I didn’t see all the Tips for Chennai unfortunately. Or I didn’t found the highlights Chennai but in this blog I will try to show them to you so that your city trip in Chennai will succeed. I have been in Chennai three times now and the first time Jayalalithaa died and the second and third time I was there for the start & finish of the Rickshaw Challenge. I didn’t had much time to visit highlights at that time.
Chennai is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu and is located on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Chennai also has a long coastline, beach and promenade where you can get a breath of fresh air.
The city is still designated in many places with the old British name: Madras. In 2005 the city was severely hit by the Tsunami. During a census in 2001 they came to more than 7 million inhabitants.
I have to admit, I’m not very fond of Chennai. It’s just a little too busy, just a little too chaotic and just a little too few points I can focus on to go to. I get lost and find it hard to find points where I can eat well or sit down for a while. That’s entirely my own fault, I’m aware of that but I can find them better in other Indian cities.
Looking for the highlights Chennai was very difficult for me the first time…
Because on my first visit, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa died. This was in 2016 just before I went to do my first 10 days of Vipassana just outside this city. Still, that first and second day in Chennai I saw some nice places, like this street!
That first day I visited some nice places with an auto-rickshaw driver / guide.
When I got there a few years later, I drove that auto-rickshaw myself! I never wrote about it before but what a cool adventure it was! I went on an adventure with two fellow bloggers to do the Rickshaw Challenge. We drove about 1000 km in 6 days around Chennai. And so in those days we also had time to visit some of the highlights of Chennai.
Exploring Local Chennai
Dive into the real local life of Chennai, go to the streets and feel the vibe of local life. It is of course like you are used to in India, crowded and with a lot of honking 🙂 Every now and then a nice Indian music from a shop or the road. I love that vibe!
And look around you!
Tips for Chennai Citytrip
Marvel at the busy streets where you can buy anything you can think of. Where the do-it-yourself store is just as small as the greengrocer’s, but where you can buy everything you can think of, it seems.
Anything is possible in India and so houses are built on top of each other and you are standing in front of a building where you can look at it for at least 5 minutes before you realize how it is done!
Foreshore Estate Promenade
The beach and Fismarket Foreshore Estate Promenade
The beach of Chennai is also the place where the tsunami struck so many years ago. When I drove by the first time with the tuktuk the driver told me that for that reason many places are still empty. Houses were destroyed and have never been rebuilt.
When I was in Sri Lanka I spoke to a woman who told her story to me first hand. Sri Lanka is on the other side of the sea and got the same wave in this disaster.
The fish market along the Foreshore Estate Promenade is a truly local market. Women sit along the road selling the fresh catch of the day. In the many cool boxes (not connected to the electricity grid) the fish is waiting for the buyers. When I was there it turned out to be very hot… and no buyers to be seen.
This part of the promenade is a little better dressed. There are parks with memorials and buildings. It’s a kilometers long promenade I walked along twice and once I drove the rickshaw 🙂
Along the Kamarajar Promenade you will find all kinds of statues such as a statue of Mahatma Ghandi and a modern stone memorial and a tomb for the former Tamil Nadu chief minister M. G. Ramachandran.
Enough to see during a nice walk along this promenade
with a view of the sea!
Highlights Chennai, TN – India
Chennai Religious Highlights
Swami Vivekananda arrived in Chennai in January 1893 after years of wandering around India. He and his disciples settled there. Swami Vivekananda went to Chicago to participate in the parliament of religions to return after 4 years (1897).
Ramakrishna Universele temple
Sri Ramakrishna was a disciple of Vivekananda who, at the request of the followers of Vivekananda, commissioned him to build a centre of worship and study. At this temple was also a library and other buildings. Every day there are puja’s ( rituals) that are performed and food is shared.
Chennai Religious Highlights – Tamil Nadu, India
Santhome Cathedral Basilica
If you drive all the way down the promenade and then go a little past the fish market downtown you’ll pass this tall striking white basilica. It’s lovely to sit in here for a while. It’s cool inside and during the service there are large fans that give you an extra fresh breeze every time.
Look at the great paintings of the apostles on the wall. I never knew these apostles looked so great 🙂 I’m a fan!
Temples & Churches
St. Andrew’s Church
I came across this church on my search for Chennai on the internet. At my next visit to Chennai I will certainly look for this church. It is a neoclassical church from 1821 and one of India’s most beautiful churches, so of course I have to see it!
