Best things to do in Fort Kochi (Cochin), India, and how to spend 1 or 2 days in Fort Kochi. If you’re planning a trip to Kerala in India, check out my recommendations for the best places to visit in Kochi and Fort Kochi, including where to stay, what to eat and the best Kochi sightseeing!
Kochi, and in particular the historic area of Fort Kochi, has to be my favourite city in Kerala. A small fishing village that became the first European township in India, in Fort Kochi you can feel and breathe history, ever present wherever you look. It will most likely be your starting point in your Kerala travels, so try and spend at least a couple of days here. There are actually a lot of things to do in Fort Kochi, so here is a travel guide to help you plan your time in this historic city.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best time to visit Kochi
- 2 Things to do in Fort Kochi
- 3 Where to eat in Fort Kochi
- 4 Where to stay in Kochi
- 5 Getting around Fort Kochi and wider Kochi
- 6 Locations
- 7 How to get to Fort Kochi
- 8 Planning to explore further afield?
- 9 Like this post? Pin and save for later
Best time to visit Kochi
The best time to visit Kochi will really depend on what you like and what you are looking for.
Between October and March you will get the most pleasant temperatures, between 17 and 30 degrees Celsius and little rain, which for most people is the ideal weather. I was there at the end of March and beginning of April and you could feel the temperatures starting to rise.
If you can stand (and love) the heat, between April and June may be the time for you. Average temperatures range between 20 and 37 degrees, and the city is a little quieter, which means you can get better hotel deals.
The monsoon season is from July to September. If you don’t mind the odd heavy downpour, the city turns green and it’s another great time to get some good deals on hotels.
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Things to do in Fort Kochi
Chinese Fishing Nets
The Chinese Fishing Nets are the most famous sight here, so if you are only doing a one day trip in Kochi, this should be on the top of your list for things to do in Fort Kochi.
The first Chinese Fishing Nets were erected in Fort Kochi in the 15th century by some of the first visitors to the Malabar Coast, and they are still in use, particularly in the monsoon season, when the water is high. They have most likely been rebuilt since then, but the technique is the same that the first traders used.
The best place to watch them in action, being lowered into the sea and the catch being brought in, is from the Vasco da Gama Square, a narrow promenade that runs along Fort Kochi beach. And they are most photogenic during sunset.
If you are tight for time, here are some great tour options:
- Fort Kochi and Mattancherry 3-Hour Walking Tour
- Discovering Cochin: A Day in the Life of a Local
- From Cochin Port: Fort Kochi and Mattancherry Sightseeing
Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace)
The Mattancherry Palace was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, presented to the Raja of Kochi and renovated by the Dutch 100 years later. It now houses a great collection of portraits of Maharajas, some of the best mythological murals in India, as well as old Dutch maps, royal palanquins and period furniture.
It is open every day from 10.00h to 17.00h except for Fridays, when it’s closed. Entry fee is 2 Rupees.
Jew Town and the Paradesi Sinagogue
Kochi once had a large Paradesi (translated as ‘foreigner’) Jewish population, and this heritage can still be seen in Jew Town, a narrow street between Mattancherry Palace and the Paradesi Sinagogue. The Paradesi Jewish population has been dwindling for decades, and in 2015 there were only 6 members of this community. You can read a little bit more about this in this BBC article. You can also book a Jewish Heritage tour of Fort Kochi here.
Jew Town Road is lined up by shops featuring Hebrew words such as Shalom, Stars of David and other Jewish symbols, but they are now run by other residents of Kochi. It’s one of the oldest antique markets in India and it’s great for a spot of shopping. In addition to antiques, here you will find spices, all sorts of garments such as kurtas, scarves, etc and also plenty of souvenirs – these are just some of the things to buy in Kochi. Just make sure you have your bargaining boots on!
Browsing the shops is a must do amongst things to do in Fort Kochi, but once you are done with it, I would recommend you head to the Paradesi Synagogue, which was built over 400 years ago and is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. One curiosity about this synagogue is that services are hard to organize, as you need ten men for the quorum, to pray. As there are not enough within the Kochi community, the synagogue sometimes invites Jewish visitors to join in so they can have a service.
The Synagogue is open every day from 10.00h to 17.00h except for Fridays, Saturdays and Jewish Holidays. Unfortunately I was there on a day it was closed so I couldn’t visit it inside.
Doing a sunset cruise in Kochi is another of the must things to do. It’s a great way to see the Chinese Fishing Nets from the water and to enjoy the Kochi backwaters at a leisurely pace. It is also the perfect opportunity to spot dolphins!
