Come August and it is time to celebrate Madras Day and the birth of the city  – the day, a small piece of a fishing hamlet was sold to the British .They went on to create the settlement Madras or Chennapattinam from that sandy stretch,  built Fort St George and made it the headquarters of the East India Company. Soon many villages were added and annexed to this fishing village and the settlement Madras grew into the city as we know it todayEvery year, the city gets into a festive mood in August and there is plenty of action on the streets of Madras. There are walks and talks,music and theatre , photography and documentary sessions among other events.

Backpacker and I have always been celebrating the Madras Day with gusto . In my 100th post, I wrote a detailed article on the Madras Day and the story behind it. I also featured some of my favourite monuments in the city and wrote in detail about Fort St George. However, this year, there is a slight twist to the tale.Adding to my voice are several voices who will share their stories on Madras as the month rolls by.

I will however kick start this special by a list of 30 things that I like/would like to do in Madras. I had to jog my memory a bit and with some help from folks, here is my list . Please add your wishlist as well. And if you do find people passionate about Madras ask them to  tell you their stories. You dont need any scholar out here – just ask your parents , uncles or grandparents to talk and as you listen to them , a new city opens out in front of you .

My wishlist

1. Watch the fishermen play a tug of war as they pull their haul to the shore at the Marina Beach .

2. Put some kadalai. In the evening, head to Elliots and have the thengai, mangai pattani sundal . Shoot some balloons and polish some bajjis.

3. Drive on the beach road early in the morning – start from Royapuram or Ennore and drive all the way up to Besant Nagar or ECR if you like .

4.Shop in the markets or whatever is left today of them instead of your malls and supermarkets at least for a day. Walk around Ranganathan Street in T Nagar or pick up knick knacks in Purasaiwalkam or in Luz market or any local market in your area.

5.If there is one area I would like to explore , it will have to be Triplicane . Walk around the old book stores, get lost in the narrow roads, visit temples, eat in Ratna Cafe, look at the architecture around, gaze at some of the domes , see the remains of the old Nawabi culture around Wallajah and the agraharams in the area.

6.Go to an old temple in the neighbourhood and listen to the ” harikatha” stories . If you have the opportunity, do catch villupaatu if possible.

7.Know anyone in the harbour ? Catch hold of them and visit the Outer arm , where the last mile of the land protrudes into the sea. If that is not possible,  ask someone to take you to the place where the Royal Yacht Club was first located. It has been taken over by the Indian Sailing Association .Learn sailing from them and also ask them to show you the wall, which is still a testimony to the bombardment of Madras during the wars. The city was bombed by Emden the German cruiser during World War 1

8. Climb up St Thomas Mount . Drive up if you can

9.Lose yourself in the campus of IIT Madras. You may even find some black bucks if you are lucky.

10. Listen to a kucheri or a classical music concert in the neighbourhood parks

11. A stopover at Kalakshetra if you can for any dance performance

12. Go to Santhome’s Church and visit the basement and the little chapel

13. Walk in Theosophical Society in Adyar over the weekend . You may need permission otherwise

14. Go for a tree walk. There are organisations in the neighbourhood that arranges for them

15. Visit any three temples in the city – mine would be Gangadeshwar temple, Kapaleshwar temple and Parthasarthy temple

16. Eat . Must visit Karpagam mess , Grand sweets and I would have said Woodlands Drive in – Pity, it is not there anymore

17.Walk around the small lanes of Parry’s corner. Look around Burma Bazaar, the Mint street and many other small streets in that area

18.Must go to Armenian Church , the only church left here that tells you something about the Armenian community that lived here centuries ago

19. Spend a day at Fort Museum in Fort St George. Walk over to St Mary’s Church, the oldest church from the British days and ask them to show you the register when Robert Clive got married

20. Take a ride on MRTS or the Hop on Hop off  Bus if you havent so far

21.Watch a Rajinikanth or a Dhanush movie in a regular theatre and whistle away .

