Last year, when we received the news of having to shift our base to Ernakulam (or Kochi or erstwhile Cochin, as many of you may know), we were like two chirpy kids being promised to let themselves loose in a candy wonderland. And why not, after all, we were relocating at one of the most pristine areas of the country – to Kerala – it was indeed a dream come true. With acres of lush green coconut trees blooming cheerfully to the rhythm of the cool breeze, only to be intercepted by innumerable backwater streams and rivers; with acres of paddies overlooking the mighty Nilgiris on one side and kissing the azure water of the Arabian Sea on the other, we shall be gravely mistaking if we don’t consider Kerala to be one of the most picturesque places we have ever been to. And, Kochi is indeed one of this state’s most prized gems.
Located in central Kerala, Kochi is one of the most important port cities and naval bases of India. Owing to its central position and steady flourish into the biggest metropolitan of Kerala, Kochi is often regarded as the gateway to the peninsular India. To be honest, we are simply in love with the strategic location of Kochi – with the Nilgiris, the picturesque Malabar backwaters, and some of the most gorgeous and serene beaches of India just a drive away, Kochi is indeed paradise, especially for travel-addicts like us. And Kochi’s rich cultural heritage and modern art space simply fuel our thirst to enrich our knowledge as we travel.
Now, as much as we love Kochi and think that we could not do justice to this city even after trying to visit its nooks and corners in the last six months, we understand that not everyone has so much time to give to experience a city. While we would suggest staying at least three days in this city to soak in its laidback vibe and experience its majestic socio-cultural setting, we have often been told by our friends and acquaintances that they can afford to stay in Kochi only for a day mostly because this city is being treated as a transitional zone between Munnar and Alleppey. Hence, we thought of charting a one-day Kochi itinerary for every person, who wishes to soak up the vibe this city has to offer within 24 hours! Let’s go!!
Where to stay in Kochi?
Being one of the largest cities of peninsular India, Kochi has an array of hotels and homestays to choose from. From plush five star resorts and heritage hotels to humble homestays run in old Dutch houses, you will be spoilt for choice when in this city. However, if you have got just a day or two here, we would urge you to stay at Fort Kochi or in Bolgatty Island so soak up the best the city has to offer without compromising on the view or imparting too much time in travelling.
If you are in budget, there are numerous hotels in Burger Street and Princess Street and in the nearby areas – areas that can be undoubtedly claimed at the main hub of Fort Kochi. And if you are in the mood to splurge, there’s no dearth of choice for you!
When To Visit Kochi?
Central Kerala, where Kochi is situated, essentially has tropical climate throughout the year. So, you can expect more or less similar weather whenever you wish to visit. However, since there is a lot of walking involved in our itinerary, we would suggest you to skip the wet season, which starts in June and continues through September. Also, the retreating monsoon strikes the Malabar coast around mid-October to early November, and continues till mid-November. Ideally, December to March is a splendid time to visit Kochi, when the sun shines bright but the humidity is generally low.
Kochi In A Day
If you see the map, you will find Kochi to be essentially made up of a cluster of small islands on the Arabian Sea. The area on the shores of the Arabian Sea, detached from the main land by a creek, is the main tourist hotspot of the city. Drenched in rich Portuguese heritage, the Fort Kochi and the Mattancherry Island have innumerable “must-visit” spots. Some of these may tend to get a bit touristy but nothing overwhelming, which is why we are in love with this place so much.
Now, before we begin with our one day Kochi itinerary, you must know that Fort Kochi and Mattancherry are two distinct places about 2.5 kilometers apart. So, it is advisable to complete one area first and then jump into the next. For your aid, we have charted the places to visit in Mattancherry first before jumping into Fort Kochi. So, let’s begin –
1. Walk down the history of the land at Mattancherry Palace.
Located just across the Mattancherry Jetty, Mattancherry Palace is a Portuguese palace built in 1555 as a gift to the then king of Cochin. Popularly known as the Dutch Palace, the Mattancherry Palace has been converted into a museum now, and is open every day from 9:45 AM to 5 PM. If you wish to visit this place, we would ask you to go around 4 PM so that you can stroll across the Jew Street right across the palace and admire the li’l curio shops and art cafes to your heart’s content after that without letting the heat get up on you!
