Cochin, now called Kochi, is the commercial capital of Kerala and the most cosmopolitan of the state's cities. It is endowed with a natural harbor and is claimed to be the Venice of the Orient and the Queen of the Arabian Sea. Strategically located on the East-West trade route, It is Kerala's major port, boasting one of the finest natural harbours in the world that forms the hub around which the city revolves. Cochin consists of mainland Ernakulam; the islands of Willingdon, Bolgatty and Gundu in the harbour; the islands of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry on the southern peninsula and the Vypeen Island, north of Fort Cochin. Most of the city's commercial centres and shops are located in Ernakulam.
It has a maritime history that began in the remote past. Arabs, Chinese, Dutch, British and Portuguese followed the sea routes to Cochin. For centuries, traders from here have traded in spices, camphor, sandalwood, gold and silks. The traders from this enterprising town even imported Chinese method of fishing to improve productivity and yield. Nets from this centuries old experiment are still functioning and can be seen in the old part of town. Attracted by trade and its liberal laws, many foreigners have made this their home. After the fall of Jerusalem, Jewish refugees sought sanctuary in this lush trading post. St. Thomas the apostle is also reputed to have landed here, making the Jewish and Christian communities of this town the oldest on the sub-continent.
With its wealth of historical associations and its setting on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas, the city of Cochin perfectly reflects the eclecticism of Kerala. It is one of the few places in the world where one can see the oldest Church in India, Portuguese houses, a Jewish Synagogue, Dutch Architecture, Mosques, Temples and Chinese fishing nets - all in one city. the older parts of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry are an unlikely blend of medieval Portugal, Holland and an English country village grafted onto the tropical Malabar coast - a radical contrast to the bright lights of mainland Ernakulam.