Kochi Travel Guide: From places to visit to what to pack

Kochi Travel Guide: From Places to Visit to What to Pack

This is a comprehensive Kochi Travel Guide covering all the information you will need to plan a Kochi trip, from the places to visit in Kochi to what to pack for Kochi.

A view of the Kochi coast from the Marine Drive, a place to visit in Kochi.
A View of the Backwaters in Kochi

With Kerala making it to both TIMES World’s Greatest Places Of 2022 and New York Times 52 Places to Visit in 2023, Kochi, the gateway to Kerala, should be on your travel bucket list. Rightly called the “Queen of Arabian Sea,” Kochi is a beautiful port town in the heart of Kerala, in southern India. Here you will find a spice-rich blend of history, culture, and art, with footprints of Portuguese and Dutch colonial legacy, permanently etched into its architecture. 

If you are looking for a place to get closer to nature, encounter serene beaches, witness a coastal village life, discover a forgotten Jewish legacy, and experience elaborate cultural performances of Kathakali and ancient martial arts of Kalaripayattu, Kochi is where you need to go.

The Chinese fishing net found in Kochi, Kerala
Chinese Fishing Net in Kochi

Places to Visit in Kochi

The top attractions in Kochi can be covered in just two days making it an ideal weekend getaway from nearby states. However, if you really want to experience Kochi, plan a week’s stay. Check out my top picks of places to visit in Kochi on this Kochi travel blog to make your trip wholesome.

Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi is the most scenic place to visit in Kochi with spectacular beaches, churches, historical monuments, and the famous Chinese fishing nets standing tall. Fort Kochi was the first European township in Kerala, and the churches and monuments stand witness to its colonial past.

The places to visit in Fort Kochi include churches, museums, and experiencing the scenic beauty by taking a stroll by the colonial buildings or at the walkway by Vasco Da Gama Square.

The wing graffiti at Fort Kochi. A photogenic place in Kochi.
The Wings Graffiti at Fort Kochi

Places to Visit in Fort Kochi

St Francis Church

Did you know that Vasco Da Gama, the famous Portuguese explore who lived in 1500s was buried in St Francis church in Fort Kochi? St Francis church, built in 1503 is one of the oldest surviving European churches in India, a must visit attraction in Kochi.

St Francis church, a place to visit in Kochi, where Vasco Da Gama was buried.
St. Francis Church, Fort Kochi, where the Portuguese Explorer Vasco Da Gama was Buried

Santa Cruz Basilica

Apart from St Francis church, you can visit Santa Cruz Basilica in Fort Kochi, a splendid gothic-style architectural marvel with fresco and mural paintings all over the ceiling by an Italian painter.

Santa Cruz Basilica, a must see gothic church in Fort Kochi.
Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Kochi

Vasco Da Gama Square and Fort Emmanuel

Fort Emmanuel is a bastion of the Portuguese and the very fort that gave Fort Kochi its name.

Fort Kochi Museums

Fort Kochi is also home to some of the best museums in the state, including:

  • Ernakulam District Heritage Museum in the 17th century European building called Bastian Bungalow
  • Indian Naval Maritime Museum: Narrates the naval history of India
  • Indo-Portuguese Museum: Narrates the influence of Portuguese culture in the Indian art and history
Bastian Bungalow, a Portugese building now a museum in Fort Kochi.
Bastian Bungalow, a 17th Century European Bungalow, a Museum in Fort Kochi

Check out the Best Mid-Range Heritage Hotels in Fort Kochi to Revisit the Old-World Charm

Best Homestays in Fort Kochi at less than Rs. 2000 per Night

Jew Town Kochi

Jews Town Kochi is a place to visit in Kerala if you want to witness the religious tolerance and cultural inclusiveness of the people of Kerala since ancient times. The major attractions in Jew Town are the Mattancherry Palace museum, Paradesi Synagogue, and the Jain Temple, less than a kilometer from Mattancherry Palace.

