Located along India’s Malabar Coast in northern Kerala is the city of Kozhikode, which lies between the cities of Kochi and Kannur. Also known by its Anglicized name Calicut, Kozhikode is among the historical port cities along the Malabar Coast. As such, there is a wide variety of things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India.
Kozhikode’s long history dates back over two thousand years. The area was largely uninhabited during the days of the Chera Empire back in the 3rd and 4th century, BC. But by the 7th century, the region had begun trading with Arab merchants, who called the city Qāliqūṭ. The city later became such a major trading post for Indian spices that it became known as the City of Spices!
On May 17, 1498, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama famously landed at Kappakadavu Beach near Kozhikode. Not long afterward, the Portuguese established the first European colony in India, though the Dutch and Brits also ruled in later years.
Today, Kozhikode is an exciting, cosmopolitan city along India’s Arabian Sea coast. It is the third-largest city in Kerala and offers some of the best food in northern Kerala, including fantastic street food and out-of-this-world biryani. There are also beautiful mosques, amazing shopping, stunning beaches, and much more! These are the 10 things to see and eat in Kozhikode, Kerala, India.
Eat at Modern Restaurant
The city of Hyderabad in the Indian state of Telangana is known around the world for its biryani, a layered rice dish that is beloved throughout India. But it’s not the only place in the country with a special type of biryani. The rice dish is a staple in northern Kerala, and one of the best places to have some there is Modern Restaurant in Kozhikode.
Its sleek, wood-paneled dining area has the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a hearty meal. I suggest starting with a glass of their tender coconut milk, which was so thick and pure it was more like a coconut smoothie! Then, I suggest going all-in and ordering some kallumakkaya (squid), fried kingfish, chicken with dry red chilies, and their signature mackerel biryani.
The squid is chewy but tender, and contains a mix of curry leaves, masala, shallots, and coconut. The curry leaves and creamy masala add tons of flavor, while the chilies provide a nice amount of heat. The kicker is the coconut, which gives the dish a heavenly, tropical flavor. All in all, while Modern Restaurant is known for its biryani, the squid was the star attraction for me! It easily makes my list of the top things to see and eat in Kozhikode!
Fried Kingfish & Chicken
I learned pretty early on in my trip through Kerala that you can’t go wrong with the local fried fish, so it was no surpise to me that Modern Restaurant’s fried kingfish was stellar. It had just the right amount of spice, tons of flavor from the curry leaves cooked with it, and soft, tender flesh. The chicken, meanwhile, was crunchy and hot!
You must also try the mackerel biryani, which also contains shallots, onions, and masala. It was my first time ever having fish biryani and it did not disappoint! Keep in mind, it is bony, so pick through the fish well before you take a bite. The tender fish pairs extremely well with the short-grain rice. Enjoy the biryani with a side order of juicy pineapple with mint, which is an outstanding combination that pairs well with the flavors of the mackerel and rice!
Kozhikode, Kerala 673001
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Dine at Kuttichira Biriyani Centre
Speaking of biryani, if you want to get an incredible taste of Kozhikode biryani, eating at Kuttichira Biriyani Centre is a must. There, I got a good look at the entire biryani-making process from start to finish in their kitchen with my friend Shabeer from Travel Explore Channel. Then, we got the opportunity to enjoy some in their dining hall.
This multi-layered dish contains a layer of tomatoes, chilies, garlic, onions, and ginger; a layer of coriander, cashews, and crispy onions; and a layer of short-grain rice, along with chicken, buffalo, or fish. The end result is one of the finest biryanis I’ve ever eaten in my life.
Buffalo and Chicken Biryani
I ordered half-portions of the buffalo (beef) and chicken biryanis. They were fantastic with a bit of curd and spicy mint-coconut chutney mixed into them. The chutney gave it a punch of tropical flavor, heat, and a nice tang, which went so well with the rice, vegetables, and tender buffalo. It reminded me of Chinese fried rice with beef!
Meanwhile, the chicken biryani was equally fantastic. The hours-long cooking process left the meat so buttery and tender it fell right off the bone. One thing I really appreciated about it is that the chicken was undeniably fresh. Fresh, organic meat always makes a huge difference in the quality and flavor of dishes, and nowhere was it more evident than this biryani.
