Blessed by a natural port along the long coastline of Kerala, Kochi became the major sea port of the state attracting foreign merchants arriving by ships. During past several centuries Kochi developed as the commercial capital of Kerala due to its advantage as a suitable trade center. There were islands and lagoons, which provided space for buildings and navigation. The backwaters and rivers made transportation of commodities and people easy. The spices and other agricultural produce of central Kerala could be marketed in Kochi, where foreign ships from all over the world had been visiting for a long time. After the decline of Kodungalloor (Cranganore) due to heavy flood and silt- deposit, Kochi gained importance as the commercial center in the region. Chinese, Arabs, Europeans, etc have been landing in Kochi at various periods. Residential and commercial buildings came up and urbanization progressed rapidly due to import and export business.
The natural beauty of Kochi landscape is an added advantage, in terms of tourism. Kochi has been described as the jewel on the west-coast of the Indian peninsula due to its commercial importance and beauty. The city is a vibrant and lively one. There are different centers in the greater Kochi region- viz. Ernakulam on mainland, Wellington Island, Fort Cohin, Vypeen Island, Bolgatty Palace, and Mattancherry. Of these, Ernakulam is the business and tourist heart of Kerala, with the harbour, international airport, railway terminals, and connectivity to other destinations.
The magnificent heritage of this port city includes the palaces built by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the local kings. The British made improvements in the harbour and created a new island to which trains and aeroplanes were brought thereby increasing transportation facilities. Betterment of infrastructure speeded up the urbanization process and commercial activities. Resident and floating population went on increasing. Trade and other services flourished. Industries around the place also contributed to growth of Kochi. Today, Kochi as a whole and certain areas in it are bustling with all sorts of activities. Glittering shops, hotels, apartments and other constructions have given the city a modern look.
- Scenes & Sceneries
For tourists with interest in history and culture, there are palaces and forts at various locations in Kochi. The Portuguese were the first among European countries to establish a trading post in Kochi. Soon after Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut in 1498 they also came to Cochin and found suitable places to build their fort and establishments.
- Fort Immanuel
The Portuguese after establishing trading arrangement with the local king of Cochin princely state in 1503, started building a fort and other buildings in one island, which later came to be known as Fort Cochin. The fort was named Immanuel in honor of the king of Portugal. This fort was captured by the Dutch in 1806. Later, the British captured it. Most of the fort was destroyed in the attacks. Today, remains of the once- imposing fortification can be seen on the Fort Kochi beach.
- St. Francis Church, Fort Kochi
This church was originally built by the Portuguese on the island where they built their fortifications. Work on this church had begun in 1503, and is the first church built by Europeans in India. Later when the Dutch and the English captured Kochi fort, the originally Catholic Church was converted into a Protestant Church.
The dead body of Vasco Da Gama was first buried in this church. 14 years later his mortal remains were taken to Lisbon, the capital of imperial Portugal.
- Santa Cruz Cathedral, Fort Kochi
It is the Roman Catholic Cathedral and a Basilica, built by the Portuguese. It contains some beautiful paintings and frescoes.
- Dutch Palace- Mattancherry Island
This palace was built by the Portuguese and presented to the local King of Kochin in 1557. In 1663, the Dutch captured it and made modifications and so the name of the palace was changed to the present one.
The walls of this palace are decorated with murals. Royal costumes and palanquins can be seen in the mural paintings.
- Bolghatty Palace
This palace was built by the Dutch in 1744 on the Bolghatty Island. When the British drove out the Dutch from Kochi, the palace became the seat of the British Resident of Cochin princely kingdom. Now, it is a luxury hotel run by Kerala State Tourist Development Corporation.
- Jewish Synagogue- Mattancherry
Jews had settled down in Kerala from early days for trade. Later refugee Jews arrived and settled down at Kodungalloor and nearby places. After a great flood in river Periyaar, they shifted their habitations to Kochi and surrounding areas. Mattancherry Island was found to be a safe haven for them and they built their houses and business establishments there. For religious worship, the Jews built a synagogue also which is one of the tourist attractions in Kochi. It was built in 1568. Scrolls of parchments containing portions of the old Testament of the Bible, copper plates on which the title deed and grant of privilege made by the rulers of Cochin, are recorded, the medieval Chinese hand-painted tiles, etc. are interesting artifacts in this synagogue.
Visitors are permitted inside this building except on Sundays and Jewish holydays.
- Wellingdon Island
This island is a man-made one. The silt and sand dredged from the Cochin port while it was deepened in the 1930s were heaped up at the present site and thus a new island was formed. The British built their establishment here, built a railway terminal and a small airport on this island. Now the head quarters of Southern Navel Command of the Indian Navy is situated there. The airport also is under the Navy. As a new airport was built at Nedumbasserry, civilian aviation to this island has been discontinued. Tourist office of the Govt of India also is situated here.
- Museums & Art Galleries of Kochi
Parishith Thampuran Museum
A collection of 19th century oil paintings, old coins, sculptures, mural paintings, etc. can be seen in this museum situated on the Durbar Hall grounds in Ernakulam. It is open except on Mondays and national holidays.
Chithram Art Gallery
This art gallery exhibits a collection of paintings. The location is at M.G. Road, Ernakulam, opposite Air India building.
Museum of Kerala History
Situated at Edappally, about 10km from Ernakulam, this museum gallery complex exhibit the diversity of Kerala art through the centuries, paintings and sculptures. There is a one-hour light and sound show of life size sculptures of prominent leaders in Kerala’s history.
Hill Palace Museum- Thrippunithura
This museum was originally the residential palace of the dynasty, which ruled the princely state of Kochi for centuries. It was later converted into museum exhibiting various historical artifacts and remains of the old culture that prevailed in the area. Collection of rare coins, manuscripts on palm leaves, old sculptures etc. can be seen here. This museum is situated about 12 km south of Ernakulam. There is a deer park also near the museum.
- Veega land
An imitation of Disneylands, this amusement park attracts children and youth. It is located about 10 km away from Ernakulam on top of a hill.