Top 10 Things to Do in Namma Chennai

Top 10 Things to Do in Namma Chennai

Muskaan Jidev | December 19, 2019 |

Chennai, a heartbeat in every Thamizhan’s heart, is a very warm and welcoming city. The pride in every Chennaites’ heart or as they like to call themselves “Thamizhan”, comes from a huge and vast history of culture, traditions, and customs. This city is an abode to many communities that have accepted Chennai as their own soil.


The people in Chennai express the utmost brotherhood towards every single person without discrimination on any grounds. The common endearment, “Anna” that we so frequently see in movies as a stereotypical representation of a Thamizhan is a very emotive gesture of comradeship. 


Chennai is home to the Superstars and has the most flourishing cinema fraternity, Kollywood. In the 1960s, directors, producers, music directors, and cinematographers preferred ‘Madras’, as it was called back in those days, over any other city for its processing labs, studios, and equipment that was far ahead of its time. The undying love and devotion that the fans have towards their “Thalaivar” and “Ulaganayagan” are priceless.


The city is enveloped with trees, flora, and fauna making it rich in biodiversity. Chennai is an embodiment of grace and beauty.  The city’s climate is unpredictable; either it is too hot or temperate with occasional showers.Chennai does not have a nightlife, but it surely does make you feel alive.


Chennai is a complete treat for a bon vivant for its soothing beach along Beach Road, the famous filter coffee in Mylapore, the tummy-filling biryani in Triplicane, the posh shopping street in Nungambakkam, the country’s third oldest cricket stadium in Chepauk, the biggest library in Kotturpuram, the conserved heritage sites in Mahabalipuram, and so on. These are the top 10 places you must definitely visit in Chennai:-


10. Marina Beach

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Marina Beach is the longest Beach in the country. Although it is one long stretch, it has two different names on the basis of the entry. The entry made near the Gandhi Statue is called Gandhi Beach and the one further beyond the statue is called Marina Beach. Marina is also home to several fishermen. It is quite common to spot fishermen taking their catamaran into the sea before the sunrise.


Several fishmongers sell different kinds of fishes, shrimps, crabs, etc on Sundays. The best time to visit the beach is in the month of December and early January. This is the time when the city receives rainfall, making the atmosphere cool. Photographers, dancers, musicians, sportspeople, tourists and everyone who enjoys the blue sea visit the beach early in the morning to see the sunrise. It is a breathtaking and magical view making it look like something right out of a Disney movie.


Several hawkers put up small stalls early in the morning selling tea, coffee, fruits, cereal, soup, and pulses. The soup there is to die for and is a bestseller. Every day you can spot a huge flock of birds swarming across the sky and resting on the open sand. A Marwadi merchant makes sure to bring gunny bags filled with grains for the birds and scatters them on the ground. This has become a hot spot for avid bird watchers.


There is also a Light House made accessible to the general public, although the rules are very stringent and visiting hours are very limited. During the evening, the beach turns into a carnival with its famous raw mango, merry-go rides, food stalls, horse rides, and games. If you were new to this soil, every now and then you might be bugged with soothsayers wanting to predict your future and flower ladies singing your praises so you would buy their flowers. You can access the beach either by bus or a train.


9. Mahabalipuram

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Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a small district on the outskirts of the city. Mahabalipuram is known for its intricate and magnificent sculptures and monuments dating back to the 7th and 8th century of the Pallava Dynasty. All the sculptures and monuments are very nearby from each other making it one whole. Although the sightseeing of these monuments follows a hierarchal order.


The Shore Temple is an ancient temple carved from a single rock and overlooks the shore of the Bay of Bengal, thence the name. The monument has been conserved very well through the years and is marked as a heritage site by the UNESCO. The entire architectural structure remains intact to this day, making all the stairways still in use. There is a garden for people to sit and relax with wild and exotic flowers and insects to keep us company.


The entry fee for the Shore Temple for Indians is different from that of Foreigners. A Literature major or a Postcolonial Studies Major may notice a very ironical statement on the tariff board which says, “Indians - 150/- and Others - 400/-“. Everyone in Mahabalipuram speak two different languages other than Tamil, it being the regional language. Because of the vast tourist attraction, the hawkers and shopkeepers learned to speak English as well as Hindi.


Right outside the entrance of the Shore Temple, there is a row of shops selling authentic materials like beaded necklaces, seashell decorative and the famous Kolhapuri sandals. There is also an accessible beach that sells mouth-watering seafood at very reasonable prices.


The Five Rathas or otherwise known as Pancha Rathas is another monument within the vicinity that resembles small rock chariots which are also carved from a single rock. The rich artisanship of the Pallava Dynasty can very well be seen from this monument. Artists in the town make a living by making small miniature versions of this monument on soaps and stones and selling it to tourists and visitors. One will have to either hire a car or travel by car for a comfortable journey to Mahabalipuram. 


