It has been a two hour journey from Alleppey and we have just a day to explore Kochi, since there is an afternoon flight to catch to Mumbai the next day.
We have already decided to explore old Kochi or the Fort Kochi area which is the like the cultural hub of Kochi with an amalgamation of the local culture with colonial culture of the Portuguese, Dutch and later the British.
Read on to know more about how to see the best of Kochi in a day.
A bit of history of Fort Kochi
Also known as old Kochi, this small fishing village became the first European township in India, when the King of Cochin granted an area to the Portuguese in 1503. They then built a grand fort called Fort Kochi (and the area came to be known as Fort Kochi).
The Portuguese built their settlement behind the fort, including a wooden church. The Church was later rebuilt in the year 1516 and is today known as the St Francis Church.
While Fort Kochi remained in Portuguese possession for 160 years, the Dutch captured the territory in 1683 and destroyed many Portuguese institutions. In 1795, the British defeated the Dutch and took over Fort Kochi.
With the Indian independence in 1947, Fort Kochi became independent from foreign control.
Mention of Jews has been made as early as the 12th century by the Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela, speaking of Kollam (Quilon) on the Malabar Coast, writes in his Itinerary:
“…throughout the island, including all the towns thereof, live several thousand Israelites. The inhabitants are all black, and the Jews also. The latter are good and benevolent. They know the law of Moses and the prophets, and to a small extent the Talmud and Halacha.”
Top 5 things to do in Kochi
Chinese Fishing Nets at the Fort Kochi Beach
Fort Kochi beach is one of the most touristy places in Kochi and is famous for its Chinese Fishing Nets.
It is a sight to see the fishermen adopting this unique technique of fishing where one fisherman can operate a 20-metres-wide fishing net by himself.
Though the fishing nets look stunning against the backdrop of sky and the sea, the water at the beach is not very clean and swimming may not be such a great idea.
Also, the fishermen use this opportunity to earn money by showing you how they use the nets. They can be a bit pushy so be careful when you talk to one.
St. Francis Church
The beautiful Portuguese church with a faded yellow exterior known as the St Francis Church was built in 1503 and is believed to be one of the oldest European churches in India.
Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, famous for discovering the sea route from Europe to India died here in 1524. He was buried here for 14 years before his remains were taken to Portugal. However, his tombstone exists till date.
It seems like every corner of Fort Kochi is seeped in history. We stroll around a bit taking in the tranquil beauty of the worn down Church.
Mattencherry Palace (Dutch Palace)
Even though this beautiful Palace is considered to be local, this was built by the Portuguese and gifted to the King of Cochin around 1545. Later the Dutch came and took over the Palace in the year 1663.
They renovated the Palace while also carrying out the extensions and the Palace came to be known as the Dutch Palace.
The architectural style is a blend of Kerala and Colonial style of architecture. The palace has the portraits of the Kings of Cochin. There are a number of murals in rich colours reflecting Hindu Temple art.
|The Palace is open between 9:45 AM to 1 PM and then 2 PM to 4:45 PM in the afternoon. Cost of entry is INR 5/- for both locals and foreigners.|
Do remember that the Palace remains closed on both Friday and Saturday.
Jew Town and the Paradesi Synagogue
Paradesi means ‘Foreign’ in Hindi. It is said that Cochin is home to the oldest group of Jews in India known as the Cochin Jews with roots that are claimed to date back to the time of King Solomon.
However as on date, only two Paradesi Jews left, who are away from town most of the year, visiting kin who now live all across the world.
About the Paradesi Synagogue, in the year, 1568, the Rajah of Cochin, gave a piece of land to the Jewish community next to his palace to build the synagogue. The synagogue was bombarded by the Portuguese and was rebuilt in 1662.
The synagogue houses 1600 year-old copper plates on which the community charter of independence and the privileges granted to the Jewish community are inscribed.
|The Synagogue is open between 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and remains closed closed on both Friday and Saturday and Jewish holidays.|
Okay. This is a must do when you are in Kerala. This is a dance form unique to Kerala where the dancers perform decked in elaborate costumes and faces painted with colour.
The artists tell stories from Hindu epics by way of gestures of face and hands and excellent footwork and this dance form is usually performed by men.
The music and vocal performance compliments the dance and it is amazing to see the dancers convey different gestures through the movement of their eyes. Apparently, it takes the artists almost 12 years of rigorous practice to master this dance form.
We come out mesmerised by the performance and impressed by the kind of preparation that must have gone into the performance.
Try to catch a show at the Kerala Kathakali Centre at Fort Kochi. The ticket price is a reasonable INR 400/- per person. Reach there by by 5:00 PM if you are interested to learn more about the intricate makeup process.
Fort Kochi can be easily explored on foot or you can hire a bike or a cycle if you are short of time. It is a good way to explore this area since most of the attractions are close to each other.
Best time to visit
Kerala is best visited between the the months of November and January. The weather is present. Though it is peak season and prices can be really high, it would still be the best time to visit. Summers are really really hot and monsoons are very heavy.
Though Kerala looks very pretty during monsoons (July to October), still sometimes it has such heavy rainfall that it is difficult to explore.
Kochi is the best place to come to if you want to explore Munnar, Alleppey, Kumarakom, Thekkady and of course Kochi itself.
Kochi International Airport is very well connected to major Indian cities and to Middle East countries and South East Asian countries.
Most of the major cities are connectivity to Kochi via train and you can get the schedule on the website of Indian Railways . Just remember to search for Ernakulam since that’s what Kochi is known as, especially if you are looking in the railway website.
Buses also ply from some major cities in the South of India like Bangalore, Chennai, Trivandrum etc.
|You can hire a cab from Kochi (INR 1000-1200) to reach Fort Kochi. Cab services like OLA and UBER are pretty much reliable. We had used the services of Maharaja travels for our trip to Kerala. |
The car provided by them was in good condition and the driver spoke decent English and acted as our guide too.
I loved my short but sweet visit to Kochi. What about you? Do share your experiences in the comments section below.
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