When you visit Kuttichira Biriyani Center, you can order a half-portion of beef biryani for 90 rupees/$1.18 USD and a half-portion of the chicken for 100 rupees/$1.32 USD. It opens at 11:30 a.m., so it’s the perfect place to have lunch!
Kuttichira Biriyani Center
Gujarati St, Kuttichira
Kozhikode, Kerala 673032
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Try Kerala Snacks at Bombay Hotel
Fried snacks are a staple throughout India. One of the best things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India is to try some at Bombay Hotel. This local restaurant has been open since 1949 and is the perfect place to try Indian favorites like vada, bonda, banana fry, carrot cake, and much more!
One of my favorite things to eat in Kerala is banana fry, a sweet, battered, and fried plantain. The one at Bombay Hotel is exceptional, as is their dense, pudding-like carrot cake. I also recommend the sugeen, which is a crunchy ball with a grainy inside and a cloying sweetness throughout. You also have to try the spicy bonda, which is lightly fried mashed potatoes with onions, sesame seeds, and chilies!
If you’d like to end with something sweet, I recommend the chatti pathiri, a fluffy, multi-layered cake that contains rice flour, cashews, raisins, and eggs. It was honestly a little too sweet for me, but if you’re a sugar addict, you’ll love it! Another super sweet dish you may want to try is muttamala, which is made of stringy egg yolks and egg whites. They almost look like a pasta, but they have a smooth and gelatinous texture like flan, and a sweetness to match!
Of course, no Indian meal is complete without a round of chai, and Bombay Hotel makes a very unique version I’d never seen before. Theirs is called dancing chai, also known as biryani chai. It’s aptly named, as it’s a layered chai with tea on the bottom, milk in the middle, and foam on top. When you mix it up, it looks like a café con leche but it tastes like a standard chai!
Silk Street, Kuttichira
Kozhikode, Kerala 673032
Visit Mishkal Mosque
I’ve visited many mosques in my travels around the world, but one of the most unique has to be Mishkal Mosque. Also known as Mishkal Palli, it’s a medieval mosque and is the only one of its kind in Kerala. Right away, I noticed that it didn’t have any of the hallmarks I associate with mosques, like a dome or a minaret.
Constructed in the 14th century, it served as a home and school for Muslim scholars. Many research students and historians visited it over the years, despite the fact that it was partly destroyed by a Portuguese commander in January of 1510.
All of the mosque’s walls, outside of the ones on the first floor, are made of wood. The first level is stunning. I got a chance to spend a few minutes exploring it and saw some beautiful architecture and an amazing table. It was the first medieval mosque I’d ever visited and is easily one of my top things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India. Just remember to take your shoes off and wash your feet before you go inside!
Bavootty Haji Road, Kuttichira
Kozhikode, Kerala 673001
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Enjoy Kozhikode Snacks at Rahmath Restaurant
As you’ve probably pieced together by now, Kozhikode is very much a foodie town. There are tons of fantastic restaurants around town—way too many for me to explore, as I only spent a couple of days in the city. But one of the best eateries I visited was Rahmath Restaurant. No list of the best things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India is complete without it!
This three-level restaurant is another spot that’s known for its Kozhikode snacks, including unnakaya. Unnakaya is a plantain that’s boiled and mashed, stuffed with coconut and sugar, and fried. The amount of coconut inside is unreal, and it’s full of flavor!
Another delicious dish I loved was the mutton chaps, a buttery, meaty dish that’s served in a light but tasty curry. You eat it with a flatbread called neypathal, which is similar to appam, but softer. The best part is the pepper in it, which adds some heat and left a tingling sensation on my tongue!
Mussels are king in Kerala, so I also have to recommend Rahmath Restaurant’s mussel biryani. It has a strong fishy flavor and pairs best with the coconut-mint chutney provided on the side. Mix it well with the rice and mussels with your fingers and then go to town on it. Best of all, if you’re not into spice, this chutney is for you.
It’s not hot at all, but it does add a phenomenal tropical element to the dish. The mussel biryani will set you back 250 rupees/$3.29 USD, while if you try everything I ate, you’ll pay about 745 rupees, or roughly $9.80 USD. It’s a steal for the quality!
