Madurai is popularly called Thoonga Nagaram meaning the city that never sleeps, on account of the active night life. The city attracts a large number of tourists from within the country and abroad. About 9,100,000 tourists visited Madurai in 2010, including 524,000 foreigners. Madurai is now attracting medical tourism also. The palace complex of Thirumalai Nayak Palace was constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style by Thirumalai Nayakar in 1636 CE. It is a national monument maintained by the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department. The daily sound and light show organised by the department explains the virtues of King Thirumalai and the features of the palace. The palace of Rani Mangamma has been renovated to house one of the five Gandhi Sanghralayas (Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai) in the country. It includes apart of the blood-stained garment worn by Mahatma Gandhi when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. A visit by Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. to the museum inspired him to lead peaceful protests against discrimination. The Eco park, situated in Tallakulam, features fountains and lighting in trees using optical fibres. Rajaji children’s park, maintained by the Madurai Municipal Corporation, is situated between the Gandhi museum and the Tamukkam grounds. It has a visitor average of 5000 per day during holidays and 2000–3000 on working days. Madurai also has Theme Park, Athisayam which is situated in Paravai, Madurai – Dindugal main road. MGR Race Course Stadium is an athletic stadium which has a synthetic track and a swimming pool. Several national meets are held here. It also hosts several international and national level kabbadi championships.
The people of Madurai celebrate numerous festivals, including Meenakshi Tirukkalyanam, the Chittirai Festival and the Car Festival. The annual 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, also called Chittirai festival, is celebrated during April–May every year and attracts one million visitors. Legend has it that the Hindu god Vishnu, as Alagar, rode on a golden horse to Madurai to attend the celestial wedding of Meenakshi (Parvati) and Sundareswarar (Shiva). During the Cradle festival, the festive idols of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are taken in procession to a mirror chamber and set on a rocking swing for nine days. Avanimoolam festival is celebrated during September when the 64 sacred games of Shiva, thiruvilayadal, are recited. The Thepporchavam festival, or float festival, is celebrated on the full moon day of the Tamil month Thai, which falls around January – February, to celebrate the birth anniversary of King Thirumalai Nayak. The decorated icons of Meenakshi and her consort are taken out in a procession from the Meenakshi Temple to the Mariamman Teppakulam. The icons are floated in the tank on a raft decked with flowers and flickering lamps. Jallikattu is one of the most popular historical sport in Tamil Nadu, and is a part of the Pongal festival (harvest festival) celebrated during January. The bull taming event is held in the villages surrounding Madurai, and people from the neighbouring villages throng to the open grounds to watch man and bull pitting their strength against each other. Santhanakoodu festivals in Madurai are celebrated on various days during the Islamic calendar year to commemorate Islamic saints. Madurai is consider as important hub for Indian film industry for film shootings.