In the northeastern corner of Tamil Nadu on the Bay of Bengal,  Chennai (still commonly referred to by its former British name, Madras) is India’s fourth largest city, with a population nudging seven and a half million. Hot, congested and noisy, it’s the major transport hub of the south and most travellers stay just long enough to book a ticket for somewhere else. The attractions of the city itself are sparse, though it does boast fine specimens of Raj architecture, pilgrimage sites connected with the apostle Doubting Thomas, superb Chola bronzes at its state museum, and plenty of classical music and dance performances.

Geographically Chennai divides into three main sectors. North of the River Cooum stands Fort St George, site of the first British outpost in India, and George Town, the commercial centre, which developed during British occupation. George Town’s principal landmark is Parry’s Corner, located at the southern end of Rajaji Salai. Sandwiched between the Cooum and Adyar rivers is central Chennai, the modern, commercial heart of the metropolis, crossed and served by the city’s main thoroughfare, Anna Salai. East of Anna Salai is the atmospheric old Muslim quarter of Triplicane and beyond is the long straight Marina with its massive beach, fishing boats and hordes of domestic tourists, saris and trousers hitched up, enjoying a paddle. Further south along the coast is the district of Mylapore, inhabited by the Portuguese in the 1500s, with its two important places of pilgrimage and tourist attractions, Kapalishvara Temple and San Thomé Cathedral.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
13 tips for backpacking India

13 tips for backpacking India

Whether you’re hurtling along in a rickshaw, eating fantastic curries, kicking back on the backwaters or hiking in the mountains, backpacking India will alwa…

15 Aug 2017 • Helen Abramson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month