The sunset cruises only run outside of the monsoon season for obvious reasons, and they tend to last 1.5 to 2 hours depending on the company.
If you are staying at the Brunton Boatyard Hotel, they offer their own sunset cruise, so it’s very convenient if you are a guest.
There are lots of options, so ask your accommodation for recommendations or you could book this sunset cruise in advance.
One of the places to visit in Kochi at night has to be the most iconic of all the performances in Kerala, a Kathakali performance. Kathakali is a classical dance from Kerala that involves elaborate make up (it can take up to 3 hours to apply!), bright costumes and intricate hand, body, facial and even eye movement.
There are a number of places in Fort Kochi where you can watch a Kathakali dance. Here are a couple of them:
In most of these places you can turn up one hour or half an hour earlier and watch how they apply the make up. Just make sure you ask the venue first to avoid disappointment and a long wait.
Read More: Ayurvedic Experiences in Kerala
St Francis Church
Built by Portuguese Franciscan friars in the 16thcentury, St Francis Church is India’s oldest European church. It was initially built of timber but later reconstructed in stone masonry. It was restored in the 18thcentury by the Protestant Dutch and converted to an Anglican church by the British less than 20 years later.
The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who died in Kochi, was once buried here, but his remains were later moved to Lisbon. You can still see his tombstone here.
It is open every day for visits between 7.00h to 18.30h and there is no entry fee.
If you’d like to know more about Christian Heritage in Kochi and India, you can book a Christian Heritage tour.
Bolgatty Palace is located on an island of the same name, Bolgatty Island. It is one of the oldest Dutch palaces outside of Holland built by the Dutch. It was the residence of a number of British governors, but after independence the state turned it into a heritage resort. It’s a great place to wander around and to enjoy a cup of tea!
The tombstones here are considered to be the most authentic record of the hundreds of Europeans (both Dutch and English) who arrived in India to expand their colonial empire. The cemetery was consecrated in 1724 and the last burial took place in 1913.
Although the cemetery is closed for most of the day, it can be opened on requests made by visitors.
Only a few ruins remain of Fort Immanuel, after which Fort Kochi was named. Built by the Portuguese in the 16thcentury, it was later destroyed by the Dutch and the British. Today the remains can be seen along the beach.
Santa Cruz Basilica
Another Portuguese church which became a cathedral a few years later. It was demolished by the British who rebuilt it in the 19thcentury and it was proclaimed a basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984.
It is open for visitors every day from 10.00h to 17.00h.
Beyond Kochi: Discover Munnar
Every two years, Kochi celebrates the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the largest art exhibition in India and the first of its kind held in the country. The Biennale contemporary art from around the world, and has resulted in some great pieces of street art in Fort Kochi, particularly around the Bazaar Road and Calvathy Road area.
In this area you will also find beautiful buildings, but despite their current state of decay, it is easy to appreciate their former splendour. If you are a fan of abandoned buildings and beautiful decay, don’t miss exploring this side of Fort Kochi.
Some other great Fort Kochi Tour Options
Where to eat in Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi has a great choice of places to eat. Here are a few:
Dal Roti specialises in North Indian cuisine and has become a bit of a classic in Kochi, so eating here is now one of the top things to do in Fort Kochi. And it’s cheap too!
Lilly Street / Elephantstone Road, Fort Kochi 682001
To get to Ginger House you need to walk through an antique shop with a pretty big wooden boat inside. It has some of the best waterfront views in Fort Kochi, so it’s worth a visit just for this.
Jew Town Road, Mattancherry, Kochi 682002
Set above a large antique shop, and within a homely atmosphere, Café Crafters specialises in Keralan seafood, but it also has western food such as sandwiches and burgers. It has a great balcony overlooking the street, ideal for people watching.
Jew Town Road, Mattancherry, Kochi 682002
Kashi Art Café
Kashi Art Café doubles up as an art gallery and a café that serves sandwiches, soups and salads in a lovely and relaxed atmosphere. The food is great and the staff are very friendly.
Burgher Street, Fort Nagar, Kochi 682001
For a more upmarket dining experience you can try the following options:
Armoury Café at the Brunton Boatyard Hotel
The Armoury Café within the Brunton Boatyard Hotel is a place full of history that not only can be seen and breathed, but it can also be tasted. The speciality of here is the First Class Railway Mutton Curry – the story goes that an English army officer was travelling on a train and when he became hungry, he followed the smell of spices to the pantry car. There he tried some mutton but burnt his tongue because of the spices. The cook then added some coconut milk to make it milder and that’s how Railway Mutton Curry was born. It’s a must try in Fort Kochi.
