Home > Best Places in Chennai
Updated: September 11, 2020
The Best Area to Stay in Chennai
Often ignored compared to more glitzy Mumbai and accessible Delhi, the residents of Chennai (formerly Madras) proudly regard their city as the artistic and cultural hub of India. As the capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai is a vibrant industrialized city with a proud pre-colonial history, and the state and city are culturally and linguistically (but not religiously) different from the rest of India. Despite being a major port and base for exploration, most remnants of the British Raj days have disappeared or been abandoned, except for the George Town area, home to the renovated fort.
Chennai has no real city center or obvious base for sightseeing, but the excellent metro system is far more useful to tourists than any other Indian city. The city suffers from the usual crowding, traffic, and pollution, but most of this (except the traffic) can be minimized by staying in developed areas where hotels cater well for tourists, both Indian and foreign.
Those on a budget may want to stay around George Town, the most historic section of the city. Nearby, the suburbs of Egmore and Pudupet are convenient to the two major railway terminals and are linked to important parts of Chennai (and the airport) by the metro. Heading southwest for several kilometers from George Town is Anna Salai (Mount Road). Along, or just off, this major thoroughfare through Teynampet and other suburbs in central Chennai are numerous midrange and top-end hotels and charming guesthouses in delightfully-named areas such as Poes Garden and Thousand Lights, as well as T Nagar.
A little further south, about halfway between George Town and the airport, Alwarpet is dotted with upmarket hotels with spacious gardens and extended views. While Chennai can boast the longest city beach (12km-long Marina Beach) in India, there is (unlike Mumbai) remarkably little accommodation facing the Bay of Bengal, and only a few basic options about 500m further inland in an area called Triplicane.
The Best Places to Stay in Chennai
- Best Luxury Hotels in Chennai
Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park • Grand Chennai by GRT Hotels • Hyatt Regency Chennai • Taj Connemara
- Best Boutique/Moderate Hotels in Chennai
Ambassador Pallava • Residency Towers Chennai • Radisson Blu Hotel Chennai City Centre
- Best Cheap Hotels in Chennai
Avenue 11 Boutique Residences • La Woods Hotel • E Hotel
Best Area in Chennai for…
- Best Area in Chennai for Sightseeing: George Town
Within what might be called the city center and alongside the Bay of Bengal, this area features some of Chennai’s modest collection of attractions, most of which originate from the colonial era. This includes Fort St. George, where the British colonialists first established an outpost, and which is now home to state parliament buildings, a worthwhile museum, and India’s oldest church. Accessible by metro and local and interstate trains, this region only has a few budget-priced guesthouses, but more noteworthy are the quaint old-fashioned cafés along the narrow streets.
- Best Area in Chennai for Shopping: Thousand Lights
Dominating this inner-city suburban area is the world-class Express Avenue mall. It offers over 200 places to eat and shop across 5 levels, including a massive food court and numerous internationally-known fast food outlets and coffee shops. Adding to the attraction is one of India’s largest games arcades and a cinema complex that also shows Western films. A few cheaper and more authentic handicraft stores are also in the general area.
- Best Area in Chennai for Families: Thousand Lights
This area is close to the inner-city attractions and handy to the main thoroughfare Anna Salai (Mount Road) and the metro service which is extremely useful to tourists. Importantly for families, most hotels are set back from the traffic and noise and within walking distance of the fabulous Express Avenue mall. This mall is home to a first-rate selection of shops and cafés, as well as one of India’s largest games arcades, many familiar fast food outlets, and a cinema complex that also offers some Western movies.
- Best Area in Chennai for Food & Restaurants: Egmore & Pudupet
Most places to eat – from basic street food stalls to bistros in top-end hotels – are vegetarian, but the choice is still extraordinary. Worth trying for sampling Indian food are the thalis (set meals in steel plates), which are always cheap, filling, and delicious. Chennai may not be as renowned for its cuisine as Mumbai and Goa, but traditional snacks such as idlis (steamed rice cakes with coconut chutney) and appams (rice pancakes with stew) are very tasty. The streets around the adjoining inner-city suburbs of Egmore and Pudupet are lined with authentic places to try Indian food.
- Best Area in Chennai for Transport: Egmore
The domestic and international airports are more convenient than those in most Indian cities and are, uniquely, linked to many suburbs of central Chennai by the excellent metro service. Also handy are the two major railway stations, Egmore and Central, which are barely 1.5km apart in the inner-city area of Egmore. (Egmore Station offers services around the state, while trains from elsewhere in India usually stop at Central.) Many cheap (and often seedy) guesthouses are clustered around these stations, but a few better options are also close by.
- Best Area in Chennai for Nightlife: Thousand Lights
In contrast to the swanky bars and hip clubs around swinging Bengaluru (Bangalore), public drinking is not something local Tamils generally do, so enjoying a drink or dance after dark is limited to major hotels. Particularly inviting is the colonial-style bar at the Taj Connemara hotel and swish nightclub at the nearby Taj Club House hotel. Chennai is the base for the Tamil-language movie industry, so going to one of the many cinemas is quite an experience. Also worth checking out are the variety of artistic and cultural events for which Chennai is renowned.