2. Talk a laidback stroll across the Jew Street.
The Jew Street is one of the most celebrated places in this area. Full of cute cafes and interesting curio shops, the Jew Street is a vibrant paradise if you love everything bohemian. Even if you do not wish to buy anything, we would urge you to take a walk through this street from the Dutch Palace to the Paradesi Synagogue instead of taking any vehicle, you will surely fall in love.
3. Spend some time meditating at the Paradesi Synagogue.
Located just adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace, the Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. It was built way back in 1567 by the Yehudan Mapilla or Cochin Jews, who essentially used to spearhead the spice trade business in Cochin, on a piece of land gifted to them by the then king of Cochin, Rama Varma. The synagogue is open to visitors from Monday to Thursday from 5 am to 1 pm and from 5 pm to 7pm. If you’re visiting the Mattencherry Palace in the evening, make sure you check Paradesi Synagogue out.
These were the three important places that you should visit in Mattancherry. We would ask you to explore this place in the evening (as already mentioned) since the old buildings may tend to get a bit too hot and claustrophobic in the noon-time or late morning.
Now, let’s take a look at the places in Fort Kochi, which you should visit.
1. Start your day early in the morning from Princess Street/Burger Street, and see the Chinese Nets.
If you have seen any photograph of Kochi, you would know about these iconic Chinese fishing nets, which have become sort of Kochi’s own emblem. Although these fishing nets can be found across the entire stretch of coastal Kerala, they have become such inseparable portion of Kochi that you have to visualize them in action once you are here. And what better time to see the fishermen in action than early in the morning! Start your day here and take a stroll along the creek till you reach the St. Francis Church. The fresh morning air and the view of these age-old fishing nets working relentlessly against the backdrop of the Cochin Port show how at one point tradition and modernity assimilate into one – how one cannot thrive in this planet without savouring the best of both worlds.
2. Express gratitude at the St. Francis Church.
One of the oldest European churches in India, the St. Francis Church was built way back in 1503, and can be said to have been a mute witness to the colonial rule in India over the years. The church is as much known for its grandeur as it is known for housing the mortal remains of Vasco Da Gama, which passed away here in his third visit to India. It was only fourteen years after his death that his remains were shifted to Lisbon. However, one can still see the gravestone of Vasco Da Gama. Interestingly, the northern sidewall of the church houses the gravestones of the Portuguese while the gravestones of the Dutch are found on its southern sidewall.
3. Sip on some tea while watching the children play at the Fort Kochi Beach
Fort Kochi is the best in early mornings, especially the area around the St. Francis Church Road that takes you all the way to the Fort Kochi beach. A nice cool walk beneath the flower-kissed trees promises to take off all your stress and transport you to a relaxed zone. Sip on some tea at the Fort Kochi beach.
Once you’re done with your morning sojourn, you can simply head back to your hotel and devour your free breakfast. And in case you have missed your breakfast or your hotel package does not come with one, don’t worry. Head straight to Kashi Art Cafe and gorge on some yummy breakfast. They serve vegan food as well…..ah well, you can thank us later!
4. Spend your midmorning exclaiming at the magnanimity of the Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica
Located around 450m from Kashi Art Cafe, Santa Cruz Basilica is unanimously regarded as one of the most beautiful churches in India. It is one of the eight basilicas in Kerala and promises the impress everyone with its fine detailing and architecture.
5. If possible, do not give the Bolgatty Palace a miss.
You can easily chart your short trip to Kochi around these places mentioned here. However, if you wish to go out for lunch and are looking for some good places, you can give the Bolgatty Island Resort hotel a try. Alternatively, you can lunch at Malabar Cafe at Grand Hyatt Bolgatty. In this way, you shall not only get the authentic taste of Kerala but shall also be able to spend some quality time at the Bolgatty Palace, which is regarded as one of the most exquisite Dutch palaces in the world outside Holland – well, that sure lures you to visit this place, right?
Where to dine at in Fort Kochi?
When in Fort Kochi, there is no dearth of places to dine at – from art cafes to sea-view, open air dining options – you would literally be spoilt for choice when in here. And with most of them being pocket-friendly (expect to spend around INR 1,000-1,500 for two), you will surely have the time of your life here. Just keep smiling and treat the locals with a smile, they will go out of their way to help you. 🙂
So, the next time you have a day to spend in Kochi, make sure you make the most of it by following our compact Kochi guide. Also, if you feel you can afford to spend some more time here, feel free to write to us for a two or three day offbeat itinerary to Kochi.