Things to do in Chennai like a local: Feel the vibe of the city, explore places not found on Google, taste the local cuisine and experience the inherent culture.

Chennai, formerly known as Madras is a coastal city located in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It amalgamates modernity and tradition and has a rich artistic and religious cultureThe Saying “When in Rome, Be a Roman”- inspires many travelers. It implies that be like a local resident while exploring a new place. 

Keeping all of this in mind, I decided to explore Chennai like never before. Venturing out to unexplored places not listed on search engines, savouring delicacies from eateries not found on Zomato and mixing well with the natives was the intent of my trip. 

Let’s find out how far could I explore Chennai like a local. But first some pictures –

Things to do in Chennai

A beautiful seashell on the shores of VGP Golden Beach in Chennai. Photography by Siddhant Chatterjee


Things to do in Chennai

Kapaleeswarar Temple. Photography by Sumit Baswaraj Yempalle


Things to do in Chennai

Tortoises were spotted at Snake Park, Chennai. Photography by Rajesh Gopu

Things to Do in Chennai like a Local: Highlights

1. Taste the local food
2. Watch a Tamil movie in a theatre
3. Dwell into Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam
4. Play-Cricket with some native crazy fans of the sport
5. Converse with the locals
Things to do in Chennai

Performance by a Bharatnatyam dancer. Photography by Amit Bang

Before finding out about the things to do in Chennai like a local resident, it’s important that you understand the city well. So make sure you go through the overview below –

An Overview of the City of Chennai

South India
Tamil Nadu
Coastal Area
Best time to Visit
August to November and January to March
Due to its location in the coastal region, Chennai experiences a very hot climate in Summer and faces a flood-creating monsoon in December.
Nearby Places to Visit
Pulicat Lake, Pondicherry, Mahabalipuram and Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary.
Popular Cuisine
Basket of South Indian Dishes like Idly, Vada, Dosa and Pongal.
Mode of Travel
Rail, Road, Flight

Top Things to Do in Chennai Like a Local 

1. Taste the Local Food

The cuisine of Tamil Nadu comprises mixed flavours. While in Chennai, you should most certainly try a lot of native food items.

Meal & Eatery

Saravana Bhavan, Madurai Idly Shop and Ratna Café

Must Try : Idly, Dosa and Pongal


Dindugul Thalapakatti Biryani

Must Try : South Indian Meals, For Non-Vegetarians – Ambur Biryani or Thalapakatti Biryani


Dindugul Thalapakatti Biryani

Must Try : South Indian Meals, For Non-Vegetarians – Ambur Biryani or Thalapakatti Biryani

Dessert Snacks

Sri Krishna Sweets and Adyar Ananda Bhavan

Must Try : Kesari, Palkowa, Halwa, Adhirasam


Sri Krishna Sweets and Adyar Ananda Bhavan

Must Try : Filter Coffee

Things to do in Chennai

While in Chennai, visit the local eateries for some lip-smacking food. Photography by Vimal V Ramachandran

2. Watch a Tamil Movie in a Theater

When it comes to the Tamil Film Industry, Actor Rajnikanth walks away with the cake. Having acted in over 100+ Tamil films and becoming one of the most successful actors in the 1990s, Rajnikanth still has a great fan following in many parts of the country.

It is always enjoyable to watch Rajnikanth in a film. Now Actors like Vijay and Ajith Kumar are becoming trending Tamil actors of today’s generations. Not only do the fans love watching movies that star their favourite heroes, but also they appreciate good movies with other stars even though the ventures were not commercially successful.

From the director’s side, individuals like Mani Ratnam, Shankar, K Balachandar and S P Muthuraman have created a great impact in Tamil Cinema with their unique style of making a movie and thereby making good role models for the director aspirants.

Things to do in chennai

 A poster of superstar Rajnikanth. Picture credits:

Here is the top 10 list of Popular Movies based on my perspective –

Tamil Actors and their Popular Movies
Rajnikanth’s Sivaji
Kamal Hasan’s Vettaiyadu Velaiyadu
Ajith Kumar’s Yennai Arinthal
Vijay’s Ghilli
Vijay Sethupathi’s Andavan Kattalai
Surya’s Varanam Ayiram
Director Mani Ratnam’s Mouna Ragam
Director K Balachander ‘s Thillu Mullu
Director Shankar’s Indian
Director S P Muthuraman’s Guru Sishya

3. Dwell into Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam

One of the reasons why Chennai is culturally a popular city is its rich culture of classical music and art. For the Baby boomers, listening to this music is similar to being in meditation as the music is played in an orchestra kind of style.

Moreover, Carnatic Music festivals are popular in Chennai during the winter season from December to February. Despite Carnatic Music being not originated in Tamil Nadu, it is still a popular music genre for the veteran residents.

Thanks to great Carnatic musicians like Tyagaraja, Purandara Dasa and M.S.Subbulakshmi. I recommend you to attend any Carnatic music festival to make you feel meditated and nostalgic. Along with Carnatic music, you can also enjoy the region’s native dance style of Bharatanatyam.

Popular Venues to witness this Indian Classical Music: Kamaraj Auditorium, Abbas Cultural Festival.

Things to do in Chennai

A Carnatic music concert. Photography by Srini

4. Play Cricket with some Native Crazy Fans of the Sport

Cricket is popular in Chennai (just like any part of India), as the city has given many famous cricketers like Kris Srikanth, S. Venkatraghavan and Ravichandran Ashwin to the nation. The city’s home club Chennai Super Kings have won 2 IPL trophies under the celebrated captain M S Dhoni.

Playing Cricket with the local boys are always fun, with the rules and fielding restrictions being made depending upon the space that is available to play to avoid the ball being lost or colliding with the other team playing on the ground.

Even though technology has provided people to play cricket on the Smartphone screen, still it is always memorable to play cricket on the ground and bring back childhood memories.

Recommended places to watch or play street cricket: Public Ground in Venkatnarayana Road.

Things to do in Chennai

M. A. Chidambaram Stadium. Photography by Priti Singh

 5. Converse with the Locals

Complete your city trip to Chennai by spending time with the residents who have been in Chennai for a decade or two. Spend time with them to listen to the memorable stories of their life in Chennai. Moreover; you can enjoy any of the above 4 points with them for a better experience of this trip. The people of Chennai would be enthusiastic about spending some time with the tourists and sharing their memories.

Things to do in Chennai

A traffic awareness campaign by ‘Bhumi’ – An NGO. Picture credits: Bhumi

Budget Travelling Recommendation to Chennai

To help you with Budget Travelling, here are the websites/Apps that will be helpful for you –


  1. Hostelworld
  2. Triviago (For Hotel Prices comparison)
  3. Airbnb
  4. Couchsurfing. (for free short term stay)


  1. Confirmtkt – A handy website on where you can check your chance of getting your train ticket, when you find out the availability status as Waiting List or RAC in Irctc website
  2. Ola or Uber – (Just in case you can’t find Bus and are not willing to use Auto Rickshaw for an exorbitant price.
  3. Chennai Metro

Happy Wayfaring 🙂


Navneeth Venkatesh is a B.Com Honours graduate from Hyderabad. Currently residing in Bangalore, Navneeth is a traveller and an animal lover. He feels that travel should be more of a necessity than a luxury as it provides life education and memories.