- Best Area in Chennai for Vibe & Culture: George Town
In the mid-17th century, the British established their first outpost in India at what is now known as George Town, heralding over 300 years of colonial rule throughout the country. This area is still dominated by Fort St. George, which is now partially a parliament building and museum, as well as a few other Raj-era buildings, such as St. Mary’s Church, which is also India’s oldest church. The other museums and temples that showcase Chennai’s renowned Tamil culture and pre-colonial history are spread out and not, unfortunately, clustered in any one particular area.
- Most Romantic Area in Chennai: George Town
Chennai is a large industrial city not renowned by anyone as a place for honeymoons or romantic getaways, especially considering the impressive national parks and delightful hillside towns elsewhere in the state. Very popular among locals and Indian tourists for walking and admiring, but not suitable for swimming, the long Marina Beach has, remarkably, virtually nowhere to stay. Instead, just north of the beach, the historic area known as George Town faces the Bay of Bengal and provides some budget-priced guesthouses (but nothing better).
- Best Area in Chennai for First Timers: Thyagaraya Nagar (T Nagar)
The traffic, pollution, climate, and crowds expected in one of India’s largest cities can get overwhelming even for those who have been to the country many times. With the exception of the traffic (which is heavy almost everywhere in Chennai), these issues can be minimized by staying in the area more commonly known as T Nagar. Several top-end and great-value hotels provide the sort of space, gardens, quiet rooms, and decent views rarely found elsewhere, and along the streets (some with footpaths) are several tempting cafés and familiar fast-food outlets.
- Safest Area in Chennai: Poes Garden
The potential dangers that exist in every Indian city can be substantially reduced by taking the usual precautions and staying in a developed inner-city suburb like Poes Garden, a quiet residential area of upmarket housing distant from the traffic and slums. In reality, the main danger may simply be walking along the sidewalks, which are often missing, or crossing the road. And always remember: pedestrians do not have the right of way in India, except (usually) at a red traffic light.
The 7 Best Neighborhoods in Chennai for Tourists
1. George Town
Still retaining its colonial-era name, Chennai’s most historic area features the beautifully-restored Fort St. George, the British Raj’s first outpost and now home to government buildings, a public museum, and India’s oldest church. The narrow and traffic-clogged streets are lined with market stalls and quaint old-fashioned eateries offering authentic Indian food. There are no midrange hotels, let alone anything top-end, and some of the budget-priced guesthouses are seedy.
Best Cheap/Moderate Hotel: Collection O 30033 Almas Chennai High Court
These charismatic (and chaotic) suburbs just southwest of George Town are handy to the two major train terminals: the majestic colonial-era Egmore Station and the larger Central Station (only 1.5km apart). Both suburbs offer cheap guesthouses and a few mid-range hotels, but these are mostly for Indians rather than foreigners. These adjoining areas are conveniently linked by metro to most of the inner-city attractions (as well as the airport), and the streets are lined with inviting restaurants, although the self-labeled ‘malls’ are just a fairly uninspiring collection of shops.
These two suburbs are along the main thoroughfare, Anna Salai (Mount Road), which bisects the inner city. Hotels facing this road can be noisy, and nearby facilities are more for local residents than foreign tourists, but all hotels are handy to the excellent metro system. Poes Garden is a sedate residential area adjoining Teynampet. The latter is more vibrant, closer to the metro and shops, and offers several impressive top-end hotels with worthwhile city views.
Also just off Anna Salai (Mount Road) this interesting area partially hugs the river within a central part of Chennai. Thousand Lights is convenient to most inner-city attractions and the very useful metro service, but for some, the main advantage is its proximity to the excellent Express Avenue mall. This offers five levels of places to shop and eat, including well-known fast-food outlets and a massive food court, as well as a cinema and one of India’s largest games arcades.
Known by everyone as simply T Nagar, this area just west of Poes Garden and Teynampet was undergoing significant roadworks (including footpaths!) during 2019. It offers some luxurious but pleasingly well-priced hotels along wide streets lined with well-known fast food outlets and so-called ‘malls’ (just modest collections of shops). T Nagar is more upmarket and westernized than most areas, so there are, for example, an English-style pub and a couple of health-food stores.
This suburb is conveniently about halfway between George Town (sort of the city center) and the airport but still linked to much of the city (and the airports) by the excellent metro system. Hotels around Alwarpet can offer the sort of spacious rooms, substantial gardens, and proper carparks not found in downtown, and there are some modern shopping options along the streets.
Chennai has the longest city beach in India. Not suitable for swimming (because of rips and pollution), it’s still scenic and popular among locals and Indian tourists for strolling and relishing street food at seaside stalls. However, unlike Mumbai, there is an astounding lack of accommodation anywhere near the beach, except for a few unremarkable guesthouses in Triplicane, about 500m inland.
- Best Cheap/Moderate Hotel: Hotel Thalapthi
All Chennai Hotel Reviews
- Ambassador Pallava
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- Radisson Blu Hotel Chennai City Centre
- The Raintree, Anna Salai
- Residency Towers Chennai
- Taj Club House
- Taj Connemara
- The Residency Chennai
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