The diverse culture, mainly of European, Jewish, and Indian, and the restored remnants of its history are the main highlights of the tour around the Fort Kochi. Add to the list, the scenic and tranquil atmosphere of the west coast of Cochin, Kerala.
Before anything else, the “fort” which is referred to as “Fort Kochi” is actually the Fort Immanuel (Fort Emmanuel). This fort was originally built by the Portuguese in the region given by the Rajah of Kochi as a symbol of their alliance.
The fort Immanuel was later on destroyed by the Dutch and British. But, the history of the Fort Kochi did not end here
In this article, I’d like to share with you about my personal experience, how to get to Fort Kochi, how much your estimated travel budget should cost, what activities you should not miss, which themed restaurant you should try, which hotel suite you can stay, and what top landmarks you should visit.
What to see in Fort Kochi
The Dutch Cemetery is a graveyard for 104 soldiers or traders, mostly Dutch and some British. These people are believed to be significant because of the contributions they’ve made to the history of India. Thus, this Dutch Cemetery shouldn’t be taken for granted.
In the Dutch Cemetery, you’ll notice that the inscriptions on the epitaphs are in Old Dutch wordings. Then, the tombs don’t have crosses which are common nowadays and exudes Dutch architectural design.
The tombs were made of laterite stones with covering layers of plasters. Due to their old age, their original layers of plasters have depleted. So, new layers of plasters have been added to the tombs. The new layers of plasters also protect the tomb from getting further damage.
Today, the Dutch Cemetery is under the care of the St. Francis Church. They often keep the Dutch Cemetery closed in order to protect it from undesirable visitors.
But, you may ask the St. Francis Church, which is only nearby, for permission to enter the cemetery. Alternatively, you can peek through its gate. Or, you can get a good view of the cemetery from the beach.
The Fort Kochi Beach is an Instagrammable spot on the west coast of Kerala because of its calm and idyllic vibe. Aside from the stunning view of the sunset, you can also capture scenes like the view of the remains of Fort Immanuel, cargo ships passing by, local fishermen using the Chinese fishing nets, selling of fresh seafood, and the celebration of Cochin Carnival (which is held every last two weeks of the year).
From here, you can also stroll through its greenery and granite walkway.
The Paradesi Synagogue is another place in Fort Kochi that is worthwhile to visit. It is an over 400-year old synagogue of native Jews in the region. It represents the harmony of diverse religious groups in the small town of Kochi.
Situated in the Hindu majority area, the Paradesi Synagogue has even adapted some Hindu ritual practices like removing footwear when entering the synagogue and using of particular colors of clothing per special holiday.
The Paradesi Synagogue is visited because of its historic value. It has preserved antique items which are for decorative purposes and for historical accounts.
The Synagogue safely preserves the copper plates which symbolize the privileges given to native Jews during the early Dynasty. The privileges included, among others, the freedom to practice religion and the exemption to pay taxes.
The copper plates though are not displayed. But, you sure won’t miss its Belgian candle lamps, Chinese porcelain tiles, and brass-railed pulpit.
The Paradesi Synagogue is located within the neighborhood of native Jews in Fort Kochi. Since the majority of the Jews returned to Israel, only a few of them stayed.
There are only 6 remaining native Jews in the region today. With the six of them, the youngest is said to be already over forty years old and the rest are already more than 80 years old.
The old spice warehouses in the Jew Town now serve as antique and souvenir shops. It has a narrow street where you find intriguing items with accompanying backstories.
Chinese Fishing Nets
Hope you can get a perfect picture of the Chinese Fishing Nets which can get really dramatic on sunset. Aside from those I’ve mentioned in the Beach, the Chinese Fishing Nets are conspicuous in any coast of Fort Kochi.
The Chinese Fishing Nets, if you’re wondering, are tall mechanical devices used for a traditional fishing style which the region got from early Chinese traders.
