How to Spend 1 Day in Chennai
The city formerly known as Madras, Chennai is a busy, vibrant city full of beautiful old colonial buildings, colorful temples, and plenty of sandy coastline. If you have just one day in the city, here’s how to make the most of your time.
Morning: Colonial George Town
Start your morning off with a visit to the charming neighborhood of George Town, known for its colorful markets and stately historic buildings, many of which date back to the 17th century. The most important of these is Fort St. George, constructed by the East India Company in 1644 and today site of the Fort Museum, which houses colonial artifacts and art. Don't leave without paying a visit to St. Mary's Church, the oldest Anglican church east of the Suez Canal and the oldest British-built building in all of India.
Afternoon: Spiritual Mylapore
Spend your afternoon exploring Mylapore, home to two of Chennai's most important religious sites: Kapaleeshwarar Temple and the San Thome Basilica. As the temple closes for lunch for a few hours in the afternoon, start with the 16th-century San Thome Basilica, named for Saint Thomas the Apostle, who is said to have moved to India in the year AD 52. The cathedral features multiple stained-glass windows, and St. Thomas’ tomb is in a chapel on the cathedral premises. From here it’s a quick jaunt to Kapaleeshwar Temple, a multihued, colorful Dravidian-style temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Night: Sunset on the Beach
Wander along the city's Marina Beach in the evening, when the descending sun casts a golden glow over the city. Afterwards, join an evening food tour to experience Chennai’s culinary offerings with a local guide, or head to a local restaurant to try out South Indian cuisine on your own. While the nightlife here isn’t as vibrant as in Bangalore or Delhi, there are still plenty of places to imbibe; some of the snazziest are naturally at the city’s 5-star hotels. Alternatively, top off your stay with an evening performance at local dance and arts academy Kalakshetra.