The Gateway Hotel (Taj Group)
Ernakulam's most established business hotel, in a prime location overlooking the harbour, with all the usual Taj Group five-star trimmings, but small rooms for the price and not a particularly nice pool.
Luxury five-star on the southern outskirts of the city centre, popular mainly with business clients, flight crews and tour groups. In addition to 223 rooms overlooking the backwaters, the complex holds glitzy shopping arcades, and ayurveda spa and a wide choice of food and drinks outlets.
Slick, central four-star, close to the railway station and main shipping area in MG Road, with a couple of restaurants, 24hr coffee shop and bar. Expect only the highest standards, as this hotel is a well-respected hotel-management training college.
The Fort Cochin's grandest hotel, built on the site of the eighteenth-century boatyard. The architecture and furnishings set out to replicate the feel of the British era, with antique punkah fan dangling from the lobby ceiling, portraits of old worthies and Dutch charts on the walls, and a billiards table set against Kerala carved wood.
Two types rooms are offered, both overlooking the harbour. Everything in the room is painstakingly in period, down to the Bakelite switches and high beds. You get sea views from your bathtub in the deluxe sea-facing. Facilities include three speciality restaurants, an ayurveda centre and a spectacular, granite-lined garden pool, right on the harbourside.
One of the Fort Cochin's newest boutique hotels, in a converted 200-year-old house that originally belonged to a prominent Jewish merchant. It is said that poets, painters and visiting dignitaries used to attend the Koder family's legendary Sabbath suppers in the early 1900s.
The imposing red, exterior is less charming than its interiors, with their long, dark wood floors, original art and antique furniture. Six large suites are on offer; there is a restaurant and ayurveda spa.
Fort Cochin's original and most stylish boutique hotel is set in a historic eighteenth-century mansion at the bottom of the parade ground. Decorated with antiques and contemporary Kerala art, the interiors are hip mix of traditional charm and European chic, centred on a serene temple-style courtyard pool. You've a choice between deluxe rooms on the ground floor, or more spacious roof garden suites.
The Old Harbour
This 300-year-old former Portuguese house, later occupied by a firm of British tea brokers. It was recently restored under the direction of German architect Karl Damschen. It is one of the Kerala's top heritage hotel in a prime location near the Chinese fishing nets.
The thirteen individually styled rooms either have private balconies facing an internal courtyard or open onto the garden and large pool. There are also a handful of separate "cottages" in the grounds, each with "open-to-sky" bathrooms and verandas.
The Old LIghthouse Bristow
This is the most expensive boutique hotel in Fort Cochin. It has ultramodern interiors that contrast sharply with the 1920's property, former home of the British port architect, Sir Robert Bristow. Stricking antique sculptures add beauty to the walkways.
You can choose between six-garden-view rooms, three more spacious deluxe suites in the main house, or two super-luxurious villas. There is a spa, pool, lounge bar and terrace restaurant.
Formerly a coir trader's office, later occupied by the Brooke Bond tea company-set in a delightful garden with a great pool. The rooms, named after different trading ports, are handsome, with polished harwood floors and high pithced roofs. There is a coffee lounge and restaurant.
The Tower House
The wonderful, Neemrana chain do heritage hotels better than anyone else in India. This latest venture of theirs-which describes itself as a "Non-Hotel Hotel"-doesn't disappoint. The location, in a graceful period house opposite the Chinese fishing nets is perfect.
Antique prints and wood sculpures add beauty to the vast, airy, wood-floored suites, whose net-curtained galleries overlook the square. There is a secluded pool in the white walled garden. Don't expect the slick service of other places in this bracket.
The last word in heritage-boutique chic: three contemporary designer apartments, occupying the old headquarters of the Dutch East India Company. A branch of the Malabar House across the road, its three exclusive suites share a living room and a common area. So it is better suit a family or group.
Vivanta by Taj-Malabar
Pink-orange tower block in a superb location on the tip of the island with sweeping views of the bay. The old "heritage" wing, waterfront gardens and pool have been extensively refurbished, and whole place has style and quality of Taj. Their "sea view" rooms are big, but the "standard" ones are quite small for the price.
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