Holidays in Chennai provide a gateway to magical experiences that will live long in the memory.
Set on the stunning shores of the Bay of Bengal, this fascinating city – formerly known as Madras – is regarded as the soul of southern India.
Architectural gems such as San Thome Cathedral and the Kapaleeshwarar Temple are among the most famous sights in this, the capital of historic Tamil Nadu state.
Alongside them you'll find stylish hotels, trendy boutiques and smart restaurants. The local cuisine – and in particular the city’s vegetarian dishes – is sure to delight. There's also the chance to relax on one of the world’s longest urban beaches.
Pick one of our perfect Chennai holiday packages and start the countdown to a memorable trip.
However you like to spend your days and nights, Chennai has attractions and activities that will keep you busy throughout your stay here.
One of Chennai’s most famous attractions, Marina Beach runs for three enchanting miles between the harbour at George Town and the San Thome Cathedral area.
The world’s second-longest urban beach, it’s the perfect place to unwind and get a flavour of the good times that come with life on the shores of the Bay of Bengal.
Don’t forget to check out the Chennai Lighthouse, as well as the daily market.
Chennai holidays provide great opportunities for a little retail therapy, with a head-spinning array of shops to investigate.
The area around Panagal Park is filled with silk stores, while George Town – the heart of the city’s wholesale trade – is the place to buy jewellery.
The Nungambakkam district’s Khader Nawaz Khan Road has a good number of fashionable boutiques. Express Avenue, Chennai Citi Centre and Phoenix Market City are among the top-rated malls.
Chennai sees itself as the keeper of southern India’s cultural flame, so there are no shortage of museums, galleries and temples to discover here.
One of the city’s top attractions is the Chennai Government Museum, home to the world's finest collection of Chola period bronzes and portraits of colonial-era figures.
Other places to fit into your itinerary include San Thome Cathedral and the Kapaleeshwarar Temple, an architectural highlight that is believed to date back to the seventh century.
Chennai is justly proud of its reputation as a culinary hotspot. There’s a good range of high-end Indian restaurants, while those with a taste for international cuisine will find a decent array of options.
However, it’s the no-frills dishes that are served at street food stalls in areas such as Egmore and George Town that perhaps provide the most authentic taste of city life for visitors from abroad.
The meals on offer at the humble and long-established Rayar’s Mess eatery in the Mylapore neighbourhood come highly recommended.
This city has enough to keep any traveller occupied for days and weeks on end, but there are also plenty of opportunities to explore the wider region.
Tours can be booked to places such as Pondicherry, a two-and-a-half hour drive from Chennai and home to the Sri Aurobindo spiritual community, or Mahabalipuram and its collection of UNESCO-recognised monuments.
Other popular destinations in Tamil Nadu state include the sari-weaving hub that is Kanchipuram and the charming villages of the Chettinad area.
If you’re planning a holiday to Chennai, then it’s worth bearing in mind that the Egmore area has some of the city’s best value accommodation.
For higher-end bed and breakfasts, turn to the buzzing commercial hub of Nungambakkam or Alwarpet, a well-regarded residential neighbourhood where many noted figures – including the acclaimed physicist C.V. Raman – lived in years gone by.
One of the most popular four-star hotels in Chennai is the Ambassador Pallava, a five-minute drive from Marina Beach and handily placed for the Chennai Citi Centre shopping mall.
For three-star accommodation, try the Raj Palace Sundar, which is also close to Marina Beach, or the Mount Residency, a couple of miles from Fort St George.
If you’re looking for an extra touch of class, then look no further than the Taj Coromandel.
This five-star hotel enjoys a dream location and is within easy reach of the Chennai Citi Centre shopping mall and Marina Beach. Amenities include an outdoor pool, a hair salon and a spa treatment room.
The currency in Chennai and the rest of India is the Rupee (INR). Visitors will find that credit cards are accepted in hotels and larger stores.
Tamil is the official language here. Hindi and English are widely spoken, while Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu are also used by some people.
Chennai has an efficient metro system that serves key locations such as the Central and Egmore train stations. Buses can be very busy at peak times.
Dates to bear in mind when booking one of our Chennai packages include 26 January (Republic Day), 15 August (Independence Day) and 2 October (Gandhi Jayanti).
Many of Chennai’s best-loved dishes are vegetarian, although that’s not to say meat eaters will go hungry during their stay.
Local specialities include idli, a type of fermented rice cake, and crepes known as dosas. Deeep-fried savouries and lentil broth are among the city’s other food favourites.
Don’t miss out on Chennai’s beloved thalis – flavour-filled treats made with ingredients including chutney and spiced cauliflower. Freshly caught seafood served with a lip-smacking sauce is another must-try.
To wash it all down, order kaapi – a kind of filter coffee made using milk, sugar and chicory.
Festivals form an important part of life in Chennai and the wider Tamil Nadu state.
Key events in the calendar include Thai Pongal, a harvest festival that takes place over four days in January, and the Arubathimoovar Festival, a colourful springtime procession featuring replicas of 63 saints.
Other dates for your diary include Tamil New Year, which usually falls on April 14, and Navarathi, a nine-day Hindu festival held in the autumn.
For those planning on travelling outside of Chennai, an eight-day music festival is staged in January each year in the town of Thiruvaiyaru.
Hinduism is the main religion in Chennai and there are many temples and places of philosophical importance across the city.
One of the best starting points for an exploration of the spiritual side of life during your holiday to Chennai is Vivekananda House.
The influential monk, Swami Vivekananda, stayed here for a brief period in the latter years of the 19th century.
A visit to the Theosophical Society garden that stands on the south bank of the Adyar River will also help you find inner calm as you stroll between its mosque, church, Buddhist shrine and Hindu temple.
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