A vibrant fragment of the colonial history of Kerala, Fort Kochi has rightly been christened the Queen of the Arabian Sea. With its Dutch, Portuguese, and British architectural marvels, the small town attracts thousands of tourists at any given time of the year.
It is a delightful cross between a meticulously preserved history and an amalgamation of cultures. In just a 5 km radius of Mattancherry areas alone, 39 communities reside harmoniously.
But what stands out most in this old-style coastal town is the 14th-century Paradesi Synagogue and the Jewish market it stands quietly in. Paradesi is one of the oldest synagogues in India that still hold mass. And Jewtown, once a spice market, now offers antiques, handicrafts, and food to curious tourists.
But Fort Kochi's contribution to Kerala's cultural richness does not end at its religious and colonial history. Every alternate December, India's largest contemporary art event the Kochi-Muziris Biennale pours art into every nook and corner of Fort Kochi.
Fort Kochi was a pre-colonial fishing village that was granted to the Portuguese in the 1500s. The place got its name because of a 'fort' that the Portuguese built here that was later destroyed, along with a few other structures, by the Dutch when they took over in 1683. The British defeated the Dutch in 1795 and ruled Fort Kochi till India's independence in 1947.
A mix of old houses built by the Portuguese, Dutch and British in these colonial periods line the streets of Fort Kochi. Conde Nast Traveller, CNN Travel, Nat Geo Travel, and more have featured Fort Kochi as one of the must-visit places in the world, so what are you waiting for?
What to see
The historical richness of the place has left it with many architectural marvels from different eras.
1. Santa Cruz Basilica
One of the nine Basilicas in Kerala, Santa Cruz is one of the only few buildings built by the Portuguese here that the Dutch spared.
2. Paradesi Synagogue
The 14th-century synagogue is open to visitors every day except Fridays, Saturdays, and Jewish holidays when it holds mass.
3. Dutch Palace
Also known as the Mattancherry Palace, the building houses many portraits and exhibits of Kochi kings.
4. Indo Portuguese museum
This building near the Bishop House exhibits fragments from Fort Kochi relationship with the Portuguese in form of Indo-Portuguese Christian Art heritage.
5. Chinese fishing nets
Did you know that one interpretation of the name 'Co-chin' is 'like China'? The Chinese explorers who landed here during the Portuguese rule installed these stationary fishing nets that have since become symbolic of the place.
6. Fort Emmanuel ruins
The origin of Fort Kochi's name lies buried under the ruins of this Portuguese fort which was also one of the first in Asia.
7. Jain Temple
8. Fort Kochi Beach
9. Dutch Cemetery
Where to eat
Being a tourist hub, Fort Kochi has all kinds of cuisines to offer. From local spices to continental desserts, you can taste everything here.
Overlooking the Princess Street, this unassuming eatery will fit your jolly holiday mood just right.
2. Mocha art cafe
Situated almost opposite the Paradesi synagogue, this cafe serves some exotic dishes like the Sashshuka with a menu of refreshing drinks.
3. Fusion Bay
Go here for budget-friendly seafood dishes cooked in authentic Kerala spices, all serves with a view of the basilica.
4. Kayees Rahmathulla Cafe
In the mood for biryani? The aroma and locals will direct you here.
5. Menorah Restaurant
With the distinction of being the only restaurant in India to serve Jewish food, this places has played host to many dignitaries in its history.
Where to stay
Accommodation is the last thing you need to worry about when in Fort Kochi because most locals have turned their houses into friendly and affordable homestays. Apart from those, there are old buildings that will take you back in time with their genteel, royal air.
1. Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel
2. Old Harbour Hotel
3. Rossitta Wood Castle