Kochi in One Day – Top things to do in the Port City
Kochi was not a part of my original South India travel itinerary. It was instead an impromptu plan that the volunteers made with the director of Poornodaya Vidyanikethan, Anish, on a Friday evening. If you don't already know, I went to Kottayam after Munnar to volunteer with a school, Poornodaya Vidyanikethan. I worked with the institute for a week and documented the complete experience here.
PS: The experience at the school is very close to my heart. Especially since the last few places I was at before Kottayam, I was touring alone, staying alone, and in desperate need of a good company.
Apart from a beautiful experience with the kids of the school, it was amazing to know other volunteers, the school founders, and the teachers.
We decided to spend my last weekend with Poornodaya touring together. It took us a little more than an hour to reach Kochi from the village where our school was.
It was a pleasant ride that started with green paddies and ended with water on both sides!
Kochi is most famous for Fort Kochi, the fortification that was built around the city a long time back. You do not see the fort anymore now, but most of the points of interest lie within its plausible boundaries.
We stayed at Anish's parents' house for the day right in the city center and at a walkable distance to the famous Chinese Fishing Net viewpoint. The city itself is not too big, so wherever you plan to stay, it will not be very far from the points of interest.
You can see most of the city in one day on foot! Amazing right?
So if you are on a tight schedule, this is how you can plan your time to explore Kochi.
Walk Walk Walk!
The first step to exploring Kochi, the culturally and artistically vibrant city is by walking on its streets. As you walk around, you'll walls full of murals, some light, and fun, and others motivating and educational.
Kochi is an amalgamation of multiple cultures, which is evident in its art and architecture. In case you don't know already, Kochi being a seaport, was a very convenient stop to enter for explorers, traders, and merchants from around the world.
Kochi was one of the first colonies of colonized India, and the architecture of the city reflects the rule of different cultures and beliefs over time.
Visit the Mattancherry Palace
Kochi was first occupied by the Portuguese during its colonial era. Mattancherry Palace was a gift to the then king of Kochi by the Portuguese to please him after they destroyed a revered temple. Later, when Dutch arrived in Kochi, they took over the palace and renovated it.
The palace is now under and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.
PS: Cameras are not allowed inside the palace, so whatever I have written is from bits of my memory and some online research.
There are portraits of kings of Kochi inside the palace halls and a chronological description of the historical events of the city. In other rooms, you'll also find ancient murals depicting Indian mythology. Some of these murals are incomplete, and it creates an unknown sense of curiosity.
Shop in the local market
As you walk around the city, you'll cross many streets selling spices, handicrafts, art pieces, dress pieces, etc. Make a stop at one or more of the shops to take a look at these items. Bazaar road is one such area, where you'll find shopkeepers calling out to tourists to pay a visit to their shops and buy something.
PS: Don't fall into the trap of these calls. You do not necessarily need to entertain them and buy something only if you genuinely like it.
In addition to this, be wary of the auto-drivers (tuk-tuk drivers) who'll request you to visit a shop with them. The drivers get a commission cut for themselves from these shops for bringing in a customer. Although this is a no-gain, no-loss situation for you, visit the shops only if you have ample time in hand.
Visit the historic Jew Town
If you continue to walk towards Fort Kochi from Mattancherry, you'll reach the quaint Jew Town. You can do local street shopping here as well.
You can also visit the Jewish Synagogue, which is one of the very few synagogues left in the city.
PS: The Synagogue is open on all days except Saturday from 10 am to 12 noon and from 3 pm to 5 pm.
Unfortunately, it was a Saturday when we were in Kochi, so we could not visit the synagogue.
Make a stop at the Old Syrian Church
St. George Orthodox Koonan Kurish Old Syrian Church is so unlike the churches that we usually see. We were walking from Dharmanath Jain temple (which by the way was closed too) towards Fort Kochi when this church suddenly caught our attention.
The distinguished architecture of the church is so intriguing that you'd want to go inside and take a look. Do spare 5 minutes of your day to admire this ancient beauty.
Stroll by Mahatma Gandhi beach
Take a stroll by the Mahatma Gandhi beach and watch the giant cargo ships anchored in the sea. Although I must warn you, the water is quite contaminated here. But despite that, you will see many people taking an evening walk by the beach here, so suit yourself.
See the sun go down behind the magnificent Chinese nets
As the evening approaches, walk to the other side of the Mahatma Gandhi beach. When you reach near Fort Kochi, you'll start seeing the traditional fishing nets. The sight of the sun setting down in the waters behind these large fishing nets is overwhelmingly impressive.
PS: When you are in Kochi, do not miss to try some local cuisine and also sit in the cozy western cafes.
You can also watch the traditional Kathakali dance martial arts show at the Kerala Kathakali Centre.