With its sweltering southern heat, roaring traffic and lack of outstanding sights, Chennai has often been seen as the dowdier sibling among India’s four biggest cities. But it’s well worth poking around its museums and temples, savouring deliciously authentic South Indian delicacies or taking a sunset saunter along Marina Beach – the world's second-longest urban beach.
Among Chennai’s greatest assets are its people, infectiously enthusiastic about their home town; they won’t hit you with a lot of hustle and hassle. Recent years have thrown in a new layer of cosmopolitan glamour: luxe hotels, sparkling boutiques, quirky cafes, and smart contemporary restaurants – but the best of Chennai remains its old soul.
The people of Tamil Nadu consider providing food to others a service to humanity. Thus the service in the state capital, Chennai, is first-rate. Treat your senses to some of the richest South Indian flavours in traditional dishes like sambar, rasam, fish curry or kootu. And don't forget to have a cup of full-bodied Tamil coffee, enhanced with chicory—no visit is complete without it.
Squash, cricket, tennis, and hockey are popular sports in Chennai and its surrounding region. The Madras Cricket Club (1848), located behind the Chepauk Palace, is host to major national sports tournaments. The city has many other clubs and associations including motor sports, chess, and equestrian events. Rowing and yachting have a small but loyal following at the Madras Boat Club (1867) and the Royal Madras Yacht Club (1911). Guindy National Park is a wildlife sanctuary situated in the heart of the city. Other places for recreation in and around Chennai are the Chennai Crocodile Bank, Pulicat Lake (a large saltwater lagoon), a bird sanctuary, and a zoological park.
Chennai is well connected by road, rail, air, and sea. It has an international airport and seaport. Within the city a network of bus services and auto-rickshaws are common modes of transport. The historic town of Mamallapuram with its shore temple, about 37 miles (60 km) south of Chennai, is a popular tourist destination.