Fort Cochin, the grid of old streets at the northwest tip of the peninsula, is where the Portuguese erected their first walled citadel, Fort Immanuel, which the Dutch East Indian Company later consolidated with a circle of well fortified ramparts. Only a few fragments of the former battlements remain (the outline of the old walls is traced by the district’s giant rain trees, some of which are more than two centuries old), but dozens of other evocative European-era monuments survive.

A good way to get to grips with Fort Cochin’s many-layered history is to pick up the free walking-tour maps produced by Kerala Tourism and the privately run Tourist Desk. They lead you around some of the district’s more significant landmarks, including the early eighteenth-century Dutch Cemetery, Vasco da Gama’s supposed house and several traders’ residences.

Walking around the old quarter you’ll come across several small exhibition spaces and galleries – evidence of Fort Cochin’s newfound status as one of India’s contemporary art hubs. The scene takes centre stage in mid-December when the annual Kochi-Muziris Biennale (w kochimuzirisbiennale.org) draws artists and collectors from across the country with its mix of film, installation, sculpture, painting, performance art and new media hosted by half a dozen different venues.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

A first-timer's guide to India's Golden Triangle

A first-timer's guide to India's Golden Triangle

From busy bazaars and hurtling tuk-tuks to tranquil temples and majestic mosques, the Golden Triangle is a fantastically varied introduction to the sights and s…

02 Jan 2017 • Freya Godfrey insert_drive_file Article
Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Solo travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to explore the world. Whether you'd rather spend it on a desert island or in a frenetic new city, here are th…

21 Dec 2016 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful places in India

The most beautiful places in India

We asked the Rough Guides team in Delhi to vote for the most beautiful places in India. After much deliberation, here are the results... 10. Chilika Lake, …

16 Dec 2016 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month