A Travel Guide to Kochi

Kochi Airport Directory (COK)
Baggage Allowance
15Kg
7Kg
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Kochi is a captivating city located in the southern state of Kerala, along the Arabian Sea. Kochi has a charming blend of tradition and modernity with scenic backwaters, dotted with houseboats and fishing nets, offer a mesmerising backdrop. The city is famous for its historical landmarks like Fort Kochi, where one can witness the iconic Chinese fishing nets and colonial-era buildings. The bustling Jew Town with its centuries-old synagogue and spice markets adds to the city's cultural allure. Kochi's thriving art and cultural scene, highlighted by the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, attracts artists and enthusiasts from around the world. With delectable seafood, enchanting Kathakali performances, and a warm and friendly atmosphere, Kochi leaves an indelible impression on visitors.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Kochi is between October and February when the weather is pleasant, and the moderate-to-high level of humidity is absent. The southwest monsoon causes heavy showers between June and September, though the rains are ideal for Ayurveda therapy.

How to reach Kochi

  • By air: You can book flights to Kochi and arrive at Cochin International Airport. It is located 20 km away. IndiGo operates over 150 non-stop weekly flight to all other critical locations across Indian and abroad.
  • By train: There are two main railway stations in Kochi, Ernakulam Junction and Ernakulam Town through various long-distance trains, connecting the city to rest of the country.
  • By bus: Kochi is well-connected to almost all southern India parts through the state-run Kerala Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus services.

Getting around Kochi

Kochi has a vast network of buses by KSTRC and private operators, running within the city. Cabs and taxis are also available as local modes of transportation.

Most spoken languages in Kochi

  • Malayalam
  • Tamil
  • English
Baggage Allowance
15Kg
7Kg
Min °
Max °

Places to visit in Kochi

  • Fort Kochi and Mattancherry: For history buffs, nothing beats Fort Kochi and Mattancherry. Best is to pick a tour guide to help make sense of the maze of alleys in Fort Kochi. Start your heritage walk from Vasco da Gama Square down the narrow walkway parallel to the Chinese fishing nets and retrace the role of the Dutch, Portuguese and British through beautiful architectural relics.
  • Ancient structures and old churches: Popular Kochi tourist attractions include Fort Immanuel and Gunnery, the Dutch and European cemeteries, colonial homes, charming hotels and historic churches like Santa Cruz Basilica, one of the two oldest churches built by the Portuguese in India and St. Francis Church, the oldest European church in the country. You can visit museums like the Kerala Folklore Museum and Indo-Portuguese Museum and enjoy sunset views on a boat ride or from the beach.
  • Bolghatty Island and Cherai Beach: Despite eye-popping prices, shoppers and collectors cannot resist trawling the atmospheric Jew’s Town for antiques and crafts. Locals love to picnic at the pretty Bolghatty Island, north of Ernakulam or Cherai Beach on Vypin Island, while Ernakulam district on the east, connected by bridges and ferries, wears all the sheen of modernity.
  • Chinese Fishing Nets: Bearing witness to Chinese's entry into Kerala long ago, legends tell that these nets were a gift of the famous Chinese King, Kublai Khan. Even today, fishers use these elaborate conventional fishing nets, making it the only other destination other than China to use these fishing nets.

Places to eat in Kochi

Kayees Rahmathulla Café, Mattancherry
Kayees Rahmathulla Café, Mattancherry

If you love a good biryani, nothing beats Kayees’ biryani. An institution that’s been around for 50 odd years. Stop by on Friday for fish biryani or on Tuesday for prawn biryani.

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History Restaurant at Brunton Boatyard, Fort Kochi
History Restaurant at Brunton Boatyard, Fort Kochi

People swear by the limited-edition First-Class Railway Mutton Curry, a slow-cooked delicacy usually booked in advance, besides classics like Anglo-Indian cutlets, Syrian Christian Duck Moilee, Vindaloo, Jewish Chuttulli Meen and idiyappam.

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Ginger House, Jew Town, Mattancherry
Ginger House, Jew Town, Mattancherry

Watch ships go by from a museum-shop with a restaurant, tucked behind an old warehouse. The place celebrates ginger in its menu with ginger prawns, ginger lassi, ginger tea and milkshakes, even a ginger ice-cream beside traditional Kerala fare.

