If you travel to the Indian state of Kerala, you should plan a few days in Kochi, whether the old fort or the more modern district Ernakulam – there is much to see. Here you will find all the highlights and sights including addresses as well as tips for unforgettable tours.
An Indian city on the Arabian Sea, famous for Chinese fishing nets, Jewish synagogues and European architecture? If that does not sound culturally promising, we do not know what to do next.
All these different influences can be found in Kochi (or Cochin) in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The 600,000-inhabitant city, which includes more than 2 million people, is a real melting pot of cultures and offers not only a colourful history but also a lot of coastal idylls. Here you will find an overview of the most beautiful sights in Kochi and surroundings.
Attractions in Fort Kochi
The Fort Kochi does not refer to a single attraction, but just a whole district (view location on, which is one of the major attractions in the region.
Since its construction in 1503, the fort has protected the colonial rulers in particular – formerly known as Fort Immanuel, which was the first European fort in India, and of which ruins are still visible today. In the varied history prevail here successively the Portuguese, the Dutch and finally the British.
Located on the coast in the north of the city on a peninsula, Fort Kochi is also known as “Old Kochi”. On the site, you will find many attractions. It is quite popular to explore the sights by tuk-tuk. You can simply contact a driver or book the tour online (including pick-up at the hotel).
Cathedral basilica Santa Cruz
The beautiful Catholic Cathedral of Santa Cruz was built in 1500 and consecrated in 1984 to the Basilica minor. Both the name and its history bear witness to the Portuguese colonial heritage. The best time to visit is in the early morning or the late afternoon when you are almost alone with the cathedral at these times.
Address: Bastian St, Fort Nagar, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001
The Indo-Portuguese Museum may not be the largest and most important, but one of the prettiest museums in the region. It is dedicated to the Portuguese influence in the region and exhibits all kinds of objects and art. It is also located in a picturesque colonial building surrounded by a beautiful garden.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, admission is only 10 rupees.
Address: Bishop House Kureethara Rd, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001
St Francis Church / Franciscan Church
St. Francis Church is something very special as it was the first European church in India and the first resting place of the great explorer Vasco da Gama.
Architecturally it may not be anything special, but you can feel the great history of the world here. Today, the building is listed and is open to visitors.
Address: Saint Francis Church Road Opp, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001
Waterfront and Chinese fishing nets
North of Fort Kochi is one of Kochi’s most famous attractions: the stretch of coastline where the famous Chinese fishing nets are used. Especially in the morning and in the evening, it is very worthwhile to stop by here.
Not only can you observe the fishermen doing their unique work, but you can also grab great photo opportunities, and there are food stalls and stalls next door. Also, locals like to come here, so it can be a bit crowded, especially on weekends.
Tip: Right next door is the Nehru Park for Children, a beautiful children’s playground.
Kathakali dance theatre
If you are in the mood for culture, you should watch a performance of the Kathakali Tanztheater. Kathakali is a traditional Indian dance that is still practised primarily in the state of Kerala. In Fort Kochi, you will find the Kerala Kathakali Center, where three performances are given daily.
Tickets can be reserved on the website. Alternatively, you can book the ticket with transfer and dinner.
Address: Fort Nagar, Kochi, Kerala 682001
Other attractions in Fort Kochi
In addition to the sights already mentioned, in Fort Kochi, you can still see the ruins of Fort Immanuel, the Dutch cemetery, Fort Kochi beach, some Hindu temples and much more.
In between, you can relax in one of the small parks and let the impressions sink.
Highlights in Mattancherry
The Mattancherry neighbourhood is just west of Fort Kochi, sometimes mistakenly referred to as part of Fort Kochi. Mattancherry is a kind of melting pot in the melting pot because over a dozen different religious or cultural communities live peacefully in the smallest of spaces – one can see this clearly in the enormous number of churches. Churches, temples, synagogues and mosques – all close together.
A special highlight is the Dutch Palace (Dutch Palace), also called Mattancherry Palace, and originally built by the Portuguese (16th century). Attractions include the well-preserved mural paintings and litters, jewellery and clothing.
Attention: closed on Fridays.
Address: Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala 682002
Also worth a visit is a synagogue built in 1568, which lies at the end of a small lane. Inside, it is magnificently furnished.
All around are cosy cafes and plenty of souvenir shops
Address: Synagogue Ln, Kappalandimukku, Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala 682002
Separated by water, east of Fort Kochi is the Ernakulam district, which is somehow a separate city, but somehow part of Kochi as an administrative unit. Either way, a trip to Ernakulam is worthwhile, as here Kerala presents itself from its modern side with banks, shopping malls and an elevated train. Even the big hotel chains have their houses here. It is much busier than in the contemplative fort. But also more noise and traffic.
Two bridges lead from Kochi to Ernakulam. Because of the traffic, you are often faster with the inexpensive ferry.