Stadium Junction, opposite Thottathil Silks and Cottons
Kozhikode, Kerala 673004
Shop at Koyenco Bazar on S.M. Street
One of the true joys of exploring India is getting a taste of local life at its bazaars. When in Kozhikode, there’s no better place to shop and explore than Koyenco Bazar, located on S.M. Street. This shopping street offers some of the best things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India and a huge variety of foods and activities. There, you can buy everything from textiles to food to clothing to souvenirs!
If you just want a light snack, you can buy bags of spicy snack mix covered in masala for 100 rupees/roughly $1.33 USD. But if you’re in the mood for something sugary, head over to Galaxy Sweets, which sells dozens of varieties of colorful and tasty halwas. I recommend buying a kilo of their honey halwa for 240 rupees/roughly $3.19 USD.
If you want a nice keepsake from your time in Kerala, you can buy gorgeous Kozhikode paintings in a shop further along the street. I bought one of a Kathakali performer for just 400 rupees/$5.31 USD. You can also find textiles to wear as a head wrap or as a wrap around your waist—I bought two for 350 rupees/$4.64 USD.
You’ll also find other items like household goods, jewelry, knives, and handicrafts. I found an amazing handicraft shop that sells pricier handmade goods like rosewood elephant wall hangings (2,500 rupees/$33.18 USD), large panther sculptures (35,000 rupees/$464.48 USD), sculptures of a mother elephant with her calf (2,700 rupees/$35.83 USD), and more. But if you want something simpler, you can always do what I did and buy maps of India or Kerala for 15 rupees/$0.20 USD each!
Juice and Coffee
For a nice, refreshing treat, I recommend stopping by Kalanthan’s E.P.K. Fruit Centre for a fresh pineapple orange juice for 50 rupees/$0.66 USD. This juice is so fantastic, it easily makes my list of the top things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India. To make a hot, caffeinated drink, buy a kilo of Swamy & Sons Coffee Dealers’ best coffee beans for 600 rupees/$7.96 USD. Their shop smells like a coffee plantation!
Finally, if you have any friends or family who love jewelry, you may want to gift them with some authentic gold or silver Indian jewelry. I’m always on the hunt for something for my daughters and ended up buying them some beautiful silver anklets, which cost 2,250 rupees/$29.86 USD. All in all, some of the best things to see and eat in Kozhikode can be found at Koyenco Bazar!
Koyenco Bazar Calicut
Court Road, SM Street
Palayam, Kozhikode, Kerala 673001
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Get an Indian Haircut and Massage
If you’re anything like me, by the time you visit Koyenco Bazar, you’ll likely be exhausted, looking a little rough around the edges, and in dire need of some pampering. Luckily for you, there is an excellent barbershop next to the bazaar called Blade Barbershop! There, you can get a relaxing haircut, shave, head massage, and a wash for a very reasonable price!
Haircut and Shave
I love getting Indian haircuts. In fact, I purposely grow my hair and beard out before and during my trips just so I can experience them. There’s nothing else like them on Earth! I always ask for a skin fade, the haircut I’ve gotten my entire life, because it’s super manageable and is perfect for hot weather.
My barber expertly blended my hair and cut my beard with his clippers before applying gel and getting a closer shave with a razor. The process of him rubbing the gel into my beard was so relaxing and I looked and felt like a new person by the time he finished shaving my face!
But the highlight of the experience, as always, was the massage. It was only a head massage, unlike places in northern India where it was more of an upper-body massage. But it did a phenomenal job of relieving the tension that had built up in my head and neck due to twelve days of non-stop travel.
He started with a rhythmic patting around my head with the sides of his palms. Then, he moved on to scratching my head and applying soothing strokes to the back of my neck. He even massaged my temples, eyebrows and around my eyes! It was honestly the best head massage I’ve ever gotten!
My amazing barber then applied more cream and water to my face, rubbed it in, and wiped it off, and then washed my hair in a sink. Then, he finished up by blow-drying my hair and cleaning up the back of my head. I felt like a new man by then, and I looked a lot cleaner, too! Getting an Indian haircut easily makes my list of the top things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India!
