Marine Drive: (5 minutes by ferry) A popular hangout, this scenic stretch offers a spectacular view of the backwaters and the Kochi Harbour. Shopping malls, cinema halls, restaurants, cafes, supermarkets and the Rainbow Bridge are the attractions at Marine Drive, which is only 5 minutes away.
Mattancherry Palace/Dutch Palace: (10 minutes by ferry) Built by the Portuguese in 1557 and presented to Raja Veera Kerala Varma of Kochi, the palace was renovated in 1663 by the Dutch. On display here are beautiful murals depicting scenes from the epics - Ramayana and Mahabharata - as well as some of the Puranic Hindu legends. The palace also houses Dutch maps of old Kochi, royal palanquins, coronation robes of former Maharajas of Kochi as well as period furniture. The three-dimensional portraits of the Maharajas are also noteworthy.
Synagogue and Jew Town: (10 minutes by ferry) Constructed in 1568, this is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. Destroyed in a shelling during the Portuguese raid in 1662, it was rebuilt two years later by the Dutch. The area around the Synagogue is a centre of spice trade and curio shops.
Durbar Hall Art Gallery: (10 minutes by road) Right in the middle of Ernakulam City is the grand Durbar Hall grounds. At one time known as the Parikshit Thampuran Museum, it has now been converted into the Durbar Hall Art Gallery. The museum also houses a collection of coins, bronzes, copies of murals and megalithic relics of Kerala.
Willingdon Island: (10 minutes by ferry) Named after Lord Willingdon, a former British Viceroy of India, this man-made island is surrounded by beautiful backwaters. The island is the site of the city’s best hotels and trading centres, the Port Trust and the headquarters of the Southern Naval Command.
Fort Kochi: (10 minutes by ferry) A leisurely walk through the city is the best way to discover historic Fort Kochi. An obscure fishing village that became the first European township in India, Kochi has an eventful and colourful history. Its reputation as a seafaring commercial town was such that Nicolas Conti, an Italian traveller of the Middle Ages remarked: If China is where you make your money, then Kochi surely is the place to spend it. The town was shaped by the Portuguese, the Dutch and later the British. The result of these cultural influences is seen in the many examples of Indo-European architecture that still exist here. Some of the important monuments here are:
Vasco da Gama Square/Chinese Fishing Nets: The huge cantilevered fishing nets are the legacy of one of the first visitors to the Malabar Coast. Erected here between 1350 and 1450 AD by traders from the court of Kublai Khan, these nets are set up on teak wood and bamboo poles. The best place to watch the nets being lowered into the backwater and the catch being brought in, is the Vasco da Gama Square, a narrow promenade that runs along the beach. The Square is also an ideal place to idle, with stalls serving fresh delicious seafood, tender coconut etc.
Pierce Leslie Bungalow: This charming mansion was the office of Pierce Leslie & Co., coffee merchants, founded in 1862. A representative of the Fort Kochi colonial bungalow, this building reflects Portuguese, Dutch and local influences. Characteristic features are wood panels that form the roof of the ground floor, arched doorways, carved doors and sprawling rooms. Waterfront verandahs are an added attraction.
Old Harbour House: This elegant old bungalow built in 1808 is in the possession of Carrit Moran & Co., renowned tea brokers, who now use it as their residence. The house was once a boat club.
Koder House: This magnificent building constructed by Samuel S. Koder of The Cochin Electric Company in 1808 is a supreme example of the transition from colonial to Indo-European architecture. Features like verandah seats at the entrance, floor tiles set in a chess board pattern, red-coloured brick-like facade, carved wood furniture and a wooden bridge connecting to a separate structure across the street are all unique to this bungalow.
Santa Cruz Basilica: This historic church was built by the Portuguese and elevated to a Cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558. In 1795 it fell into the hands of the British when they took over Kochi, and was demolished. About a hundred years later Bishop Dom Gomez Ferreira commissioned a new building at the same site in 1887. The church was proclaimed a Basilica in 1984 by Pope John Paul II.
Loafer’s Corner/Princess Street: One of the earliest streets to be constructed in Fort Kochi, Princess Street with its European style residences still retains its old world charm. The best view of this quaint street can be had from Loafer’s Corner, the traditional meeting place and hangout of the jovial, fun-loving people of the area.
Vasco House: Believed to have been the residence of Vasco da Gama, this is one of the oldest Portuguese residences in Fort Kochi. Built in the early sixteenth century, Vasco House sports the typical European glass-paned windows and balcony-cum-verandahs characteristic of the times.
VOC Gate: The large wooden gate facing the Parade Ground, with the monogram (VOC) of the once mighty Dutch East India Company carved on it, was built in 1740. The Dutch Mint was located here.
Parade Ground: The four-acre Parade Ground was once where the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British colonists conducted their military parades and drills. The buildings around the ground housed their defence establishments. Today, the largest open ground in Fort Kochi, the Parade Ground is a sports arena.