8. Madras War Cemetery

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The Madras War Cemetery is a cemetery for all the young and brave British soldiers who were martyred in World War - I and World War – II during their allocation in Chennai. It was built after the World War – II by British Generals and is to date funded by the British Government. This cemetery does not contain their graves, as the bodies were sent back to their respective homelands; it acts as a tribute to the soldiers by revering their tombstones.


In the entrance of the cemetery, there is a huge block of limestone on which “Their name liveth for evermore” is engraved. The entire cemetery has up to 200 to 300 tombstones with flower beds close to each stone. Each tombstone has the name, date of birth, place, and legion along with a message from the loved one mentioned on the tombstone.


The cemetery resembles that of a garden with a beautiful floral arch of flowers, leaves, and vines. There is also a structure of a cross right in the middle, as though to symbolise that God is protecting them in the shadow of his wings. Despite it being next to a busy main road, there is a different kind of serenity and peace that lingers within this place. It transcends you to another world.


The structures are very English in design and style. The Madras War Cemetery does not collect any sort of entry fee and is open to all. Although, the only request made by the caretakers and officials is to maintain silence in honour to the brave soldiers. Travelling by car to the cemetery would be a bad idea as it is on the main road and the cemetery does not have a car park. You can either travel by metro or an auto to reach the War Cemetery.


7. Taj Coromandel

Taj Coromandel is a 5 - star hotel in the hip and happening part of the city,Nungambakkam. The Taj franchise is a very successful and well-known franchise of luxurious hotels. Despite many 7 - star hotels in Chennai, Taj does make it to the list because of its grandeur and elegance, but for its very famous “Gilli Biryani”.


Gilli Biryani is prepared very differently from other biryani varieties. The recipe in itself alters the regular conventions of preparing biryani. It consists of more masala, spice, and flavour and gives a “gravy” texture to the rice, thence its name “Gilli” which means wet in Hindi, making it the most sought after biryani. The mutton Gilli biryani often has more flavour while compared to that of chicken.


The restaurant in Taj Coromandel that serves this biryani is open till 5:00 am as their customers cruise around the city for late-night drives just to buy this biryani. Despite it costing 1,250/- per plate, the fans for this gooey biryani is huge. Gilli Biryani is comfort food for many and has won many hearts.


6. Muttukadu Boat House

Muttukadu Boat House is a boating club on the East Coast Road or fondly known as ECR. This boathouse is on the shore of the backwaters of the Bay of Bengal. This is one of the most crowded and attractive tourist spots on the outskirts of the city. People get to cruise on the cool backwaters of the ocean in rowboats and motorboats. Since the boathouse is affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Tourism Board, the rates are very reasonable and affordable to attract more tourists to the spot.


There is a canteen and kiosk right next to the ticket counter. The boathouse also has a car park. After the ticket is bought, a guide is assigned per boat to take the customer for a ride. Exotic birds and swans can be seen throughout the calm voyage. The best time to visit the boathouse is during the migration season. The birds blanket the waters and make it a real treat for tourists at that point of the year. One can see the weekend getawayswhile in the boat making it a spectacular view. You can either travel by car or a bus to reach Muttukadu Boat House.


5. Vandalur Zoo

Vandalur Zoo is a zoological park in Chennai. The zoo is very huge and stretches across acres making it one of the biggest zoos in India. Vandalur zoo houses many exotic birds, snakes, crocodiles, wild animals and so on. The animals are segregated in different parts, keeping all the animal species of a particular animal in one place.


The snake section of the park occupies the least amount of space. The snakes are kept separate from each other in glass-like containers with hollow barks for them to rest. The bird section is categorised in a very systematic manner making it easier to understand their genus and species. The lion section of the zoo is what gains the most attention and attraction by tourists. It’s a real treat to see the cubs playing with the older lions.


The tiger section of the zoo takes the utmost care of the tigers as they were on the brink of becoming extinct. Rare tiger species as the White Bengal Tiger can be found in the zoo. The zoo offers cycles and golf carts for visitors to move around the zoo comfortably. Safaris are also conducted by guides for people who wish to cover every single nook and cranny of the zoo.


The zoo also has canteens and food stalls at hot spots. The zoo is filled with trees and small lawns for families to have picnics. The caretakers of the zoo exhibit very kind behaviour towards all the animals and have trained them such that they would respond to their name. Such reciprocation from the animals is a sight worth watching.


4. Pondy Bazaar

Pondy Bazaar is a huge and narrow marketplace in T.Nagar. From the cheapest to the most branded items can be found in Pondy Bazaar. This place is a hub for all shopaholics who are a little tight in their pockets. Brands like Levis, Rado, Raymond, etc stands tall in the congested streets of Pondy Bazaar.


