Chennai has a history of over 2,000 years. Initially a collection of villages, it is today one of the largest cities of India, with a cosmopolitan society.The area has been a popular trading port, especially among spice and cloth merchants. In the 16th century the Portuguese arrived here, shortly followed by the British East India Company, which set up base in Madraspatnam, as it was then known.
The British set about building Fort St George, which was completed in 1653. The township which sprung up around it, George Town, is the oldest municipality in India,being granted a charter by James II in 1688.
The area saw conflicts between the French and British traders in the 1700s and early 1800s, culminating in the Carnatic Wars. Eventually the French were forced to back away, and later Madras became the centre of one of the regions of the British Empire.
Today, the city is a bustling metropolis, where the streets are ever pulsating with life and people. All-night restaurants offer spicy, enticing dishes even at the wee hours of the day. Huge shopping plazas like Spencer Plaza tower in contrast to the more earthy bazaars of Ranganathan Street where you could find literally everything under the sun, and Burma bazaar, the imported goods market. Residents of the city are particularly proud of Marina Beach, the largest in Asia and the second largest in the world, lined with tall buildings running parallel to the water.