Anyone exploring southern India should make a stop in Chennai, the coastal capital of Tamil Nadu. Our list of top places to stay, bookable via Culture Trip, covers everything from budget-friendly properties to luxury hotels.
Chennai, a beach city on the southeastern coast of India, is hot. When the East India Trading Company founded it back in 1639, they named it Madras – which should give you a clue as to how warm this place gets. But there’s more to the area than the weather and spicy food. Explore the city and you’ll find ancient sites like Kapaleeshwarar Temple, market stalls begging to be browsed and a range of world-class restaurants. And as the gateway to South India, Chennai garners a multitude of international traffic. As a consequence, hospitality has historically thrived here, with the area being home to some of the best hotels not just in the region, but all across the country.
Taj Fisherman's Cove Resort & Spa, Chennai
Resort, Spa Hotel, Hotel
4.2/5 (169 Reviews)
Courtesy of Taj Fisherman's Cove Resort and Spa, Chennai / Expedia
This five-star resort was built out of an old Dutch fort, though the original settlers probably didn’t enjoy quite as much luxury as today’s guests. The hotel is located right next to Covelong Beach – but if a five-minute walk sounds like too much effort, you can always just head to the pool and grab a drink from Sunburst, the swim-up cocktail bar. Featuring picturesque views of the Bay of Bengal, the property boasts some of the best restaurants, bars and cafes in the city, such as Bayview, Seagull and Upper Deck. More of a seaside resort than a hotel, the Fisherman’s Cove has a number of great stay options including cottages and villas with a sea view.
Art lovers will feel right at home at the Leela Palace Chennai. The resort houses a museum’s worth of creations by some of India’s most acclaimed artists. You’ll find paintings in the pool, sculptures in the lobby and even a few unique pieces in your room. If you want to learn more about them, ask the receptionist about the Art Walk, a special tour that takes guests around the hotel’s grounds and talks them through the stories behind the works. With a total of 326 rooms, most of which feature exquisite sea views and views of the Adyar seaface, this hotel is one of the largest in the city – has a picturesque location thanks to its green backdrop in the Adyar estuary.
This luxury hotel in central Nungambakkam is one of Chennai’s oldest and most famous business hotels. With several conference halls, auditoriums and event venues, the Taj Coromandel is a preferred destination for most of Chennai’s biggest business events, meetings and retreats. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s also hosted some high-profile guests. Former US President Bill Clinton and the Emperor of Japan both stayed at the Taj Coromandel – not at the same time, although we can imagine them bonding over a Vishrama massage in the hotel’s tranquil Jiva Grande Spa. They also probably shared a few drinks and some light political banter at the exclusive Taj Club Lounge, a cocktail bar that has excellent views of the city.
As its name implies, the Grand Chola is inspired by the Imperial Chola Empire. Covering an area of 150,000sqm (1.6 million sqft), the hotel was the biggest in the country at the time of its construction, and draws all of its power from renewable sources – there’s even a functional windmill on the premises. Traditional stone sculptors from Tamil Nadu helped design the hotel’s interiors, which are based on the great temples of that era, such as the Brihadeeshwara. However, not everything is as it was in the ninth century – we doubt even the emperors had access to 10 award-winning restaurants, serving authentic cuisine from the various regions of India as well as international food.
Have you ever seen the film Ellorum Nallavare? Well, no one else has, either. The movie was such a flop that it killed the fortunes of Gemini Studios, a highly successful film company. Their studio lay abandoned for 20 years until it was reborn as the Park Chennai hotel. This luxury resort pays tribute to its showbiz past by projecting movies onto the walls of its lobby at night. It’s also home to the Box, a shopping centre which sells unique fashion accessories, and Pasha, one of the most-popular nightclubs in the city – which counts today’s more popular Indian film stars among its regulars.
This contemporary hotel is a great choice if you’re looking to make the most of your time in the city. It’s just a 20-minute taxi drive from Madras Airport, so you can get off your flight and into your room in no time. When you’re ready to hit the town, you’ll find plenty of attractions nearby, like the Phoenix Marketcity Mall and Guindy National Park. The hotel can also arrange a taxi if you want to explore further out. And if you’re here on business, this hotel is within easy reach of Chennai’s big commercial centres such as Guindy, OMR and Velachery.
The Raintree Hotel is just 3mi (5km) away from the Santhome Basilica, where St Thomas, one of Jesus’s apostles, is buried. The hotel’s staff are more than happy to arrange tours to the church, as well as other attractions such as Kapaleeshwarar temple and the Kalakshetra dancing and theatre institute. But that’s assuming you’re able to tear yourself away from the hotel’s fitness centre and rooftop pool – or fab dining options. There’s fusion restaurant Kitchen, South Indian restaurant Madras and Madera, a luxury lounge bar – as well as Up North, one of Chennai’s most-popular rooftop restaurants.
Touring temples and churches can tire you out. If you need to relax afterwards, stop by ILARA’s spa centre. The hotel’s spa offers a range of services, from traditional Thai therapies to western-style massages. ILARA is also great for travelling vegetarians thanks to Sangeetha, its tasty vegetarian restaurant – be sure to try the Poori Masala. But if you’re craving meat, don’t worry – there’s also the Coal Barbecue and the Spice, which offer a range of delicious, international meals.
The bustling area of Thyagaraya Nagar is India’s largest shopping district. If you want to engage in a bit of retail therapy, the Saibaba Hotel is the perfect base. It’s close to a number of jewellery and textile stores, such as TB Jewellery, as well as stalls brimming with delicious, authentic street food. After you’ve finished shopping, you can show off your new gold bangles at Marina Beach, which is just a 15-minute walk away. Then it’s back to the hotel for a rejuvenating stint in the spa and a whisky cocktail at Sudaka Bar.
FEATHERS – A Radha Hotel
4.2/5 (95 Reviews)
Courtesy of FEATHERS – A Radha Hotel / Booking.com
If you stay at the five-star FEATHERS hotel, you’ll have access to one of the best views in the city. At the hotel’s Skyloft rooftop bar, you can dine on a fusion of Indian-Mediterranean cuisine while getting some incredible holiday snaps. Or you can head to Tamak, the hotel’s casual drinks lounge and pick up some artisanal cocktails. Finally, there’s Waterside, a buffet dining experience where the chefs prepare the food in front of you.