Why Kochi Kerala in 2020 should be your next travel destination!
Kochi Kerala is also known as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’ and has been ranked seventh in Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2020. Tranquil backwaters, lagoons with giant coconut palms, and picturesque islands; that’s what you can expect from the gorgeous places to visit in Kochi.
Modern Kochi has retained the charms of the many cultures that influenced it –British, Arabic, Dutch, Portugese and Chinese. They left back the influence in the architecture, religion, festivals and cuisines of the city. The unique Chinese fishing nets in Fort Kochi have become the defining image of Kochi Kerala and are one of the mandatory places to visit in Kochi.
Kochi Kerala is perfect for travelers interested in food, history, and beaches. Kochi, Cochin, Ernakulam….this city is called by many names. Kerala has 4 airports, however, your Kerala travel will popularly start from here. While Ernakulam refers to the mainland where the train stations are, Fort Kochi Kerala is the cultural hotspot & is always teeming with foreigners, given the amazing list of places to visit in kochi.
Fort Kochi Kerala is a small laid-back coastal town where you unwind in its pretty art cafes sipping on some freshly brewed coffee or just strolling through the colourful lanes admiring its stretches of street art, souvenirs and handicraft stores. Homestays are very much a part of the tourist itineraries & are an interesting way to discover local foods & customs. This part of the city has a ‘homestay’ in every corner!
How to get around Kochi Kerala
An interesting way to cover the tourist spots in Fort Kochi Kerala is by foot or by tuktuk rides. There are also tuk tuk tours covering major places to visit in Kochi. And by the way, the tuk tuks don’t work by meter, so fix the rates beforehand.)
Cycles & bikes are also available on daily rent so ask your hotel for details.
Taxis are available off the road or your hotel can arrange for you.
In Ernakulam, the metro is also a good option; especially for reaching Lulu mall, which is a little far from town. 2kms out of town & you are able to see the beautiful green trees & bodies of water from the metro…as it’s at an elevation from the ground.
If you are staying in Ernakulam or Kochi city, you will need to take a cab, bus or ferry to reach Fort Kochi.
Now let’s go through the places to visit in Kochi that you need to tick off your list:
1. Chinese fishing nets
Kerala is now synonymous with the image of Chinese fishing nets across the setting sun. Even though I have visited Kerala several times, I am still mesmerised by it.
The Mahatma Gandhi Walkway offers silhouettes—the Chinese nets placed in a line against a setting sun and fishmongers selling their fresh catch. This is a picture that will stay with you for a long time and thus makes it one of the epic places to visit in Kochi.
Also, bargain with a fishmonger near the Chinese nets at Fort Kochi, and pick your choice of fish for a quick barbecue at one of the nearby stalls.
In addition to Fort Kochi, these nets can also be seen at other places to visit in Kochi like while coming from the airport via the Vallarpadam route and also from the new Marine drive at a distance.
Take a turn at the net, as the local fisherman will show you how they’re operated and enthusiastically let you participate in the fishing activity in return for a small fee. It’s your chance for some unique pics and an experience like nothing else.
2. Take a Heritage Walk around Fort Kochi Kerala
Fort Kochi encompasses some of the best places to visit in Kochi together. Peek into the city’s thriving history, with remnants of Portuguese, Dutch and British influences.
Your heritage walk should include:
St Francis Church (India’s oldest European Church) where the body of the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was buried originally.
The Chinese Fishing nets, the trademark image that Cochin is famous for.
Interesting houses around the park like Tower House, Koder House, Old Harbour Hotel
The Dutch Cemetery.
Mattancherry Palace— beautifully built by the Portuguese.
Paradesi Synagogue in Jew Town, Mattancherry— the oldest (450 years) active synagogue in India & all the commonwealth nations.
Bishop’s House Road and the beautiful old-style homes.
Santa Cruz Basilica.
The places to visit are at walking distance & can be visited all together in about 2-3 hours.There’s also a local shopping area near the beach & some roads have been cordoned off for vehicles so there’re only pedestrian walkways for the ease of tourists. There are legendary cafes like Kashi Art Cafe & other pretty European styled cafes which are a treat to the eyes & taste buds as well.