The Entrance to Jew Town in Kochi
The Entrance to Jew Town, Kochi

Read Jew Town, Kochi: A Curated Walk through a Cultural Melting Pot

Mattancherry Palace Museum

Mattancherry Palace is a conglomeration of Dutch and Kerala architecture, a palace of the kings of Kochi since the 1500s.

The Mattancherry Palace now functions as a museum that narrates the life and times of the royal family of Kochi.

Mattancherry Palace, now a museum. A must visit place in Kochi.
Mattancherry Palace Museum, Kochi

Paradesi Synagogue

When a ship of Spanish Jews arrived as refugees at Kochi in the mid-1500s, the king of Kochi welcomed them and offered a plot right next to the palace to build their synagogue. That is the story of how the Paradesi Synagogue came into being in 1568, right next to a Hindu king’s palace.

Paradesi Synagogue, Mattancherry in Kochi
Paradesi Synagogue in Jew Town, Kochi
A plaque installed in front of the Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi, a must-see place.
A Plaque Installed in Front of Paradesi Synagogue, Kochi
Sarah Cohen's home, a must see at Jew Town, Kochi.
Sarah Cohen’s Home in Jew Street, Kochi

The street leading up to the synagogue came to be famously known as Jew Street. A blend of spices, antiques, and everything rustic, a stroll through the street will be something to cherish.

Jew Street, Kochi
A View of Jew Street, Kochi

Ashley’s Tip: If you are a collector of antiques or if you are looking to buy souvenirs to take back home, Jew Town is one of the best places in Kochi for it. They charge you a fortune, but you can use your haggling skills to strike a fair price.

Kochi Jain Temple

A lesser known, but equally important final piece of marvel in the Jew Town puzzle is Kochi Jain Temple, one of the most important Jain pilgrimage temples in India. Kochi Jain Temple was established in 1904 by the Jain traders from Gujarat. The temple is adorned with white marble flooring, sculpted pillars, and artworks.

Jain Temple near Jew Street Kochi
Jain Temple, Kochi
Posing in front of Jain Temple, Kochi, a tourist attraction in Kochi.
In Front of Jain Temple, Kochi
The artistic gate to Jain Temple Kochi, a tourist attraction in Kochi.
An Ornately Designed Gate in Front of Jain Temple, Kochi

Cherai Beach

Cherai Beach is the most happening beach to visit in Kochi, a blend of sea, backwaters, coconut groves, and Chinese fishing nets all at one place. Cherai Beach is at the northern side of the Vypin Island

You can find an array of water sports centers in the 10 kilometer stretch of beach here with a variety of activities, like speed boating, banana boating, kayaking, catamaran ride, and quad biking on the sand.

Apart from these, the fact that the tides stay low at Cherai Beach all the time makes it a great choice for swimming. No wonder, Cherai Beach is one of the most visited beaches in Kerala.

The touristy atmosphere at Cherai Beach has made it a hub of some of the best beach resorts and hotels in Kochi. The restaurants here range from shacks that sell refreshing local drinks and light snacks to fine dining.

Check out the Best Budget Resorts near Cherai Beach for an Awesome Family Vacation

Puthuvype Beach and Vypin Lighthouse

Puthuvype is a stretch of beach on the length of Vypin Island, facing the Arabian Sea. A great place to spend your evening watching the sunset. You will find many structures erected here to click photographs. The line of colored fishing boats is a common sight here.

Very close to Puthuvype Beach, you will find Vypin Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in Kerala. It is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. You can enter the lighthouse for a nominal fee of Rs.20 + Rs.10 for photography and get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful town, definitely a major tourist attraction in Kochi.

Puthuvype Beach, Kochi
Puthuvype Beach, Kochi

Marine Drive

Marine Drive is a backwaters promenade in Kochi famous for its view and photogenic characteristics. Head to Marine Drive for a calm and serene evening, taking in the beauty of Kochi, relishing the live fresh fruit drinks and light snacks by the walkaway and shopping for trinkets from the hawkers.

