If you’re planning to see the best of Kochi, then there’s no better place than starting from Fort Kochi. It is the heart and soul of the Ernakulam district of Kerala. History intrigues you at every step here. The oldest fishing village in Kerala and the first European township in India, Fort Kochi or the Old Kochi mesmerized the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British. As a result, it became the focal point of myriad cultures and marvelous architecture. And once you are there, you will love to dive into the aura of its different streets, Princess street, Napier Street, Peter Cell street, Burgher Street, Quieros Street, Jews Street, etc. A few meters from the beach area, Princess street is the prettiest. During my recent visit, when I had an opportunity to stay put, at the prime location, and spend two nights in one of the most popular heritage properties on this street, I couldn’t be happier. Forte Kochi Heritage Hotel is one of the best in Fort Kochi. Before my visit there, I had heard a lot of good things about it. After my stay there, I have been recommending it to the other travellers.
First impressions of Forte Kochi Heritage Hotel!
Heritage hotels command a unique charm. They enhance the authenticity of the neighborhood in which they are built. And if they are done tastefully, they are remembered by guests. Forte Kochi was originally built by the Dutch in the 1860s. It has a very attractive facade, all done in bright yellow. It never fails to grab attention even when you are walking past it on Princess Street but once you are a guest of theirs, you get to know the story better. The collection of the photos inside, the overall decor, and the hospitality at its best provide a perfect balance between modern and traditional. It showcases the glorious history and the age-old era of Kerala with a touch of regal heritage and plush luxury. The colonial vibes of the neighborhood add to its allure. I enjoyed my stay thoroughly and my biggest takeaway from Forte Kochi was its unforgettable cheer and warmth. I loved the collection of mirrors all around the property. Also, the decor of my room and the sitting area outside it will always be memorable. I had a very cozy stay and one of the best in Kochi.
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Walk Around Forte Kochi to discover Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi and Forte Kochi are different. Mind it, please. In the first instance, an extra ‘e’ goes unnoticed. Fort Kochi is one of the most popular areas in Kochi, also known as Cochin, one of the major port cities on the Malabar Coast of India. Forte Kochi is a heritage hotel in this popular area. When you are in Fort Kochi, you are transported to a different era. It is home to some of the oldest Portuguese buildings in Kochi. The British, Portuguese and the Dutch spent a good time here and left their indelible marks. You must not miss the history here and some buildings transitioning from colonial to Indo-European architecture. Every turn, every building, every street has something to offer. Don’t miss the aroma of the seafood and other local delicacies wafting from the cafes and eateries. If you wish to experience the history, culture, and way of life more authentically, Fort Kochi is the place. Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the largest art exhibition in India and the first of its kind held in the country, has made street art an integral and unmissable part of Fort Kochi. It is fun to stumble upon its colourful walls, antique shops, cute cafes, and local artifacts in its various streets. Even the doors and windows are photo-worthy. You must experience the feeling of joy and the sensory pleasure in walking into something interesting at every turn.
This wasn’t my first time in the Fort area, therefore I was in no hurry to check out the old buildings. I simply walked around to soak in the vibrant vibes and relive my old memories. There was way too less crowd but it felt good to be back here after the stagnation that the pandemic had brought into our lives. I was eyeing the street art and the graffitis despite being told by the hotel staff that a lot of it had been washed out and new ones had not been painted in the last two years. A few years ago, this part of the city has some of the best ones. Kochi is always upbeat and flourishing with colors. Many times, people also expect a fort in this area. Well, this isn’t like a Rajasthan fort. However, history tells us that it takes its name from the Fort Manuel of Cochin, the first European fort on Indian soil, which was controlled by the Portuguese East Indies and destroyed by the Dutch. Today, there is no fort but an area comprising of inbound islands.
When you are in Fort Kochi, you must notice and take joy in the multitude of cultures it exudes. Also, when the Portuguese were here, it became a rich commercial center and cultural hub, as they built a number of houses, churches and buildings and shaped the history of this place. After independence, it became a major trade center, attracting a lot of people to migrate to this part of India.
