Also known as Cochin, Kochi is the major port city of Kerala in India. It is located in the Ernakulam district of Kerala, with a glorious history dating back 600 years, shaped and nurtured by an intriguing mix of foreign powers including the Arabs, Dutch, British, Chinese and Portuguese. Also referred to as the Queen of Arabian Sea, Kochi is a delightful place to explore. Due to its rich history, you’ll see how this commercial port city has an unlikely blend of medieval Portugal, Holland, and an English village grafted onto the tropical Malabar Coast. A gaggle of islands interconnected by ferries, this cosmopolitan town is the financial, commercial and industrial capital of Kerala. Listed below are the top places to visit in Kochi that will make your planning easier.
Also Read: 11 reasons to visit Kerala
Take A Look At The Best Places To Visit In Kochi
1. One Of The Seven: Jewish Synagogue
Also called Pardesi Synagogue or Mattancherry Synagogue, the Jewish Synagogue is situated in Jew Town in the Mattancherry area of Kochi city. It is the oldest existing synagogue in the Commonwealth Nations and was constructed in 1568 by Malabar Yehudan or Yehudan Mappila (Cochin Jewish community) who migrated mainly from the Middle East and Europe. This is why the synagogue is named ‘Pardesi’ which means ‘foreigner’. Sharing its walls with the Mattancherry Palace, the synagogue is one of the seven synagogues of the Malabar Yehudan or Yehudan Mappila. It was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1662 but was rebuilt after two years by the Dutch. Today, it boasts Scrolls of Law, a number of gold crowns that were received as gifts, beautiful chandeliers such as an exquisite Belgian chandelier, a brass railed pulpit, a clock tower (which was added in 1762) and hand-painted, willow patterned Chinese tiles that are kept displayed.
2. A Picturesque Promenade: Marine Drive
One of the most popular local hangout places in Kochi is Marine Drive. Stretching from the Jankar Jetty in the north to the Ernakulam Boat Jetty in the south, it is also one of the best places to visit in Kochi during the night. This 140 metre-long walkway was built facing the backwaters and is an important shopping centre in Kochi. This picturesque promenade offers wonderful views of a sunset over the sea, and is also a popular centre of shopping in Kochi. It passes through two bridges, namely the Rainbow Bridge and the Chinese Fishing Net Bridge. You’ll find country boats and motor boats at both ends of the walkway for rides in the backwaters or you can also relax on the wooden benches, sitting on ash grey tiles and spend some time leisurely, with company or enjoying some solitude. Don’t forget to catch the twinkling lights of ships anchored here.
3. One Of The Finest Cathedrals In India: Santa Cruz Basilica
One of the oldest and best places to visit in Kochi is the Santa Cruz Basilica. Situated in Fort Kochi, this church was constructed by the Portuguese in 1505 and is one of eight basilicas in India. This heritage building in Kochi is one of the oldest churches in India, and also serves as the cathedral church of the Diocese of Cochin, the second oldest Diocese in India. Santa Cruz Basilica features two lofty spires, a remarkably bright, white-washed exterior and a pastel-colored Gothic interior. The columns of this beautiful Roman Catholic church are decorated with frescoes and murals along with seven large canvas paintings and beautiful stained glass windows—all adding to its artistic grandeur. It is the second cathedral built by the Portuguese, and holds special significance for Christians residing in the city, as it celebrates the dawn of their religion in India.
4. One Of The Oldest European Churches In India: St Francis Church
Believed to be the first European Church built in India, St Francis Church was originally constructed around 1503 by the Portuguese. It is located on Parade Road in Fort Kochi and was founded by Pedro Alvarez De Cabral in 1503. St Francis is distinguished by its beautiful architecture and ambience. Its past reflects the colonial struggle of European powers in India, from the 15th to 20th centuries. The original structure of the church was built in wood, which was later rebuilt in stone in 1516 AD. At this landmark monument, the legendary explorer Vasco Da Gama was formerly buried. After 14 years, his remains were shipped to Lisbon but there is still a tombstone in Portuguese signifying the same. The church was originally a Roman Catholic Church, but it became a Dutch Reformist Church in 1664, and eventually an Anglican Church under British occupation in 1804.
