Chennai has been the most visited city in India by foreign tourists (since 2008), with visitors to heritage sites in Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram and medical tourists making up the largest numbers. In 2011, Chennai was ranked 41st in global top 100 city destination ranking, with 3,174,500 tourists, a 14 percent increase from 2010, This is up from 650,000 tourists in 2007, when Chennai was the third most visited city in India by foreigners ranked after Delhi and Mumbai. Tourists from USA, UK, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore had visited the city in 2007.
The 15 K.M long and 400 to 500 meter wide Marina Beach features the Light House, memorials, statues, walkways, gardens and drives alongside the beach front. Towards the south of the city of Chennai, Elliot's Beach in Besant Nagar is preferred by younger Chennaiites with its promenade, restaurants and coffee shops. There are a quite a number of beaches and resorts between Elliot's Beach and Mahabalipuram, along East Coast Road. The most notable of these is Covelong Beach which has a cove and a fort built by the Nawab of the Carnatic.
Government Museum Complex
The Government Museum Complex in Egmore houses the Government Museum, Connemara Public Library and the National Art Gallery. Established in 1851, the museum consisting of six buildings and 46 galleries covers an area of around 16.25 acres of land. The objects displayed in the museum cover a variety of artifacts and objects covering diverse fields including archeology, numismatics, zoology, natural history, sculptures, palm-leaf manuscripts and Amravati paintings. Connemara Public Library is one of the four National Depository libraries which receive a copy of all books, newspapers and periodicals published in India. Established in 1890 the library is a repository of centuries-old publications, wherein lie some of the most respected works and collections in the country. It also serves as a depository library for the UN. The National Art Gallery building is one of the finest Indo-sarcenic type of architectures in the country.
Art and Crafts
Tamil and Indian culture and tradition is on display in several art galleries and cultural centers. Valluvar Kottam is an auditorium in memory of the poet-saint Thiruvalluvar. It also has a 101-feet high temple chariot structure. Kalakshetra, a centre for the revival of Indian art and crafts especially the dance form of Bharatnatyam is located in Besant Nagar. The National Art Gallery, built in 1907, houses 11th and 12th century Indian handicrafts, 17th century Deccan paintings, 16th to 18th century Mughal and Rajasthan paintings and 10th and 13th century bronzes and is part of the Government Museum. The world headquarters of the Theosophical Society was established in 1886 on the banks of the Adyar River. The shrines of all major faiths stand in its sprawling estate gardens. Cholamandalam Artists' Village, on the East Coast Road offers a view of artists and sculptors at work in their own studios and permanent gallery. DakshinaChitra, run by the Chennai Craft Foundation, is a depiction of the way of life prevalent in South India with exhibitions and workshops of the arts and crafts and performing artists of South India.
Places of Worship
Right from the early ages, Chennai had a cosmopolitan society with people belonging to different religious groups living together. As a consequence places of worship, both historical and modern, belonging to various religions are present in the city. The most famous temples in Chennai are the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Mylapore and Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane. The Vadapalani temple is also an important place of worship for the Hindus. St. Thomas Mount, the site where St. Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, was believed to have been martyred, is an important pilgrimage site for Indian Christians. The Santhome Basilica, supposedly built atop the tomb of St. Thomas, is a revered church by the Roman Catholics. The St. George's Cathedral, Chennai is an important place of worship for the Protestant Christians. The Wallajah Masjid in Triplicane is one of the largest mosques and is a revered place of worship for Muslims.
The Guindy National Park, the country's smallest National Park with an area of 2.76 K.M, is located completely inside the city. It hosts a variety of endangered deer, foxes, monkeys and snakes. The Guindy Snake Park situated in the National Park has a large collection of snakes and is an important source of antivenom serum. The Arignar Anna Zoological Park (better known as Vandalur Zoo) is located southwest of the city and covers an area of 5.1 K.M. It has about eighty species on display, and includes a lion safari, an elephant safari, a nocturnal animal house and an aquarium. South of the city, along the East Coast Road, is an important centre for herpetological research called the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, which houses several fresh-water and salt-water crocodiles, alligators, gharials, and also turtles and snakes. The Botanical Garden of the Horticulture Department has a very wide variety of plants and even a fossilised tree trunk 20 million years old. A Summer Festival is held here annually during the month of May.