A Weekend Trip to Fort Kochi
Kochi is the commercial capital of Kerala and has been so since the 1500s. The Portuguese and the Dutch, and eventually the British left a small part of their heritage here with traditional Malayalee culture. And thats exactly why Kochi is worth visiting! Check out this easy-to-use guide to visiting Fort Kochi for the most interesting and ideal experiences.
In this blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know to plan a trip to Fort Kochi in Kerala, India, including details on where to stay in Fort Kochi, what to eat in Fort Kochi, things to do in Kochi, and even on how to reach Cochin from anywhere on a reasonable budget!
Fort Kochi, The Queen of the Arabian Sea
Kochi, also known as Cochin, is coastal Kerala’s most important commercial city. Used as a port since 1341, it provided access to Arab, Chinese and European merchants looking to trade with India. A large influence of these cultures in visible in Fort Kochi which is now famous for its colonial bungalows, Gothic Churches and Synagogues, and of course the world of Art. Other iconic sights of Fort Kochi include the Cantilevered Chinese fishing nets and the Biennale Art Festival that is hosted once a year in Winter months.
What is the best time to visit Fort Kochi?
Fort Kochi weather is tropical throughout the year. The temperature hovers between 24ºC to 35ºC depending on the time of the day and the season, but the humidity is always high. May to July are the monsoon months and rainfall is at its heaviest! The best months to visit Fort Kochi are from October to March, before the summer heat becomes intense again.
We visited in early March and the weather was very pleasant.
That said, here’s a list of all the things to do in Fort Kochi.
Chinese Fishing Nets
The Chinese Fishing Nets are the most iconic representation of Fort Kochi! Looking like hammocks, these oversized nets droop towards the sea water, and were used for fishing before. But now, they are non-functional and mostly just bait to lure tourists!
Tip: Best time to see the Chinese Fishing Nets is early morning. Not only is there a smaller crowd, the sunrise lighting makes a wonderful backdrop. You’ll also find seagulls perching on them and many fisherman catching the day’s worth around the nets.
Check out the best hotels and hostels here
Mattancherry Dutch Palace
This palace was built by the Portuguese in 1557 and then gifted to the Raja of Kochi, Raja Kerala Varma. Nearly a century later, the Dutch took over it and remodelled it.
Today, visitors can explore the insides of the traditional Kerala house for a small fee of INR 5. The museum in the upper floor curates many of the royal family’s artefacts, paintings and clothing. Services of a guide can be availed, although the story boards on the walls share a lot about the history as well. There is a pond just outside the palace with coconut farms in the background.
Tip: Visit the Palace in the afternoon when it is too hot to explore other places on foot. Take a local auto or tuktuk ride, or the local bus service to get here from Fort Kochi. The distance is about 2 kms.
The Cathedrals of Fort Kochi
The early advent of the colonials like the Portuguese and the Dutch brought Christianity to Fort Kochi. A few Churches were built in the Fort Kochi and Mattancherry neighbourhoods. The architecture style of the churches is a mix of Gothic and Indian design made suitable for the tropical weather of the South.
The most famous ones are the Santa Cruz Bascilica (visit early mornings), the St. Francis Church (visit in the afternoon) and The Church of Our Lady of Life (visit along with Mattancherry Palace).
Jewish Street and the Synagogue
If there’s one unique thing about Kochi, its the main street in Jew Town a small block in Mattachcherry part of the island which is home to a Jewish settlement. The people here own small textile outlets and many curio and antique shops selling some unique and rare items.
At the end of the street is the Synagogue, the Jewish house of worship. Check the visiting hours and the day of the week while visiting – Saturdays are holidays, and there is a lunch break from 1 pm to 3 pm. Expect to spend about one hour here.
Check out the best hotels and hostels in Fort Kochi here
Chill out at Burgher Street
The best and most artistic part of Fort Kochi is located on Burgher Street. The famous Kashi Café is located at the beginning of the street and many more small cafes and bakeries dot the lane. A few graffiti covered walls steal the attention along the way.
A few houses located on the street also have beautiful flower gardens. There are many guesthouses and travel shops here as well.
Tip: Plan to visit this street for an early breakfast or to relax in the afternoon heat. Prices are reasonable, pay INR 50 or more for a Lime Juice, INR 100 for French Fries (less than USD 1.5).
The Bishop’s House and the Indo-Portuguese Museum
If you’re looking for traditional Portuguese architecture to admire, then visit the Bishop’s House near the Parade Ground. It has a pleasant mix of European Gothic and traditional Kerala style of construction from the 1500s. The entrance to the house is through a winding path through a beautiful garden. It isn’t possible to enter the house unless the Bishop of the Diocese of Kochi invites, but the gardens are free for visitors to explore.
The Indo-Portuguese Museum is definitely worth visiting if you are curious to know more about how the Catholic culture spread into India and how the Malaya Diocese extended its influence to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Malay (present day Malaysia) and even Burma (now Myanmar). The entry ticket is INR 40 and photography is not permitted.
Tip: Visit the Bishop’s House along with the Indo-Portuguese Museum in the morning. They are in the same block.
