The Old Courtyard Hotel

Fort Cochin, Cochin & the Backwaters, India Book from

Reviewed by Yasmin Boland
A great-value intimate and historic hotel close to bustling Fort Cochin’s north waterfront
This atmospheric heritage hotel has a cobbled courtyard as its hub, with a fairy-lit orchard garden in the centre. It is both elegant and old (over 200 years to be precise), having been built by the Portuguese when Cochin was their window to the spice trade.

Follow the grand wooden staircase to the 8 guest rooms, varying in size and price but all charmingly decorated with air-conditioning and solar power. Step outside and you have spice shops, Chinese fishing nets, a Dutch palace and India’s oldest church on your doorstep. Ayurvedic treatments are only a short walk away and, although there’s no pool, you can take a dip in the one at the hotel next door for a small fee. The ideal base for history buffs and those looking for historic style, peace and Keralan culture amidst the bustle of Fort Cochin.

Highs

  • A charming 200-year-old building full of original decorative details, antiques and artwork (it features on many Cochin guided tours as a result)
  • Within ambling distance of Fort Cochin’s deservedly-famous Chinese fishing nets and other attractions
  • Staff were wonderful, caring and kind when we revisited in 2016
  • Atmosphere is provided by sparrows fluttering and cheeping through the eaves
  • Great value rates

Lows

  • Towards the end of the season the nets, curtains, towels and walls start to look tired, but this is reflected in the prices
  • There’s no room service, restaurant or alcohol licence, but there is a nice café for light snacks
  • Rooms are simple, so it's definitely worth booking a higher room category if you can
  • If you have an early start, the pre-ordered breakfasts don't always arrive
  • There’s no communal lounge area with comfortable seating

Best time to go

November to March is the peak time for visitors: the weather is dry rather than humid and not too hot. The much quieter monsoon season (December to February) is a good time for taking an Ayurvedic treatment course nearby, as you’re supposed to rest up between appointments anyway. October and April could offer the best of both worlds, if you’re lucky.

Our top tips

Be sure to catch the sun setting through the shapes of the famous Chinese fishing nets on the nearby northern shores - it’s a magical sight.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 8
  • Breakfast only (+ walk to restaurants)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Courtyard
Room:

Rooms

All 8 guest rooms overlook the central courtyard, 7 of them reached by an ancient teak staircase complete with eaten-away holes (though we’re assured it’s checked regularly and is completely safe!). They range in size, with the largest being the Suite complete with sitting room, a wealth of antiques and a tiny balcony off its bathroom. The eighth Small Standard Room is the smallest and reached via a metal spiral staircase at the other end of the courtyard - it’s slightly poky but great for those on a tight budget.

Our Standard Room was clean and comfortable, and all rooms share varnished wooden floors and ceilings, mosquito-netted beds, antiques, ensuite bathrooms and air-conditioning. The Superior Rooms also have cable TV and mini-refrigerators, while the Deluxe Rooms and Suites have tea- and coffee-making facilities. They're not in immaculate condition (think simple and historic rather than luxurious) but the reasonable rates reflect this.

Whichever room you book, say hello to the resident ghost. But don’t worry. The overall ambience is positive and relaxed - a relief after the frenetic pace of Fort Cochin.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Mosquito net
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast can be a familiar continental spread or an Indian kick-starter - the options change each day of the week to provide variety. On our last visit in 2016 we tucked into dhosas (thin pancakes) with vegetable stew, daily changings fresh juices, and really good Keralan coffee (a great to help with the jet lag).

Although The Old Courtyard Hotel does not have a restaurant, they do have a lovely street-side café where you can enjoy light sandwiches, gelato, and tasty European-style cakes made by owner Rose herself.

Nearby dining alternatives include the boutique Brunton Boatyard Hotel, or Dal Roti restaurant (famous for its North Indian food). Around the corner are a string of delightful simple outdoor eateries featuring fresh Keralan food at incredible value (look for the tall tree decorated with crab shells). The many waterfront stalls which cook your chosen catch-of-the-day as you watch are also highly-recommended.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Spend a day and night chugging through the wide Kerala backwaters on a traditional houseboat, with smaller snakeboats taking you down village channels
  • Catch martial arts displays and music concerts at the nearby cultural centre
  • Tour Mattancherry Palace, a 16th-century Dutch building whose interior quad now houses a Hindu temple
  • See India’s oldest European church, the 16th-century St Francis, which is only a few minutes' walk from the hotel
  • Browse through atmospheric shops selling spices and crafts, and explore the weekly antique market
  • Take a cab to the not very PC-sounding Jewtown (3km away) for mirrors and hand-woven bedspreads
  • Relax with an Ayurvedic massage or treatment at one of the local centres
  • Hop on a cruise boat or ferry to islands such as Bolghatty, which has an 18th-century palace and a pre-bookable golf course
  • Pop next door to the neighbouring hotel pool and cool off (a small fee applies)
  • Visit the huge and houseboat-dotted Vembanad lake (an hour’s drive away)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Golf
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis
  • Tennis coaching
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being

Kids

All ages are welcome, but this may not be the best place for young children due to the potentially hazardous stairs and the quiet atmosphere.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

The Suites, Superior Rooms and Deluxe Rooms have space for a baby cot or an extra bed (additional charges apply).

Babysitting:

Babysitters and childminders are available, request in advance.

Baby equipment:

One baby cot to borrow, request in advance

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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