Kochi Beach, also known as Fort Kochi Beach, is an excellent stretch of sandy shores ideal for leisurely activities. Located at a distance of about 12 km from the main city of Kochi, this beach is easily reachable by road.
The beach and its tranquil surroundings offer a rejuvenating experience to those who visit the place. The key attraction of the beach is the fort which is located in its vicinity. Explicitly displaying the grandeur of a bygone era and the splendor of Indo-European architectural style, the fort serves as a popular tourist attraction.
The area surrounding the beach was one of the earliest European settlements of Kerala and still holds traces of a unique culture. Kochi beach is best known as the venue for Kochi Beach Festival which is held annually on its shores. The festival falls on the last week of December every year and attracts hundreds of travellers and natives alike.
The beach, a perfect spot for holidaying and engaging in water spots, is best visited during evenings.
Fort Kochi is an integral part of the city of Kochi but situated across a stretch of the sea. A solid bridge forms the connection between Fort Kochi and the rest of the world. This place offers many delights to tourists in terms of history, art, food and religion.
The place is best explored by foot or on a cycle. Bicycles and bikes are available on hire. Fort Kochi offers museums, palaces, synagogues, Hindu temples, churches, heritage buildings, art galleries, parks, beach, ayurvedic massages, roadside cafes and souvenir shopping.
Local people also offer home stays for a wholesome travel experience. The uniqueness of Fort Kochi lies in its rich cultural heritage that is reflected in the buildings in and around the area. You can easily spot Portuguese, Jewish, Greeks and Tibetan culture in the place. However, among all these the Kerala culture remains absolutely intact.
Mattanchery Palace is located in Fort Kochi and is also famously known as the Dutch Palace. The place is an artist’s delight since it showcases a rich mix of the various cultures that adopted Kochi as their home.
Tourists, every year, are attracted to the medieval charm of the palace that was built by the Portuguese in 1555 AD for Veera Kerala Varma who was the then ruler of Kochi. Later in 1663 the palace underwent extensions and renovations by the Dutch and hence the name Dutch Palace.
These days the palace is more of a museum showcasing the art and culture of Kerala. The murals on the walls of the palace depict the mythological tales of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Also, a gallery is dedicated to the portraits of the rulers of Kerala. Some of the best craftsmanship of the times is depicted in the wooden carvings that decorate the ceiling of the dining hall in the palace.
Hill Palace has the distinction of being the largest archaeological museum in the state. The palace is located in Tripunithura, one of the regions around Kochi. The Kochi Rajas used the palace as their administrative office after its construction in 1865.
The Palace has a complex that boasts of 49 buildings. All these buildings have been constructed keeping in mind the contemporary style of the times. The buildings are an example of traditional architecture. The complex houses, a deer park, an archaeological museum, a children’s park, a pre-historic park and a historical museum.
Along with all this, the palace has some of the rarest of spices and herbs growing within its compounds. The Kerala State Archaeology Department is responsible for the upkeep of the museum and they have done a splendid job of preserving the original architectural style of the palace.
The palace along with all its museums is open to public. In fact, some scenes from a very popular Malayalam movie, Manichitrathazhu was shot in the Hill Palace.
The Indo-Portuguese Museum is an example of the harmony that exists between two countries and two cultures. It is also a representation of how the Portuguese culture has played an important role in making Kochi one of the finest port cities of the world.
The museum showcases an array of artefacts, documents and other relics that prove the non-erasable mark that Portuguese traders have left on the history of Kochi. The museum was the dream child of Dr. Kureethra who was also the Bishop of Kochi.
The one main reason of constructing this museum was to show the cultural harmony that existed between the two countries even then. A visit to the museum will teach the generations to come about the peaceful co-existence of two or more cultures and religions.
The museum is also an archaeologist’s delight because it showcases some of the best craftsmanship of the times in terms of delicately carved sculptures on teak wood of supreme quality.
Wellington Island is one of the regions that comes under the city of Kochi. Today, the island stands on the part that was reclaimed from the lake of Kochi. A lot of effort went into creating this island since the lake required filling up with dredged soil. This island holds a lot of significance for the city of Kochi since it is the main site for the Port of Kochi. The Kochi Naval Base of the Indian Navy also owns a significant part of the Wellington Island.
The beaches of Vypeen Island and Fort Kochi are lined with the Chinese fishing nets.
The Chinese Fishing Nets owe their origin to China, as the name suggests. These fishing nets were first introduced in India in Kochi by Chinese traveller Zheng He. These nets were first set up in the Cochin Harbour sometime in the fourteenth century and have been in use ever since.
The singularity of these nets lies in the fact that they are suspended in mid-air resembling hammocks. The nets hang by poles that are prepared from bamboo or teak woods. These fishing nets are called Cheenavala in local language.
The fishing style of the Chinese nets is very different from that of the traditional nets. Raising the Chinese fishing nets requires the help of at least six men if not more. Tourists throng to the beaches to catch a glimpse of the Chinese fishing nets and to try their hand at fishing!
Marine Drive in Kochi is built on the same lines as its sister drive of Mumbai. The promenade in Marine Drive offers a panoramic view of the Kochi backwaters. The place is a favourite hangout joint for the locals and tourists alike because of the unpolluted view of the sea. Sunday evenings see people thronging to the drive to take in the splendid view of the setting sun. Marine Drive also holds economic importance for the city. Plenty of malls line the drive and provide an absolutely thrilling and fun-filled shopping experience. Many fast food joints are also present along the walkway and cater to different types of cuisines.