22.See if you can manage a pass to any of the studios in Kodambakkam or Vadapalani – catch a film shooting ; believe me, its great fun

23. Visit one of the oldest lighthouses in Madras High Court premises .You may not be allowed to photograph though

24.Chepauk – not just for cricket , but see the palace built in Indo Sarcenic style. Do visit the University while you are still in the area.

25. Visit Connemara Library in the Museum premise and read or at least pretend to read. While you are at the museum, try and watch a play  and visit the Bronze Gallery . These are must dos.

26.Must visit Broken Bridge for sunset. Catch up on some birding, if you like in the area .

27.Road side sandwiches in front of Alsa Mall. Now, this is something that i havent missed out from my school days

28.Icecream parlours – would have loved to say Jafars and Dasaprakash, but in their absence will settle for Snowfield.

29.Guindy Park and Snake Park – Back to my childhood, but I can lose myself here. If you have the time, plan a visit to Crocodile Park

30.Want to experience a bit of the saree mania ? Go to Panagal Park and bug the shopkeepers to show you every saree of your fancy at Nallis, Kumarans, RMKV ,Chennai silks, Sundari…Window shop till they drop.

31.There is so much to contemporary Madras too -coffee shops to lounge bars, exclusive boutiques to premium malls, Mediterranean to Mexican fare, fusion concerts to international film festivals, art shows to contemporary dance – you will never run out of choices here


  1. Asha 1 August, 2011 at 15:34 Reply

    Awwwwwwwwww…… you won the race… I had reserved a post on chennai for the mid august time to coincide with madras day celebrations! My birht town chennaikku whistle podu!!

  2. Lakshmi 1 August, 2011 at 15:36 Reply

    Hey, there is no race here ..Im doing a madras special this entire month and I am happy to have guest posts, so pls share ,comment, add your wishlist 🙂

  3. Aarti 1 August, 2011 at 15:38 Reply

    Awesome list…. I would also add a visit to

    Valluvar kottam to learn the beauty of tamil literature

    Trying to get through the crowded Ranganathan Street during Diwali 🙂

    Enjoying a good puliyodarai at a temple

    Spending a day at Vandaloor zoo

    visit one of the sabhas during the december kutchery season and sample some of the local treats during the season 😀

  4. Ksk 1 August, 2011 at 16:09 Reply

    1)Visit the integral coach factory in Perambur where the coaches get built.

    2)Thiruvottiyur temples (many )and the siddhas Pattinathar samadhi to reflect on life

    3) Pulicat dam (yes Madras has a dam)

    4)Kandaswamy temple

    5) royal enfield factory

    6) Redhills lake the reservoir for the city

    7) vandalur zoo

  5. Bhuvana 1 August, 2011 at 16:38 Reply

    Catch a play by Madras Players or any of the newer groups- Masquerade, Evam….

    Srivati and the other lil shops in Mylapore for your prayer and ayurveda needs

    Mylapore during the ther and arupathumoovar

    Fast food at the kaiyendi bhavans

    Recent addition – the Anna centenary library with its collection for kids

    Dakshinchitra for its shows and workshops

    Do your bit to save the turtles with the Turtle watch groups

  6. Vijay 1 August, 2011 at 18:28 Reply

    Nice one LS,

    My list

    1) Pallavanil foot board adikkanum – bus heavily crowded and tilting with lot of colors on the side 🙂

    2) watch league soccer in old Nehru stadium with monthly pass ( before they built the current one – its was 2 re ticket) with one bunch of supporters from chennai central coolies and other from Port trust workers,

    3) Practise your aim by throwing stones at some bunglow’s mango tree

    4) Play muthugu puncture with cousins and mates in RBI quarters till sun down and then play iceboys in the dark !!