You can join the 2 hour cruise tours from Marine Drive boat jetty to Fort Kochi conducted by Kerala KTDC, the tourist department as it covers the major spots with a tour guide plus, you can enjoy the boat ride too.
There are 2 trips- morning & evening.
3. Jew Town, Fort Kochi Kerala
Paradesi Synagogue naturally sits in this area; it’s embellished with lanterns, and a collection of scrolls from the Old Testament. Its interior is decorated with chandeliers, gold pulpit, and ceramic tiled floors.
Note: Taking pictures inside the synagogue was permitted earlier but quite recently has been prohibited for better preservation.
Jew Town in Mattancherry was the place where the Jews from overseas had settled. This entire area in Kochi Kerala has retained parts of its Jewish heritage.
Quaint shops around Synagogue Lane and Jew Town Road sell antiques, carvings, painted cow heads, little house boats & hand made soaps along with Keralan crafts and aromatic spices. Jew street really has some very interesting antiques & gifting items.
Laid-back outdoor cafes and artsy eateries in heritage buildings, serve local specialties and Western fare. This is one of the cutest places to visit in Kochi if you ask me. 😀
3. Mattancherry Spice Market
Mistress of spices: Fort Kochi Kerala!
Mattancherry is one of those places to visit in Kochi that’s a feast for the eyes & the nose too…with a burst of colours & smells, it takes pride in being one of the most famed spice and tea trading centres. So overpowering were these smells that I began to understand why people from faraway lands were so obsessed with this village ages ago.
The Spice Market is a one of a kind place that also allows you to see the workers going about their job– like drying spices, segregating, processing, etc.
It is also a great place to buy quality spices at very reasonable prices.
4. Cultural shows at Fort Kochi Kerala
Kathakali is a very unique and ancient form of dance that’s traditional to Kerala. The movements of the dance are powerful and narrate interesting mythological stories. The performers are required to undergo intense training, including hours of eye exercises, when learning the art of Kathakali.
Most performances begin with a sole artist performing the ‘Navarasa’- the nine basic human emotions; to acquaint the audiences better with the performance.
The audiences can also watch a show of Kalaripayattu– the ancient sword fighting tradition.
We watched the show at Greenix, it gives you more for your money in terms of infrastructure. The Kathakali performance starts from 6 pm while the make up starts at 5pm and goes on till 6 pm. They also encourage taking pictures with dancers. The ticket charges are INR 400 per person. Greenix houses a cultural museum & a coffee house open from 10 am to 6 pm.They are located right opposite the Fort Kochi Kerala boat jetty.
Reach early to catch the elaborate make-up session of the Kathakali dancers in the venue at 5pm, as then you would see the artists dressing up and getting ready for their performance.
By the way, Kathakali performances get booked fast, so I’d recommend booking early. Reserve a spot at the front 2-4 rows to have a good view.
6. Get an ayurvedic massage done
Kerala is also known for its natural Ayurvedic medicine and there are a number of options for getting an Ayurvedic treatment in Cochin Kerala . After walking all day long, exploring a number of places to visit in Kochi, it’s just another excuse for that much needed massage right? 😉
There are many reputed massage centres & spas in Fort Kochi & Ernakulam. Ask your hotel for references, and they’ll be happy to provide.
7. Local ferry to Fort Kochi & Vypeen
You can’t visit Fort Kochi Kerala and not go for a boat ride! This is, after all, a port city. And boats in fact a regular means of transport for the locals and aren’t just a tourist attraction.
Join the locals on a ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi Kerala, or the other way around. These run throughout the day and you can catch one from the main ferry point. Try exploring places to visit in Kochi through a slightly unusual means of transport, yeah?
The Ernakulam to Fort Kochi boat journey will take about 20 minutes. It costs Rs 4 per person one way- can you believe it? That’s such a steal! Daily there are 30 services to Fort Kochi; the first boat leaves at 6:00AM and the last one at 9:10PM.
8. Shopping in Kochi Kerala- Sarees, Kasavu & Gold
Being a Saree enthusiast and shopaholic, this is my favourite part! 😀
Having lived in Kerala for some years, I can vouch for the fact that it has some of the best Saree collections ever. Make a note of it in your places to visit in Kochi list.
