If you have time to explore Chennai (formerly Madras), this 400-sq-km conglomerate of urban villages and diverse neighbourhoods making up Tamil Nadu's capital will pleasantly surprise you. Its role is as keeper of South Indian artistic, religious and culinary traditions. Among Chennai’s greatest assets are its people, infectiously enthusiastic about their hometown; they won’t hit you with a lot of hustle and hassle. Recent years have thrown in a new layer of cosmopolitan glamour: luxe hotels, sparkling boutiques, quirky cafes, smart contemporary restaurants and a sprinkling of swanky bars and clubs. With its sweltering southern heat, roaring traffic and lack of outstanding sights, Chennai has often been seen as the dowdier sibling among India’s four biggest cities. But even if you’re just caught here between connections, it’s well worth poking around the museums, exploring the temples, savouring deliciously authentic South Indian delicacies or taking a sunset saunter along Marina Beach.