Known as the "Gateway to Kerala", Kochi is an enchanting city that's had an eclectic influence. Arabs, British, Dutch, Chinese, and Portuguese have all left their mark there. The architecture and historical sites in Fort Kochi draw most of the visitors to the area. Fort Kochi is an excellent place to explore on foot or bicycle. Don't miss these top Kochi attractions and places to visit.
Chinese Fishing Nets
The iconic Chinese Fishing Nets, undoubtedly Kochi's most recognizable sight, have been there since the 14th century and are remarkably still in use today. Local fisherman will show you how they're operated in return for a small fee. In the late afternoon head to the waterfront where the nets line the shore, buy some seafood from one of the fishmongers there, get it cooked at a nearby shack, and enjoy eating it as the sun sets.
Mattancherry is an atmospheric old neighborhood in Fort Kochi that's full of colonial buildings. You'll find it fascinating if you're into history. The main attraction there is the Mattancherry Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese and presented to the Raja of Kochi in 1555, then renovated by the Dutch in 1663. It lacks the grandeur that you'd expect of a palace. Yet, there's a small museum and some rare art inside, including paintings of previous kings and some beautiful murals from the Hindu epics.
In the heart of Mattancherry, between Mattancherry Dutch Palace and the Pardesi Jewish Synagogue, is a quaint area called Jew Town. It's the center of spice trade in Kochi and the air is filled with the heady waft of masala. Spend some time wandering through the streets and lanes, and exploring the antique stores. It's a fabulous neighborhood for photography. These days, you won't find many Jewish people here: the local Jewish population has been outnumbered by an influx of Kashmiri shopkeepers who hawk their wares to tourists. However, the Synagogue remains in use. Its interior is resplendent with chandeliers, gold pulpit and imported floor tiles.
Fort Kochi's main tourist strip, Princess Street is one of the oldest streets in Fort Kochi. It's the place to go for people watching, cafes, restaurants, bookstores, tea shops, art galleries, and souvenirs. You'll also find grocery stores there, so you can to restock on any essential items. It's a lively destination for an evening walk.
This landmark church, located close to Princess Street in Fort Kochi, is believed to be the oldest European-built church in India. However, it's most famous for the fact that it was once the burial site of explorer Vasco de Gama, who died in Kochi in 1524 (his remains were later taken back to Portugal). The church was originally built by the Portuguese in 1503, and was subsequently claimed by the Dutch and British, before passing into Indian hands.
If you want to learn about Kerala's culture, then it's worth making the journey to this privately owned museum, located on the outskirts of Ernakulam. Opened in 2009, the Museum's three floors are packed full of artifacts that showcase the state's heritage. Its architecture is magnificent, as too is its entrance made from the remnants of a temple and wooden carvings. Kerala art and dance forms are a focus, with stage performances taking place at 6.30 p.m. daily.
Kathakali is a very unusual and ancient form of dance-drama that's traditional to Kerala. The look, with its red bloodshot eyes, borders on grotesque. The movements of the dance are subtle, yet they tell a meaningful mythological story. Performers are required to undergo intense training, including hours of eye exercises, when learning the art of Kathakali. Try the Cochin Cultural Center , Kerala Kathakali Center, or Greenix Village to see a performance.
Kerala Food and Cooking Lessons
Kerala is renowned for its cuisine, featuring delicious seafood and coconut flavors. The hosts at many of Kochi's popular homestays will be more than happy to give you a cooking lesson. If you're serious about learning cooking, take a look at Nimmy Paul's Cooking School. She gives a variety of traditional Kerala Syrian Christian cooking classes in her home. Maria's South Indian Cooking Classes are also recommended.
Kerala is also known for its natural Ayurvedic medicine and there are a number of options for getting an Ayurvedic treatment in Kochi. The Fort Ayurveda spa, at the Fort House hotel in Fort Kochi, receives great reviews and offers reasonably priced traditional Ayurvedic therapies, as does Ayurville. Check out Agastya Ayurveda Massage and Wellness Center on Princess Street as well. On Vypeen Island, AyurDara specializes in longer term Ayurvedic treatments (one to three weeks) and provides accommodations.
If you feel like going for a boat ride, take the ferry from Fort Kochi out to Vypeen Island, just off the coast. The main attraction there is Cherai beach, on the northern tip. If you'd prefer to go on a tour rather than travel by yourself, Cochin Magic offers this Kerala Seafood Trail.