Haircut and Shave: 200 rupees/$2.65 USD
Head Massage: 150 rupees/$1.99 USD
Hair Wash: 50 rupees/$0.66 USD
Eat Indian Street Food on Kozhikode Beach at Night
Just mere feet from Kuttichira Biriyani Centre is a gorgeous, muralled wall. Just past that is the wide, seaside stretch of sand known as Kozhikode Beach. It’s the longest beach in the city! During the day, the beach is a fantastic place to swim and sunbathe, but at night, it turns into a whole different animal. At night, the beach’s street food stalls come to life, which makes it the perfect place to have some dinner!
Spicy Indian Slushy
If you’re into icy drinks, head over to one of the fruit stalls, where you may find them making sweet and spicy drinks out of shaved ice and fruit. I went for the spicy version, which was also salty and sour. I’ll be honest; I didn’t really like it all that much, but if you’re into unique drinks, it’s a steal at 20 rupees/$0.27 USD per glass.
Quail Eggs and Stuffed Mussels
In my opinion, a better option is the hardboiled quail eggs you’ll find at another stall. You can get ten of them, covered in a mildly spicy masala, for 50 rupees/$0.66 USD. If you’re not into spice at all, check out the mussels stuffed with rice dough further down the beach.
They don’t really have much flavor, as the rice dough overpowers the flavor of the mussel, but if you don’t like a ton of spices and flavors, this may be the dish for you. You can get two for 20 rupees/$0.27 USD.
Green Pea Masala
In my opinion, easily the best dish on the beach itself is the green pea masala you’ll find at a different stall. It contains green peas, eggs, onions, cabbage, and spices like cumin seeds. It’s basically a crunchy, mild coleslaw that comes with fresh lemon, which you can squeeze over the top of it. The cumin really binds all of the flavors together!
Pickled Chilies and Watermelon
Further down the beach, you can also find a stand selling fresh fruit and pickled chilies. The chilies were similar to a jalapeno, but one that’s full of vinegar. It packed a nice punch of heat that hit me afterward! If you need to cool down the fire in your throat like I did, get a slice of watermelon from them. Both the chili and watermelon are 5 rupees each, which translates to only $0.13 USD.
The Shap Restaurant
At the southernmost end of Kozhikode Beach is an amazing restaurant called The Shap Family Restaurant. Trust me, this restaurant is high on my list of the top things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India! The first thing you’ll notice is the décor, which includes posters of famous Malayalam films on the walls. This eatery is famous for its unique takes on cassava biryani and falooda.
But before you get to that, try the welcome drink, which contains passionfruit, lime, and tons of mint flavor! Be sure to also try the starter, which are small, disc-shaped snacks similar to appam, but with cassava and a spicy chutney on top.
The cassava biryani is also unique because it doesn’t contain rice at all! Instead, it’s just cassava and beef ribs, and is served with a rich sardine curry on the side. The beef is served still clinging to the bone, which gives it added richness, fattiness, and flavor, but it isn’t spicy at all.
The mashed cassava was similar to mashed potatoes and paired extremely well with the beef, while the light and creamy sardine curry added a briny, salty flavor. It was easily my favorite dish on Kozhikode Beach and is one of the top things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India!
The Shap Restaurant’s other famous dish is their falooda, which I urge you to try if you still have room after the cassava biryani. Instead of being a milkshake-like drink served in a cup like other faloodas I’d had in India, this one is served in a bowl and contains scoops of three different ice creams with fruits, almonds, vermicelli noodles, semolina, and straw-shaped wafers. It comes topped with an upside-down ice cream cone!
This is the ultimate falooda! It’s definitely a departure from the traditional, but it’s so tasty that you have to try it. I believe the ice cream flavors were almond, mint, and strawberry, but honestly, the flavors all began melting together after a while. The nuts added a nice crunch and the vermicelli noodles, as always, provided a unique texture that I personally love. Overall, it’s a super sweet and really wild creation. It’s also so big that it takes a while to eat it all, so pace yourself!
