Jew town, Fort Kochi in Mattancherry is one of my favourite places on earth. I can stay there for eternity and forget the rest of the world. It was on my Kerala tour last year that I visited Fort Kochi. I had three days’ stay over there and had a fabulous experience during our stay. However, what fascinated me most is the tiny street, which was home to a handful count to jew community. The street itself is called Jew town. When you walk through the streets of Jew town, you will see the old charm yet vibrant and lively atmosphere.
History of Jew Town
As per history, the then King of Kochi gave Jew people (who ended up being refugees) a piece of land in the soil of Mattancherry. The Jews community was soon built up and thrived and flourished like never before in God’s Own Country. The Jews loved their new land so much that generations had lived here and prospered along.
Even today that are a few Hundred jews in Fort Kochi and Jews Town.
Let me walk you through the busy streets of Jew Town and help you in picking up some fabulous souvenirs
The spice stores at Jew town
We all know Kerala is a hub to spices of different flavours. I make it a point to purchase some back home to last at least for a year. Jew Town has some authentic spices available. Some stores have some exotic hand-picked, less processed raw spices.
How to search for such stores? You don’t have to. As soon as you walk past the stores, the aroma of the spices will pull you towards the stores. Take home some pepper, cardamom and cinnamon and enjoy the flavor that you will never regret.
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Pick up your jewellry
Purchasing gold from Kerala is a matter of pride. Some big brands are available for you to pick up the best piece of gold jewellry for you. However, if you are in Jew town, don’t forget to purchase the best gemstone and pearls. I particularly was fascinated by the unpolished pearls that looked right from the oyster’s shell. The store people help you choose the best one and also issue a card stating the authenticity of the pearl or gemstone.
The old charm Synagogue
The Jew Synagogue is located at the end of Jew Street. It is one of the oldest working Synagogue in entire Kerala. This place is built way back in 1567, by the Portuguese. The building is also known as Paradesi Synagogue or Mattancherry Synagogue. You can’t carry a camera, phone or handbags inside the Synagogue so forget clicking pictures. Just enjoy the silence and serenity of the place. Inside the building, there are some extraordinarily expensive antique pieces like the gold chandelier. The place is in and all favorite among the tourists.
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Handmade artifacts on the streets
The streets of Jew Town are vibrant and colourful. Every second shop in the city is of artifacts and antique pieces. If you are new to the place or first timmer, visit the street vendors for beautiful handmade artifacts. But if you are looking for something unique and expensive piece for your home, venture the shops of Jew Town. These places are best for collecting souvenirs. People have the misunderstanding that Kathakali’s face or an elephant face is the only souvenir. The streets of Jew Stone are marvellous and enchanting. As I was not visiting the place for the first time in 2019, I just picked up a water bottle made of a whole coconut shell. And trust me, it looks beautiful.
Tips: You need to bargain a bit, but don’t stop too much, because it takes effort to make and sell the artifacts.
Princess street for nightlife.
I had booked my stay at princess street, a street adjacent to the Jew Town. The reasons are many. When you get up early morning, the aroma of freshly baked bread would hit your nostrils tempting you to grab a cuppa coffee and homemade bread of different flavours. The street is filled with small buildings with a tint of European and Portuguese architecture sprinkled. The nightlife of the street is happening. Lights are lit up in the streets, and people from different countries are seen in the busy streets parting and fun. No wonder this street is said to be for socialist and party lovers!
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The Fort Kochi beach harbour
Both Jew Town and Princess Street are connected by the majestic Arabian sea at the end of the street. Fort Kochi is a “not so typical” beach come fort. The lane and each side are filled with street vendors and eateries. People start visiting the fort early in the morning tonight. Sit on the tiny benches of the fort facing the vast majestic ocean forgetting the rest of the world. On the right side of fort Kochi starts the Jew Town and left pave ways to princess street and the Saint Francis Church which is also the resting place of Vasco da Gama.
The food at Fort Kochi is a yummy affair. You can taste the best European and Portuguese dishes from Jew town, baked bread and chicken roast at the princess street and fabulous seafood at the eateries of Fort Kochi. And the best part is you select your favourite seafood and get it cooked in front of you.
Sounds yummy right?!
Tips: If you are planning a day’s visit to Fort Kochi, then visit the Jew town and nearby places first then stay awhile on the beach in the evening.
The Mattancherry Palace
At the entrance of Jew town, the right side of yours is a beautiful palace, Mattancherry Palace. The palace was built by the Portuguese and gifted to then king, Raja Veera Kerala Varma. The Palace is now a museum with artifacts and possession of King and Queen. Their clothes, ornaments, Pallakkal (in which the king and queen traveled) and the then used coins and rupees. The interior of the palace is soothing and serene with wooden with doors and windows carved out with great precision. Everything is worth a watch. Carrying a camera is prohibited but you can avail permission and passes to carry one.
Food and drinks and exotic cafes
Walk along the lane of Jew Town and princess street and you will come across more than 15 cafes. Small, beautiful and exotic cafes. You may need to pay a hefty amount when compared to other cafes. But you won’t regret it a bit!
My trip to Jew Town, Fort Kochi was an absolute delight. I still miss the place and planning a trip soon. It is quite easy to reach here. There is Kochi Airport for international tourists, a nearby railway station for people within and outside Kerala and cabs and beautiful buses fir within the Vicinity.
Hope you enjoy the age-old streets that look ultra-modern and contemporary!