• fort kochi cochin kerala

… But Seriously, Where is the “Fort” in Fort Kochi?

The best parts of Kerala are the beach and jungle, but I always end up finding myself immersed in the city life of India. I am so NOT a city person unless I’m with friends/guides, which is maybe why I didn’t love my introduction to Kerala in Kochi. I thought I’d be your friend today and make you a Fort Kochi guide to help you out.

Probably the main attraction of Kochi, the capital, is Fort Cochin (Kochi). Although not an actual fort, it did used to be a fortified city.  Famously housing the Mattencherry Palace, just at the tip of Fort Cochin is the well-known fishing pier. Drive to the shore and park. Save yourself the embarrassment of asking five different people, “but where is the fort…?” because they will for sure keep on replying- “You are here now!” I admit, I did see one canon. But I think it was fake. Give yourself the whole afternoon to walk around here.

fort kochi cochin keralaMattencherry Palace photo credit flickr

This is where the remnant of traditional cantilevered Chinese Fishing happens. Chinese fishing might have been brought over by a Chinese man named Zhang or arguable from the Portuguese, if so- some say it was wrongly named. An interesting way to catch fish on shore, it takes about 5 men to pull in the net using a pulley system made of rope, rocks, teak, and bamboo.

fort kochi cochin keralafishing in a lungi is obviously better than fishing in pants.

fort kochi cochin kerala

It’s a dying breed and much of the big catches you see in the market at Fort Cochin are really brought in from the boats. While there once were 30 nets in Cochin there are now only 20 (11 of which are at Fort Cochin), there The other type of shore fishing, you’ll see in Palolem, Goa and other Indian beaches, is where they use no contraptions. They simply take the nets out by boat and pull it in from land.

It was explained that “There are just no more fish!” on shore, therefore a few of the nets are for show, or so tourists can pull the net in themselves. Along with the lack of fish, the Chinese fishing nets, or “Cheena vala” as the locals call them, have very expensive upkeep. Touts will ask for donations because they aren’t catching enough fish. A local explained that these aren’t even the fishermen, just beggars pretending.

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin kerala

Unlike Goa, where any big catch of the day will be bought up quickly by a restaurant at a high price, in Kochi the fish are cheap, bountiful, and available for the locals from swordfish to shark and kingfish, prawns, crabs, squid, lobster, snapper, and pomfrit. Large boats bring in most of this from further out in sea.

fort kochi cochin keralasome of the smaller catches… love red snapper!

The pier is little bit of a tourist attraction with camels on the beach, cafes, fish stalls, and mini-markets. You can buy anything from clothing to pasta makers and flashlights. It’s fairly crowded and I was there while the kids were getting out of school. I love taking photos of little kids so that was actually perfect for me.

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin keralaanyone want to buy a pasta maker?

You can stroll the paved sidewalk for hours if you want, and I prefer to go places like this at sunset. The water wasn’t clean and only a few were swimming. The beach was actually filthy while I was there, but the vibe is still enjoyable.

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin keralaThat is an unusual ice cream truck (rickshaw)! 

Next up on my Fort Kochi guide, you’ll find the Dutch Cemetery and St. Francis Church just near the pier; you can easily follow signs. At this church, explorer Vasco da Gama was buried for 14 years before being dug up and taken back to Lisbon.  It’s also the oldest European church in India. The buildings within Fort Kochi are of European design, some Dutch and some Portuguese. It reminds me very much of my neighborhood in Goa.

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin keralaDutch Cemetery on flickr & St. Francis Church on flickr

Walking distance from the pier is the Jewish Quarter.  Here is the best place for some antique shopping! You’ll see some of the “same same but different” that Indian shops have on offer- but look for the Jewish shop names and take a peek for the treasures inside! These narrow lanes were where spice trading used to take place while the Dutch had Kochi.

fort kochi cochin kerala

fort kochi cochin keralaJew road on flickr & shop owner on credit

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About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Anja February 12, 2014 at 8:35 am - Reply

    I really liked Kochin. The harbor, the fishing nets, some street art, the Jewish antique quarter, gorgeous sunsets. And the colorful truck art everywhere.
    Thanks for your article; an interesting read and cool pics.

  2. Kathi February 12, 2014 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed my visit to Fort Kochi and the beach area in your photos but spent most of my time around Munnar in Kerala which I absolutely loved – I’m not much of a beach person though so that is no surprise to my family and friends!! :)

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2014 at 1:02 am - Reply

      I’d love to get to Munnar. Didn’t have time on this trip :/

  3. Catherine February 13, 2014 at 8:07 am - Reply

    Ahh, I want to be there right now! You’ve painted a wonderful picture with your words, it’s definitely going on my list :)

  4. Rebeca February 16, 2017 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Thank you for all the advice!! you have just planned my day tomorrow :) Keep up all the interesting and helpful work!! :)

    • Rachel Jones February 16, 2017 at 7:58 pm - Reply

      Hey Rebeca, happy to hear that. Enjoy Kochi! Make sure to read the other posts I have on Kochi too, there are a few.

  5. Paige S December 30, 2018 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Hey Rachel – planning a trip to Goa/Kerala and wanted to say thank you x a million for all for putting all of this info out there! I was getting nervous about travelling as a solo female but finding your blog has given me the confidence I needed, and has really helped me plan. Wishing you all the best!

  6. Eric April 29, 2019 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    I too am from Goa but a bit in the interior near Panjim. I liked your blog on Cochin. This is my fourth trip and the place is not crawling with tourists like Goa’s beaches. The fish is good… select and get cooked…. a nice concept. If you return to Goa I might run into you. Small world, Hippie-in heels. With a smile like that,you could just will the world your way.

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