Some of the best places to visit in Chennai are the Government Museum and Santhome Basilica in Mylapore.
A modern capital with the appearance of a gracious garden city, Chennai was once a group of villages set amidst palm-fringed paddy fields, until two English East India Company merchants, Francis Day and Andrew Cogan, established a factory-cum-trading post here. Completed on St George’s Day, 23 April 1640, this fortified settlement came to be known as Fort St George. Outside its walls was George Town, the so-called “native town”, whose crowded lanes, each devoted to a particular trade, serviced the British colonists. Colonial rule linked the various villages, including the settlement founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese at San Thome, the sacred site associated with St Thomas the Apostle. Several centuries before the Europeans arrived, the great 7th century Pallava port was at Mylapore; its Kapaleeshwarar Temple, along with the Parthasarathi Temple at Triplicane, bear testimony to the city’s antiquity. Colonial rule marked the beginning of the city’s growth as a major commercial centre. Today, most of the large business houses have their offices in George Town, while Fort St George is the power centre of the Tamil Nadu state government.
Extending across 172 sq km (66 sq miles), Chennai today is a dynamic mix of the old and the new, its stately colonial structures juxtaposed with modern high-rises. Some of the best places to visit in Chennai are the Government Museum Chennai and Santhome Basilica in Mylapore. Other tourist places in Chennai that are also worth visiting, if time permits, include Ramakrishna Math Chennai and Marina Beach. One of the popular things to do in Chennai is to watch the sunset from the beach along with a several locals who love to spend time here. Chennai attractions may be thin on the ground but there a few gems that are worth digging up.
Below is a list of top places to visit in Chennai.
Housed across several British-built buildings known as the Pantheon Complex, this excellent Government Museum is Chennai’s best. The Indo-Saracenic Government Museum Chennai, with its faded red walls and labyrinth of staircases and interconnecting galleries, is spread over five sections of a large complex, each with a specific collection of objects. The 30,000 odd exhibits range from rocks and fossils to books and sculptures.
Built in the 17th century by the British East India Company, Fort St George has undergone many face lifts over the years. Inside the vast perimeter walls is now a precinct housing the Secretariat & Legislative Assembly of the government of Tamil Nadu. The Fort Museum has some interesting military memorabilia from the British and French East India Companies, as well as the Raj and Muslim administrations.
Located in Mylapore near the Santhome Basilica (1 km west), Kapaleeswarar Temple is Chennai’s most active, largest and impressive temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is symbolised as a peacock (mayil), thus giving the area its original name, Mayilapura, the “Town of the Peacocks”.
Located in Mylapore, Santhome Basilica is an impressive Gothic-style structure built by the Portuguese in 1898. It has an ornate interior with magnificent stained-glass windows and a towering steeple. The basilica is built over the tomb of the saint which is said to contain a small bone from the saint’s hand and the weapon that killed him.
Stretching for 13 km (8 miles), Marina Beach in Chennai is the second-longest beach in the world. It is best visited early in the morning around 6:00 am to watch the fishermen launch their fishing boats, or after dusk when the citizens of Chennai come out to play and enjoy the sea breezes after a sweltering hot day.
If the stress and chaos of city life in Chennai gets to you, head to the leafy and tranquil grounds of Ramakrishna Math Chennai which feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Monks in orange robes glide around and there’s a reverential atmosphere here that makes you feel relaxed and soulful.
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