A major chunk of tourists heading to India has an innate urge to perceive and experience the country’s thriving legacy, rich heritage and intriguing spirituality. No wonder the tourists visiting India are always scouting for cities, towns and villages oozing traditional values and cultural practices. Of late, Kochi is one of the most preferred destinations for foreign travellers visiting India. Some may wonder why tourists are flowing to such a small city as Kochi.
One factor that stands out is that Kochi is a developed city compared to other places in Kerala. The place, which is brimming with lively activities, is also a port city. Travellers are eyeing Kochi also because of its robust backwater tourism, bustling fishing hamlets, aesthetically pleasing art and rich tapestry of culture, heritage and tradition. Here are a few popular spots in Kochi:
Jew Street and Synagogue in Mattancherry
Undoubtedly, Jew Street and the synagogue are the major attractions of Kochi. Travellers from across the globe throng Kochi to soak in the Jewish tradition and get a feel of the synagogue. The synagogue, which was built in 1568, still stands tall with a great repository of history. The scrolls of the Torah, which are the first five books of the Old Testament, displayed at the synagogue make the place of worship a must-visit destination.
Tourists visiting the synagogue are in awe of antiques and handicrafts such as the teak ark, handmade oriental carpet, Torah scrolls, age-old brass sheaves and priceless gold and silver crowns. Moreover, the exquisite architecture has also made the synagogue a popular tourist destination. The clock tower with four clocks on each side is also a rage among the backpackers. The visiting hours are from 10 am to 1 pm on all days except Saturday.
Mattancherry Palace and Indo-Portuguese Museum
The breathtaking Mattancherry Palace, which is also known as the Dutch Palace, is one of the famous tourist spots in Kochi. The palace which boasts of well-crafted architecture is a reflection of the colonial influence in the region. The imposing building, which was constructed in 1545, was a gift given to Veera Kerala Varma, the King of Kochi. The Dutch later refurbished and renovated the palace, which is on the Palace Road. The palace houses awe-inspiring handicrafts, eclectic art and engrossing paintings. One could visit the palace from 10 am to 5 pm on all days except Friday.
Another tourist centre in Mattancherry that is making waves among tourists is the Indo-Portuguese Museum. The museum is an embodiment of the glorious heritage of the Catholic Church in India and a storehouse of church artefacts, including antiques from various churches. The museum also throws light on the sublime art and splendid culture of Kerala. The museum welcomes visitors from 9 am to 5 pm on all days except Monday.
St. Francis Church and Santa Cruz Basilica in Fort Kochi
The top-hole design of the St. Francis Church, which is one of the oldest churches in India, in Fort Kochi attracts travellers in droves. The church, which is one of the biggest attractions of Asia, mirrors the pristine charm of Portuguese architecture. The eye-catching roofs, the lofty pinnacles, the tranquil baptism spot and the confession area are a must-see for travellers. The church was constructed so well that it is a perfect amalgam of splendour and culture. Your visit to Kochi would be grossly incomplete if you don’t step into the iconic St. Francis Church. The church was built by the Portuguese Franciscan Friars in 1503 and then it was known as Santo Antonio. The church came under the administration of the Church of South India (CSI) in 1949.
The Santa Cruz Basilica, which is one of the eight basilicas in India, is a prominent heritage centre in Kerala. It is worth noting that the grand and impressive basilica was constructed following the Gothic style of architecture. The basilica is still a testimony to the magic realism of the Portuguese architecture. The country’s first diocese was formed at the Santa Cruz Basilica. The stained glass painting of the ‘Last Supper’ and captivating murals add to the beauty of the basilica. It is noteworthy that the basilica has a special place in the hearts of Kochi Christians as it is where Christianity started in India.
Hill Palace, Tripunithura and Folklore Museum
The Hill Palace was the residence of the Kochi rulers and later became an exhaustive archaeological museum. The palatial building was built as per the traditional architectural style of Kerala and that’s the reason why people are flocking to the palace. After walking into the palace, make sure to get a ringside view of the age-old and rare handicrafts, sublime jewellery and historical manuscripts, among others. Other points of interest are the deer park, herbal garden, pre-historic park and children’s park. The Hill Palace should be on your itinerary if you are passionate about the history of Kochi and its royal heritage.
Do you want to delve deep into the culture and heritage of Kerala? If the answer is yes, the Folklore Museum is the right place for you. The museum, which is owned by a private individual, has close to 25,000 archaeological items such as coins, murals, commemoratives, jewellery, statues, paintings, clothes and centuries-old utensils made of mud, among others. The entry fee is Rs 100 for domestic tourists and Rs 200 for foreign travellers. Do keep in mind that cameras are allowed inside the museum.
Marine Drive, Willingdon Island, Bolgatty and Vypin
The Marine Drive is one tourist spot in Kochi that gels with nature. Many people come to the Marine Drive to enjoy the allure of sunset. After soaking in nature’s beauty, you can have food at affordable rates from the eateries and buy aesthetically crafted handicrafts from an array of shops at Marine Drive. You can also relax on the benches and feel the cool air rustling your hair. The ‘Rainbow Bridge’ is very popular among travel enthusiasts.
Willingdon Island, which is India’s largest man-made island, is another well-liked tourist centre in Kochi. The island has many beach resorts and premium hotels where you can literally keep your leg up and chill. The prominent landmarks of the island include the Kochi Naval Base of the Indian Navy, the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology and the harbour. Tourists can enjoy a ferry ride or indulge in other water-centric fun activities on the island.
A short boat ride would take you to the small island of Bolgatty, which houses the oldest Dutch palace, the Bolgatty Palace, outside Holland. Presently, the Bolgatty Palace is a resort having a golf course and swimming pool. Moreover, the luxury hotel stages ‘kathakali’, a dance drama, every day. Vypin Island, which is spread across 25km, is also a favoured destination for tourists. The island is a perfect destination if you want to ferret out information relating to the history of Portuguese. The various buildings and structures of Vypin are a true reflection of the Portuguese style of architecture.