Marine Drive is also a ferry and cruise ship spot in Kochi, about which I have explained further down in “Things to Do in Kochi.”

Marine Drive is a must-see attraction in Kochi, especially in the evening when the lights play music on the waves.

The walkaway in Marine Drive, a place to visit in Kochi.
The Walkway in Marine Drive, Kochi

Vallarpadam Basilica

A little over 6 kilometers from Puthuvype Beach, you can find the beautiful Vallarpadam Basilica, a pilgrimage entre and an important tourist attraction in Kochi near Puthuvype Beach. The Basilica is steeped in the historical and cultural narrative of Kerala.

The picture of the Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus installed at the alter of the church was brought in 1524 from Portuguese by the merchants under Vasco Da Gama. The church hosts a lamp that has been burning all day from 1676 in honor of a prime minister of Maharaja of Cochin who donated the land for the present church after the Portuguese church was destroyed in a flood.

Another legend associated with Vallarpadam Basilica is that of a young woman of royal birth, Meenakshi Amma and her son, who while caught in a flood vowed to devote her life to the service of Virgin Mary was miraculously saved.

This Basilica has an interesting tradition. Devotees offer to sweep the courtyard of the Basilica as an act of worship. You can find a large collection of brooms on the side of the Basilica for this purpose.

Ernakulam Town

Ernakulam town is on the city-side of Kochi. Head to Ernakulam town if you want to explore and learn about the cultural and historical facets of Kerala. If you are interested in art, history, and architecture, the museums in Ernakulam are the places to begin your Kochi trip.

Kerala Folklore Museum

Kerala Folklore Museum, an architectural marvel, and a treasure trove of over 35,000 antiques and artifacts spanning over 1000 years, is a must visit attraction in Kochi. This is a private museum curated by George J Thaliath, an art enthusiast and art collector.

Major attractions offered by Kerala Folklore Museum include:

  • Face Art Gallery: The collection of art and antiques
  • Folklore Theatre: Offers live cultural and traditional performances
  • Spice Art Café: Offers a taste of the Kerala cuisine

Timings: 9:00 am-6:00 pm (Open on all days)

Nearest Metro Station: Kadavanthra

Kerala Folklore Theatre and Museum, Kochi

Museum of Kerala History

The Museum of Kerala History is a art gallery and museum that offers a light and sound show narrating the lives of 87 influential personalities in the history of Kerala. The show is narrated in both Malayalam and English to cater to the needs of the visitors. The museum uses sculptures to narrate the stories.

Timings: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (Closed on Monday and Thursday)

Nearest Metro Station: Pathadipalam

Museum of Kerala History, Ernakulam
Museum of Kerala History is a place to visit in Kochi

Hill Palace Museum

A little outside of Ernakulam town, is the Hill Palace Museum, the largest archaeological museum in Kerala. Spread across 54 acres, the Hill Palace was the residence of Kochi Maharaja (king) in the colonial times. The Hill Palace complex includes a heritage museum, an archeological museum, a pre-historic park, a deer park and a children’s park.

Timings: 9:00 am-4:30 pm (Closed on Monday)

Nearest Metro Station: SN Junction

Wonderla Amusement Park

For a day of fun and adventure, head to Wonderla Amusement Park in Kochi. With over 56 types of rides, comprising of water rides, land rides, and kids rides, Wonderla Kochi is one of the best amusement parks in South India.

Wonderla is a great option if you are traveling in a group and have children with you.

Things to Do in Kochi

Kochi is an incredible place to explore, with activities ranging from cultural performances to village tourism, to ship/houseboat cruising. Kochi is also the hub of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an international art exhibition.

Note: Some of the activities to do in Kochi require you to connect with tour operators. By principle, I do not make recommendations for tour operators in my blogs. You can use the information here to choose the activities you want to explore on your Kochi trip and plan accordingly.