To find out how the Chinese fishing nets work, you can try it yourself for a fee. Don’t worry; you won’t be alone since these fishing nets need to be manned by at least four to six persons. Then, you can also buy and eat what you’ve caught.
Where to Stay in Fort Kochi
Fragrant Nature Hotel – Fort Kochi
The Fragrant Nature Hotel in Fort Kochi is a five-star luxury hotel that boasts the biggest spa facility and the largest swimming pool in the region. It is located near the State Bank of India in Bazaar Road and is facing the Vembanad Lake.
The standard room of the Fragrant Nature Hotel – Fort Kochi is already spacious. They refer to this as the Duke’s Chamber. Its basic facilities include air-con, TV, minibar, desk, seating area, closet, and bathroom with rain shower.
The second biggest room is the Ocean Blue Suite. It has own balcony with overlooking view of the sea and bigger bathroom with rain shower and bathtub.
While on its presidential suite which is the Royal Dutch Suite, you’ll love the wider view of the coast and your own bathroom with rain shower and Jacuzzi.
The Fragrant Nature Hotel in Fort Kochi has five in-house restaurants. The Flint House is a grill restaurant while the Zamorin serves Indian cuisines and international cuisines on a buffet table or a la carte. Then, Purple Duck is a bar and restaurant that serves local and imported alcoholic beverages.
Lastly, its two onsite coffeehouses are the Street Café with the theme of Paris’ Passage des Panoramas and the Pool Café with an alfresco dining on top of the hotel.
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CGH Brunton Boatyard
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The CGH Brunton Boatyard is one of the most popular luxury hotels in Fort Kochi. It was originally a boat manufacturing facility during the 20th Century. It was then converted into the waterfront hotel which retains colonial architectural design.
The CGH Brunton Boatyard offers an option of suites with a view of the sea or non-sea view. Generally, rooms have air-condition, TV, ironing facilities, hairdryer, bathrooms with bathtub and shower area.
The CGH Brunton Boatyard has three in-house restaurants, namely the Terrace Grill, Armoury Bar & Coffee Shop, and the History. The History serves local cuisines inspired by a collection of handed down family recipes. The cuisines also represent the diverse culture of the people in Kochi throughout its history.
On the other hand, the Armory Bar & Coffee Shop, the main in-house restaurant, gives the guests the option of having Local Kerala cuisines or continental cuisines. This is also where wines and other alcoholic beverages are served.
Last but not the least is its Terrace Grill. So, it’s a grill restaurant that serves the freshest catch of the day. They cook them through the grill or Borma Oven.
The Brunton Boatyard carries with them the brand of the CGH Earth. One of the foundations of this brand is to promote sustainable tourism. So, in the Brunton Boatyard, they have an onsite facility that converts the rainwater into drinking water. As a container of the drinking water, they use glass bottles instead of plastic bottles. Another thing is that they have solar panels installed on their roof.
Read more about this hotel through this link.
- CGH Eighth Bastion
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Not far from the Brunton Boatyard is another CGH Earth hotel branch. This is Eighth Bastion. This hotel is slightly smaller compared to Brunton Boatyard. But, both are sustainable, eco-friendly hotel.
Aside from using glass bottles for drinking water, the Eight Bastion uses ceramic jar and carton in replacement of plastic containers for the toiletries.
I’ve already mentioned that the CGH Eight Bastion is only small. Its hotel suites though have the basic facilities like safe locker, clothes, rack, aircon, desk, and bathroom with shower.
You can either pick balcony with overlooking of the courtyard or the verandah by the courtyard. The rooms with verandah by the courtyard though have bigger bathrooms with shower area and bathtub. For your third option, you can choose the smallest rooms which are the bastion rooms with neither verandah nor terrace.
The CGH Eight Bastion has only one in-house restaurant which is the East Indies Restaurant. More details are mentioned below. Or, you can also read my article about the CGH Eight Bastion through this link.
