Chennai is the biggest cultural, economic and educational centre in South India with 36th-largest urban area by population in the world.

Chennai is home to many museums, galleries, and other institutions, many of which are free of admission charges and are major tourist attractions as well as playing a research role. The "Fort Museum" inside the premises of Fort St. George is an important museum having a noteworthy collection of objects of the British era in its collection.

Chennai is also a major centre for music, art and culture in India.The city is known for its classical dance shows.

Zoo, beaches, and wildlife parks form the primary recreation areas of the city. Chennai has a total coast length of more than 19 km. Marina Beach runs for 6 km, spanning along the shoreline of the city between the deltas of Cooum and Adyar, and is the second longest urban beach in the world.

Chennai houses several theme parks, namely MGM Dizzee World and Queens Land. Other important recreation centres include Madras Boat Club which is over 140 years old, and Gymkhana Club, which is famous for its 18-hole golf courses. Built in 1867, Madras Boat Club is the second oldest surviving Indian rowing club.

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