Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala's capital – still usually referred to by its colonial-era name, Trivandrum – is a relatively compact but energetic city spread across low-lying hills and is an easygoing introduction to urban life down south. Most travellers merely springboard from here to the nearby beaches of Kovalam and Varkala, but Trivandrum (once capital of the princely state of Travancore) has enough good food and intriguing sights – including a zoo, a Travancore palace and a cluster of Victorian museums in glorious neo-Keralan buildings – to justify a stay.