Chennai, India

Chennai, India

on the Bay of Bengal in south east India is the
oft-overlooked city of Chennai. Despite having a population of nine
million, the pace of life here is less hectic than in other Indian
stalwart cities (it’s almost impossible to keep a cool head in
infamous traffic jams).

Retaining its historic culture while simultaneously looking
towards the future, Chennai is rife with charisma. Wander through
urban villages to see beyond new hotels and modern builds, and
truly appreciate the deeply embedded traditions and history of the

For a taste of traditional Chennai life, head straight to George
Town Markets and Bazaars to witness locals bartering for food
ingredients and spices. Then, immerse your palate and sample
authentic Chettinad cuisine at any of the city’s restaurants.

Don’t miss…

Chennai has more history than you might be able to fit into one
trip – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Known for its past
life as a British military garrison and East India Company trading
outpost, the city is paved with historical significance. Old
buildings, museums and temples dotted around the city mark this
period – the most famous of which is the Fort Saint George. Built
in 1653, it houses Saint Mary’s Church, one of the oldest surviving
churches constructed by the British.

For an architecture fix, head to nearby George Town, where
you’ll find the second largest judicial building in the world: the
Madras High Court. Admire its Indo-Saracenic architecture,
stained-glass doors and painted ceilings before heading to the
historic neighbourhood of Mylapore. The area hosts a number of
imposing temples and cathedrals, most notably the Kapaleeshwarar
Temple, built around the seventh-century CE.

Who to take with you

A fellow art lover. Chennai is home to Cholamandal Artists’
Village, India’s largest artists’ commune. The artists here are
entirely self-sustaining and have built all houses, studios,
galleries and workshops in the vicinity themselves. Famous for
spearheading the Madras Movement of Art, a regional modern art
campaign that began in the 60s, this is the place to head for your
share of modern art, paintings and sculptures, and to get a glimpse
of how these artists work.

When to go

During summer the city can reach extreme temperatures –
sometimes upwards of forty degrees – and monsoon season is
typically between September
and December.
For perfect temperatures and Chennai’s festival season, go in
January. Other dates for your diary: at the beginning of every
year, Chennai hosts a five-week long Madras Music Season, closely
followed by the Pongal Festival, a four-day harvest

Most likely to bump into…

Animal conservationists. The Students Sea Turtle Conservation
Network (SSTCN) is a voluntary conservation group set up in 1987,
working to raise awareness about endangered species such as the
Olive Ridley sea turtle. Many students volunteer during nesting
season (December – April) to help collect eggs hatched on Chennai’s
shores, or release hatchlings in March and April.

Essentials to bring with you

Sandals or flip flops. Running for eight miles, Marina Beach is
India’s longest natural
urban beach
. Sunbathe or play some pickleball before wandering
along the shore to find local evening hotspots and food stalls.
Although you might be tempted to go for a paddle, don’t give in to
the inviting waters – swimming is strictly prohibited due to strong

How to get there

Fly into Chennai International Airport, just south of the city

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