Fort Kochi Beach
This is the best Sunset spot in Kochi! Although the beach is small, it is well visited by tourists and locals alike. The beach is flat and fun for children to play in as well, although the water is not the cleanest (there’s an industrial port just across).
In the afternoons and early evenings, people also fly kites here in the sea breeze.
Tip: Get a yummy chocolate ice cream cone from the Lazza Bicycle vendor and sit enjoying the atmosphere!
Fort Kochi Art attractions
Fort Kochi has had a long standing relationship with art and thats evident in almost every part of the town. The famed Wings are painted on a wall, in a narrow alley right across the street from the Chinese Fishing Nets’ parking lot. There’s another beautiful section on Burgher Street.
Other artistic attractions include the Kashi Cafe on Burgher Street and David Hall, which feature international artwork. These places are also famous during the Kochi Biennale Art Festival which is usually organised in winter every year.
Jawahar Park and Parade Grounds
Jawahar Park is Fort Kochi’s favourite hangout spot. The park has a beautiful green canopy and a children’s play area too which makes it the locals’ choice at any point during the day. Most people rest here in the noon time to beat the heat while cooling off with ice-cream cones.
The Parade Grounds has been there since the colonial times and even today, it is used during national and state ceremonies. During other times, locals can be found playing a friendly game of cricket or football – if you want to joint them!
Tip: Check out Kafe D Kochi and Pizza Italia just beyond the Jawahar Park junction.
How to travel to Fort Kochi
If you are wondering about how to reach Fort Kochi, there are many easy ways to travel to Kochi in India:
Air: The Cochin International Airport is located 50 kms away from Fort Kochi. There is a direct air conditioned bus service from the airport to Fort Kochi.
Train: The nearest train station is in Ernakulam and the distance between the Ernakulam Train Station and Fort Kochi is 13 kms. Direct bus connectivity is available.
Bus: There are many public and private buses connecting Kochi (Cochin) with other major Indian cities like Trivandrum, Bangalore and Chennai. Overnight buses with air conditioning and sleeper facilities are very popular on the Kochi routes. Most buses stop at Vytilla juction from where you can catch the airconditioned city bus to Fort Kochi for INR 40. There is also a cheap Ferry service between Fort Kochi and the other islands in Kochi.
Taxi: The most comfortable and expensive option is to hire a taxi from your city to Kochi.
Travelling within Kochi
Autos and Tuktuks are easily available. Shared taxis are easy to find too. Most people understand some English making it very easy to get around the city.
WIthin Fort Kochi, everything is within walking distance. The only place to visit which is further away is Mattancherry, but getting there is also not difficult. If you don’t want to walk, we recommend getting a rental scooter for INR 300 or a bicycle for INR 150. Royal Enfield bikes are also available and cost INR 1,000 per day.
Where to stay in Fort Kochi?
Fort Kochi hotels and homestays are really special – many of them are very old colonial houses that have been maintained as guesthouses! Hostels are also very popular especially amongst budget travellers from the Western countries.
Stay in the northwestern neighbourhood of Fort Kochi, for everything is within walking distance of a few minutes. There are many cafes and restaurants here too, hiding behind the white facade of the old buildings. Be curious to look for them!
If you are looking for something more luxurious, then consider staying at one of the many Bunglows turned Resorts on the beachfront.
Check out the best hotels and hostels here
Travel costs, food and safety
Kochi offers a very wide range in pricing of stay and food. Hostels sell dorms for as little as INR 250 (USD 3.5) a night and you can easily reserve private rooms without AC for INR 400 (USD 6). Most of these rooms are made for backpackers and can be small, but clean. If you spend a little more, you can get AC rooms in Fort Kochi for INR 900 (USD 13). Luxury accommodations like Old Harbour, Forte Kochi, etc sell for INR 14,000 per night – try to score a secret deal here.
The tickets to sightseeing monuments and museums cost anywhere between INR 5 to INR 40 per person. Cathedrals are free to visit. Cafes have elaborate menus with prices comparable to any other Indian city: INR 100 to INR 200 per dish. Seafood is popular here. The heat is intense, so cool fruit juices are very sought after!
Local transport is cheap too unless you take taxis to visit the attractions. A one hour auto/tuktuk tour costs INR 100 in the mornings and can cost as much as INR 300 during a busy hour (mid-morning and afternoons). We suggest doing a bike tour instead. Rent one for INR 150 for one cycle for 24 hours.
Fort Kochi is safe. Couples and even solo female travelers can explore the town in peace. The locals are generally helpful and Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi and English are spoken. Tourist friendly police are always around to help as well.
Suggested itinerary for Fort Kochi
The minimum time required for a satisfying experience is two days and one night. Fort Kochi is an ideal weekend getaway destination in South India.
Spend the mornings and evenings visiting all the above attractions – avoid being out in the sun in the afternoons. Chill at the beach or one of the cafes on Tower Road in the evenings. Visit Burgher Street for breakfast or lunch.
Visit some of the smaller art galleries in the neighbourhood to beat the noon heat.
If you have more questions, or want to come to Kochi with us, write to us or leave a comment below!
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