Kathakali Performance

Kathakali is a story act performance in elaborate makeup and extravagant costumes, a cultural performance native to Kerala. Kerala Kathakali Centre near Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Kochi presents daily Kathakali performance in the evening at 6:00 pm.

The elaborate makeup for the performance takes one hour to complete. If you get there by 5:00 pm, you can see the makeup procedure with your own eyes. If you ask, they will apply the makeup on you as well.

Kerala Kathakali Centre also arranges live classical music, classical dances and native martial arts performances at their center.

Ashley’s Tip: Strike up a conversation with the organizers. They will be very excited to share their knowledge of traditional performances with you.

An enactment of Kathakali performance, a traditional art form of Kerala.
A Kathakali Performance
Artifacts in Kerala Kathakali Centre, a tourist attraction in Kochi.
Inside Kerala Kathakali Centre, near Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Kochi

Kumbalangi Village Tourism

How would you like to visit a Kochi village set a few decades back? This is exactly what Kumbalangi Village Tourism is about. Kumbalangi is a quaint and rustic island village in the backwaters of Kochi with over a hundred Chinese fishing nets and homestays to give you the authentic Kerala experience.

You will need to connect with tour operators to book a guided trip to Kumbalangi. A typical Kumbalangi village tour includes a traditional boat trip from Fort Kochi to Kumbalangi, a guided tour of the traditional practices of beedi rolling, traditional broom making using coconut leaves, thatched roof layering of coconut leaves by hand, basket weaving and many such local practices.

It is typically a four-hour tour and a traditional boat ride back to Fort Kochi. You can opt for tour packages with or without lunch.

Kumbalangi is a tourist place in Kochi
The Rustic Island Village of Kumbalangi in Kochi

Kochi Ship Cruising

Kochi backwaters is a great place for ship cruising and a laid-back time. Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) operates a luxury cruise, Nefertiti, and a budget cruise on Sagarararani.

These cruises are operated from Marine Drive, and you can book your ticket online on the government website KSINC well in advance to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity.

A typical cruise has music, DJ, entertainment, and food. You should try the evening cruise for a surreal sunset experience on the cruise.

Sagararani ship cruising offered by Kerala goverment in Kochi.
Sagararani Cruise Ship Docked at Marine Drive, Kochi

Kochi-Muziris Biennale

Kochi-Muziris Biennale is a contemporary art exhibition conducted across art galleries in Kochi. Artists from across the world showcase their work, ranging from paintings, films, sculptures, and installations. The Biennale is conducted from mid-December to mid-April every year.

Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an art exhibition held in Kochi.
Kochi-Muziris Biennale conducted from mid-December to mid-April at Kochi
Exhibits in Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an art exhibition in Kochi.
An Art Gallery in Kochi Biennale

Kochi-Alappuzha Houseboat Ride

How would you like an overnight sow cruise ride on a motorized traditional houseboat of Kerala? Well, if you are interested, you should book this tour from Kochi to Alappuzha. A houseboat is a unique boat with arched thatched coconut leaves fronds over a large black boat.

A houseboat typically has two to three bedrooms, a common area, a dining area, and a kitchen. You can have a go at fishing and even steer the boat!

A Kochi Alappuzha houseboat ride is an overnight package with meals included. You will need to book this with a tour operator.

Housebout, a traditional Kerala experience offered at Kochi.
A Traditional Kerala Houseboat

How to Reach Kochi

Kochi is well connected by road, train, and air.

By Road

You can reach Kochi by state-run and private-run buses from Bangalore, Mangalore, or Chennai. Buses run between Kochi and these places on a daily basis.

By Train

Kochi has two major railway stations— Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction. Trains from across India run to either of these stations.

By Air

Cochin International Airport is just 25 kilometers from Kochi town.

How to Get Around in Kochi

You can get around Kochi by road, by water, and by metro.

