Image Credit: Dr. Mithun James
Retaining its traditional flavor even today; is the coastal city of Chennai. Every aspect of its culture, be it the cuisine, music and dance, textiles or architecture, is steeped in time-honoured customs. Amongst this setting, it is no wonder that there are many interesting places to visit in Chennai.
With several religious sites, galleries, museums, gardens, historic monuments, beaches and adventurous activities, one can easily spend a week touring this city. Given below is a list of where you can visit when in this city. While some are located in the heart of the city, others are placed on the outskirts and call for a daylong expedition.
Popular beaches in Chennai:
1) Elliot’s Beach
Now renamed as Besant Nagar Beach, Elliot’s is one of the places to see in Chennai and less crowded than the popular Marina Beach. On the southern side this seashore are the famedAshta Lakshmi Temple and Velanganni Church, popular among the residents of Chennai.
The Schmidt Memorial is yet another draw of Elliott Beach which was built in remembrance of a Dutch sailor, Karl Schmidt. Head here to experience a tranquil evening overseeing the waves as they roll into the shore
2) Marina Beach
India’s largest beach happens to be Chennai’s Marina Beach which extends from Fort St. George to Besant Nagar. One of the best places to visit in Chennai for viewing a spectacular sun rise, this sandy delight is lined by palm trees on one side.
An old light house stands on the southern end of Marina along with several other structures including an aquarium, a swimming pool and a park. With food stalls, rides on ponies, kite flying and beach games to entertain you, a visit to here must be included on your trip to this city.
3) Covelong Beach
Located a distance of 40km from Chennai, on the coast of Coromandel, Covelong Beach is well-known for its beach activities and the serene beauty of its surroundings. Once a major port, one comes across it on the way to Mahabalipuram.
It is now thronged mostly by water sports enthusiasts for activities such as wind surfing and swimming. Close by are ancient monuments like forts, churches and mosques apart from the town of Mahabalipuram and the Crocodile Farm, makingCovelong Beach a popular destination for a day outing.
Monuments & historical places to visit in Chennai:
4) Fort St. George
A delight for history buffs, this fort constructed during the British Rule, encloses historic monuments of St. Mary’s church and St. George museum. The museum houses artefacts from that era including paintings, coins, silverware, arms, porcelain and documents.
Timings: 9 am to 5 pm (except Friday)
Entry Fee: INR 100 for foreign tourists and INR 5 for Indian visitors (only the museum)
5) San Thome Church
An important religious spot for the Christian community, the sparkling white structure of San Thome stands on the tomb of St Thomas. This structure, which is a reminder of the colonial past of the city, has stained glass windows and a statue of St Thomas in a sitting posture. A museum, a library and a shop selling prayer material are found within the church premises too.
6) Sri Parthasarathy Temple
One of the historical places to visit in Chennai is the temple said to be the oldest in this city. Dedicated to Lord Krishna, one can see its splendid coloured gopuram apart from the other shrines that stand within the temple grounds.
Timings: 4 am to 11:30 pm
7) Kapaleeshwar Temple
Apart from being a religious spot, what draws crowds to this temple is its unique architecture. The detailed Gopuram of this structure is 37 metres high and is a fine example of Dravidian style of construction. The temple, home to the deities Shiva and Karpagambal, even holds a festival in the months of March and April.
Timings: 5:30 am to 12 pm, 5-9 pm
8) Vellankani Shrine
Just off the Elliot’s Beach stands the AnnaiVailankanni Shrine which is much revered among both Christians and non-Christians. The pristine white structure of the church stands overlooking the Bay of Bengal and is visited by thousands of solace-seekers each day. One can attend the mass conducted here in both Tamil and English.
9) Thousand Lights Mosque
Another place to see in Chennai for its architectural magnificence is this mosque which holds a special place in the Shia community. A total of 1000 oil lamps light up the hall of the mosque, which is how it got its name. Its multi-domes and twin minarets enclose the main hallwhere men offer their prayers. There is a separate hall for the women.
10) Connemara Public Library
Constructed in late 19th century, Connemara library is a treasure house of centuries-old publications. With a collection of over 600,000 books, it is one of Asia’s largest libraries. Be it avid readers or scholars doing research work, one could easily get lost in this enchanting world of books as they immerse themselves in their favourite activity.