The beginnings of Chennai the city we know it as today go back to around the 16th century, but people had been settled in this region for many years before that. Once just a humble collection of villages, modern Chennai is a busy metropolis in southern India. The Portuguese and Dutch both arrive in the 16th century, and then the British East India Company started to build up the region. The French also tried to stake their claim, but it was all in vain against the British, who ruled over the country until Indian independence in 1947. Chennai as we know it now is a mix of modern city and old settlement; here you’ll still find plenty of temples and interesting history, but also contemporary structures as well as some of the most beautiful beaches in India. Popular Attractions
Temples are going to be your first stop in Chennai, without doubt. Kapaleeshwarar Temple is by far the most famous, which was built in the 7th century and is a colourful spectacle with beautiful detailing. For a take on how the foreigners left their mark on Chennai, also check out St Mark’s Church – built by the British – and San Thome Cathedral, created by the Portuguese. All of these sites should give you a good introduction to the mix of culture that has influenced the city. The main beach spot in Chennai is Marina Beach. Here you’ll find people milling around at all times of day, eating food from the many stalls along the coastline and taking their kids on the merry-go-round or Ferris wheel. It’s not the cleanest of beaches and is quite busy, so if you want something a little different you might have to go further afield, but Marina Beach still makes for a pleasant afternoon. For more history and background information, check out Chennai’s Government Museum. This marvellous collection of items spanning across centuries from South India’s history will give you plenty of background on the region, and there is also a National Art Gallery and Contemporary Art Gallery within the same complex. Food
India has one of the most distinct cuisines in the world, and South Indian food, more specifically Tamil cuisine when we’re talking about Chennai, also has its own flavors. Most meals consist of a curried dish with rice, alongside pickled things and salads. You will find an abundance of good restaurants in Chennai that will serve up authentic dishes for you to try. The blend of spice used in Tamil cooking is out of the world, so if you love Indian food you will be in heaven! Transport
Chennai International Airport is well connected with the rest of the world as the third largest airport in India. You’ll be able to find direct flights to Chennai from Europe, North America, other parts of Asia, and domestically within India – so if you’re flying from elsewhere you should be able to change in major transport hubs on these continents. Tips for Travelers
If you’re a smoker, it is not advised that you do so in public as Chennai is a largely smoke-free zone. Females travelling to India should be particularly aware of the dress code – be as modest as possible, covering shoulders, knees, and chest when you’re out in public. Loose-fitting clothes are best. Men won’t have as much of a problem, but some modesty is still advised. Chennai is a relatively safe city, but theft can be a problem. Carry as little on you as possible when you’re out and about, and keep things back in the hotel locked up whenever you can. Fun Facts
The city was previously known as ‘Madras’ – its name changed to Chennai in 1996. Chennai is also known as the ‘Gateway to South India’. Chennai produces more than 40% of the motor vehicles and parts made in India, which is why it is also known as the ‘Detroit of India’.