Thai Soul at the Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty
If you fancy a change from Indian food, try Thai Soul, a poolside restaurant within the newly-opened Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty, that’s been inspired by the streets of Bangkok. I can specially recommend the Tom Ka Phak, coconut soup with vegetables. At the time of writing, the restaurant did not have an alcohol license, but please check directly with the restaurant if this is important to you.
Cassava at the Kochi Marriott Hotel
If you find yourself a bit further afield exploring Ernakulam, I would recommend Cassava within the Kochi Marriott Hotel. Cassava will take you on an exciting journey of the flavours of southwest India, with dishes inspired by age-old recipes.
Where to stay in Kochi
A hotel full of history, the Brunton Boatyard is located in Fort Kochi’s waterfront. As the name indicates, the hotel was once a boatyard, and after the shipbuilding ceased, it was bought up and restored into a very unique hotel with the charm of a by-gone era. The colonial style of the building shows influences from the Portuguese, Dutch and British. All 22 rooms offer a sea view and a private patio, with the rooms in the second floor having the best views. It also has an outdoor swimming pool, from where you can watch the fishermen working and big boats going past. Read about my stay at the Brunton Boatyard.
Fragrant Nature Kochi
A colonial-style building in the heart of Fort Kochi, Fragrant Nature Kochi offers modern comfort and elegantly furnished rooms. The unique selling point of this hotel has to be its rooftop pool, with views over the water. There is also a café on the rooftop, so you can just relax by the pool as you sip away on your mock-tail.
Ramada Kochi Resort
If you’d like to stay away from the hustle and bustle, then consider staying at Ramada Kochi Resort. Within easy reach from Fort Kochi, it is a haven of peace and it has everything you need to relax after a day exploring. It has a meandering pool, Kerala’s biggest hotel spa and plenty of restaurant choices. All this right by the edge of the Kochi Backwaters. I would recommend staying in one of the Cottage Rooms, with a balcony overlooking the longest pool you have ever seen. Read more about my stay at Ramada Kochi Resort.
Kochi Marriott Hotel
The Kochi Marriott Hotel is located on the LuLu Mall campus, near Kochi’s vibrant IT district, convenient if you are combining both business and leisure on your trip. It is one of the tallest buildings in the areas, so the views over the city are pretty spectacular. You can even arrive by helicopter and land on the rooftop helipad! If you want to relax, you can do it by lounging by the poolside or joining a morning yoga lesson. It is only a short distance away from Fort Kochi, so it still offers the convenience of exploring the area and getting away from it when you are done.
Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty
The Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty is the new kid in town. It opened at the end of April 2018 and it’s a sight to behold, dominating the skyline of Bolgatty island. With over 260 sophisticated rooms, you can really take your pick here. All of them have views over the backwaters, the city skyline or over lush and landscaped gardens. It has an outdoor and an indoor swimming pool and a luxurious spa, so you can guarantee relaxation here if that’s what you are looking for. It also has private boathouses for guests to experience the backwates on day trips and overnight.
For more accommodation options, here is a wide selection of hotels, homesteads and hostels in Kochi.
Getting around Fort Kochi and wider Kochi
Fort Kochi is quite a small area which you can easily explore on foot. Just wander around, follow the coastline and get lost in the city’s alleyways. You will find plenty of gems along the way.
But if you prefer not to walk too much, you can get a rickshaw for short journeys.
If you need to get out of Fort Kochi itself, you can get an Uber, which is very cheap here. If you have never used Uber, you can open an account with this promotional code.
Also check Kochi’s new metro line. It only has one line and doesn’t quite reach Fort Kochi, but there are plans to expand it over the years.
How to get to Fort Kochi
With travelling distances within India being so big, most people will arrive in Kochi by plane. I research all my flights with Skyscanner. Book your flight to Kochi now.
Cochin International Airport is an hour by taxi from Fort Kochi, and traffic jams are a regular occurrence, so try and get an air conditioned car and make yourself comfortable.
You can reduce the hassle of looking for a taxi, having to negotiate prices and explaining directions by booking your transfer in advance with KiwiTaxi below. Someone will be waiting for you at the airport, it will be fixed price and the driver will already know where you need to go.
Planning to explore further afield?
If you would like to explore Kerala further, I would highly recommend experiencing the backwaters from Alleppey. And here are a few more ideas of tours that you can do – both day and multi-day trips from Kochi.
I hope this post has given you enough inspiration for the best things to do in Fort Kochi!
Let me know in the comments if you have been to Fort Kochi, or if you have any more suggestions for me to add.