Very close to the Marine Drive is MG Road that includes some of the best restaurants in Kochi including the famous Kayees Biryani centre. Your Kochi visit is incomplete if you haven’t tasted the famous Kayees biryani. Order chicken biryani with mutton curry and you will know what you had been missing!
Bolghatty Palace is situated on the Bolghatty Island that lies on one side of Kochi. It was made by the Dutch in 1744. The palace resembles a heritage mansion more than it resembles a palace. The beautiful lush green gardens and lawns were added later after the construction of the palace.
Initially, the palace housed the commander of Dutch Malabar. However, in 1909 the Dutch traders rented out the palace to the British. Thereafter, many British Governors have enjoyed the luxury of watching the landscaped gardens and the softly flowing Arabian Sea from the windows of the palace.
After the Indian independence the palace was declared as a property of the state. Now the palace is a luxurious heritage hotel and resort. Every year thousands of tourists throng to the place to enjoy the serene locales surrounding the palace. The place boasts of an ayurvedic massage centre, a golf course and a swimming pool.
Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary is a favourite with bird lovers, tourists and ornithologists. The bird sanctuary is situated in Ernakulum, right behind the high court building. This bird sanctuary boasts of rare varieties of migratory as well as resident birds.
Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary earned its fame not only for the large variety of birds, but also for the mangrove vegetation. The bird sanctuary is situated in a mangrove vegetation that houses a variety of specialized plants and animals. The area is linked to the backwaters of Kochi by a feeder canal.
Mangalavanam was classified as a protected area in 2004 as it houses breeding birds and rare mangrove vegetation. Being a plush green wet land that inhabits a number of rare species, the area is rightly called the green lung of Ernakulum. January to early March is the best time to visit the sanctuary as a number of migratory birds can be spotted during this period.
Jew Town, a must-visit township and an ancient Jewish settlement of Kochi, attracts visitors with its cultural as well as architectural uniqueness. One of the features that make the city of Kochi a stand-out among other Indian cities is its Jewish population.
History has it that Jews arrived in Kochi for trade and commerce during 700 BC and later integrated into the cultural fabrics of the city. The then ruler of the region allotted an area for those Jewish families who settled down in Kochi which was later known as the Jew Town.
The chief attractions of the Jew Town are the Dutch Palace and the ancient Jewish synagogue, popularly known as the Paradesi Synagogue. The streets of this township are filled with small shops trading various kinds of spices.
Many ramshackle buildings on the streets still bear Jewish names, reminding travellers of the erstwhile glory of this Jewish settlement. The town has many shops which sell magnificent ornaments, antique artefacts and knick-knacks and is an ideal place for shopping.
Princess Street is a stretch of vibrant avenues located in the heart of Kochi. The street reminds the travellers of the erstwhile glory and grandeur of the bygone colonial times. With colossal colonial mansions and typical European architecture, Princess Street has succeeded in capturing, recreating and preserving the air and mood of a buzzing European settlement.
The architectural diversity of the buildings on the street is truly enchanting for travellers who can see old houses and structures that replicate Dutch, British, French and Portuguese patterns. It is an ideal place to stroll through and shop. The street offers visitors plenty of activities to engage in.
Princess Street has a number of food points and coffee shops where travellers can grab a bite and refresh themselves. The long stretch of shops that sell jewellery, clothes, curios and handicrafts offer the travellers an excellent shopping experience.
There are spas, traditional Ayurveda centres and craft emporiums on the street to engage travellers with both pleasure and leisure. Princess Street is one of the few places in Kochi where one can feel the real pulse of ancient and modern times.
The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica should be included in the itinerary of any tourist visiting Kochi. The cathedral is situated in Fort Kochi and is one of first churches in India. It ranks among the eight existing basilicas in the Country.
It is, of course, a heritage building and great care has been taken to preserve its originality by the Archaeological Department of India. The basilica is a superb combination of style, architecture and grandeur. It boasts to be one of the few buildings in the country that showcase gothic influence.
This was one of the few buildings that were saved from destruction when the Dutch invaders set about destroying the Catholic buildings. The building boasts of frescoes, murals and canvas paintings that tell the story of birth and death of Christ. The Church also has a replica of the Last Supper which is the main tourist attraction of the church.
St. Francis Church is the first European church in India that was built in 1503. Witnessing several invasions and countless settlements, the church grabs a prominent position in the cultural history of Kochi. The Church stands in the neighborhood of Fort Kochi.
A very interesting fact attached to the history of the church has to do with Vasco da Gama, the great Portuguese navigator. Gama who died in the 16th century took his final rest in the St. Francis Church. It was only fourteen years later that his body was moved to Lisbon.
When the church was first built it was made from wood. However, in 1506 the Franciscan Friars re-built the church using mortar and bricks. The work of the new Church was completed in 1516. The Protestant Dutch did not demolish this Roman Catholic Church when they invaded the city. Later, in 1804 the Dutch let the Anglicans have control over the church, and the church was then dedicated to St. Francis.
Parishath Thampuran Museum is housed in the well-known Hill Museum. The museum is well known all over the world because of the distinctive art that is displayed here. These include Mughal oil paintings and ancient sculptures. The museum also has a good collection of ancient coins.
The young generation can learn a lot about the historical and cultural past of the state in a single visit to the museum. The display of ancient artistic talents can give you a fair idea about the tastes of the bygone era. You will find yourself deeply enthralled by a time that passed long ago.
Many archaeologists and students throng to the museum to collect as much information as they can about our rich cultural history. The museum is open only for a few hours each day. It is best to check out the visitor’s timings before you decide to check out the museum.