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10 Best Things To Do In Chennai (Madras), India

things to do in chennai (madras) india
Hridya
Hridya
Updated
Venkatraman Dhamodaran
Endorsed by Local Expert
Venkatraman Dhamodaran

Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is the capital of the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the 4 metropolitan cities of India. There are a lot of things you can see and do here in Chennai, the city proudly wears its tradition on its sleeve while accommodating the cosmopolitan crowd who visit the city often. When visiting Chennai be ready to experience an interesting mix of culture, tradition and modernity. Welcome to Singara Chennai (beautiful Chennai).

1. Visit the 2nd longest beach in the world - Marina Beach

Marina-Beach
Source: Photo by user Sandrashanthis used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Marina Beach is a natural urban beach in Chennai, along the Bay of Bengal. The beach runs for a distance of 6.5 km (4 mi) thus making it the longest natural urban beach in the country and the second longest urban beach in the world. This beach is primarily sandy, but not the white sand you may expect to see!

Enjoy the sights and sounds of a typical day for locals at the beach - be it eating spicy chilli fritters, eating corn-on-the-cob or some cotton candy! You could even go on a horse ride, ride on the ferris wheel and relive your childhood. A local Chennaiite will have lots of memories attached to the beach and is part and parcel of every citizen of the city. Recently, the beach came into focus as it was the point of congregation for millions of people from all over the state to protest for a cause.

Marina Beach

Address: Chennai, India

2. Visit the church at St. Thomas Mount

St Thomas Church on the Mount
Source: Photo by user Nvvchar used under CC BY-SA 3.0

St. Thomas Mount is a small hillock near the airport in Chennai. St. Thomas the Apostle is believed to have been martyred at this place, a shrine dedicated to Mother Mary was built in 1523 on top of the mount. You can reach the summit by taking the flight of 160 steps. There are 14 stations of the cross erected on the way to the summit. Recently an MRTS station was opened in the neighborhood to enable people to commute easily. Entry is free, and church is open from 6:30 am until about 10 pm at night.

St. Thomas Mount

Address: St. Thomas Mount, Parangi Malai, St. Thomas Mount, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600016

Website: St. Thomas Mount

3. Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary

Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
Source: Photo by user https://www.flick... used under CC BY 2.0

Vedanthangal in Tamil literally means ‘hamlet of the hunter’. This is a protected area near Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu. The sanctuary is about 75 kilometers (47 mi) from Chennai on National Highway 45 (NH45). It is said that more than 40,000 birds (including around 26 rare species), from different parts of the world visit the sanctuary during the migratory season every year. This bird sanctuary is the oldest water bird sanctuary in the country. The best time to visit this sanctuary is from November to March. So bird watchers and ornithologists, get ready to watch these birds busy building and maintaining their nests.

The entry fee to the bird sanctuary is about INR 25 per adult (approx 0.40 USD) and INR 5 per child (approx 0.08 USD). You can park your vehicle for INR 10 (approx 0.20 USD). The sanctuary is open everyday during season from 6am until 6pm.

Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary

Address: Vedathangal, Madurantakam, Tamil Nadu 603314, India

4. Watch First Day First Show (FDFS) of a blockbuster movie at Satyam Theatre

Crowd in front of Satyam Theatre
Source: Photo by user Badri Seshadri used under CC BY 2.0

Chennai or Madras is famous for its film industry, popularly referred to as Kollywood. People are generally very crazy about their film stars and to watch their favorite stars’ movies on the First Day in the First Show is something everyone is very willing to do. It is sort of a craze and an achievement of sorts if you are able to do this FDFS thing, especially for a Rajinikanth movie (he is the superstar of India and tickets sell at sky high prices if his movie is releasing!).

More than the movie, enjoy the environment, the whistles, the claps, the thunderous applause of the fans for their favorite stars, which is something one cannot write about; it is the whole experience in itself. Forget about being able to listen to any dialogue, you are there only for the surroundings! Satyam is a very popular theatre and recently underwent renovations to become a plush multiplex. Enjoying a movie in this theatre has its own relevance and experience.

Movie at Satyam Theatre

Address: 8, Thiru Vi Ka Road, Royapettah, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600014, India

Website: Satyam Theatre

5. Guided Tour to Raj Bhavan (Governor's Residence)

Governor's House
Source: Photo by user Schwiki used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Raj Bhavan is the official residence of the Governor of Tamil Nadu. The official residence is situated in the Guindy Reserve Park Area, one of the very few sprawling green spaces one can find in Chennai. The grounds contain some rare species of fauna and flora. The buildings of Raj Bhavan boast of magnificent architecture.

This was a recent announcement wherein some parts of the Tamil Nadu Governor’s Residence in Adyar will be opened to the public for free, on Fridays and weekends from 4:30 pm to 6 pm. You can register your interest online at Raj Bhavan’s online registration system linked below. Visitors must bring an ID and a copy of the confirmation email during the visit. You will be taken on a guided tour to the sections open to the visitors.