Where to Eat
Kashi Art Gallery
The Kashi Art Gallery or Kashi Art Café is an art museum cum café located on Burgher Street, Fort Kochi. It is near the Jawahar Park.
When you enter the Kashi Art Cafe, you’ll be greeted by their featured artworks. You can find the dining area in the inner courtyard. This is a popular hangout place because of its ambiance and good and healthy food.
The Kashi Art Café serves soups, sandwiches, all-day breakfast and main course meals that are local specials and Continental. You may also want to ask for their daily specials which are often seasonal salads, coffee blends, and cakes.
Before I forget, the Kashi Art Café is also popular for their Chocolate cake. It can be a bit sweet. But it is a must try in Fort Kochi.
The Kashi Art Café is open every day from 8:30 AM until 10:00 PM. The average cost that two persons can spend here is more or less INR 600 (Php 466.83).
Ginger House Restaurant
The Ginger house restaurant is another restaurant cum gallery in Fort Kochi. What sets this restaurant cum gallery apart from those of its same kind is that the heritage museum and dining area is not a separate section.
The Ginger house restaurant has an indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating has an unobstructed view of the backwaters.
Anywhere you sit, you still get to use their old but delicate furniture.
The indoor seating though can make you feel more immersed in the history of India. You’ll be surrounded by antique figurines made of bronze and such, intricately carved woods on the ceiling and furniture, and other delicate fixtures.
By the way, the products I’ve mentioned, like the chair you’ll be sitting in, are up for sale. So, I guess, these products will then do the sales talk.
The food served on the Ginger house restaurant can be a bit expensive. But, their authentic local cuisines, especially the seafood, and their ginger-base products sure are must-try. It is a good option when you want to skip a curry dish for the day.
On their list of ginger-based products, you must try their ginger lassi and tiger prawns. One meal serving of tiger prawns can already cost INR 750 (Php 583.54) while the ginger lassi can cost at least INR 130 (Php 101.15).
What to do in Fort Kochi
Sunset Cruise along the coast of Fort Kochi sure is one of the top things you need to do when in the region. From this cruise, you’ll get an opportunity to photograph a dramatic sunset with bonus elements like the Chinese fishing nets.
In Brunton Boatyard hotel, they offer a free one-hour sunset cruise. The Fragrant Nature Hotel – Fort Kochi also offers sunset or day cruise but for an additional fee.
Go Shopping, it’s cheap
We’ve already mentioned that in Jew Town, there are many souvenir and accessories shop. So, here, you can find unique and locally made accessories. They are made out of beads, coir, wood, bamboo, shells, and ivory.
For cheaper souvenir items, you can buy in Bazaar Road, near the Fragrant Nature Hotel. Aside from souvenirs, you can also buy local spices at a cheaper price.
Go people watching near the beach
The Fort Kochi beach has relaxing atmosphere but never gets boring. It is frequented by families and friends, both locals and visitors.
Try the street food
With their variety of spices, Fort Kochi can make great dishes in five-star restaurants or in a humble stall. In Jew Town, you may come across a stall which sells a hard-boiled egg. But, it is not just a hard-boiled egg. It is coated with batter and different spices. After which, it will then be deep fried.
Other stalls though use green chili as an alternative to the hardboiled egg.
In Kerala, or even just in Fort Kochi, they use some herbs and spices on their sweet delights as well. They call these sweet delights as Mithai. An example of this is the sweet swirl of Jalebi.
To make the Jalebi, they season the sweetened batter with saffron. Then, they have Laddu which is like granola bars but molded into rounds and spiced with cardamom.
Another mithai you need to try is the Rasgulla. It is made of local cheese, chenna, soaked in sweetened rose water.
For more Mithai, you can find them in any local bakeries, particularly in Jew Town. Other foods to find in the area are their local snacks which are Banana chips and tapioca chips.
Admire the different architecture
Majority of the residential houses, restaurants, and hotels retained their colonial architectural design. Examples include Kashi Art Café and Eight Bastion which both are inspired by Dutch architectural design and the Brunton Boatyard with a contemporary colonial theme.
