Ten-Second Takeaway

A stroll through Panjim’s Latin Quarters of Fontainhas and Sao Tome will bring you face-to-face with Goa’s rich cultural heritage. Old-world chapels, quaint eateries, and fancy galleries all add to the Quarters’ charm.

A Historical District

The Latin Quarters in Panjim is bordered by the Altinho Hill In the west and is bound by the Ourem Creek in the East. The story goes that in the 1800s, that Fontainhas was developed after the outbreak of plague forced administrators and rulers to move from Old Goa to Panjim. The neighbourhood grew haphazardly and without much planning. Which is why, you’ll notice that many of the streets are so narrow that even a car will struggle to pass through.

Photo: Intrepid one

Photo: Intrepid one

Fontainhas and its historical neighbourhood of Sao Tome are best explored on foot. You can spend a couple of hours roaming around the area and acquainting yourself to the sights. If you prefer a guided tour, then, sign up with Goa Magic. The good folks at Panjim Inn too arrange for walks from time to time {although you’ll have to put in a request in advance}. But if you are venturing out on your own, here’s what you should cover: 

Check Out The Colourful Buildings

Photo: Urbz

Photo: Urbz

A good place to start your walk would be at the Tobacco Square, in Sao Tome. Surrounding the square, you’ll see Casa De Moeda — the erstwhile Goa Mint House that has stood since 1834. There’s also the Post Office that’s housed in a vintage building {it was once the Tobacco Trading Co-operation} and as you walk along you’ll discover many more.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, Fontainhas has held on to much of its charm and you’ll walk past homes and buildings done up in chirpy yellows, happy blues, and deep maroons. Apparently, when the neighbourhood came up, it was required for buildings to be painted after each monsoon. And in bright colours too because only the local Church could be painted white. Many homes still continue with this tradition.

You’ll find tons of interesting details. Window panes made from seashells, colourful altars in nooks and crannies, and heavy grinding stones sitting stoutly in front of houses.

Say A Little Prayer At The Chapel Of St. Sebastian

Possibly Fontainhas’ most well-known landmark, the St. Sebastian’s Chapel sits elegantly at the end of a quiet road. Soak in the architecture of the whitewashed chapel’s exteriors before turning your attention to its unique interiors. The chapel is one of the rare Christian edifices that is home to a crucifix on which Christ’s eyes are visibly open. The unique crucifix was originally from the Palace of the Inquisition in Old Goa. And was built that way to put the fear of god in the hearts of Inquisitors!

Dive Into Bakeries And Taverns

No trip to Fontainhas can be deemed complete without a stop by the Confeitaria 31 De Janeiro. A hole-in-the-wall bakery that’s over 80 years old, the Confeitaria is well known for its Swiss rolls, plum cakes, and patties. You can enjoy a cup of tea along with a slice of their oven fresh tea cakes before heading out to explore the rest of the Latin Quarters. You may have trouble finding this place, so take the help of locals. In the narrow streets, you’ll also spot local taverns where you can swing by a for a glass of feni or homemade wine.

Admire Local Artistry

Photo source: Panjim Inn

Photo source: Panjim Inn

Close to Panjim Inn is Gallery Gitanjali. Housed in a gorgeous vintage building, you can discover Contemporary Indian Art here. Spend your time here gazing at works by Mario Miranda, Raghu Rai, Jayshree Patankar, and Mohan Naik. The gallery also displays Scandinavian art from the 50’s and 60’s. The substantial collection includes lithographs, linocuts, etchings, and serigraphs. You can also visit the Velha Goa Galeria. Specialising in those blue-and-white, patterned ceramics and tilework {known as azueljos}, the store is an excellent place to pick up souvenirs.

Eat At Local Goan Restaurants

Photo source: Hotel Venite

Photo source: Hotel Venite

When the hunger pangs come calling, head to two of the best-known restaurants in the area. Viva Panjim and Hotel Venite, both, serve local Goan cuisine and are an essential part of the Fontainhas experience. Viva Panjim is a compact restaurant that will make you feel like you are dining at someone’s home. The seafood offerings, Chorizo pulao, and the Pork Vindaloo are excellent here. At Venite, the Stuffed Mackeral Fry, Prawn Xacuti, and the Grilled Pork Chops are delicious here. Try the House Wine at both these restaurants, you won’t regret it.

Climb Up The Altinho Hill

Photo: Ramnath Bhatt

Photo: Ramnath Bhatt

The spectacular view from Altinho Hill proves to be the befitting finale to your trip to Fontainhas. You get an eyeful of the colourful buildings topped by red-tiled roofs. You can also visit the famous Maruti Temple here.

Featured Photo: Jyoti Prakash Bhattacharjee