The district attracts plethora of tourists and this is the main reason for it to have high tourism potentials. The St. Angelos Fort in the Kannur Cantonment, constructed in 1505, is an attribution of Portuguese architecture and attracts plenty of tourists. The Thalassery Fort also falls in the list of must-places-to-visit and is an important tourist centre. Kannur beach house and Ezhimala are known for scenic beauty. Places of historic importance, like the Arakkal Museum and the house of Gulldert attracts many tourists.
The Arrakkal Museum is a museum devoted to the Arakkal family. The museum is actually one section of the Arakkal Palace. Furthermore, the durbar hall section of the palace has been converted into a museum by the Government of Kerala. The museum was opened in July 2005 after a whopping expense of Rs. 9,000,000 renovation. The Arakka palace is still under the ownership of the Arakkal family trust and it does not fall under the control of the the department of Archaeological Survey of India. The palace had played a prominent role in the history of Malabar. A nominal entry fee is charged by the Arakkal Family Trust from visitors to the museum.
Kannur is known for its pristine beaches. Some of them are Payyambalam beach- the massive landscaped sculpture of mother and a child erected by noted sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman is an eye candy to the tourist who visit the beach and they are welcomed by a well laid out garden; Baby Beach ( as it is smaller than its bigger neighbourhood, Payyambalam Beach) situated adjacent to St. Angleo Fort; Meenkunnu Beach, situated at Azhikode, is a few kilometres from the town. Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach is said to be Kerala’s only drive-in beach. It is situated 5 km north of Thalassery and 15 km from Kannur.
Kannur District is popularly known as land of looms and lores, because of the presence of handlloom industries and festivals celebrated in temples. The handloom of Kannur has recieved Internationa attention.
Vismaya water theme park,one among the major entertainment spot in kannur is an amusement park, spread across 30 acres. Tt is filled with thrilling rides and water sports. A treat for both children and adults of all age groups.
While rice being the staple food, seafood and fish are among the favorite food which are traditionally served on the banana leaves. The Malabar cuisine is abvious among the assorted regional cuisines of Kannur as this region has been invaded by many traders in ancient times. The Malabar food is always served with a number of lipsmacking and tasty chutneys. The raw mango –prawn chutney and the raw mango-lemon chutney are the most vouched by the tourists for their excellent taste.Kannur cuisine features assorted traditional Kerala-Malabar food such as Idly, Dosa, Puttu, Appam, Seafoods etc. The most famous among the tourists are Varytha Meen complimented with onion salad, mixed veggie salad with lettuce, mouth watering boiled beetroot salad, spicy coconut chammanthy featuring a distinct flavour of curry leaves, coconut and spice.
Theyyam, a popular ritual dance form of North Kerala, specifically in Kannur and Kasargod districts, represents a mythological, divine character. Theyyam dance is is always performed by men and they also enact female roles wearing rich make up and colorful costumes. It is believed that there are over 350 Theyyams performed in northern Kerala, of which Raktha Chamundi, Kari Chamundi, Muchilottu Bhagavathi, Wayanadu Kulaveni, Gulikan and Pottan are the most spectacular performances of all to be watched.Theyyam is performed in front of village temples, without stage or drapes unlike other onstage dance forms of Kerala.
Kottiyoor Shiva Temple, located at Kottiyoor, is amongst famous Shiva temple of North Malabar. Situated approximately 50 km From Kottayam Malabar, this Shiva Temple also known as the Dakshina Kaasi and is a pilgrim centre devoted to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The actual name of this temple is Sree Kottiyoor Mahadeva Kshetram.The annual temple festival commences by mid-May and lasts for 28 days. Ilaneer Veppu or offering tender coconuts before the deity is considered to be an auspicious ritual during the festival. Plethora of devotees swarm in the temple and offer thousands of tender coconuts.
Going by the folklore and legends associated with its name, the district name Kannur was derived from two malayalam words Kannan and Ur which means Krishna( a Hindu deity) and place respectively, thereby making it the place of Lord Krishna. It was during the Rule of British empire the place got it named as Cannanore. Another legend says the word Cannanore is derived from the Arabic words Qanan al Noor meaning ruling area under the light of Quran. It once was a capital of the one and only Muslim Kingdom, Arakkal Sulthanate, in the state of Kerala.
Although, there is no evidence of the Paleolithic man having lived in this region, rock-cut caves and megalithic burial sites of the Neolithic age have come to light in certain parts of the district. Also,the Thaliparamba-Kannur- Thalassery area consists a large number of rock-cut caves, dolments, burial stone circles and menhirs, all of megalithic burial order. It is assumed that the first batch of Aryan immigrants entered the district through the Tuluva region.