For your list of architectural design inspiration, you shouldn’t miss:
- the St. Francis Church which is the oldest European church in India built by the Portuguese;
- the Vasco Mansion which is a Portuguese mansion built over 500 years ago;
- the Bastion Bungalow, which is a museum originally built by the Dutch as a bastion and improvement by the British; and
- the Cochin Club, a formerly British elite club.
Watch live film shooting
If you’re lucky, you can meet some local celebrities. Local TV or movie productions do a lot of shoots in Fort Kochi. We saw one with Dulquer Salmaan. We are not familiar with his works but it was cool to watch.
Eat good food
I’ve already mentioned the in-house restaurants of Fragrant Nature Hotel in Fort Kochi and CGH Eight Bastion.
When staying at the CGH Eight Bastion, you’ll no longer need to go too far to find great food. Their in-house restaurant, the East Indies Restaurant features a collection of cuisines which showcases the fusion of Dutch and South Asia dishes.
They call their theme as the “Dutch Route in South Asia”. But, of course, they use fresh spices and other ingredients which are locally available.
About three blocks away from Eighth Bastion hotel and Dutch Cemetery, you can try the Dal Roti Restaurant. This serves North India specials like the dal tadka which they partner with phulkas.
Basically, phulkas is puffed up thin bread while the dal tadka is the cooked lentils which they fry with spices, herbs, and ghee or oil.
Another must-try street food in Fort Kochi is sold at the Loafers Corner Café. They sell superb Masala Dosas. If you’re not familiar with it, Masala Dosas are those dosa stuffed with different fillings like potatoes, rice, lentils, herbs, and spices.
Watch amazing sunsets
Watch the sunsets along the Fort Kochi Beach or on the rooftop of The Fragrant Nature Hotel. It helps relieves your tiredness after a long day of walking around.
Average Cost of Fort Kochi
Average hotel suites in Fort Kochi can cost around INR 7,197.48 (Php 5,600) per night, probably with complimentary buffet breakfast and access to facilities. The cheapest accommodation in Fort Kochi may charge at least around INR 500 (Php 389.03) per night.
Tuktuk ride (auto-rickshaw) around Fort Kochi is more or less INR 50 (Php 38.90) per ride. For private touring, you may negotiate with the driver for a cheaper fare.
Vegetable meals cost at least around INR 50 to 100 (Php 38.90 to 77.81). Meals with meat can be more or less INR 150 to 250 (Php 116.71 to 194.51).
I guess it is safe to say that budget when going around Fort Kochi is more or less INR 1,000 to 2,000 (Php 778.05 to 1,556.10) per day excluding the hotel accommodation cost.
EndNote about Fort Kochi, Kerala
It’s inspiring to see the Fort Kochi. They move forward without scraping out the past and without having to fully conform to one culture and belief. In fact, they understand and recognize that the past and diverse culture and belief as some of the key ingredients for the development of the region.
And, this is evident through their street, market, establishments, food, and beach.
It is just like how they blend their herbs and spices into scrumptious dishes. So, hopefully, you’ll get to witness this too.
How to get to Fort Kochi
The nearest airport to Fort Kochi is the Cochin International Airport. It is approximately an hour drive. Taxi or car rental going from this airport going to Fort Kochi can cost at least INR 1,200 (Php 933.66) or more or less.
When taking the railway station to Fort Kochi, drop off point will be at the Ernakulam Junction, Mainland Kochi. Travel time from this station going to Fort Kochi is about 30 minutes.
KSRTC buses drop by the Fort Kochi and nearby major cities of Kerala and other states. To avoid confusion especially on reading bus signs, you may ask the bus conductor for assistance.
Once you’re in Fort Kochi, you can easily walk around to visit the beach, landmarks, and other establishments. Or, you can also ride an auto rickshaw which can get you around the whole region.