Chennai has been the most visited city in India by foreign tourists (since 2008), with visitors to heritage sites in Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram and medical tourists making up the largest numbers. In 2011, Chennai was ranked 41st in global top 100 city destination ranking, with 3,174,500 tourists, a 14 percent increase from 2010, This is up from 650,000 tourists in 2007, when Chennai was the third most visited city in India by foreigners ranked after Delhi and Mumbai. Tourists from USA, UK, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore had visited the city in 2007.
It was a flourishing port town during the time of Pallavas.This is one of the main tourist place in kanchipuram. The monuments of Mamallapuram are excellent specimen of Dravidian temple architecture and Pallava art.
It is one of the major Water Bird Sanctuaries in India.of 48 Kms from Kanchipuram . The birds nest on the branches of submerged trees. Storks, Egrets, Cormorants, Darter, Flamingos, Pelicans, moor hens, herons, kingfishers, sandpipers, white ibis,spoonbills, swans and grey wagtails are some of the birds which arrive here during season.The best season time is between October and March, when a large number of migratory birds visit. The birds can be viewed from the bank or from the watch tower.
Tamil and Indian culture and tradition is on display in several art galleries and cultural centers. Valluvar Kottam is an auditorium in memory of the poet-saint Thiruvalluvar. It also has a 101-feet high temple chariot structure. Kalakshetra, a centre for the revival of Indian art and crafts especially the dance form of Bharatnatyam is located in Besant Nagar. The National Art Gallery, built in 1907, houses 11th and 12th century Indian handicrafts, 17th century Deccan paintings, 16th to 18th century Mughal and Rajasthan paintings and 10th and 13th century bronzes and is part of the Government Museum. The world headquarters of the Theosophical Society was established in 1886 on the banks of the Adyar River. The shrines of all major faiths stand in its sprawling estate gardens. Cholamandalam Artists' Village, on the East Coast Road offers a view of artists and sculptors at work in their own studios and permanent gallery. DakshinaChitra, run by the Chennai Craft Foundation, is a depiction of the way of life prevalent in South India with exhibitions and workshops of the arts and crafts and performing artists of South India.
Right from the early ages, Chennai had a cosmopolitan society with people belonging to different religious groups living together. As a consequence places of worship, both historical and modern, belonging to various religions are present in the city. The most famous temples in Chennai are the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Mylapore and Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane. The Vadapalani temple is also an important place of worship for the Hindus. St. Thomas Mount, the site where St. Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, was believed to have been martyred, is an important pilgrimage site for Indian Christians. The Santhome Basilica, supposedly built atop the tomb of St. Thomas, is a revered church by the Roman Catholics. The St. George's Cathedral, Chennai is an important place of worship for the Protestant Christians. The Wallajah Masjid in Triplicane is one of the largest mosques and is a revered place of worship for Muslims.
The Guindy National Park, the country's smallest National Park with an area of 2.76 K.M, is located completely inside the city. It hosts a variety of endangered deer, foxes, monkeys and snakes. The Guindy Snake Park situated in the National Park has a large collection of snakes and is an important source of antivenom serum. The Arignar Anna Zoological Park (better known as Vandalur Zoo) is located southwest of the city and covers an area of 5.1 K.M. It has about eighty species on display, and includes a lion safari, an elephant safari, a nocturnal animal house and an aquarium. South of the city, along the East Coast Road, is an important centre for herpetological research called the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, which houses several fresh-water and salt-water crocodiles, alligators, gharials, and also turtles and snakes. The Botanical Garden of the Horticulture Department has a very wide variety of plants and even a fossilised tree trunk 20 million years old. A Summer Festival is held here annually during the month of May.