Wear your most comfortable walking shoes and clothes to explore the historic town of Fort Kochi, popular for its coastlines and historical buildings. Touched with the Portuguese influence it is a “must see” on your visit to Kerala.A handful of water-bound regions toward the south-west of the mainland Kochi, and collectively known as Old Kochi or West Kochi, it isan island steeped in history, amusing in retaining the specimens of a bygone era proudly.Railway station is about 1½ km from the main boat jetty in Ernakulam and Cochin International Airport is about 30 km away.
Fort Kochi or Old Kochi is one of the essential elements that make the state of Kerala a tourist’s dream. The name Cochin implies “like-China” when Chinese came during the 14th century. Kochi was a fishing village in the pre-colonial Kerala. The territory that would be later known as Fort Kochi was granted by its Rajah to the Portuguese in 1503. In 1683 the Dutch captured the territory from the Portuguese, destroying Portuguese institutions like catholic convents. The Dutch held Fort Kochi in their possession for 112 years until 1795, when the British took control by defeating the Dutch.
Some of the sights that should not be missed are the Portuguese bastion of Fort Immanuel built in 1503. Adjacent lays the Dutch cemetery of Europeans who left their homeland to expand their colonial empires. Walk on and there is another colonial structure David Hall built around 1695 by the Dutch East India Company. Across the parade ground is the St. Francis Church, the oldest European church in India that Vasco-da Gama had been buried and his tombstone can still be seen.
The Church Road closer to the sea leads to the Cochin Club, home to an impressive library and collection of majestic mansion, the Bastion Bungalow. This wonderful structure of Indo-European style built in 1667 is the official residence of the Sub Collector.The Vasco-da Gama square, a narrow promenade with stalls full of delicious seafood and tender coconuts.The Chinese fishing nets, being raised and lowered are spectacular. These nets had been erected here between AD 1350 and 1450 by the traders from the court of Kublai Khan.
Pierce Leslie Bungalow, a charming mansion, withsporting trophies, home to coffee merchants of yesteryears. The Old Harbour House, built in 1808 and owned by Carriet Moran and Co, renowned tea brokers is close by. The Koder House next to it shows the transition from colonial to Indo-European architecture.The Princess Street offers fresh flowers from the shops and hosts European style residences on both sides. Located here is the Loafer’s Corner, the traditional hangout for the jovial and fun loving people of Kochi. Leading on Rose Street hosts Vasco house, believed to be the residence of Vasco-da Gama. This traditional and typical European house is one of the oldest of Portuguese residences in Kochi.
Santa Cruz Basilica, the historic church built by the Portuguese and elevated to a cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558 is magnificent. Turning left, you walk over to the Rids dale Road to find the VOC gate, the large wooden gate facing the Parade ground worth seeing. Bishop’s house, built in the year of 1506 set on a small hillock near the Parade Ground is also worth visiting. Other interesting places to visit are Bolghatty Palace, a palace turned hotel and Chennamangalam, home to the ruins of a former Jesuit college and a number of historical monuments, temple, and mosque including the oldest synagogue in the region built in the mid 1500s. There are numerous exquisite features like scrolls from the Old Testament, intricate hand-painted Chinese tiles (of which no two are alike), and ornamental Belgian lamps. This is one of the most spectacular sights in the whole region of Kerala and is certainly worth a visit.
Chottanikkara Temple, from the 10th century is a pilgrimage site. The site’s resident goddess takes three forms daily: goddess of learning in the morning (Saraswathi), the fierce and destructive mighty one in the afternoon (Bhagavathi), and divine mother in the evening (Durga). Another attraction is the Coonan Kurishu Shrine, dedicated to the 25,000 Syrian Christians who in the mid-1600s took an oath at the site never to be bound by the rulings of the Latin archbishop or the Jesuit monks. Mattancherry Palace is another highlight built by the Portuguese in 1555, known as Dutch Palace, with interesting features like Ramayana murals and royal costumes on display around the palace.
Lastly, don’t miss Parur, another attraction that combines the religious houses of the main secular groups that add to the cultural diversity and rich heritage found in this region of India significantly. Here you will find a synagogue, an Orthodox church built by the Syrians and a Krishna temple, all featuring diverse and beautiful design features.