Temple and Church Guide to Chennai

By Viator, October 2013

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Chennai (formerly known as Madras) serves as the capital of Tamil Nadu and was the location of the first British settlement in India in 1639. With such a long colonial history, the city is a hotbed of religious monuments, both Hindu and Christian.

Sao Thome Cathedral

Built during the sixteenth century, Sao Thome Cathedral claims to be the final resting place of Saint Thomas, who came to India in 52 AD and was believed to have been martyred on nearby St Thomas Mount. The original structure was erected by the Portuguese during the sixteenth century, but the neo-Gothic building as it stands today was rebuilt by the British during the late nineteenth century.

St Mary’s Church

St Mary’s Church, located on the grounds of Fort St George, has the honor of being Asia’s oldest remaining Anglican church and the oldest masonry building within the seventeenth century fortress. While the building itself isn’t as impressive as Sao Thome Cathedral, the small cemetery and its collection of eighteenth century tombstones make for a relaxing stroll. Keep an eye out for the gravestone of Elizabeth Baker, thought to be the oldest British tombstone in India.

Kapaleeshwar Temple

Within the city of Chennai, Kapaleeshwar Temple is the most worthwhile to visit, largely due to its classical Dravidian architectural style. The temple, dedicated to Shiva, is topped with a large pyramidal structure characteristic of South Indian temples, covered in intricate and brightly colored statues of gods and other characters from legend and folklore.


Kanchipuram, known as the Golden City of 1,000 Temples, has become one of India’s most important religious sites and a worthwhile day trip from Chennai. As the oldest capital of the Pallava Dynasty, Kanchipuram’s complex of ancient temples span a wide range of dates and dynasties, making it an interesting place to see how Dravidian architecture evolved over time.


One of India’s oldest temples can be found along the Bay of Bengal, about two hours from Chennai. The eighth century Mahabalipuram complex consists of several ruins of stone temples, many dedicated to either Shiva or Vishnu.

Tours & Tickets

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Private Cultural Tour: Day Trip to Mahabalipuram and Dakshinachitra from Chennai

4.5 star rating: Recommended 7 Reviews

On this private tour from Chennai, journey back in time to discover traditional South Indian culture through its artistic, architectural and religious ...  Read more

Location: Chennai, India
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $73.75

Private Tour: Half-Day Chennai Sightseeing with Government Museum and Kapaleeshwar Temple

4 star rating: Recommended 2 Reviews

See Chennai’s historical and architectural gems on this half-day private sightseeing tour. Visit Fort St George, the first English fortress in India, and ...  Read more

Location: Chennai, India
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

From USD $47.50

Private Tour: Chennai Sightseeing Including Fort St George and Government Museum

4.5 star rating: Recommended 5 Reviews

On this private sightseeing tour of Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, discover the city’s architectural diversity with visits to popular landmarks ...  Read more

Location: Chennai, India
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $63.75

Private Tour: Day Trip to Kanchipuram Temple City from Chennai

4 star rating: Recommended 1 Reviews

Discover a mix of India's religious culture and architectural heritage on this private tour to Kanchipuram, ‘The City of Thousand Temples,’ from Chennai. With ...  Read more

Location: Chennai, India
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $61.25

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