The variety of sarees in Cochin Kerala is unimaginable and better priced than other places in the country. It in totality is a great experience.
There are huge multi floor showrooms which have sarees from the cheapest to high end sarees; all kinds.
The gold jewellery would give Dubai souks tough competition! The gold purity is anyway certified, but the designs are mind boggling. Along with traditional designs, they also have modern lightweight designs.
I love the variety of gold bangles they have, I end up buying a pair every trip! (Guilty)
The Kasavu sarees (traditional off white with golden border sarees), are very elegant & a must buy.
These saree & gold shops are centred around MG Road, so your shopping can be done over an evening.
- Recommended Jewellery shops: Alapatt, Bhima, Kalyan.
- Recommended Saree shops: Jayalaxmi, Seemati, Parthas
9. Cherai Beach
Located about 30 km from the heart of Kerala- Kochi, it is the palm-fringed Cherai Beach with a 15 km shoreline. Swim in its gentle slopes, lie around taking in the sun, or go snorkelling. If you are lucky, you can also spot some dolphins. Cherai also offers speedboat, water-scooter, and canoe ride options.
How to get from Fort Kochi to Cherai beach?
You will need to take a ferry from Fort Kochi Kerala to Vypin Island.
Once you reach Vypin island, either take a public bus/rick to reach Cherai beach or alternatively, you can hire a bike from the Fort Kochi area and take it along with you in the Ferry.
The drive from the Vypin Island till Cherai beach will take around an hour.
Alternatively, if you don’t mind spending a bit extra, take an app-based taxi Ola/ Uber to reach the island.
Keeping aside all the other beautiful places to visit in Kochi, coming slightly ahead- this beach is perfect to spend a calm and peaceful evening.
Apart from these iconic places to visit in kochi, you can also enjoy these if you have the time or the inclination.
-Backwaters from Kochi Kerala
While the Alleppey backwaters are the most beautiful, you can visit Cochin backwaters towards Vaikom if you are short of time or want to stick to places to visit in Kochi itself.
KTDC & many private operators run these tours.
-Join a cooking class with a local host
Kerala is famous for its cuisine, featuring tasty seafood and coconut flavors. The hosts at many of Kochi’s popular homestays will be more than happy to give you a cooking lesson; you can specify if you want it tailored to your specific choice of food. At the end of the session, you also get to enjoy the food you made. No matter how much thought you put into your places to visit in Kochi, this is an experience you’ll get no place else.
-Yoga in the mornings
Yoga is one of the most celebrated ways of life in India. From the many places to visit in Kochi, you’ll find a bunch of them where yoga courses are conducted or you can pay per session, especially in Fort Kochi.Check with your accomodation for details.
-Visit a Temple & attend Aarti
It is a must visit to pay your respects & experience a mesmerising ritual at a rustic South Indian Temple. Evenings see the temple light up with diyas, you can offer a diya too.The priest does the aarti of the main deity with shlokas & bells ringing…it is ethereal.
Please make sure you wear clothes in accordance, dress below the waist & no bare arms.
-Walk along Marine drive
Marine Drive in Kochi Kerala is a lakeside promenade and the haunt of many people, especially couples, who sit on the various benches provided and enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Two rainbow bridges add to the beauty of the place. There are many fiber boats and passenger boats anchored around the marine drive. Enhance your experience further by taking a cruise from Marine Drive at sunset and count it in one of the places to visit in Kochi.
Where to stay in Kochi Kerala
For your Kochi trip, I will recommend you to stay in Fort Kochi as this is an old side of the town and popular amongst the travellers. There are many old-style buildings in Fort Kochi which have now been turned into luxury and boutique hotels. Depending on your budget, you can choose to stay in one of those Jewish buildings and experience the Old Kochi feel.
There are many luxurious 5 stars by the sea as well as budget hotels & homestays. Pick your choice.
A. In Fort Kochi
Delight Homestay- Heritage
Jojies Homestay, Kochi Kerala
Aaron’s Home Stay
B. In Kochi/Ernakulam
The Metro Pod, Kochi Kerala
Backpackers Cochin Villa, Kochi Kerala
What to eat in Kochi
Don’t miss eating a Sadya served on a banana leaf!
