Chennai

Chennai is the cultural heart of South India. Impressive architecture is commonplace, with the oldest buildings dating as far back as the 7th century.

The Dravidian style Kapaleeswarar Temple along with St George’s Cathedral and Vivekananda House are essential cultural experiences. As well as being a beautiful building, Vivekananda House holds a permanent exhibition on Indian Culture and Swami Vivekananda’s life. All three are easily accessed from the city.

Visitors interested in India’s moto history should venture to the Royal Enfield factory. More than 50 years on, the distinct handcrafted 1950s Enfield motorbike continues to be produced. Located 17kms from the cities heart, bookings are essential.

With temperatures ranging between 28 and 38 degrees, Marina Beach receives thousands of visitors each day; a great place to observe daily life in Chennai. Families, couples and joggers make good use of the promenade that looks out across the Bay of Bengal. Shops and food stalls line the 13km stretch of beach that in summer can be busy from end-to-end as locals look to escape the heat.

Chennai is also home to one of the world’s largest cultural events, the Madras Music Season. From December through January audiences and artists from all over India visit Chennai for the six-week festival that showcases new and already established Carnatic musicians. As well as music, dance, drama, lectures and music awards are featured throughout the season.

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Book Flights to Chennai Book now
Currency Indian rupee
Population 5 million
Area 1,189 km2
Electricity 220 - 240v
Languages Tamil, English
Holiday Packages to Chennai Book now
Time Zone UTC +5.30
Dining

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the choice of restaurants in Chennai. More than five million people live in the city, which is also home to a large expatriate community.

For visitors wanting to experience traditional South Indian cuisine, there are some wonderful menu staples available in most restaurants.

For breakfast try the rice and lentil based crepe called Dosai. Originating in Tamil Nadu, these savory crepes are filled with spiced vegetables and sambar–a type of lentil stew and served with sweet chutney. Idli is another popular breakfast and snack time food. Typically it consists of a lentil cake served with steamed rice and chutney.

For lunch a simple but delicious Thali works as a tasting plate to the region. The Chennai version uses spices such as green cardamom, cloves and coriander to flavour the dishes that usually include curry, soup, sambar, pickle, yoghurt and rice. 

A wonderful way to experience the variety of food in Chennai is to explore the food stalls that line the streets. Visitors can build their own dinner by mixing dishes like biryani and bhajjis. As a general rule, when trying street food, stick to vegetarian options.

Shopping

Ranganthan Street is the busiest stretch in Chennai–there isn’t much you can’t find here. Silk sarees known as Kanchipuram are an authentic souvenir to remember a trip to Chennai by. The saris although made 80kms from the city in the town of Kanchipuram still serve as an emblem to the region.

According to Hindu mythology, silk was Lord Vishnu’s favourite fabric and silk retailers will be more than happy to explain the significance and quality of the silk fabrics they sell.

Sari production is one of the most important industries of the region and steps have been taken to protect both the silk weavers and tourists looking for an authentic Kanchipuram. By purchasing a sari with the ‘Kanchipuram Silk Sarees’ geographical tag, visitors can be sure they are supporting local industry.

Cotton in every colour and print can be found on aptly named, Cotton Street. Bargaining skills can be put to good practice at the markets in George Town, which is another good place to find sarees and tailors.

For an excellent collection of second hand books, Moore Market stock books and comics in a variety of languages.