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Visit Kappad Beach (a.k.a. Vasco da Gama Beach)
As I mentioned earlier, Kozhikode is one of the many historic cities along Kerala’s Malabar Coast, so it would be a crime to not explore its past. You can do just that at Kappad Beach, also known as Kappakadavu Beach. It also goes by its more famous name, Vasco da Gama Beach.
Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese explorer who first landed in India on May 17, 1498. He was the first European to land in the country by sea and is credited with discovering the sea route from Europe to India, which took him south across nearly the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, and back up through the Indian Ocean to Kerala. Because of this route, the sea-going spice trade soon thrived.
The beach is quite beautiful and offers a rocky pier, a smattering of fishing boats, and a soccer pitch on the sand. It was easy to imagine the sense of awe Vasco de Gama must have felt when he first arrived there. I’m sure he felt an immense sense of adventure on the horizon, which is the same thing I feel every time I arrive in India.
A bit further from the beach, you’ll find a pillar-shaped monument that marks the location where Vasco da Gama landed at Kappakadavu. As a huge history buff, I always get a kick out of visiting spots that legendary historical figures visited, and Vasco da Gama definitely qualifies. For this reason, Kappad Beach is easily one of my top things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India!
Eat Fried Southern Indian Snacks at MRA Bakery in Vatakara
As you make the drive from Kannur to Kozhikode, or Kozhikode to Kannur, you’ll pass through a town called Vatakara. Along the main road is MRA Bakery, a popular snack shop that has been in business since 1965. The front part of the establishment is the bakery, and they have a restaurant in the back. They sell a wide variety of cakes, sweets, and savory snacks, including vada, samosas, fried mussels, egg bonda, banana fry, chicken curry, bread pakora, potato bonda, stuffed plantains, and more.
Bread Pakora and Stuffed Plantain
I recommend the bread pakora, a flavorful sandwich-like creation with masala, onions, and potatoes between two fried and crispy pieces of bread. Add some of the creamy chicken curry for a burst of tomato flavor! Speaking of the chicken curry, try it with the stuffed plantain. It’s stuffed with a caramelized mixture of coconut, sugar, and jaggery, which is out of control! It’s one of my favorite plantain dishes I’ve ever had! This dish alone is one of the best things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India.
Mussels, Aloo Bonda, and Vada
The fried mussels are nice and salty and coated with a nice masala. They’re perfect if you love fried seafood like I do! I also recommend the aloo bonda, a fried and doughy snack that contains coriander and other spices. It’s a 100% veg dish, so this may be for you if you’re a vegetarian!
I also couldn’t resist the vada, which I tried with a bit of the chicken curry. Because this vada wasn’t as crispy as others I’d had, it really soaked up the flavors of the curry, making it a truly mouthwatering morsel.
Fruit and Chai
Wash down your meal with some of MRA Bakery’s magic chai, a sweet and milky drink that comes with lots of foam on top. Mix it well before you take your first sip. You can find chai throughout Kerala and much of India, and it’s slightly different everywhere you go. It’s always good, though!
Before you leave, check out MRA Fruits & Nuts, a market outside the restaurant that sells exactly that! There, you’ll have your pick of melons, grapes, pineapples, bananas, plantains, dates, limes, apples, oranges, nuts, and much more. I’m a date fanatic, so I couldn’t resist trying one. It was sticky and chewy, exactly how I like them!
Opposite, New Bus Stand – Park Road
Narayana Nagar, Vatakara, Kerala 673104
Kozhikode is the city where I ended my Kerala adventure, and I’m so glad I did it. It was the perfect place to finish an adventure that had begun twelve days earlier in Thiruvananthapuram. Between its breathtaking main beach, the sheer variety of unique and drool-inducing foods available, the incredible shopping, and its historical significance, I was in heaven the entire time I was there. You must take some time to enjoy these 10 things to see and eat in Kozhikode, India. Book a trip to Kerala today to experience them all for yourself!
I have to thank my good friend and fellow travel/food vlogger Ebbin Jose for showing me around his home state of Kerala for ten straight days. He helped me organize most of my Kerala itinerary, and my Kerala articles and episodes would not have been possible without him. Follow him on Instagram and subscribe to his food and travel channel on YouTube!
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