The United Club: One of the four elite clubs of the British in Kochi, the United Club today serves two purposes – as class room for the nearby St. Francis Primary School by day and a card room for the current members by evening. Until 1907, the building housed the offices of the Fort Kochi Municipality.
The Bishop’s House: Built in 1506 as the residence of the Portuguese Governor, the Bishop’s House stands on a little hillock near the Parade Ground. The facade of the House is characterised by large Gothic arches and has a circular garden path winding up to the main entrance. The building was acquired by Dom Jos Gomes Ferreira, the 27th Bishop of the Diocese of Kochi whose jurisdiction extended over Burma, Malaya and Ceylon, in addition to India. Adjacent to the Bishop’s House is the Indo-Portuguese Museum which houses precious artefacts collected from various churches under the Cochin diocese.
Fort Immanuel: This bastion of the Portuguese in Kochi was a symbol of the strategic alliance between the Maharajah of Kochi and the Monarch of Portugal, after whom it was named. Built in 1503, the fort was reinforced in 1538. By 1806, the Dutch, and later the British, had destroyed most of the fort walls and its bastions. Today, remains of this once imposing structure can be seen along the beach.
The Dutch Cemetery: The tombstones here are the most authentic record of the hundreds of Europeans who left their homeland on a mission to expand their colonial empires and changed the course of history of this land. The cemetery was consecrated in 1724 and is today managed by the Church of South India.
Thakur House: This graceful building holds within itself a reflection of the colonial era. The bungalow was built on the site of the Gelderland Bastion, one of the seven bastions of the old Dutch Fort. Earlier known as Kunal or Hill Bungalow, it was home to the managers of the National Bank of India during the British reign.
David Hall: Though built around 1695 by the Dutch East India Company, David Hall gets its name from one of its later occupants, David Koder, a Jewish businessman. The Hall was originally associated with Hendrik Adriaan Van Reed Tot Drakestein, renowned Dutch commander better known for his Hortus Malabaricus, a pioneering compilation of the flora of the Malabar Coast.
The Cochin Club: The club, with its impressive library and collection of sporting trophies, is housed in a beautifully landscaped park. In the early 1900s, when the club had just become operational, admission was restricted to the British and to men only. The club still retains its traditional English ambience.
St. Francis Church: Built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars, this is India’s oldest European church. This was initially built of timber and later reconstructed in stone masonry. It was restored in 1779 by the Protestant Dutch, converted to an Anglican church by the British in 1795 and is at present governed by the Church of South India. Vasco da Gama was buried here in 1524 before his remains were moved to Lisbon, Portugal. The tombstone still remains.
Bastion Bungalow: Built in the Indo-European style way back in 1667, the bungalow gets its name from its location on the site of the Stromberg Bastion of the old Dutch Fort. The building blends beautifully into the circular structure of the bastion, has a tiled roof and a typical first floor verandah in wood along its front portion. Though it has been said that a network of secret tunnels runs beneath the bungalow, none have been found.
Museum of Kerala History, Edappally: (30 minutes by road) The Museum of Kerala History at Edappally, showcases historical episodes from the Neolithic to the modern era through life-size figures. Light ‘n’ sound shows are regularly organized with commentaries in English and Malayalam. There is also a gallery of paintings and sculptures, displaying over 200 original works by contemporary Indian artists. The Centre for Visual Arts has a collection of the authentic reproduction of selected world masters and larger-than-life mural reproductions of Indian art.
Kumbalangi Tourist Village: (45 minutes by road) Essentially a fishing hamlet, this tiny village facing the Kochi backwaters in the western part of the city is the first ecotourism village in India. Kalagramam, an artist’s village, displays handicrafts and fishing equipment. Mangroves are nurtured here as also fish farming. Bait fishing is extremely popular among tourists here.
Thripunithura Hill Palace Museum: (30 minutes by road) Hill Palace, the official residence of the erstwhile Kochi Royal Family, was built in 1865. The palace complex consists of 49 buildings in the traditional architectural style of Kerala and is surrounded by 52 acres of terraced land with a deer park and facilities for horse riding. A full-fledged ethno-archaeological museum and Kerala’s first-ever heritage museum are the main attractions. Displayed inside the thirteen galleries are oil paintings, 19th century paintings, murals, sculptures in stone and plaster of Paris, manuscripts, inscriptions and coins belonging to the royal family. Ancient musical instruments, clay models, bronze and silver items from the 14th, 15th and 16th century are some of the other exhibits here.
Ernakulam Shiva Temple: (10 minutes by road) Popularly known as Ernakulathappan, this temple is associated with the birth of the name of the city. The idols of Shiva and Parvati are claimed to be swayambhoo or self- created.
Cherai Beach: (45 minutes by road) This lovely beach bordering Vypeen Island is ideal for swimming. Dolphins are occasionally seen here. A typical Kerala village with paddy fields and coconut groves nearby is an added attraction.