Kochi Destination Guide
Kochi, still known to many as Cochin is one of India’s major tourist destinations. A welcome reprise from India’s typically fast paced frenzy, Kochi has been a popular trading destination for some six centuries and is these days one of the most laid back cities in the country. Popularly known as “the Queen of the Arabian Sea”, visitors have lots to see and do in Kochi and you’ll love spending time relaxing at the cafes between sightseeing or unwinding with some yoga or an Ayurvedic spa, then come night fall enjoying some of the most flavoursome seafood in the country.
A melting pot of European, Asian and Middle-Eastern cultures, Kochi is made up of many islands and municipalities which all contribute to the city’s multilayered colonial history. Though the least ‘Indian’ of Kochi’s districts, Fort Kochi and the merchant lined Mattancherry district draw in the highest number of visitors. A delightfully quant section of town, these two historic areas are home to postcard attractions including the Chinese fishing nets, Mattancherry Palace, Santa Cruz Basilica and Pardesi Synagogue, the first synagogue in India. Back on the mainland you’re more likely to find chai than cappuccino in Ernakulum, the other half of twin citied Kochi. Touched but not overcome by international influences, Ernakulum is home to Hindu landmarks including the Chottanikkara, Hill Palace and Sree Poornathrayeesa temples.
Eat and Drink
If you’re a lover of either fresh fish or spicy food you might think you’ve died and gone to heaven when you visit Kochi. Fort Kochi is lined with waterfront restaurants serving fresh seafood and if you can’t find what you like restaurants are more than happy for you to purchase from the local fish mongers and have it grilled or curried to your liking. Hotel restaurants are another suitably fine place to dine in Kochi but have a tendency to cook milder versions of dishes so ask for extra chili if you want the real deal. Your best bet for traditional local food is to dine at one of the street side hawkers known as a ‘Thattukada’. Though hygiene might be questionable at some street side diners, the price and taste definitely isn’t.
Where to Stay
You really have two options when deciding where to stay in Kochi. Ernakulum City is home to a larger variety of hotels of varying standards vary with most hotels cater to domestic and business travellers. If you are looking for western standards and want to be close to Kochi’s famous sights then by far the more comfortable place to stay is Fort Kochi. Prices in Fort Kochi can be high compared to the rest of India but you really get what you pay for, especially in some of the nicer boutique hotels. You might be craving some luxury if you’ve just come from the north of India and Fort Kochi is one of the best places in the country to find it. Plenty of high-end accommodation can be found on Willingdon Island, home to Kochi’s most premium hotels.
Save plenty of room in your suitcase for Kochi. Home to all manner of pretty boutiques and antique shops, Fort Kochi and Mattancherry are one of the best places in India to buy premium goods. All along the roadsides and backstreets of heritage areas like Jew Town you’ll find vendors and shops selling everything from jewelry and furniture to antique fans and toys. Fabric is another popular purchase and the best place to shop for it in Kochi is at the celebrated Broadway Market, one of the city’s oldest shopping districts. Located between Marine Drive and MG Road is where aside from silk you’ll also find all manner of old world goods to take home including saffron, spices and teas.
Kochi Like a Local
One of the best ways to experience local life in Kochi is a trip on the popular local mode of transport. As a city made up of large amounts of water, the city’s excellent ferry system is an essential way for locals to hop between islands. Cheap and reliable, a great idea is to take a break from the tourist heavy Fort Kochi and take a ride to Ernakulum. When you reach the jetty head north along Park Avenue and towards the city’s market area. There you’ll find a distinctly local shopping experience where English is the least likely language to be heard and the most frequent items for sale are Indian sweets and Hindu paraphernalia rather than tourist-priced antiques and carpets.