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Rice Boat at Vivanta by Taj, Willington Island
Rice Boat at Vivanta by Taj, Willington Island

Named after its setting, a kettuvallom or traditional rice boat, the place carries off its rustic décor, churning out beautiful and fresh seafood. Ask for the white snapper in banana leaf, soft-shelled crab in tartar sauce or tiger prawns tossed in coconut oil; you won’t regret it.

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Mullapanthal Toddy Shop, Tripunithura, Ernakulam
Mullapanthal Toddy Shop, Tripunithura, Ernakulam

Locals vouch for Mullapanthal’s kappa meen (tapioca with fish), prawn fry, rabbit and karimeen polichathu, served on a banana leaf.

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East Indies at The Eighth Bastion, Fort Kochi
East Indies at The Eighth Bastion, Fort Kochi

Sample Dutch trade-route inspired colonial fare that features dishes from Sumatra, Sri Lanka and South Africa in its satays, rendang (caramelised curry), shiitake bisque and lamprais (yes, lump rice), frikkadel (a traditional Afrikaans meatball dish) and sambal (spicy relish).

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Shopping places in Kochi

Shopping places in Kochi

Wowing you with big labels and massive shopping space, discover a variety of fashion, footwear, electronics, perfumes, watches, books or meals at the food court – under one roof.

  • ABAD Nucleus Mall
  • LuLu International Shopping Mall
  • Centre Square Mall
  • Bay Pride Mall
  • Oberon Mall
  • Marina Mall
  • Gold Souk Grandé Mall

Markets in Kochi

  • Local markets and stores: Souvenir shoppers go crazy in Kochi seeing the array of handcrafted items made of bamboo, wood, coir, shell and beads. Visit the markets for fresh spices and put on your best bargaining hat before venturing into antique shops to buy carved figurines, masks, lamps and exquisite metalware. Besides institutions like crafters which is home to the world's largest brass vessel, boutiques like Indian Industries on Princess Street and Heritage Arts in Jew's Town hold a treasure of traditional trinkets, crafts, silver jewellery and artefacts.
  • Kairali Handicrafts Emporium: Located on MG Road, Kairali is the Government Handicraft Emporium that stocks the best of Kerala's famous handicrafts like Kathakali masks, boats and the Aranmula mirror. Everything from recycled paper made of elephant poo to eco-friendly clothing to swank up your wardrobe is available here.

Nightlife in Kochi

  • Café Papaya: For music, movies and mocha (in that order), head to Café Papaya at Palarivattom in Ernakulam to catch live music and DJs.
  • Kashi Art Café: While most people will describe Kashi Art Café in Fort Kochi as relaxed and arty, it's a great hangout for coffee, conversation and people watching. The art on display adds to its charm.

Where to stay in Kochi

vasco-home-stay

Vasco Home Stay, Fort A heritage B&B on Rose Street, in the heart of Fort Kochi that gives you the unique opportunity to step into Vasco da Gama’s shoes! Stay in a 500-year-old home that carries the legacy of the great Portuguese explorer who lived in this very building once upon a time. The location is ideal to explore significant landmarks, stores and cafes in the area beside the beach and Chinese fishing nets.

Hotel-Brunton-Boatyard

Brunton Boatyard - CGH Earth Often mistaken for an old heritage building, the resort wears CGH Earth’s stamp of exclusivity and style. A Victorian-era shipbuilding yard refurbished into a period-style resort, offers wistful waterscapes with the endless flow of ships, ferries and fishing boats from its rooms. The kind staff place earplugs in your room to mute out fog horns around the busy harbour! A clean pool, sunset cruises from its private pier, Ayurvedic treatments, yoga in a grassy courtyard and restaurants curating flavours that influenced the land through trade, history and communities, puts it among the best places to stay in Kochi.

hotel-koder-house

Koder House, Tower Road Built in 1808, this three-storeyed, wine coloured building by the beach, is listed on INTACH’s heritage sites and once belonged to an illustrious Jewish family who was caretakers of the old synagogue. Run as a boutique hotel today, Koder has hosted Presidents, Prime Ministers and other distinguished dignitaries. Rooms are lavishing with beautiful, polished four-posters and colonial furniture and a convenient pool for a relaxing dip.

old-harbour-hotel

Old Harbour Hotel, Fort Steeped in the sense of nostalgia with wood flooring, high ceilings and vintage furniture, this is an elegant hotel that doesn’t disappoint. Relish pan-fried prawns and delicious meals in the pleasant garden dining setting, take a stroll to nearby attractions, cool off in the pool and finally, kick back the covers to rest with the soft scent of jasmine lingering around your bed.

