In 1644, the British built Fort St. George on what was then largely uninhabited land. The city known as Chennai began to spring up around the fortress, and the historic neighborhood of George Town was one of the first neighborhoods in the city. Originally called “Black Town,” a racist name given due to the settlement of East India Company workers who lived there, the name was later changed to George Town, and as it grew, the city became Madras and then Chennai.
Today, the George Town neighborhood and its fort serve as the historic center of the city and a popular destination for shopping. A bit off the beaten tourist track, George Town is a maze of narrow streets and open air markets dotted with hold colonial architecture, including Fort St. George and the Fort Museum.
George Town is best explored on foot, but it’s best to do so in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the worst of Chennai’s midday heat. Come on Sunday when traffic is minimal.