Cathedral basilica St. Marien
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Mary is especially worth seeing inside. Large paintings depict the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Address: Church Street High Court Junction, Broadway, Marine Drive, Ernakulam, Kerala 682031
St. George’s Forane Church
Already in the 6th century, the first Catholic Church is said to have been built on this property. Considered one of the elders in Kerala, she contains Asia’s largest shrine to Saint George. The church is visited by around 5 million pilgrims a year.
Address: Palarivattom – Ponekkara, Edappally, Kochi, Kerala 682024
Kerala Folklore Museum
Even though “folklore” is almost a dirty word for us, please do not let that discourage you from visiting this kind of folklore: In the Kerala Folklore Museum you can learn about the local culture, architecture and history, the exhibits tell of the cultural heritage of Kerala,
Even if you’re not a museum type, you might want to give this one a chance, because it’s not just in a really beautiful old wooden building, where over 60 craftsmen worked for seven years. Inside, too, it is atmospheric, because the exhibits, the lighting and the smell of wood create a unique flair.
There are also sometimes performances of traditional art forms in the museum. The Kerala Folklore Museum is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm; admission is 200 rupees plus 100 rupees extra if you want to take photos.
Address: Pandit Karuppan Road, Thevara Ferry Road, Junction, Kochi, Kerala 682013
In Ernakulam, you have good shopping, also recommended as a photo opportunity is a market around Market Road and Basin Road. The colourful fruit and vegetable stand let your mouth water. There are also some spice shops in the area.
Address: 1, Market Rd, Marine Drive, Ernakulam, Kerala 682031, India
If you need modern clothing stores, a specialist electrical retailer, a supermarket or an Apple Store, then you are in the right place at Lulu Mall. It is the largest shopping mall in India. Upstairs there is a huge food court and a small funfair with carousels and children’s program.
Address: Church, 34/1000 NH 47 Edappally Near Edapally, Edappally Junction, Nethaji Nagar, Edappally, Kochi, Kerala 682024
Just north of Fort Kochi is Vypin Island, an elongated island off the coast of Kochi, easily accessible by ferry. Nevertheless, it is more leisurely here. After Vypin Iceland you can relax and go for a walk, this is true for locals and tourists alike.
There are several sandy beaches on the west coast such as Kuzhupilly Beach, Puthuvype Beach and Cherai Beach. The north you go, the quieter it gets. Also, some hotels and small inns have settled here and offer overnight stays at moderate prices.
To the north, with the Basilica of Mary Snow (“Manjumatha Our Lady of Snows Basilica”) is a 16th-century church.
Address: Church Rd, Pallippuram, Kerala 683515
Bolgatty Island / Mulavukad
Mulavukad is one of four islands belonging to Kochi; the southern part is called Bolgatty Island. There is not an incredible amount of sightseeing to do, but for some quiet hours on the coast in an idyllic setting or maybe even a game of golf, you’re in the right place.
Bolgatty Island is a rather upscale area, with some restaurants and only a few high-end hotels. Via the Vallapardam Bridge or by ferry you are fast there. In the northern part of Mulavukad Island you will find some religious buildings such as St. Joseph’s Church and some small temples.
To the smaller island of Kochi belongs Vallapardam. There is one of the pilgrimage centres in India with the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom. It is the most important Marian shrine in the country. Every year around the 24th of September a big party is celebrated.
Address: Vallarpadam Church Rd, Vallarpadam, Ernakulam, Kerala 682504
Tours and excursions
Boat trip through Kochi
The seaport Kochi you can look at in the context of a boat trip to water – the many waterways make it possible. The so-called Cochin Boat Cruise (sometimes Cochin Backwaters Tour) starts at the port of Kochi and leads you through channels through the city. This guided tour is not very cheap, but all the important sights are approached and you will learn a lot about it from your guide.
Alternatively, it is worthwhile to take a ferry ride, because there is a lot to see on the water because there are also large cruise and container ships.
The Kerala Backwaters are probably the most popular tourist destination in the southern Indian state. This landscape describes the truly breathtaking hinterland of the Malabar Coast, which is made up of countless lakes, rivers and waterways, lined with lush green tropical vegetation.
The Kerala backwaters, you travel usually to the houseboat, but there are also many simple ferries, which are of course much cheaper. Starting points are usually the cities Alappuzha or Kottayam – but you can book the tours even from Kochi, and then the transfer is the same.
The offer ranges from day trips to multi-day tours with all types of accommodation.
Spice gardens and tea plantations
In the fertile state of Kerala, there are some spice gardens, whose visit is worthwhile. When do we Europeans already have the opportunity to see spices outside their cans in the supermarket? The owners of the spice gardens will be happy to give you a guided tour and explain everything you need to know about the individual herbs such as pepper, cinnamon, ginger or cardamom.
The spices from Munnar have a good reputation. There are also plenty of impressive tea plantations. Kochi offers both day trips and multi-day excursions.