Cochin is often called as the Venice of the East. No trip to India can be considered complete without visiting Cochin. Cochin (now called Kochi) is a very ancient trading port of India, and written records show that it traded in spices, aromatics, ivory, sandalwood, and exotic animals at least from the time of King Solomon (BC 1000). There are several islands close to the mainland, and together the islands and the mainland town of Ernakulam form Kochi.
Since the place has been inhabited for more than 3 millennia, and since educated people from numerous cultures came and settled here to make a living and get further educated, it became the melting pot of cultures, languages, customs, and technologies.
In turn that further increased the appeal of Kochi for business and travels. Many ancient buildings survive, now protected as historical monuments, that take the visitor in an instant to the world several centuries old. Relics, artifacts, and paintings displayed in these monuments create an ambiance that helps one to feel the culture and customs of those ancient time.
Kochi is big and spread out and it would take at least two days just to have a glance at important monuments. It would be better to stay here for a week and enjoy it fully. Good accommodation and transportation is available. English is widely understood as literacy is very high. There are several large bookshops that sell books in English, not only about Kochi but also, for example, about the Qutub Minar, another unique place to check out.
If you are a history buff, you must start your exploration with a visit to the Kerala History Museum, situated on the mainland. It will give you a fairly good idea of the history, customs, and culture of this place. This, in turn, will help you to understand everything you see later in Kochi (which is a part of the Kerala state) better.
There is an International Doll Museum there which you can enjoy as an extra during your visit. It is not related to Kochi or Kerala, but it is a unique collection. For real art lovers, while being in India, visiting the artisans of Odisha is actually a real MUST as well. Read more here.
For Kochi Beach is the next place you should visit. Evenings are best for such a visit. Here you will enjoy not only the beach, but you will also see the centuries old Chinese Fishing nets which were introduced here by people from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan. These nets are used daily even today to catch fish. There are so many places to visit where you can marvel at Ancient Indian Art. Amazing, isn’t it?
Vasco House (where Vasco de Gama the Portuguese lived), Jewish Synagogue and Jewish Town (built by Jews who migrated to Kochi to escape persecution in their country), Dutch Palace, Bolgatty Palace, Hill Palace (Thrippunithura), Palliport (Pallipuram) Fort, Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary, Parikshith Thampuran Museum, Cherai Beach, Veega Land etc. You can take boat rides, see classical dances, and buy ancient Indian coins. Take also a look at this post about Elephant Indian Art.
For first-time travellers, it is best to take tour packages. If you are the more adventurous type, then you can ask your hotel to arrange a prepaid or post-paid taxi and visit places of your interest. This will ensure that you control your time-table. Be sure to buy a good book on Cochin (Kochi) before you plan your trip.