Chennai, previously known as Madras, is a culturally rich and colourful city. Even a short stay in this ancient but teeming metropolitan city is sure to leave you with a deep respect for southern culture and the arts. Here’s how you can spend a memorable weekend in Chennai.
Beach Road Drive – 6 am
Chennai wakes early to the chanting of hymns (‘suprabhatam‘) and the sweet smell of filter ‘kapi’ (coffee). Start your sojourn with a long drive down the beach road. Start from the University of Madras and drive slowly right up to Santhome. To your left is the Marina Beach, the longest natural urban beach in India. This is the best way to view the numerous memorials and monuments on the beach such as the Anna Memorial, MGR Memorial, Labour Statue, Subramaniya Bharati Statue, and Kannagi Statue. After the long relaxing drive through the promenade, stop at the old lighthouse and explore it.
San Thome Cathedral – 7.00 am
Close by is the San Thome Basilica. This 16th century church was built by Portuguese explorers. It holds the remains of St. Thomas, an apostle of Jesus. The church was rebuilt in Neo-Gothic style in 1893 and is one of the most visited churches in south India.
Breakfast at Rayar Mess – 7.45 am
“Customers are family” – that’s the motto of 70-year-old Rayar Mess on Arundale Street (Mylapore), one of the best places for fluffy idlis, crispy dosas, and coffee.
Visit to Kapaleeshwarar Temple – 8.15 am
What’s a visit to Chennai without a trip to the famous Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Mylapore. The temple dates back to the 7th century and is a beautiful sample of Dravidian temple architecture. The God Kapaleeshwarar and Goddess Karpagambal (Shiva and Parvati) are believed to grant the wishes for those who visit the temple.
Exploring Mylapore – 9 am
This is the best time to explore the bustling streets of Mylapore. From flower stalls to souvenir shops, from snacks on display to wooden artefacts, this place is quintessential old Chennai. Do look up the numerous art galleries here and soak in the beautiful Tanjore paintings these display.
Visit to Parthasarathy Temple – 10 am
Another one of the ancient but magnificent temple that the region is famous for, is the Parthasarathy Temple of Triplicane (dedicated to Krishna). The temple is one of the 108 ‘Divya Desams‘ and finds mention in 6th century scriptures.
Tour of the Government Museum – 11.30 am
The Government Museum in Egmore, Chennai is located in an ancient colonial building and the best display is the showcase of bronze idols dating back to the Chola times. Do not miss out the Pallava sculptures and the ancient Buddhist relics on display here.
Lunch at Saravana Bhavan – 1.30 pm
From Egmore come down to T Nagar, Pondy Bazaar, and lunch at the famous Saravana Bhavan. The restaurant is part of an international chain that has put Tamil food on the global map.
Pick nic nacs at Pondy Bazaar – 2.30 pm
Pondy Bazaar is a bizarre combination of brands, malls, and street vendors selling just about anything you can imagine. If you plan to pick up junk jewellery, purses, shoes, and such nic nacs from the street vendors, do remember to haggle.
Shopping at T Nagar – 3 pm
What’s a visit to Chennai without a stop at Nalli, best-known for its Kanjeevaram silk sarees? Also try out the numerous saree and clothing shops in T Nagar such as Pothys Kumaran, RMKV. T Nagar is best known for its jewellery shops. G R Thangamaligai (GRT) is among the best known with numerous showrooms, but there are many others such as Kalyan Jewellers, Vimmudi Bangaru Chetty, Jayachandran, Prince Jewellery, Malabar Gold, and NAC. Recently, Joy Alukkas has opened the biggest jewellery showroom in the world in T.Nagar, Chennai. Prepare to be dazzled.
If it is utensils and home essentials that you have in mind do not miss Saravana Stores, a complete home shop with incredible variety of household items. Also if time permits do visit Ranganathan Street, one of the busiest street markets in India.
Cool Off at Panagal Park – 5 pm
After a frenzied, hectic day in Chennai, cool off at Panagal Park. Sit and soak in the sights and sounds of Chennai. Do indulge yourself and buy a string of jasmine flowers or munch on raw banana fritters (‘bajji‘) and tea that the vendors will bring you.
Concert at Music Academy – 7 pm
You may travel to many cities but clubs and discotheques tend to be the same. Skip the regular nightlife in favour of one of the famous Carnatic concerts or Bharatanatyam recitals at Music Academy, an institution in this culturally rich city.
Day 2 –
Breakfast at Murugan Idli Shop – 9 am
Indulge in a lazy, late breakfast at the iconic Murugan Idli Shop of Chennai. This restaurant chain is a favourite with locals and has 17 outlets in Chennai city. Take a break from idli and dosa and try the best of Tamil food by ordering for idiappam, raagi semiya, sweet pongal or uthappam.
Visit the Guindy National Park – 11 am
Traveling through Chennai can be time consuming, even though the traffic is organized and orderly. Despite the fact that it is one of the smallest national parks in the country, the Guindy National Park is one of the most visited, possibly because it is located in one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the country.
The park is home to numerous animals such as the spotted deer, the blackbuck, and jackal. The Snake Park is one of the best attractions of the national park and is home to a great variety of reptiles. The Children’s Park is a hit with small children and a great way to teach them the wonder of nature.
Gandhi Mandapam – 2 pm
After a quick lunch at a local eatery, head straight to Gandhi Mandapam. The Gandhi Mandapam is a vast complex of memorials. Apart from the structure dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, there are a number of memorials dedicated to eminent people such as Rettamalai Srinivasan, Kamaraj, Rajaji, and Minjur Bhaktavatsalam. The sprawling lawns and the beautiful monuments will leave you with beautiful memories.
Elliot’s Beach – 4 pm
Just before sunset head out to Elliot’s Beach in Besant Nagar. Not as crowded as Marina Beach, this beach is ideal for a tranquil sandy evening spent best listening to the sound of the waves.
Rajinikant Film – 7.00 pm
Do not miss out on the experience of watching a Rajinikant film in Tamil with the locals and get caught up in the “Thalaiva” frenzy.
If you intend to spend more than 48 hours in Chennai, you may want to visit Valluvar Kottam, Ashtalakshmi Temple, George Town, St. Thomas Mount (Church), Cholamandala Artists’ Village, Kalakshetra, Vivekananda Illam, Vandalur Zoo, VGP Golden Beach, and Thousand Lights Mosque.
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