Hailed as the ‘Jewel of the Malabar’, the old port town of Kozhikode is derived from koyil (palace) kotta (fortified), after a 16th-century fort built by the Samoothiri rulers. Seafarer Vasco da Gama landed at nearby Kappad beach on May 27, 1498, discovering a direct sea route to India. It marked the entry of European powers like the Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British to Kerala’s coveted spice coast, who waged bitter trade wars. Today, the old warehouses, ancient temples, mosques and churches dotting the city, coupled with the exceptional regional cuisine, make Kozhikode a fascinating getaway.
Best time to visit: The ideal time to visit Kozhikode is during winters, between October to February.
How to reach
By Air: The Calicut International Airport is located in Karipur at a distance of 28 km away from the city. IndiGo operates more than 50 non-stop weekly flights to all key destinations in India and abroad.
By Train: The Kozhikode Railway Station connects the city with several major cities across the country through regular trains.
By Bus: Kozhikode has a vast network of regular government and private buses, connecting the city to most areas of southern India.
Getting around: Kozhikode’s local bus service is economical and the best way to travel within the city. Other preferred modes of transportation include auto-rickshaws and taxis.
An old-time favourite that offers a fine-dine experience spread over three levels, it blends superb food, a wide range of cuisine, presentation and ambience. Try their appam with chicken stew, excellent biryani, coconut-grilled prawns, chilli beef, Chuttulli Meen and mango fish curry.
Run by Zainabi Noor, who whips up authentic Moplah (local Muslim) fare, this tiny yet popular eatery is behind the fire station. It is famous for unnakaya, kozhi nerchadu, ari kaduka, chatti pathiri and chicken or fish biryani.
For appam, parotta and idiappam in the morning and meals or biryani at lunchtime. Wash it down with some Sulemani tea or the layered Biryani chai.
A well-known city landmark it has been serving Moplah snacks and biryani since 1949. Renovated recently, go there for puttu and stew early in the morning, biryani for lunch and snacks like chatti pathiri, unnakaya and neracha pathiri throughout the day.
This centrally located hotel offers simple, old-world hospitality with excellent fish, served with local Kerala rice.
Kozhikode’s markets bustle with shopping options. Every visitor to the city cannot go without buying its great banana chips—the best place for it is Kumari Chips on Kannur Road or Sankaran Bakery on SM Street. Another must-buy is the Kozhikode Halwa, a soft glutinous brownish black delicacy made of flour, molasses and oil.
SM Street: Once an avenue of sweetmeat shops, has several stalls stacked with multi-hued lumps of halwa where friendly shopkeepers cut up slices for a free taste. Choose from 20 flavours – orange, banana, pineapple, tender coconut, date and dried fruits – at Malabar Bakery on SM Street or Cochin Bakery, Bank Road.
COMTRUST Showroom: This showroom at Mananchira has a wide range of furnishing products in cotton, woollen and linen—turkey towels, bed sheets, napkins, aprons, bags, rugs, all at affordable rates.
Kalyan Kendra and Kalpala Bazar: For silks, saris and ready-made textiles, visit Kalyan Kendra, Silky and Kalpaka Bazar. Buy handicrafts from Kairali, Nutan Handicrafts, Mriganayani and Surabhi.
Oity Road: This road is packed with brass shops while Olavanna is an excellent place to pick up pottery.
Kozhikode is not known for its nightlife though there are some places where you can party. Bottoms Up bar at the Malabar Palace Hotel has a nice ambience and a lovely view of the lawns. It hosts regular DJ and theme nights. Copper Folia and The Cosmopolitan Club, both hotels, are popular venues for music shows and events. Another hotel The Raviz Kadavu Resort and Spa has hosted big-ticket EDM gigs like Sunburn. Or drop by for a quiet drink and snacks at Logan’s Lounge at the Gateway Hotel.
Beach Hotel, Beach Road The oldest hotel in Kozhikode, it was built in 1890 to house the Malabar English Club. Set against a beautiful lawn, it has just six rooms with sea views so book in advance. The multi-cuisine restaurant Salkara serves a mean Kozhikode biryani.
The Gateway Hotel Beach Road Calicut Located in the heart of town 500m from the sea, the five-acre property was designed by architect Christopher Pook, integrating modern comforts with old world charm. The hotel’s focal point is the swimming pool, visible from the restaurants, rooms, lobby and the Ayurveda centre.
Hari Vihar, Bilathikulam The 150-year-old-house built by the Kadathanad royal family is run as an Ayurveda heritage homestay by Dr Sri Kumar and his wife. Tucked away in a manicured garden with a traditional bathing pond in the corner, the burnished woodwork, smooth plastered walls, red terracotta floors and period furniture take you back in time, with the delicious vegetarian fare.
The Raviz Kadavu Resort and Spa Kadavu, literally ferry pier, in Malayalam, is a riverside resort by the Chaliyar River built atop a hill. The Nallukettu inspired architecture boasts gabled roofs, wooden rafters, intricate balustrades and rustic tiles. Stay in independent cottages, with a thatched coffee shop, a bar next to the swimming pool with Jacuzzi, Ayurveda centre and an open-air amphitheatre for cultural performances.
Kuttichira: Kuttichira or ‘little pond’, is the heart of the Muslim settlement where locals sit on laterite benches for chats besides 200-year-old Koya houses.
Valayanadu Devi Temple and the Tali Mahadeva Temple: The 14th-century Valayanadu Devi Temple and the Tali Mahadeva Temple at Chalappuram, are much revered Hindu shrines; the latter perfectly blends wood and laterite and has elaborate carvings. The eight-day Tali festival in April marked by flag hoisting and processions of the temple deity. Revathi Pattathanam, a seven-day cultural event in Oct-Nov, features panchavadyam performances, Vedic chanting and special pujas.
Commonwealth Handloom Weaving Factory: Just across is the Commonwealth Handloom Weaving Factory (COMTRUST), dating back to 1844, when pioneering German missionaries from Basel Mission set up tile, brick, weaving, printing and other industries in the Malabar region. With 400 looms in two weaving units, COMTRUST is the single largest handloom centre in India.
Despite being a trading town, there’s a fun side to the city. Enjoy boating at Kalipoika, go to Kadalundi to spot birds from a country boat and visit the boat making centre of Beypore to watch dhows made or to pick up small souvenirs. Drop by at Tasara Weaving Centre, named after the Sanskrit word for ‘shuttle’. A unique centre that offers training in painting, designing, weaving and block printing, Tasara is a meeting point for artists and produces handloom rugs, dhurries, wall hangings and bedspreads. Catch a kalarippayattu performance at CVN Kalari at Nadakkavu, which offers hour-long performances every morning and evening showcasing the fighting techniques of this ancient martial art. Visit the Ethnological Museum run by the Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development Studies (KIRTADS) on Golf Link Road where tools and ceremonial paraphernalia of various tribes offer insights into the region’s ancient communities. Before you go, try local specialities like Nannari Sherbet (sarsaparilla root extract) and Dweep Unde (coconut jaggery sweet wrapped in palm originally from Lakshadweep).