Cakes & pastries in general are good & I love the plum cake in Kochi.
Have the Sharjah shake, a different kind of banana milk shake.
The variety of bananas in Kerala is varied. There are many banana chip shops selling them fresh, off the oil cauldron & they taste superb.They are also a good takeaway for your friends as they stay good for long.
Where to eat In Fort Kochi
The Malabar Fish Curry or Fish Fry or even the vegetarian delicacies in restaurants like Rasoi or the filling burgers in the cafes like Bench will leave you wanting more of it.
Kashi Art Cafe is a treat for the art buff in you & for the foodie alike. Sipping on their famous coffees is a must. Fort House restaurant is a fantastic sea facing place for a meal with a view.
There are many European styled cute cafes like Qissa Cafe & Fusion Bay. Solar Cafe is also a famous budget cafe, catering to vegans too.
Treat yourself to some of the best Malabari Biryani – Kayees’ Biryani at Kayees Rahmathullah Café in Mattancherry, or choose to eat some fantastic Malayalee (and other) delicacies from the many stalls on the Vasco Da Gama Square.
Where to eat in Kochi/Ernakulam
Can’t get over the pastries at Cocoa Tree at Avenue Regent – absolutely out of the world.
Next to it is Arriappa, the trendy place for local food. Their appam & veg stew was great.
On Shanmugam Road (near Jose Junction), check out ‘Idiyappams’ and ‘Paalappams’ at Ceylon Bake House, and team them with their Chicken Chilly.
Grand Pavilion at the Grand Hotel- their special karimeen (pearl spot) pollichathu or the beef fry with a side of buttery, flaky Malabar parotta to go with it.
Mosaic, Momo Cafe,Trilogi are some of the fancy restaurants which cater to vegans too.
The french Toast & The Burger Junction in Panampilly Nagar are some other favourites this side of town.
Veggies only corner!
The Vegetarian food at BTH & Dwarka near Jos Junction is legendary, with both serving lunch on banana leaves also & taking you back into timelessness.They also have vegan options.
Gokul Ootupura, near Ernakulam Shiva temple is another good place for typical vegetarian local food. So is Ambiswamy, near Medical Trust Hospital.
Also sample at least some of the 108 varieties of dosas at Pai’s Thattukada on MG Road.They also cater to vegans.
Maharaja Bhog is a famous pure veg thali place in Lulu mall,caters to vegans too.
Arya’s is a pure veg food chain & has presence all over Kerala.
Best time to visit Kochi Kerala
October to March is the best time to visit Cochin Kerala as the weather is very pleasant. Temperatures range between 17 degrees Celsius and 33 degrees Celsius. This is a great time of the year for enjoying your Kerala travel.
How to reach Kochi Kerala
Kochi serves as a gateway to major destinations in Kerala like Munnar and Alleppey. It has an international airport and is well-connected with most major cities of India and the world. Here is how to reach Kochi.
Cochin International Airport (CIAL), situated about 25 km north of Kochi city at Nedumbassery, handles both domestic and international flights.Prepaid taxis take to your destination.
Kochi has two major railway stations – Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction (locally known as the North and South railway stations)
Kochi has excellent connectivity with neighboring cities and states. The NH47 (Salem-Kanyakumari) passes through Kochi. The NH17 connects the city to all major cities.
Places to explore beyond Kochi Kerala
Kochi- Munnar : 126 kms
Kochi- Alleppey : 54 kms
Kochi- Thekkady: 160 kms
Kochi- Varkala: 170 kms
Kochi- Kovalam: 212 kms
There is also Lulu mall in Kochi- which is said to be one of the biggest in the country. But if you are from a big city and have seen huge malls, Lulu can very easily be avoided.
Places to visit in Kochi and things to do in Cochin Kerala are honestly endless. In this article I’ve listed some of the most popular tourist attractions along with my personal favourite things to do which you must experience.
Also, if you are a family with small kids visiting Kochi, I can recommend some good parks around. Please don’t hesitate asking me about it in the comments below. I look forward to hearing your experience and thoughts on God’s own country! Happy traveling 😀