Best Experiences in Fort Kochi!
1. While your time away at Pepper House
Pepper House is located in Calvetty, and was originally a warehouse for spices. It is now a cultural centre with a library of rare books on art, architecture, fashion, & design (which to me is the highlight); there is a cafe and a shop in the premises too. I’ve spent so much time browsing through their collection of books! More time, than in their cafe!
2. Attend an event at Pepper House
Pepper House has a large open courtyard and is fairly large, and it overlooks the Arabian sea. It is one of the main event spaces for the Kochi Muziris BIennale, and it hosts a wide range of events on a regular basis. The events could be anything from book readings, art exhibits, musical events, or yoga classes. Check out their social media pages to know what is happening there around the time of your visit. Even if there isn’t an event, it really is a nice place to visit.
The architecture of the space & its location overlooking the sea is reason enough to spend time here.
Back when it was a warehouse, spices from all over Kerala would sail through the Periyar river, docked by the side of the building where the raw spices would be collected. It was later sorted & processed and put out to dry in the open, in the courtyard. Once it is dried, it would be packed and ready for trade. Pepper House is located on the Kochi Spice Market, so the ready spices were sold from here as well.
3. Head to Seagull for a beer & good seafood
Seagull is the one restaurant I go to, almost every time that I’m in Fort Kochi. They serve good food, but I go there to sit at one of the tables that are almost on the water! The view gets even better with a beer!
4. Try your hand at pulling in the day’s catch at the Chinese fishing nets
The Chinese fishing nets of Fort Kochi get a lot of tourist attention, and precisely because of that there are fishermen & some pseudo fishermen there to demonstrate how the nets are used- they even let you pull the ropes of the net. They of course expect to be tipped for the service, and you should tip them!
It is unlikely that you will catch any fish when you give it a try, because there is a particular time in the day when there will be fish in that area.
But you can buy fresh fish from the vendors who sit by the footpath near the nets for a good deal. You could also head to the restaurants by the side of the road to get yourself a meal with freshly caught seafood!
5. Head to Kashi Art Cafe
This cafe is a landmark in Fort Kochi, and very few people who visit Fort Kochi miss out on this cafe. The cafe serves good food, has a good vibe, and they have some really good art on display-which if you have deep pockets you can buy!
6. Discover a new cafe!
Find cute cafes hidden on top of heritage buildings, or crammed between two buildings
There seems to be so many cafes here, and most of them one tends to miss as they are almost camouflaged, and their entry ways rather narrow.
In the sweltering heat of Fort Kochi, it is nice to take a break from all the walking and just sit with a book in a cute hole in the wall cafe.
7. Shop handmade!
Fort Kochi-Jew Town- Mattancherry area have so many homegrown brands. If unique gifts are what you are looking for, you are in for a treat! Be it clothing, artwork, quirky t-shirts/bags-there is a shop for it all-you just have to walk around a little to find them. The Jew Town area has a lot of furniture/antique/decor stores. Via Kerala is a great design store that always has some quirky Kerala inspired merchandise.
8. Sunset at Fort Kochi beach / near the fishing nets
The beach is usually crowded by sunset, but find a spot on the walkway, and see the colours of sky through the fishing nets! It’s too bad I don’t have a picture of this. The next time I’m in town, I want to make sure I get this picture!
9. Watch a Kathakali performance
Greenix Village has daily Kathakali performances which are preceded by other dance performances. When I went, it was a ‘mohiniattam’ performance.
The Kerala Kathakali Centre has daily performances of many Kerala art forms. Depending on the day you are there, it could be Kalari, Kathakali, Carnatic music, or any other dance form.
10. Go on a day trip by boat to a nearby island/village
Greenix Village also organises daily tours to nearby villages, and these tours are by boat. This is something you can do if you want to get out of the city for the day.
11. Rent a bicycle and tour the streets of Fort Kochi
You can do this on your own by renting a cycle for the day, or you can go on a bicycle tour of the Fort Kochi-Jew Town area. I haven’t taken a bicycle tour here yet, but I’d like to try. I found that B-Live organises electric bicycle tours. I’ve done a tour with B-Live in Goa, and it was a good, informational session, so I would definitely try their Fort Kochi Tour.
12. Learn about the Jewish community of Kochi
Kochi’s Jewish community dates back to the 12th century, but there are just under 30 Jews living in Kochi now. They attend service at the Paradesi Synagogue, which dates back to 1568. The synagogue is open to visitors, but photography is prohibited inside. There is a small museum inside the walls of the synagogue which tells the story of the Jews of Kochi.
In September 2019, the oldest member of the Jewish community in Kochi, Sarah Cohen passed away. She had a shop that sells embroidered cloth accessories used in Jewish ceremonies. Her shop still functions, so do stop by and have a look.
13. Search for street art
There is art everywhere in Fort Kochi, especially around the time of the Biennale, street art is spruced up, and the streets come alive with colour. Walk around to find these hidden gems!
14. Walk around admiring the architecture
From charming houses to beautiful heritage buildings, a walk through Fort Kochi-Mattancherry-Jew Town area is one that you will remember!
15. Take the Ferry to Fort Kochi/ or take the Ferry back to mainland Kochi
Taking the Ferry in and out of Fort Kochi is an experience that I love so much that I do it very often. Especially if I'm alone, this is the only way I travel. I highly recommend everyone to take the ferry- it is the highlight of every trip to Fort Kochi!
16. Check out the art galleries
There are so many art galleries in town that whether you are an art lover or not you will end up in one!
Fort Kochi loves mixing cafes/restaurants with art- and some of the most popular cafes there are art galleries as well.
For a detailed list of art galleries in Fort Kochi, check out my blog post on the art galleries of Kochi!
17. Go for the Biennale!
The Kochi Muziris Biennale is a biannual experiential art fest that is held in Fort Kochi. The whole are gets a facelift in time for the Biennale. There are international and local artists who exhibit their work here. It is attended by people from around the world. During this time the streets & walls get new murals & graffiti, making it an adventure to discover!
The next Biennale begins on 12th December 2020, and will be on till 10th April 2021. I'm hoping that the Covid-19 days will be behind us soon, so we can enjoy this art fest like we used to!
18. Kochi Carnival
Fort Kochi is beautiful around Christmas-streets are lit, and there are Christmas decorations everywhere, making it beautiful to walk through.
The Kochi Carnival is a parade, which is accompanied by a lot of music and dancing, and is something you shouldn't miss if you are in town towards the end of the year. But, word of caution for women who want to attend- it gets really crowded, and there have been many cases of women getting groped/molested during the carnival. But, for the men, there is nothing to worry about-have the best time at the carnival!