1. Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi has a very strong colonial feel left by the Portuguese, the Dutch and eventually the British. If you wander down the main streets of Fort Kochi you can still see houses and other buildings such as churches designed and built by the European nations. There’s the 1503 St Francis Church and the 16th century Santa Cruz Basilica, both built by the Portuguese, and the Dutch Cemetery, where 104 Dutch and British nationals are buried. Book a place on a Fort Kochi Heritage Walk if you want an easy way to hit the top sights.
2. Chinese Fishing Nets
The image of these large nets hanging over the water is synonymous with Fort Kochi. Experts believe they date back as far as the 14th century but they’re still in use today. They work on a weight system and seeing them in action is one of the most popular things to do in Kochi. You can also buy the catches if you hang around! If you do buy, take them to a nearby street cart and they’ll cook it for you there and then.
3. Mattancherry Palace
As with lots of Kochi’s popular attractions, this palace has a mixed colonial heritage: built by the Portuguese then renovated by the Dutch (it’s also known as the Dutch Palace) after they took over. It has fared very well over the years and has some stunning Hindu murals inside which depict images from the Puranic and Mahabharata legends.
Address: Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala 682002, India Opening times: Open Saturday through Thursday, 10am – 5pm. Closed on Fridays.
4. Get a massage
Chances are if you’ve had a good Ayurvedic massage in the UAE, the therapist would’ve been from Kerala, a part of India famous for this particular therapy. The only issue in Kochi is there’s literally dozens of places to choose from. Ayurville, behind St Anthony’s Chapel in Fort Kochi, gets good reviews but ask around before you book, word of mouth is usually the best sort of recommendation for this type of thing.
5. Santa Cruz Basilica
This Portuguese-built church is actually one of eight in Kerala, which is testament to the area’s strong colonial influence. It was given Cathedral status in 1558 by Pope Paul IV and had a lucky escape from demolition when the Dutch ousted the Portuguese and destroyed all but two of the existing places of worship. Its luck ran out, however, when the British tore all of it down apart from one tower, which can still be seen in today’s Basilica which was rebuilt in the very early 1900s. The interior is beautifully decorated with soft pastel colors and is well worth seeing.
Address: Santa Cruz Rd, Fort Nagar, Fort Kochi, Kerala 682001, India Opening times and entry: Monday through Saturday, 9am – 1pm and 2.30 – 5.30pm; Sundays, 10.30am – 1pm.
6. Enjoy a fish curry
Keralites make a mean fish curry and the locals have been perfecting their recipes for centuries. The fish is usually caught and cooked within a few hours, so there’s no bad time to eat it (except, maybe breakfast!). Most places in Kochi will serve a version of the curry, all of it cooked with locally grown herbs and spices. If you want to find the best curries, follow the locals and always find somewhere busy.
7. Paradesi Synagogue
The original Paradesi Synagogue was built in 1568 but – in a very familiar pattern – it was knocked down by the Portuguese then rebuilt by the Dutch. One of its most striking features are the glass Belgian lamps and chandeliers that hang down from the ceiling all across the room. Contributing to the eclectic design is the floor tiles which are distinctly Chinese and were installed in the 1760s. The same rules apply here as in a mosque: no bare arms or legs. You’re also not allowed to take in cameras or bulky bags so pack light if you plan to visit.
Address: Sunday through Thursday, 10am – 1pm and 3pm – 5pm. Closed to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, and religious holidays.
8. Take a ride on the ferry
There’s a main ferry that leaves from Fort Kochi and stops at lots of surrounding islands, acting as a main form of transport for many of the locals. A trip can cost as little as Rs3 (20 fils) and you can choose from a number of destinations. One of the popular drop-offs is the man-made Willingdon Island, home to the Port of Kochi and a branch of the Indian Navy. There’s not too much to see on the island as a visitor but the ferry ride is a great way to admire the scenery.
9. Bolgatty Palace
This Dutch palace is on “Bolgatty Island” in Kochi and remains one of the oldest Dutch palaces outside of the Netherlands. It was built around 1744 by wealthy Dutch traders and sits in beautiful landscaped gardens. After it was returned to the state it was eventually turned into the Bolgatty Palace Island Resort which is home to a golf club, swimming pool and marina. If you wanted a luxury hotel in Kochi this one is certainly packed with charm and character.
Address: Mulavukadu, Ernākulam, 682504, Kerala, India.
10. Visit a master tailor
Even if you’re only in Fort Kochi for a few days, that’s plenty of time for the master tailors to create a sari or suit (or two) for you. Most of the popular tailors who will likely understand what you’re looking for are on Princess Street, which is a fun street to wander down and has lots of little stores selling Keralan handicrafts, such as bell metal products and lacquer ware.
Published August 2017. Information correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.
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