Old Harbour Hotel

Fort Cochin, Cochin & the Backwaters, India Book from

Reviewed by Hannah Roberts
Stylish art-centric heritage hotel with superb service in the heart of Kerala’s colonial jewel, Cochin
In a country as hectic as India, laidback Cochin, wedged between swathes of jungle on the most south-westerly edge of India, is a rare oasis of tranquility. Once a thriving trading post, the sleepy old town of Fort Cochin is a colonial gem, its white-washed porticoed buildings reflecting eras of both Dutch and Portuguese rule.

Having previously been the premises of an English tea-broking firm, Old Harbour Hotel is in a prime location within a few steps of the town's famous Chinese fishing nets, and a hop away from the Ernakulum ferry and the spice market. Owner and art-lover Edgar Pinto enlisted the help of Swiss/German architect Karl Damschen to deliver the heritage hotel concept with a fresh modern stroke. Spacious rooms and suites look out over the pretty internal courtyard or the tropical garden's lily pond. Just along the road, a renovated townhouse make a very private home-from-home.


  • Chic, serene and very well-maintained, with beautifully restored Dutch architecture, cream walls, lots of open space and interesting art
  • In the evening, the restaurant terrace is filled with the soothing sounds of traditional sitar players and the gentle croaks of frogs from the lily pond
  • Upbeat and friendly staff; the approach is wonderfully informal, a simple teak desk serves as the main reception
  • An immaculate raised infinity pool, with sun loungers dotted around the fragrant grounds - a safe haven for families
  • Dreamz: a self-contained house located a 5-minute walk from the hotel is perfect for an independent, live-like-a-local experience


  • Pesky crows are always ready to swoop for morsels from your table so avoid sitting beneath the branches of the towering mango tree
  • Some may find the beds a little hard
  • From the airport, it’s about a 90-minute madly frenzied drive to the hotel (though once you arrive a very different world awaits)

Best time to go

November to March is the peak times for visitors: it's dry, not too humid and not overbearingly hot (at least until January). Outside these times room rates can fall dramatically, but you’ll have the monsoon to contend with, which brings wind and rain. October and April could offer the best of both worlds, if you’re lucky.

Our top tips

Come with a half empty suitcase - Cochin and the surrounding area is shopping paradise, particularly good for antiques, cotton textiles, sari fabrics, spices and Ayurvedic medicines.

Great for...

City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 13 + 1 house
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • Over 3s preferred
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Yoga


Stylish and arty touches have been carefully added to each room, whilst hardwood floors and whirling Casablanca fans (coupled with air-conditioning), feel in sync with the building’s colonial credentials. Fabrics are light, tactile and all natural cotton; soft lighting ups the romance factor. Edgar sourced all sculptures and vases locally - there are even a turn-of-the-century working telephones.

Sprawling Suites with four-poster beds are particularly luxurious; the Princess Suite has a private balcony (and is the only room with a bathtub) and we loved the Bastion Suite’s romantic swing chair for two. Each Garden Cottage has its own entrance onto the lawn; they also offer extra privacy and beguiling open-to-the-sky bathrooms. That said, all bathrooms have real drencher showers (must be some of the best in India) and delicious Ayurvedic products.

Just round the corner from the hotel, there’s a small 18th-century house named Dreamz. Decoration is similar to that of the hotel rooms; it feels as if it comes straight from a Graham Greene novel. When you unlock your front door you can kid yourself, and passers-by, that you actually live in Cochin’s enchanting old town centre - although you still get the convenience of breakfast at the hotel.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi


Named after the year records first mentioned this building, the elegant 1788 restaurant spills out through triple arches onto an open terrace. Come evening, classical sitar and tabla players serenade diners amid the candlelight and hanging lanterns of the tropical garden.

The menu offers Indian and international dishes, with an emphasis on the freshest of foods; all fruit and veg is organic. The sea is so close, fish is a must. On our 2016 visit, we found the Keralan fish curry to die for, along with a gorgeous fresh masala-grilled squid starter. For dessert we tried the Princess Chocolate pudding: all dissolve-in-the-mouth molten chocolate.

 1788 also has an alcohol license, so we recommend relaxing with a cooling pre-dinner mint and cucumber cocktail or a bottle of wine from varied list.

At breakfast, served alfresco for most of the year, Western and Keralan choices include fresh local fruit, juice, eggs any way you like them, home-baked bread and spiced tea.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu


  • Soak up the almost Biblical vision of fishermen working the giant Chinese fishing nets in the harbour, sinking and raising them by walking up and down the length all day long
  • Enjoy sundowners in the Chariot Bar, which is licenced to sell beers, wine and spirits
  • Make use of the hotel's simple spa or get a massage at the nearby Ayush Ayurvedic centre
  • Start the day with a revitalising early-morning yoga lesson on the roof, before relaxing by the infinity pool
  • Book a cruise along the backwaters - Kerala’s languid network of interlocking rivers, lakes and canals
  • Go shopping at the spice market, ginger and clove factory or the weekly antiques market (where Edgar found most of Old Harbour’s treasures)
  • Hire a vintage Royal Enfield motorbike for the day, head for the beach, and experience the madness of Indian traffic at close quarters

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Yoga


All ages are welcome, but in truth it's best suited to older children (there are no baby cots or high chairs).

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Dreamz and The Suites can hold an extra bed on request; Dreamz can sleep 3 and has a ground-floor lounge.


Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Kid Friendly:

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