Kochi is the commercial and political hub of Kerala, where sea trade and modern commerce coexist with a thriving tourist economy. Being a city that has attracted people from all over the world through many centuries, Kochi is a beautiful multicultural hotspot.

THINGS TSEE AND DO

Fort Kochi

For most tourists, it is both comfortable as well as enriching to experience Fort Kochi on foot, given that the distances between most of the sights are quite short. With history to be discovered at every step, this is the best way to experience the Heritage Quarter. A walking tour must include Koder House, Vasco House, Bastion Bungalow, Bishop’s House and Thakur House.

Fort Cochin Heritage Walks offers daily sightseeing tours. You will see 31 locations in Fort Kochi and cover history from 1341 CE to the present.

Timings 8.00–10.00am & 4.30– 6.30pm Fee ₹300 per person Tel 09633973468

Prashant Panjiar
Fishermen hauling in their large Chinese fishing nets at Kochi
Fishermen hauling in their large Chinese fishing nets at Kochi

For a more luxurious experience of Fort Kochi, get in touch with KTDC, which can arrange cars and drivers for tours around Fort Kochi. The tour does not include a guide.

Tariff ₹2,200 for a small car Tel 0484- 2353234

St. Francis’ Church

This church was built by Vasco da Gama, Pedro Alvares Cabral and Alfonso de Alberquerque in early 16th century CE. 16th century palm leaf deeds issued by the Thampuran, granting the Portuguese naduvazhi (middle-rung feudal lords) status and rights, and the Doop Book, an old Dutch register of baptisms and marriages between 1751 and 1804 CE are present here.

Timings 5.30am–8:00pm Tel 0484- 2217505 W stfranciscsichurch.org

Tip Videography is not permitted

Fort Immanuel

Further down along the same road lies what remains of Fort Immanuel, built in 1503 CE to symbolise the alliance between the Thampuran of Kochi and the Monarch of Portugal. It was torn apart during the Dutch advent, and completely destroyed by the British in 1806. As a result, there is not much left of the imposing structure to see, other than a town that flourishes within its remains.

Santa Cruz Basilica

Located on the right side of Bastion Street, Santa Cruz Basilica was built as a church by the Portuguese, and elevated by Pope Paul IV to a Cathedral in 1558. Although the British demolished it in 1795 when they seized Fort Kochi, a new church was built in 1887, commissioned by Bishop Dom Jos Gomez Ferreira. The Gothic façade of the Santa Cruz Basillica, with its soaring spires, is imposing. The interior is also impressive, with beautiful paintings on the ceiling that remind one of the Sistine Chapel. In 1984, Pope John Paul II declared this structure a Basilica.

Timings 9:00am–1:00pm & 3.00– 5.00pm Tel 0484-2215799 W santacruzcathedralbasilica.org

Princess Street

A few steps from the Basilica, Princess Street is one of the oldest streets in Fort Kochi and has many examples of Colonial architecture. Loafer’s Corner, a meeting spot at the intersection of Princess Street, Peter Celli Street and Bastion Street, offers an excellent view of the whole street.

Tel 0484-6060656

The Chinese Connection

The huge cantilevered cheenavalas or Chinese fishing nets, hanging from teakwood and bamboo poles can be seen off Vasco da Gama Square. These nets were introduced to local fishermen by Kublai Khan’s traders between 1350 and 1450 CE. They are mentioned by Ma Huan, a diplomat accompanying Chinese admiral Cheng Ho (1371–1433 CE), whose work also provides the first known historical reference to Kochi. He wrote, “The fishermen are tourist-friendly and will happily let you join them. Stalls serve fresh delicious seafood and tender coconuts and a spectacular view of the sunset.”

Mattancherry Palace

The Mattancherry Palace, built in 1555 CE, was gifted to the Thampuran by the Portuguese in a spirit of reconciliation after the sacking of the Palluruthi Temple in 1542 CE. After the Dutch defeated the Portuguese, the palace was renovated in the Burgher style of architecture. Intricate murals adorn the walls, executed in vegetable and mineral dyes. A temple dedicated to the tutelary deity of the Kochi Rajas stands in the courtyard.