Raj Bhavan

Address: Adyar, Chennai

Website: Raj Bhavan

6. Visit Theosophical Society, Adyar (from USD 229.0)

The Theosophical Society (6708451065)
Source: Photo by user Aleksandr Zykov used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The lovely green cover lies on the banks of the Adyar River, the branch at Adyar is the section of the Theosophical Society founded by Helena Blavatsky. The gardens are called Huddleton gardens. This place spans 260 acres (105 hectares) and is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, and some rare species of trees as well. There is a 450 year old banyan tree as well whose aerial roots covered a huge area in the garden. However, the tree fell under its own weight some years back.

Theosophical Society

Address: Adyar, Chennai

Website: Theosophical Society Chennai

Kalakshetra, Theosophical Society & Elliots Beach - Chennai

Duration: 5 hours

7. Relish some Chaat at Sowcarpet (from USD 29.0)

Indian cuisine-Chaat-Bhelpuri-03
Source: Photo by user stu_spivack used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sowcarpet is a neighborhood in north Chennai. Sowcarpet is one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city with narrow streets and vintage buildings. You can find a range of wholesale markets located here, it is a bustling commercial area. Food is an integral part of this place and do not forget to try the amazing chaat (snack) items in this area. Gujarati Mandali serves lip-smacking lunches and snacks all day. Mint street is more popular for the food. Novelty Tea House is another place to go for delicious food.

You can find plastic items, paper related stuff, anything really, in bulk in Sowcarpet. The reason you can find north Indian/Gujarati food here in plenty is due to the fact that a sizable North Indian community lives here. People from the business and money lending communities migrated here in early 1900s.

Sowcarpet

Address: Sowcarpet, Peddanaickenpet, George Town, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600079, India

Food trail in Sowcarpet Market by Wonder tours

Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes

8. Shopping in T. Nagar

India - Chennai - busy T. Nagar market 2 (3059483658)
Source: Photo by user McKay Savage used under CC BY 2.0

Thyagaraya Nagar or more popularly known as T. Nagar is the shopping destination in Chennai you must go to. You can shop for jewelry, clothes, utensils, household items, anything and everything you need on a day-to-day basis. Be it buying matching accessories for your new set of clothes or buying a new silk saree, it’s all available in T Nagar. Beware of the crowds, it can get difficult if you are claustrophobic, especially when a festival is around the corner. The T. Nagar bus stand is just a few meters away and you can take a bus or a share auto or even a taxi to wherever you want to go.

T Nagar Shopping

Address: T Nagar, Chennai, India

9. Day trip to Mahabalipuram/Mamallapuram (from USD 117.0)

"A beautiful Shore Temple of Mamallapuram"
Source: Photo by user Thamizhpparithi M... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Mahabalipuram, the current name for Mamallapuram, a town in the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu, is located around 60 km (37 mi) south of Chennai. Mamallapuram is an ancient historic town and used to be a bustling seaport during the first century. The Pallava dynasty ruled Mamallapuram and by 7th-century, it was an important port city.

In Mamallapuram you can find amazing bas-relief work and temples - the most famous one is the Shore Temple. There were around 6 temples but today only 1 stands. You can also see the Rathas - temples in the form of chariots and mandapas - cave sanctuaries depicting different scenes from mythology or dedicated to gods primarily Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The monuments have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. You will have to pay an entry fee of INR 30 per head (approx 0.50 USD) children below the age of 12 are free to enter. Keep the tickets carefully, you can check out all the temples and the monuments in the site with them. There is a beach near the shore temple, you can wet your legs there, although swimming is not allowed owing to the depth of the sea bed.

Mahabalipuram/Mamallapuram

Address: Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu 603104, India

Mahabalipuram day trip from Chennai by Wonder tours

Duration: 7 hours

2 reviews

10. Visit Kalakshetra (from USD 113.0)

Visiting Kalakshetra
Source: Photo by user U.S. Consulate Ge... used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Kalakshetra, now referred to as Kalakshetra Foundation, is an arts and cultural academy that is dedicated to the preservation of traditional values in Indian art and crafts. It mainly focuses on Bharatanatyam dance and Gandharvaveda music. This academy was founded in 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale, a dance exponent. You can look around the surroundings, catch a dance performance and even take up lessons if you are genuinely interested.

Kalakshetra Chennai

Address: Kalakshetra Road, Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600041, India

Website: Kalakshetra Foundation

Chennai Private Cultural Visit: Art, Dance, Temples, Sarees and a Homemade Meal

Duration: 5 hours

As the saying goes: Chennai is a city, Madras is an emotion

Chennai is home to millions of people, rich in culture and tradition, providing a good balance between cosmopolitan and modern lifestyle while you sip that cup of “filter kaapi” (traditional coffee). We hope this list will help you decide on your trip to Madras soon!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.
This article has been endorsed by Tamil Nadu local expert Venkatraman Dhamodaran

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