Travel: Here's how you can make the most of your Kochi trip

Updated: Jan 05, 2017, 13:53 IST | Shraddha Uchil

This weekend, as art aficionados and culture czars descend on Kochi to attend the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, here's how to explore Kochi on foot

Kochi, with its lush greenery and tranquil waters, makes for the perfect backdrop for an event with art taking centre stage. It is no wonder, then, that the city has been playing host to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an international exhibition of contemporary art, since 2012.

If you're headed to this part of Kerala, whether for the event or to just unwind, make time for some of its best sights and activities. From bustling spice bazaars and calming backwaters to ancient places of worship, this stamp-sized city has plenty to keep you interested.

SIGHTS
Fort Kochi
St Francis Church might have an unremarkable facade, but it is worth visiting for several reasons. It's believed to be the oldest European-built church in India, having been constructed in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars. Since then, this structure has been used by not just the Portuguese, but also by Dutch and British colonisers. Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who passed away in Kochi in 1524, was buried here for 14 years before his remains were sent to Lisbon. While you're in the area, stroll around the sleepy bylanes off Mahatma Gandhi Road to marvel at the Colonial villas and bungalows.

 

If all that walking has built up an appetite, we suggest you head to Burgar Street and tuck into a hearty meal at Kashi Art Café and Gallery. The quirky space is a hit with foreign and desi tourists, and lives up to its tag as an organic, healthy café.

Mattancherry Palace
Also called the Dutch Palace after the Dutch renovated it in 1663, this mansion was originally a gift presented to the Raja of Kochi — Veera Kerala Varma — by the Portuguese in 1555. Head here for the well preserved, intricate Hindu murals depicting scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas. The palace also houses a collection of items belonging to the rajas.

Chinese fishing nets
Fort Kochi's Chinese fishing nets are among the region's most iconic sights, finding their way onto postcards and photographs that grace brochures promoting Kerala. Walk to the northeastern shore to catch a glimpse of these spiderlike contraptions, which date back to the 1400s and are a legacy of traders from the court of Kublai Khan.

While walking down this promenade, look out for remnants of warships that have been installed as displays for the public to gaze at. You will also find the Dutch Cemetery, which is no longer in use. This over 280-year-old burial ground is believed to be one of the oldest European cemeteries in India.

ACTIVITIES
Wander through Jew Town
This ancient town is the centre of Kochi's spice trade. Breathe in the heady scent of condiments such as ginger, cardamom and cloves in the air, and rifle through antiques and souvenirs in the bazaar.

You can't leave without making a visit to the Pardesi Synagogue, which features hand-painted floor tiles from Canton in China, and chandeliers from Belgium.

Explore the backwaters
If you're looking to soak in some scenery, the best way to do it is by getting into a boat and wading through the serene backwaters around sunset. Along the way, you will be treated to views of the famed Chinese fishing nets, Marine Drive, Bolghatty Island, Willington Island, as well as slices of local life.

Get your culture fix
Watch a Kathakali performance at the Kerala Kathakali Centre, which gives you an introduction to the traditional dance form, with translations of the story being performed. Shows are held every evening, and the centre also hosts shows of kalaripayattu and traditional music. 

By air
Cochin International Airport, although small, is well-connected to all Indian metros. Indigo, Jet Airways, Air India, GoAir, SpiceJet, and Vistara fly here from Mumbai

By rail
Kochi has two major train stations — Ernakulam Junction (ERS) and Ernakulam Town (ERN) — both of which are a little over 12 hours away from Mumbai.

Getting around
You can hail an autorickshaw or rent a bike. Ferries are the fastest way to go between Fort Kochi and the mainland.

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