By Road

Kochi is well-connected by road. You can hire a taxi or an auto rickshaw (Tuk Tuk) to get around. Always discuss the fare and come to an agreement before boarding.

You can also take a ride on the giant red and yellow Kerala government buses, fondly called “aanavandi” (meaning “elephant bus”).

By Water

The cheapest, fastest, and most fun way of traveling in Kochi is through the ferry boat services that connect every one of the islands of Kerala.

In Kochi, you can find both government and private boating services. While the government ferry boats cost less than Rs. 10 per ticket, the private boats cost Rs. 350 per ticket.

If you want to take the government ferry boat, you need to go to the ticket counter of the government ferry service and purchase your ticket. You can ask the shopkeepers to guide you to the ticket counter.

The private boat services approach you to take their boat and you have to pay only when you get to the boat. You can find the timings of the government ferry services here to plan your trip better.

Ferry boats docked at Marine Drive, a place to visit in Kochi.
Ferry Boats Docked at Marine Drive, Kochi

Best Time to Visit Kochi

Kochi is a year-round destination with a warm and humid climate throughout the year. The day time temperature in Kerala is generally b around 33 °C.

June to September is considered the monsoon season, with heavy rain across the state. There has been incidence of floods in August a few times.

Where to Eat in Kochi

South Indian Vegetarian: Brindavan Vegetarian Restaurant, Ambiswamy’s Vegetarian Restaurant, Gokul Oottupura

Jain: Sreekrishna Inn

North Indian Non-Vegetarian: Sethi Da Dhabha, Rasoi Fort Kochi

Family Toddy Shop (native flavors and very cheap): Mullapanthal, Vellakanthari

Middle Eastern/ Barbeque: Zaatar, Arabian Palace Edapally, Pathirakozhi

Chic Seafood: Cheenavala, Oceanos Restaurant

Uptown and Fine Dining: Kashi Art Café, History & Terrace Grill Restaurant Brunton Boatyard, Colony Clubhouse & Grill Grand Hyatt, Malabar Junction

Where to Shop in Kochi

An antiques shop at Jew Town Kochi, a place to shop in Kochi.
An Antique Shop in Jew Street, Kochi

Jew Town: antiques and souvenir

Marine Drive-Broadway Market: Trinkets

Bazaar Road Fort Kochi: Trinkets

Kasavu Nilayam Kuttambuli: Handloom traditional Kerala saree

Lulu Mall

A shopping street in Fort Kochi, Kerala
A Street Shop in Bazaar Road, Fort Kochi

What to Pack for Kochi

Light cotton clothing

Hats and umbrella



Casual shoes

Wrapping Up: Kochi Travel Guide

Kochi is all that you need for a relaxing holiday. Whether you are looking for a beach holiday, exploring historic monuments, experience art and culture, Kochi has something to offer you.

If you found my Kochi Travel Guide useful, let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.

Kochi Travel Guide: From Places to Visit to What to Pack

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16 thoughts on “Kochi Travel Guide: From Places to Visit to What to Pack”

  1. I didn’t know anything about Kochi. So this was so informative! And love the variety of things to do and knowing what to pack.

  2. Before reading your post I never knew about Kochi! This was really informative and I’d love to visit here after your recommendations and tips.

  3. Very helpful guide for first timers. I was there so many years back and felt like I was walking those streets again.
    That Jain temple is new to me though.

  4. It looks like there are a lot of fantastic things to do here. I’d love to visit and learn more about its history and the culture too.

  5. I spent a day in Kochi a long time ago — looks like I should have stayed longer! I stayed on the Ernakulum side and the guesthouse I picked was roughhhh, but otherwise it was a great trip. If I went back I’d for sure want to stay closer to Fort Kochi.

  6. Great in depth article! I love doing some antiquing so going to Jew Town is a great insider tip, thank you!

  7. Irwin Varughese

    That’s been really informative and practical! Someone who wishes not to miss out on the key places in Kochi would be grateful.

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