Chennai has many heritage sites that acquaint you with the rich history of the city. Everyone knows about the renowned Fort St. George in the city, but there are many more forts near Chennai that are worth visiting. All these forts take visitors through the interesting history of the region, giving a glimpse of the era of Marathas, Vijayanagara Empire, Portuguese, Dutch, British and others. These enormous forts stood the test of times and still hold the splendour of the yore. So, make sure you visit these forts in and around Chennai during your trip.
Forts in Chennai
1. Fort St. George
Named after the patron saint of Britain, Fort St. George was built in 1644 along the Bay of Bengal. Coincidentally, the construction of this historical monument was completed on the saint’s birthday. Resembling a military outpost, this architectural marvel is the first garrison settlement of the British in India.
This site was historically famous as White Town and was initially used as a trading post. Over the years, numerous structures were added to this fort and currently, it is divided into two sections – St. Mary’s Church and Fort Museum. At present, the fort serves as a base for the Indian Army as well as houses Tamil Nadu Government’s administrative branches and the legislative assembly.
- Timings: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Closed on Fridays)
- Entry Fee: INR 5 for Indians; INR 100 (or USD 20) for Foreign Nationals
For a peek into the past, you might also love to visit these top museums in Chennai.
Forts near Chennai
2. Fort Geldria
Fort Geldria is counted amongst the oldest forts in Tamil Nadu. This fort was built in 1613 in Pulicat as the first Indian seat of the Dutch Republic, who settled here after the Portuguese. It was strategically located near the lake, and numerous wells were dug on its premises to ensure that there was no shortage of water supply.
The fort derives its name from Gelderland, which is actually a place in the Netherlands. At present, visitors can see its extensive perimeter, moat and Dutch Cemetery, where most of the graves have tombstones with detailed carvings.
- Distance from Chennai: 54 km
- Time taken by road: 1 hour 40 minutes
3. Sadras Dutch Fort
Sadras Fort, located in a sleepy little town near Kalpakkam, is one of the oldest Dutch forts in the country. Dutch first reached the Coromandel Coast in 1606 and gained a stronghold in the region. It is said that the construction of this fort began in 1612, along a lovely seashore area – the East Coast Road.
The fort witnessed destructions due to wars between Dutch, Portuguese, French and British, who eventually gained control in 1854. A unique feature of this fort is the secret tunnel from the cemetery with finely-embossed headstones. At present, this reminder of the colonial era in India is managed and preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
- Distance from Chennai: 72 km
- Time taken by road: 1 hour 54 minutes
4. Alamparai Fort
Alamparai, also known as Alamparva and Alampuravi, was considered as a beautiful seaport dating back to the 17th century. A reminder of the Mughal reign, Alamparai Fort was built by the Nawab of Arcot, Doste Ali Khan, in the present-day village of Kadapakkam along the East Coast Road (ECR). However, the French gained control over it in 1735, and after the Carnatic War, it was taken over by the British, who almost destroyed it in 1760. Even the Tsunami in 2004 caused massive destruction at this site.
Mostly in ruins now, Alamparai Fort still attracts a large number of visitors, especially during the weekend, for its picturesque views, soothing calmness and tranquil backwaters.
- Distance from Chennai: 111 km
- Time taken by road: 2 hours 32 minutes
5. Vellore Fort
Vellore Fort, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the namesake city, was built by Chinna Bommi Reddy and Thimma Reddy Nayak in the year 1566. They were Vijayanagara ruler Sadasiva Raya’s chieftains, who used massive granite blocks to build the outer walls of the fort surrounded by a moat.
It is believed that the 16th-century fort briefly served as a safe house for Tipu Sultan during the time of British War. This historic building was the royal prison under the British, where the last Kandy ruler Vikrama Rajasinha was kept captive besides others.
The uniqueness of this fort is that it has Sri Jalagandeeswarar Temple, Muthu Mandapam, a mosque and a church, all within its premises. In addition, the vast campus also houses the State Government Museum and the well-known Vellore Christian Hospital.
- Distance from Chennai: 138 km
- Time taken by road: 3 hours 24 minutes
6. Gingee Fort
Gingee Fort referred to as Senji, Chenji, Jinji or Senchi Fort by the locals, is built at the most strategic location in Viluppuram district of Tamil Nadu. Initially, a small fort was built at this site by the Cholas that was later renovated by the Kurumbas. The present-day structure, spanning across three hillocks with a citadel each, is attributed to the Gingee Nayaks. Since it was almost impossible for enemies to enter this impregnable fort, it was referred to as the Troy of the East by the British.
Within this massive fortification, visitors can see beautiful temples like Ranganathar Temple, Kamalakkani Temple and Chenjiamman Temple. They can also see Kalyan Mahal, Anaikulam Pond, a watchtower, granaries and other parts of the fort, managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
- Distance from Chennai: 169 km
- Time taken by road: 3 hours 46 mins
7. Fort St. David
Fort St. David, situated on the mouth of River Gadilam, is a former British fort named after the Welsh patron saint. The fort was given its name by the then Madras governor Elihu Yale, who hailed from the country of Wales. This ruined mansion near Cuddalore and its adjacent hamlets formed the bastion of the British, who bought it from the Marathas in the late 17th century. The Marathas took it over from Gingee, who in turn acquired it from the Dutch.
The Dutch started the construction of this grand fort in the early 17th century after seeking permission of Krishnappa Nayaka of Gingee. Later, the British strengthened the fortification, and it remained the British headquarters for many years. They, however, lost its control to the French twice in 1758 and 1782, but soon took repossession both times.
- Distance from Chennai: 176 km
- Time taken by road: 3 hours 55 mins
Visiting these forts in and around Chennai and listening to the tales of yore will surely turn out to be a fascinating trip that acquaints visitors with different facets of the history of Tamil Nadu. Read our blog on weekend getaways from Chennai for more exciting trip ideas.