silk, hence get your hands on some mulberry silk and Kanchipuram sarees while here.

What is Chennai also known as?

Chennai is also known as Madras Patnam.

What kind of weather is in Chennai?

Chennai lies on the thermal equator and is also coastal. The assemblage of these two makes the weather extremely hot and humid here. In summer the temperature can soar as high as 45 °C.


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