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Exploring Chennai (Madras)

The official name of Tamil Nadu's state capital may now be Chennai, but many people still refer to India's sixth most populous city by its former name of Madras. Although this coastal area of eastern Tamil Nadu has been settled for centuries, the city's official history began when the British established Fort St George on the Bay of Bengal's shores in 1640. Today, the traditional food, clothing, music, and dance of this predominantly Tamil-speaking region remain distinct from the rest of India.

The number of hotels and tourist attractions in Chennai has increased nearly as much as its rapidly growing population in recent years. From the luxurious five-star Taj Coromandel to the lower budget Sangeetha Residency, this city is not lacking in places to stay. Chennai also boasts no shortage of worthwhile tourist attractions such as India's most state-of-the-art planetarium, one of South Asia's most spacious parks, and the second longest beach shoreline on Earth.

Sights nearby

Chennai features not only a substantial number of historic houses of worship and worthwhile museums within its own borders, but also a growing number of fun-filled amusement parks and beach resorts along the nearby East Coast Road.

Basilica of the National Shrine of St Thomas
This is only one of three churches in the world which were constructed over the tomb of one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. St Thomas first arrived in India during the year 52AD and his tomb is beneath the church's present-day location. The hill outside of Chennai where he attained martyrdom is now called St Thomas Mount. A separate underground chapel was recently built to permit pilgrims to enter and pray at the tomb without disturbing regular church activities. The church also features a small museum dedicated to St Thomas.

Government Museum
This sprawling Egmore museum was first established in 1857 and now features a total of 46 galleries within its half a dozen independent buildings. The Government Museum contains an art gallery and bronze gallery in addition to a separate children's museum. There are also sections dedicated to botany, geology, zoology, and archaeology at this museum, among the oldest in India.

Fort St George
The city of Madras and the many years of British rule over India both began when this tiny trading post was first established on the Bay of Bengal in 1640. The Fort Museum's collection of Tipu Sultan cannons are one of Fort St George's main highlights along with India's tallest flagpole and the many government agencies housed here. This is also home to St Mary's Church, one of Chennai's oldest surviving British churches.

Eating and drinking and shopping nearby

Live music and an elegant Edwardian setting accompany the lavish buffets served at the Residency, the onsite restaurant at Sheraton Park Hotel and Towers. However, this is just one of many highly rated restaurants found within Chennai hotels, which are also among the few places in the city which are legally able to serve alcohol. The Residency Towers includes one of the city's liveliest nightclubs, the two-level Bike and Barrel. Chennai is also home to the second-biggest shopping centre in South India, Express Avenue, and the bustling Pondy Bazaar. Another shopping centre, Spencer Plaza, is among the oldest in India.

Public transport

The third busiest airport in India, Chennai International Airport, handles all of its international flights through Anna Terminal and all domestic flights through Kamraj Terminal. There is a suburban train connection between the airport and the rail stations of Chennai Central and Egmore, but a direct Metro rail connection from the airport is still under development. Auto-rickshaws and pre-paid taxis are the most common ways to travel around Chennai. The city's main bus station, Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus, ranks among the biggest in Asia.

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