5 Must visit colonial beauties in Chennai

Chennai British buildings

By Gomathi Shankar

Chennai is one of the few cities which still exudes authentic British look in the form of many colonial building and relics. Most of these places have adapted themselves so well to the lifestyle of Tamil Nadu that they are standing examples of a cultural fusion now. If you are into architecture and history, Chennai will be glad to welcome you with these attractions.

Government Museum, Egmore

Government Museum

This is India’s second oldest museum, next only to the Indian Museum of Kolkata. The current museum building was inaugurated in 1854. The museum has six buildings and 46 galleries. It has exhibits across a variety of subjects like geology, archaeology, zoology, anthropology, numismatics, botany and sculpture. The Museum theatre, built in Italian style, is one of the happening places in Chennai with a lot of performances and events scheduled across the calendar.

Visitor instructions

  • The museum is open from 9:30 AM to 5 PM except on Fridays and national holidays.
  • There is an entry fee of INR 15/- for Indian adults and US $5 for foreigners.
  • Free guide service is available between 11 AM to 3 PM.

Nearest railway station: Chennai Egmore (500 m away)



San Thome Basilica

San Thome Basilica

The San Thome Basilica was originally built by the Portuguese explorers in the 16th century over the tomb of St. Thomas, an apostle of Jesus Christ. The current structure was rebuilt by the British in 1893 in Neo-Gothic style, which was their favourite architectural style of the 19th century. Today, the church houses devout pilgrims travelling from far and wide and offers them a vintage religious experience.

Visitor instructions

  • The church is open from 6 AM to 9 PM
  • It is ideal for a 2-hour expedition and there is no entry fee
  • Try attending the Sunday mass for greater religious experience

Nearest Metro station: Thirumayilai MRTS station (1.4 km away)


Fort St. George

Fort St George

The British ruled the Madras province from this building and today it serves as the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu Government. This is a building that has seated rulers for centuries from 1644 and is one of the most important and powerful buildings of Tamil Nadu. The ancient British settlements in Chennai were largely around this fort and the area was collectively called the White Town. This locality still retains the British feel in several architectural aspects. The Fort museum is maintained by the ASI as ticketed monument and the museum is a must-watch for history-buffs.

Visitor instructions

  • The museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM on all days except Fridays and national holidays
  • The fort museum is situated inside the Fort complex but the other areas are restricted for tourists

Nearest railway station: Chennai Fort (2 km away)



Ripon Building

Ripon Building

The Ripon building is the current administrative premises of the Chennai Corporation. The building is an all-white structure built in the Neo-classical style of architecture which is a combination of Gothic, Ionic and Corinthian. The building was commissioned in 1913 and recently completed its 100-year celebration in Chennai marked by a series of activities showcasing Chennai’s lifestyle organized by the Chennai Corporation. The tables in this building are currently in charge of running the entire capital of Tamil Nadu.

Visitor instructions

  • The building is a Government office and hence entry is not allowed for tourists
  • The structure is a very important monument in Chennai and photos with its backdrop are an interesting memorabilia

Nearest Metro station: Chennai Central (1 km away)


Chennai Central

Chennai Central

Chennai Central is one of India’s most important railway hubs and the building is a glorious example of British architecture apart from being the gateway to Chennai for many centuries now. The building is 142 years old and was designed by architect George Harding. Today, the building witnesses about 3,50,000 footfalls every day. It was not the first station built by the British in Chennai though. The Royapuram station (built in 1856) is a complete heritage structure today whereas its younger brother the Chennai Central (built in 1873) still functions full-fledged. The headquarters of Southern Railway is also the adjacent building of Chennai Central.

Visitor instructions

  • This is not much of a touristy place but the building is one of the most important monuments of Chennai
  • Experience the crowd of the railway station and witness the chaos

Nearest Railway Station: Chennai Central (You are already in a railway station!)



Read in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil


ALSO READ: British Raj relics of Kolkata


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