Pondy Bazaar is known for its reasonable prices on bulk orders of clothes from a very well-known apparel outlet called “Flora”. The initiative to promote handloom in India was a step taken to help flourish India’s oldest handloom textile industry called “Co-optex”, which has one of the many outlets in Pondy Bazaar as well.


Holy Angels’ Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School is a convent school in Pondy Bazaar which is marked as a heritage site for its historical significance. This school is one of the best convent all-girls schools in Chennai. Pondy Bazaar has many bus stops making it very convenient to access the marketplace. Although, the traffic in the evenings can get tiresome.


3. Jal Phiroj Clubwalla Dar-e-Mehar, Parsi Temple

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The Parsi Fire Temple in Royapuram known as ‘Jal Phiroj Clubwalla Dar-e-Meher’ is the one and only Parsi temple in Chennai. The temple was built in 1910 by Philanthropist Phiroj M. Clubwalla to the Madras Parsi Zarthosti Anjuman. The temple is a simple white building built in the typical Parsi style of architecture.


The surrounding is very calm and composed with beautiful little flowers in a small garden. The temple is managed by a Dastoor; Dastoor is a term for a Zoroastrian high priest who has authority in religious matters. The temple is said to hold the sacred fire in a silver bowl that has been burning for over 100 years and is stoked five times a day by the priest.


There is a plaque right outside the prayer hall that says, “Admittance to Parsis and Zoroastrian Iranis only”. Hence, tourists and other visitors who are non – Parsis are only allowed to peek inside the sacred prayer hall from the corridor. The prayer hall is quite small and does not have the capacity to hold many people. It has a picture of the sacred fire woven with embroidered silver and gold threads.


The entrance of the prayer hall has very thought-provoking and philosophical symbols with a message on its door hanging that has been passed on from different Dastoors across India. It looks like glass badges upon which there are neat paintings. The first glass badge had a painting of Mazda which symbolises the soul. The next in line was the Moon and the Sun which symbolises peace and power.


The next painting was that of Zoroaster, who was the spiritual leader of Zoroastrianism. The next badge had a painting that looked like tools; those tools are used to stoke the fire in the temple. The last one was that of Mazda which symbolises the soul again. This Psalm of Life weaves well with the lines from a poem written by H.W Longfellow, “Dust thou art, to dust thou returnest”.


2. Ramanujam Math Education Centre

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Ramanujam Math Education Centre is in the narrow streets of Royapuram. This treasure lies hidden in Chennai and is not known to many. The caretakers of the centre are very kind and courteous towards the guests who visit the centre to better understand the genius. For one to understand the value of the museum and what gravity it holds, one will have to understand the Genius’ ordinary life with extraordinary struggles.


Other than his spark of genius, it was Ramanujan's battles that made him a dynamic person. This museum was built by Mathematics Teacher Mr. P.K Srinivasan and Philanthropist and Entrepreneur Mr. A.T.B Bose. Mr. P.K Srinivasan gathered all of Ramanujan’s belongings from his brother who was supposedly about to throw them away in the river after Ramanujan’s death.


The museum has personal letters sent and received by Ramanujan, books, photographs and so on. It is said that Ramanujan once lived in Triplicane, but the house owner feared that the government would take charge of his property and so he destroyed the plaque which was the sole evidence hearsay.


The museum is small but gives us the opportunity to introspect into the life of Ramanujan and look at him a little beyond just a Great Mathematician. This centre is also a mathematics tuition centre and has a small hall with a provision of a projector and screen for students. It is better to explore this place on foot.


1. High Court Museumweekend getaways

The Madras High Court Museum is a building inside the High Court premises. The rules are very stringent, carrying luggage to the museum is not advisable. The museum is well lit and has many models and exhibits. There is a model of the architectural structure of the Madras High Court that very explicitly explains the purpose behind each erected dome, pillar, and brick.


This is the only High Court in the world to exhibit religious connotation to its architectural design. The building is in the shape of the Sacred Cross which holds great importance in Christianity. It is built in the Hindu Sarasenic class. Berthed were two Holy Islamic Shrines stood.


This is the only High Court in the world to have two Light Houses as a part of its structure. The museum also has a model of a court set up. It consists of a witness stand, a table for the judge and fellow lawyers mimicking a court scene. There are many portraits of several British advocates.


Many important documents and a timeline of Chennai’s history is a part of its interior decoration. Equipment used in the court during the rule of the British is on display. This court is a must-visit to catch a glimpse of how the jurisdiction worked back then. 


These are the top 10 places to visit in Chennai. You will surely take a truckload of everlasting memories for a souvenir back home.


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About the author

Muskaan Jidev