Entry ₹5 Timings 9.00am–5.00pm, Closed Friday Tel 0484-2367334

Pardesi Synagogue

The Pardesi Synagogue brings together elements of Jewish, Dutch and Chinese aesthetics. Its Belgian chandeliers reflect the unique floor, with hand-painted willow patterned Cantonese tiles. The synagogue is believed to house the oldest scrolls from The Old Testament, in the world, along with stone tablets with Mosaic Laws and Hebrew inscriptions. The area around the synagogue, known as Jew Town, is filled with lovely antique shops and spice traders.

Entry ₹5 Timings 10.00am–1.00pm, 3.00–5.00pm, Closed Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Jewish holidays

Shiva Temple

This temple is located in Ernakulum. The lingam here is said to have been worshipped by Arjuna from the Mahabharata. To the north is a shrine without an idol, a symbol of Shiva as Kirathamoorthy, the forest hermit.

Timings 3.30–11.30am & 4.00–8.00pm Tel 0484-2370415, 2369804; W ernakulathappan.org

WHERE TO STAY

In Fort Kochi, Malabar House (Tel: 0484- 2216666; Tariff: ₹6,500–19,000) is an excellent hotel. Trinity (Tariff: ₹6,500– 17,200) is a good choice. Koder House (Tel: 2218485/ 86; Tariff: ₹11,000–14,000) is the most striking building here. The Brunton Boatyard (Tel: 2215461/ 65; Tariff: ₹27,300–36,200) is near the Chinese fishing nets. The Old Courtyard (Tel: 2215035; Tariff: ₹3,000–5,000) and Delight Homestay (Tel: 2217658, 2216301, Cell: 09846121421; Tariff: ₹2,000–4,500) are popular.

At Bolgatty Island is KTDC’s Bolgatty Palace & Island Resort (Tel: 2750500/ 600; Tariff: ₹4,896–15,656).

In Ernakulam, Le Meridien (Tel: 2705777; Tariff: ₹6,500–36,000) has a restaurant, bar, gym, spa and swimming pool. Hotel Abad Atrium (Tel: 4144000; Tariff: ₹4,500–5,500) on MG Road, is a good choice. Gaanam Hotel (Tel: 2375544, 2377202; Tariff: ₹1,000) on Chittoor Road has 40 rooms. The Renaissance Cochin (Tel: 2344463/ 64; Tariff: ₹3,200–5,000) is good.

On Willingdon Island, Vivanta by Taj – Malabar (Tel: 0484-2666811, 2668010; Tariff: ₹12,000–19,500) has suites looking out on to the lagoon. The Trident (Tel: 0484-2669595; Tariff ₹8,500–14,000) is housed in an elegant building.

WHERE TO EAT

The Brunton Boatyard’s History Restaurant’s dishes have been carefully collected from families in Fort Kochi, with the intention of serving history on a plate. The ‘You Buy, I Cook’ stalls near the Chinese fishing nets offer delicious seafood. For good Continental breakfast, head to the Old Courtyard. An interesting blend of European and Malayali seafood is on offer at the Malabar House.

Try the legendary biryani at Kaikka’s in Mattancherry or Fry’s Village Restaurant. The Pai Brother’s Fast Food serves 36 varieties of dosa.

Avenue Regent serves Continental and Keralite food. KR Bakes, is best known for banana, karela, tapioca and jackfruit chips. Pepper at Vivanta by Taj – Malabar, offers mediterranean and Indian dishes. The Rice Boat moored to the side of the Taj Malabar offers exotic seafood. n 640 640

FAST FACTS

When to Go After the monsoon, from September to May

Tourist offices

District Tourism Promotion Council, Old Collectorate Building, Park Avenue Road, Kochi, Tel: 0484-2367334, W dtpcernakulam.com

KTDC Tourist Reception Centre, Shanmugham Road, Ernakulam, Kochi, Tel: 2353234, W ktdc.com

STD code 0484

GETTING THERE

Air Cochin International Airport, Nedumbassery (37km/ 45min) has daily flights from all metros. Prepaid taxis are available at the prepaid counter (Tel: 0484-2610115, extn: 2107) for ₹920 to Ernakulam and ₹1,200 to Fort Kochi

Rail Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction serve Kochi. Both are connected to Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram and many more

Road Ernakulam is on NH47, stretching from Salem to Kanyakumari, via Palakkad, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Alleppey, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram. Mumbai’s NH17 ends at Edappally, just north of Ernakulam Bus Ernakulam’s KSRTC Bus Stand has daily services to almost all the destinations in Kerala