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Must-dos in and around Fort Kochi
If you are in Kochi for the first time, you must spare 2 days to appreciate the beauty of it. Below are the names of some of the buildings that you must visit here. Santa Cruz Basilica for its architectural grandeur. Next, walk to the St. Francis Church, the oldest European church in India. The much-talked Chinese nets can be seen at the Mahatma Gandhi beach as well as the Vasco Da Gama square. It’s interesting to see it when the fishermen show you how they use it. If you are a history lover, check out the Indo-Portuguese Museum and Maritime Museum to connect more with the origins of this place. Bolgatty Palace located on an island of the same name, Bolgatty Island is. The Kathakali Center is also close by. One can watch a performance as well as learn about the dance. A ferry ride to Ernakulum and a sunset cruise are some of the other things that you might want to keep on your list. Even abandoned buildings have lots to offer to those who have an eye for them.
The Indian Navy’s ship, Dronacharya, is also located in Fort Kochi. One can see the naval base from the outside. Don’t miss ‘The Mattancherry Palace’, ‘Pardesi Synagogue‘ and the ‘Jews Town‘, which are only 2 kilometers away from Forte Kochi. Hire an auto and tickmark the rickshaw ride as well. And if you are looking for a vegetarian spread, an authentic banana leaf meal, head to Mattancherry for Vijaya Lakshmi Bhavan for delicious food. It is a very small, local restaurant but very popular for its fresh and great food.
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Princess Street and more
Also known as Loafer’s corner, this has always been a historical, colorful, and popular street for its eating and shopping options. One may look out for trinkets, local boutiques, artworks, and other goodies shops. Princess Street is one of the oldest streets in the area and it has stood through time. It has beautiful European-styled houses bringing alive some moments from the colonial era. Before the pandemic, this was one of the most popular hang-out places with its cute and colorful cafes. Some of the shops have closed down but the charm of the place is not gone yet. You can still find a musical instrument shop, a book shop, a dainty bakery, a toy store, a few clothing brands, an art cafe, and a knick-knacks shop next to each other on this street.
Some of the artsy cafes that you must look around for are Kashi art cafe which is just a few meters from Forte Kochi. Then there is David Hall and Gallery cafe too.
Eat and Shop around Princess Street!
My Room and Stay Experience at Forte Kochi Heritage Hotel
I had a fantastic stay at the hotel. The moment I entered this boutique hotel, I took a liking to its vibes. There was something so warm and honest about it. And the room was impressive for sure. I love big and spacious rooms with vibrant colors and thoughtful décor. The room fulfilled all three things high on my list. This was the room where one feels at home. When I was offered watermelon as the welcome drink and I said, I was allergic to it. I was happy to hear someone sitting in the corner suggest that the glass must be replaced and I must be served lemon water immediately. These are all the things that differentiate one place from another.
At Forte Kochi, the included breakfast is extensive and delicious. You are sure to find some of the local delights along with the English spread. The rooms and swimming pool areas are very photogenic. I must say many parts of the hotel make a great background for lovely pictures. I found the staff incredibly courteous and efficient. The beautiful lighting in the evening made it shine under the moon. The room was neat and clean, with a spacious washroom. The room had lots of space to walk around and even invite friends over. It had a cozy bed and was equipped with ac, fan, television, study table, mini fridge, an extra chair, seating area around the window, etc.
And here, I may add the place is old but well-maintained. It may have some issues here and there but it has that old-world charm. And it may not be a five-star but it feels extremely cozy. Cleanliness, comfort, and hospitality stood out for me and of course the proximity to some of the most charming places of Fort Kochi make this high on my list. I would love to return to this boutique property.
Do share your experience of staying at Forte Kochi as well as exploring Fort Kochi even if you stayed at some other place. It is always good to exchange experiences.