5. Royal Residence Of Rulers Of Kochi: Mattancherry Palace
Popularly known as the Dutch Palace, Mattancherry Palace is one of the best places to visit in Kochi. Constructed in 1545, the Palace was the finest example of the confluence of colonial and Kerala styles of architecture. It was built and presented as a present to King Veera Kerala Verma of the Kochi dynasty. It is located around 12 kms from Ernakulam and features murals showing the arts of Hindu temples, portraits, and displays of the rajas of Kochi. The Palace got its name, Dutch Palace, due to the major renovations and extensions carried out by the Dutch in 1663. This double storied palace overlooks the panoramic Kochi backwaters and has an exclusive collection of murals covering around 300 square feet of its walls. Mattancherry Palace is famous for its Kerala temple architectural style and its long and spacious halls along with a central courtyard. The palace is also home to a temple dedicated to Pazhayannur Bhagavathy, the deity of the royal family. Today, you can visit it for its soothing atmosphere and natural grandeur. The Palace also has an art gallery showcasing some of India’s best murals such as scenes from Kumarasambhavam, works of the great Sanskrit poet Kalidas, along with royal paraphernalia like weapons, swings, and furniture.
6. Huge Cantilevered Fishing Nets: Chinese Fishing Nets
Locally known as Cheenavala, Chinese fishing nets are without a doubt Kochi’s most popular tourist attraction. Located on Fort Kochi Beach, these nets are fixed land installations, used for fishing in a unique method. Some believe they were brought from the court of Chinese emperor Kublai Khan sometime between 1350 and 1450, while others believe Chinese explorer Zhang He introduced the nets to Kochi shores. Ever since, these nets have been used for a very unique and unusual method of fishing, where they are operated from the shore but are set up on bamboo and teak poles, and held horizontally by huge mechanisms, which lower them into the sea. They are counter-weighted by large stones tied to ropes. These nets have become one of the significant cultural symbols of Kerala, and one of the best places to see in Kochi. Operated by a team of six fishermen, these nets are 10 metres in height, each spreading 20 metres over the water body.
7. A Serene Break: Fort Kochi Beach
Also known as Kochi Beach, Fort Kochi Beach, is located on the western coast of India in the city of Kochi, Kerala. Considered one of the finest beaches in Kerala, this serene beach offers a scenic view to all its visitors. It is also called Mahatma Gandhi Beach and is mainly known for the historic fort on its shores, which is a great example of Indo-European architecture. The clean and tranquil atmosphere of this beach will charm you, where you can relax alone or with your loved ones. The trees and the greenery on the walkway to the beach add to the serene atmosphere, where you can view the famous Chinese fishing nets nearby as well. If you are visiting the city during New Year’s eve, don’t miss the annual Kochi Carnival that takes place on the white sands of the Fort Kochi Beach. Enjoy the several restaurants located here that offer delicious seafood while relishing the exuberant waves of the sea.
8. Temple Of Art: Kerala Folklore Theatre And Museum
Constituted by George Thaliath and his wife Annie George, Kerala Folklore Theatre and Museum is one of the best places to see in Kochi. This massive structure is a multi-storey traditional building that allows you to have a unique venture into the splendid folklore wealth of the state. The museum opened in 2009 and is home to everything from antiques and sculptures to tribal art and folklore installations. Located in the city of Thevara in Kochi, the museum is a treasure trove that showcases the rich heritage that Kerala exudes through its numerous art and dance forms. The museum structure is built in the Malabar, Kochi and Travancore styles of architecture, with each floor covering three architectural styles. Home to over 4,000 artefacts sourced and collected from ancient temples and old houses, this architectural museum also has a huge collection of woodworks from Kerala along with a wood-lined theatre, with a 17th-century wooden ceiling. Kerala Folklore Theatre and Museum was constructed by 62 skilled workers over a period of seven years.
9. Golden Beach Of Kerala: Cherai Beach
This captivating beach in Kochi is located in Cherai village and is one of the top places to visit in Kochi. This 15 km-long golden beach is a calm, clean and shallow beach which is known to be an ideal destination in Kerala. It is a perfect blend of open sea and backwaters as you’ll see the lagoon and ocean separated only by a narrow strip of land. It is one of the most visited beaches in Kochi where swimming, dolphin watching and sunbathing are a few of the popular activities. Also the longest beach in Kerala, Cherai Beach has a 400 metre walkway, a children’s park, and high mask lamps which make the beach enjoyable even at night. Cherai beach, studded with seashells of various hues and shapes, is also one of the cleanest beaches in India. Visitors can also hire speed boats and water-scooters.
An Unforgettable Trip To Kochi, Kerala
As you pass through this port city, you’ll find Kochi is loaded with many places to make your day. This collection of tiny islands and peninsulas along the shore of the Arabian Sea offers you upmarket stores, art galleries and some of the finest heritage accommodations to relax in. Laze at art cafes, delve into Kochi’s rich history and explore this important centre for Keralan arts, both traditional and contemporary. Along with its palaces, beaches, temples and heritage sites, Kochi is also a standout place to catch Kathakali and Kalaripayattu performances. If you’ve been to the places mentioned above, tell us all about your experiences in the comments below.