Fort Kochi is known for its picturesque Chinese fishing nets, seafood, beautiful beaches, and above all, its thriving art scene!
Whenever I walk through the streets of Fort Kochi, I find myself falling in love again and again with the vibes of the city. Time seems to slow down, and everyone always greets you with a smile.
The vibrant graffiti on the walls isn’t just art, but a movement, which seamlessly blends into the walls, so much that sometimes, you might just miss it! It isn’t just a place that you visit, but one where you can really live and experience.
The city was once a busy port for trade, where ships would dock to trade for Kochi’s plethora of spices, including cardamom, cloves, pepper, and cinnamon.
Even today, Kochi is a centre for spice export in the region! Interestingly, the region is called “Fort” Kochi, even though there isn’t a single fort in sight. They say that this is because it was once the location of Fort Emmanuel, built by the Portuguese and later destroyed by the Dutch.
Filled with ancient buildings, built by a combination of the Dutch, British, and Portuguese (who at various points in history had control of the city), this is the place where past meets present, the place which has a heartbeat of its own!
However, there’s a lot more to the city than meets the eye. Here are 11 things you cannot miss on a trip to the Queen of the Arabian Sea.
1. Ernakulam to Fort Kochi–by ferry!
The city is well connected by ferry. Not only is it the fastest way to get from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi, but it is also the cheapest. You can get from Ernakulam Boat Jetty to Fort Kochi on a ferry for just Rs 4!
The network also connects to Vypin and Willingdon Island. However, lines can get pretty long during peak hours, so make sure you get there ahead of time. The ferry offers a chance to take in the ocean air, providing a scenic view of the ocean, but what I love most about it is that you get to see people from all walks of life, from a mother taking her kids to school to old men, reading the newspaper.
2. Kulukki Sharbat
You haven’t lived until you’ve tried a glass of Kochi’s famous Kulukki Sharbat!
A local lemonade with a twist, the ‘sharbat’ is filled with khus-khus seeds and shaken to perfection. In fact, the word “kulukki” in Malayalam, means “shaking.”
On the beach walkway on one extreme end, towards the local park, there is a small cart which sells the refreshing drink for just Rs 10 per glass! Once you’ve had it, you can never forget the taste.
If you want to explore Fort Kochi, the best way is through the bicycle. I love that there are so many tiny alleys and lanes, each with their own character.
You can rent cycles for 50 rupees per day at the No. 18 Hotel. I’ve spent hours just riding around the city, from along the beach walkway to getting lost in all the small alleyways and shops. I can’t help but feel as though I have gone back to a completely different era!
4. Biennale, a city-wide art exhibition!
The Kochi Biennale Foundation is based in Fort Kochi. They work year-round to promote and give a platform to contemporary art, both local and international!
Every two years, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale brings people from all over to the world, and the entire city is transformed into a living, breathing art exhibition, filled with work by artists both local and international.
All the major buildings in the area house colourful art exhibitions, including Pepper House, Aspinwall House, the Parade Grounds, and even the Fort Kochi beach!
In fact, the Biennale is something that the city is famous for, and is said to be one of the best in the entire world! It draws in more than 2, 50,000 people and is the reason that Fort Kochi is now on the map for cultural significance.
5. Vasco da Gama Square, home of the fishing nets
When sunset is approaching, Vasco da Gama Square is the place to be! There is a place close by known as “Chinese Fishing Nets,” which is, of course, home to the giant fishing nets!
The sight is truly breathtaking, and is one of the best vantage points to watch as the fishermen bring in their catch! There are also small food stalls, which feature fresh seafood, and street vendors selling their wares.
Alternatively, you can also take the ferry to Vypin, and see the fishing nets from there. It is the perfect place to grab a drink of tender coconut water and take in the evening air.
6. Kayees Rahmathullah Biriyani
If you want a good, Kerala-style biriyani, then Kayees is the best place to go. Located in Mattancherry, the shop started as a small tea stall and then blossomed into a full-fledged biriyani hotel!
It is most famous for its authentic mutton biriyani, fondly known as “Kayikkante Biriyani,” which is aromatic and filled with ghee and bits of tender meat. Its fried and roast items, such as mutton roast and the classic fish fry are always a go-to comfort food for many living in the area, as well. Come evening; the place is packed with families and friends who all visit it to get a taste of this rich biriyani whose reputation precedes it!
7. Cafés Galore!
Towards the heart of Fort Kochi, the streets are dotted with cafes, quaint places that feature artwork by local artists, along with a good cup of coffee. One of my favourites is Loafers Corner Café, located just two minutes from Njaliparambu Junction. Their ambience is a little darker, and is the perfect place to relax, and enjoy a good book. They even have their own small library! Burgher Street is also dotted with a collection of cosy corners to spend a quiet afternoon.
8. Kerala Kathakali Centre
Arguably one of the last proper theatres for the Kerala art of Kathakali, and the most popular in Kochi, artistes of the centre perform every night for 365 days a year! Not only that, but the artists usually allow people to watch the application of the make-up, before the show.
Frequented by locals and tourists alike, the centre is a tribute to one of the oldest forms of entertainment in Kerala. The centre also showcases Kalaripayattu performances and offers classes in yoga and meditation.
9. Jew Town
Fort Kochi was once home to a large population of Jewish people, and parts of their culture have merged seamlessly into the architecture and the vibes of the city, at Jew Town. Here, you can find several antique stores, handicrafts, and of course, spices!
The entire town retains the same structures which were built many years ago, such as the Paradesi Synagogue, and when walking through Jew Town, it is impossible not to appreciate its history.
10. Rinoo’s Juice Shop
Located in Mattancherry, the juice shop is famous for one thing—avocado shakes! It is only made during the season, but this small juice shop is one place which is guaranteed to deliver a delicious avocado shake, made completely from the fruit, without adding water! The shop is usually open late into the night, and is the one-stop for a great drink.
11. Some of the friendliest people
Whether it is the auto driver who takes you around the city, or the lovely aunty who runs the local antique shop just outside the jetty, Fort Kochi has some of the most welcoming people, who are always happy to lend a helping hand and guide you in the right direction!
There is a sense of community in Fort Kochi, where people genuinely care for each other, where no one is ever too busy for a quick chat, and where the door is always open, welcoming others to join them. Fort Kochi has always given me a sense of home, and of family (after all, we do call every man “Chetta” and every woman “Chechi”) and that has always been what makes it so close to my heart.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons
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