More reasons to visit Kochi

Forget the highway, take the national waterway between Kochi and Ernakulam on a ferry as the locals do. Hang out at one of the many cafés dotting Fort Kochi. The ivy-covered Teapot Café is one such place creating a happy storm in a teacup. It's a quirky place with a kaleidoscope of suspended kettles and teapots and tea chest tables, different posters, and décor inspired by all things related to tea! Savour 15 kinds of brew, nibble on Indian and European snacks, while coffee plays second fiddle.

  • Kochi-Muziris Biennale: Since 2012, every two years, Kochi organises the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, a great platform and a confluence of artists from across the world at various informal public spaces exploring a chosen theme. The city transforms into an open-air gallery and canvas ready for the explosion of art across several events and venues as varied as warehouses, old factories and seaside boulders in Kochi.
  • Cycle tours: If you don't have a yen for walking, try pedalling around Kochi on a bicycle. Kerala Bicycle Trips and Art of Bicycle Trips offer various options from 3-hour long guided tours around the city, canoe ride across the backwaters to great bicycle tours providing a slice of Kerala.
  • Rickshaw Run: Another option is to enrol for the Rickshaw Run, a 3000-km offbeat adventure across the country covered over a fortnight in customised autorickshaws. Organised by The Adventurists, there are many takers for this costly madcap adventure. Kochi is the parking spot for these autos that are anything but black and yellow. Pimped up with neon shades by artists, they even have funny names such as Bananas in Pyjamas, Curry on Tukkin' and Naan Point Five on the Rickshaw Scale!
  • Marine Drive: Ask any local to name their favourite hangout, and Marine Drive will be the answer. There is no place to drive here as it's a pedestrian zone, and perhaps Kochi's most talked about promenade where everyone loves to linger, shop and dine.
  • David Hall Gallery Café: Another great place with a dollop of Dutch history going back to 1695. Once the Dutch Governor's residence, Hendrick Drakenstein, (who initiated the research for the Hortus Malabaricus, a tome on the region's flora) it has been reimagined into an art gallery with a cosy café by CGH Earth. People love its garden ambience and hop by to satiate their craving for wood-fired pizzas – apparently the best in town.

Places to visit near Kochi

  • Alleppey: Just an hour's drive takes you to the towns of Alleppey for lazy houseboat rides on Vembanad lake, capturing riverine lifestyle through a network of canals and waterways. Detox and rejuvenate your body, mind and soul with an authentic Ayurvedic treatment or a traditional massage. 
  • Kumarakom: This is also a a part of Alleppey, located on the otherside of the Vembanad lake. You can come here and explore the sites and enjoy a houseboat ride.
  • Munnar: If time isn't a constraint, you can also plan an extended trip from Kochi to Munnar, one of the most popular hill stations in the region.

Festivals in Kochi

  • Athachamayam: A grand celebration that brings together the folk art forms of Kerala, Athachamayam marks the beginning of the ten-day festival of Onam. Athachamayam commemorates the king of Kochi's victory and is usually celebrated in August/September when a spectacular procession representing the king and his entourage is taken out. Various floats depicting scenes from epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, caparisoned elephants, folk art forms and musical ensembles accompany this procession. The ceremony begins by lighting a lamp, a symbolic gesture performed by a priest. The participants are usually dressed in silk ensembles that include a yellow kurta and pyjama for men, and pavada davani or sarees for women. People also don colourful and elaborate masks to complement their attire.
  • Chandanakudam Festival: Held at the Kanjiramattom Mosque, in Ernakulam District of Kerala, the ritual of chandanakudam is one of the key festivals held in the region. Generally organised during January at the mosque, a memorial to Sheikh Fariduddin, a revered Muslim mystic, the festival is a must-attend. It involves hundreds of pilgrims carrying earthen pots, smeared with sandal paste and filled with coins. The procession is held at night when caparisoned elephants walk alongside colourfully dressed people. This festival offers a rare opportunity for spectators to witness Muslim art forms such as duffmuttu, oppana, mappilappattu and kolkali during the procession. These dance and song performances are a part of Kanjiramattom Kodikuthu and make for a fascinating sight.

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