TrivandrumKerala’s first city, with its knotty official name of Thiruvananthapuram (often substituted by the shorter, more manageable Trivandrum), is an exhaustive introduction to southern India's urban and cultural life. Trivandrum tends to be unjustly overlooked en route to the state's beachside settlements, but easily warrants a few days of its own.
The CityBeing the official capital of Kerala, Trivandrum is the state's most important administrative, cultural, and intellectual hub, home to significant institutions such as, for example, the science and tech development hubs of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and Centre for Development of Advanced Computing; the University of Kerala also has its base here. Having been renamed to Thiruvananthapuram in 1991, Trivandrum still most often goes by Trivandrum for convenience. There are a few sites of interest to visitors, from the Kerala Science and Technology Museum with its world-class planetarium, to a good selection of museums and eateries serving south Indian specialities. The Shangumugham Beach is a pleasant daytime and/or evening getaway a stone's throw away from the Trivandrum International airport; Kovalam Beach, slightly further afield, is another local favourite.
Do & See
There is plenty to warrant a stay in Kerala's first city, and it is here, in Trivandrum, that a visitor can have the best go at experiencing Keralan urban life. If the inner city's museums and palaces prove insufficient, tranquil beaches (most notably, one of the world's finest: Kovalam) and further sights are only a short drive away.
The state of Kerala is famously referred to as "the land of spices", which is reflected in the local cuisine that makes generous use of turmeric, pepper, cardamon, nutmeg, ginger, and many other. A culinary experience not to miss is the sadya spread: a meal served on banana leaf, traditionally eaten by hand, which consists of rice and a variety of curries, along with dessert. Keralan cuisine is also famously not limited to vegetarian only, with various meats and fish represented across a plethora of dishes.
Cafes aren't a foreign concept to Trivandrum residents, and there are quite a few across town. For breakfast (or any other meal of the day, for that matter), try a local speciality called dosa: a pancake cooked to crispy perfection, made with rice and black lentil flower, served with one or more types of dip.
Bars & Nightlife
Trivandrum admittedly has rather scarce evening entertainment, but a few after-hour establishments do exist, even beyond hotel restaurants and bars alone. Keep in mind that most places that sell alcoholic drinks outside of upscale hotels are only allowed to serve wine and beer, leaving hotel-adjacent bars to monopolise strong liquor and cocktails. In the evenings, many head to nearby Shangumugham or, slightly further afield, Kovalam beach.
Quite a few things make the must-buy shopping shortlist in Kerala, all of which are, naturally, readily available in the state's capital. Head to one of Trivandrum's vibrant markets to stock up on celebrated Keralan spices, and do try the state-grown tea and coffee, well-liked by both locals and visitors. There is no shortage of jewellery (including real gold and diamond) and hand-crafted souvenirs (most prominently, wood carvings), as well as cosmetics containing the essence of the Keralan-native coconut.