Hindu Temples in the streets of Chennai
I have seen and visited several temples but I see that there are some that are worth visiting that I have not found. Or at least, where I wasn’t taken by my rickshaw driver 🙂
When I wanted to go there in 2016 it turned out to be closed so you have to ask your guide for that. When I wanted to go there in 2019 it turned out to be closed just before noon puja. I hadn’t learned much from it :p
Temples you can ask your rickshaw driver for during your day tour of Highlights Chennai :
– Arulmigu Sri Parthasarathyswamy Temple
– Kapaleeshwarar Temple
Everywhere in the streets of Chennai you will find temples. All you have to do is ask someone where you can go and you will be referred to a place. A small temple or a large temple where food is distributed to an enormous amount of people, they are all equally impressive to visit!
Shopping? You can do that at Pondy Bazar!
I don’t really like shopping (at home and traveling) but sometimes it’s handy to buy some things. At the beginning of our Rickshaw Challenge we went to buy carpets for the seat in our rickshaw. Those were made of plastic and of course that can get pretty sweaty in the warm Indian weather! I was really happy with those the next 6 days.
Local Food in Chennai – Tamil Nadu
Food in Chennai
Tip: Idli for breakfast at Murugan Idli on 6th Avenue
Idli is a kind of rice cake with little taste in itself. This taste is created by all the above sauces and herbs that are given with it. Some Idli’s are already spiced but others you can dip in one of the many sauces they offer.
Besides the fact that it is delicious, you are among the many local Indian people who also take this as their breakfast. Look and marvel at the quantity and diversity of the Idli and the people!
At Murugan you can also dine or have lunch, check which Murugan is closest to you!
Just make sure you taste and try as much of the delicious Indian cuisine as possible!
For example at Palmshore Multi Cuisine Restaurant I ate a delicious curry with fresh naan in 2016.
Worth seeing just outside Chennai
Fort St. George
Just outside town, you’ll find this fort. I hadn’t been here yet either, but I wanted to mention it. This is the first British Fort (1639), starting position for the trade of the British East India Company in Tamil Nadu. Shortly after that Madras (chennai) was founded in 1640.
Saint Thomas Mount
This mountain is located on the outskirts of town and close to the Chennai International Airport. For a beautiful view certainly not a wrong place. Visit this place during sunrise or sunset, always beautiful of course! This one is also on my list for a next visit!
At the foot of this mountain you will find the St Thomas Garrison church which has its origins in the Syrian Christian community.
Sadras Dutch Fort – Kalpakkam
A nice trip along the coast with a photo stop here and there is never wrong. Sadras Dutch Fort is about 70 km away from Chennai and gives you the opportunity to see the surroundings!
The VOC (Dutch East India Company) was also active here, of course, so you’ll also find Dutch forts along the coast. In the Sadras Fort I saw many graves with Dutch texts on them.
Tips for your Chennai Citytrip
Where to stay?
Of course there are plenty of hotels and hostels to find for your stay while seeing the highlights Chennai! I have used three hotels and will describe them for you … Unfortunately I can’t recommend them all.
IBIS Chennai Sipcot
I stayed here one night in 2016. It was a lovely hotel but the place is not ideal as it was on the outskirts of town. I just came out of the 10 days of Vipassana and would fly on to Sri Lanka the next day so I chose a hotel close to the airport.
Loved my room with a ditto shower.
In the restaurant I really enjoyed an Indian curry and a fresh naan.
I must honestly say that everything was more intense and felt better because of the 10 days I spent on a hard mattress, cold shower and 10 hours a day sitting on a thin mattress 🙂
A cozy hostel where you can book a bunk bed or just rent your own room with bathroom. It is a hub of backpackers and here I met a co-organizer Princely of the Rickshaw Challenge in 2016 which gave me even more the urge to take on this challenge.
On the rooftop terrace where they serve breakfast and possibly lunch and dinner you can sit and if you look around you’ll come across several cultural paintings on the walls.
When I was there in 2016 CM Jayalalithaa died and I wasn’t allowed to leave the hostel for a couple of days. Those days I was served delicious food in my room. At one point it just became difficult for them to go shopping and make food but I didn’t miss out on anything during those strange days.
And, of course, delicious chai!
Clarion President hotel
I can’trecommend this hotel. In general I only talk about places and hotels that I do recommend, but this time the other way around. I didn’t like that the staff wasn’t helping you. There’s not much you can do if you arrive earlier and can’t get into your room yet. You’re not invited to come in, you can’t use the internet etc. The internet you can use afterwards is slow and doesn’t always work.
I stayed here before and after the Rickshaw Challenge and I’m afraid we ate something here that wasn’t quite right. We were the only ones who weren’t feeling rights after these first days here. And we were the only ones who also enjoyed our dinner here.
There is a nice pool but the sunbeds next to it have cushions that are in need of renewal. If you are looking for a towel or pillows you have to pick them up somewhere yourself etc. Yet the hotel rooms are nice and good. There is enough hot water for a nice shower and you can get a mattress for a third person in your room. Then you have to ask 3 times for an extra towel and bottle of water because that is hard for them to remember…
Highlights Chennai, TN – India
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