    5) Watch ( a bit scared) Masanakkollai @ the local cemetry

    6) Pay respects to our fallen @ war memorial

    7) Play cricket @ butt ground on a sunday morning

    8) Hot samosas n lassi @ Bombay Lassi stall @ devi theatre back entrance

    9) down 5 glasses of Sugarcane juice, big pappad and the purple candy @ pongal trade fair

    10) Be chased by the watchmen of Stella Maris / QMC / Ethiraj for…


  7. Lakshmi 1 August, 2011 at 19:24 Reply

    Thanks everyone

    @Aarti – yes, Valluvar Kottam is a wonderful place..funny how I missed that

    @KSK – loved all of it..but most of them are outside Madras..btw, your link goes to yahoo

    @Bhuvana – brilliant list..every one of them is a gem

    @Niranjan – thanks..

    @Vijay – Pallavan haha..i still remember throwing stones at the tamarind tree in school..some nostalgia,I see

    @Rahul – Yes, yes..must have it next time i am there..thanks

  8. Lalitha 2 August, 2011 at 15:12 Reply

    For me, it has not been so much about the places in Chennai than it has been about feelings. So my two favourite moments in the city –

    * A hot summer hot day in Chennai has jus’ gone by. It’s twilight. The breeze caressing you by at the Marina is awesome. But bliss is when you can actually see the full moon rising behind the waves – big, bright, breath-taking!

    ** Travelling by a crowded bus and eavesdropping conversations – trust me, time well-spent! And of course, travelling without tendering exact change to the bus conductor! IMHO, to really know the people of Chennai, to study the language of sweat, weariness, frustration, worry-lines, happiness, satisfaction, love, smile, there is no better place than the local non-ac/non-deluxe buses! Not getting a seat to sit and having to smell the others’ armpits are, well, things that I am willing to endure, any time! 🙂

  9. P.N. Subramanian 2 August, 2011 at 20:05 Reply

    From the list provided I could identify only two things I need to do. Visiting the Armenian Church and perusing the register at the St. Mary’s Church. Visiting Koyambedu Bus terminus, apart from its beauty, could be a fun. A big thank you.

  10. Shallinee Raman 9 October, 2011 at 14:15 Reply

    Love this article – heaps !!! No 21 deserves an e-whistle, right away. No 26 is making me all starry eyed. No 27 – Egmore, right ? Will keep, in mind. No 30 – every Indian woman’s dream. Thanks for the wonderful article. FYI, I am a NRI who seriously believes that my soul ACTUALLY resides in Chennai. :-))
    p/s – need your permission to link this on my website. Cheers !!

  11. Anuradha Shankar 22 August, 2012 at 11:15 Reply

    lovely post!!!! and reading the comments have been interesting too… but you missed my fav place.. for me, a visit to madras has never been complete without a visit to higginbothams!!

  12. JK 22 May, 2015 at 14:00 Reply

    I would prefer to cover eatable part of Chennai

    1) As Vijay stated Hot Samosas @ Bombay Lassi. If you want to taste the authentic samosa, this is where you can get it.
    2) Boli @ Venkataramana Boli Stall near Ayodhya Mandapam.
    3) Hot Jalebi’s @ Dhaba express during the afternoon buffet, which cost less than 120, when i last ate there
    4) Passion Pineapple/Mango Mania ice cream from Saravana bhavan. Not many people would have tried it.
    5) Idlies with all type of chutneys and sambar @ Murugan idly shop
    6) filter coffee again at Saravana Bhavan

  13. Destination Infinity 23 August, 2015 at 14:23 Reply

    Thanks for this list. There are a few items I am yet to do — like eating the sandwiches in alsa mall and idly/sambar in rathna cafe.

    The name of one organization that conducts tree walks is: Nizhal. Visit for walk schedules.

    Also, they allow us to photograph the old light house in high court, if we go for the high court heritage walk conducted by INTACH. I think it’s on second sundays. Here’s the photo:

    Destination Infinity

  14. Naveen 23 August, 2015 at 18:48 Reply

    Awesome list Lakshmi!

    My recommendations
    Fort Museum and Dakshinchitra for a peek into our heritage

    Friday Sandhai at Pallavaram

    Fried fish at Besant Nagar Beach

    Arubathumoovar Festival, Mylapore

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