Heritage Homes, Goan Bakeries & Churches: Explore Fontainhas Goa

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Introduction

If you're looking for an offbeat guide to Fontainhas Goa, we've got you covered! 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 the 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 super narrow, and have now been deemed as non-motorable roads. And today, it is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Fontainhas and its historical neighbourhood of Sao Tome are best explored on foot. It is recommended that you first visit the Houses of Goa Museum and Museum of Goa to understand the Quarters better. You can spend a couple of hours roaming around the area and acquainting yourself with the sights. It will amaze you how each time you walk past, you will discover something new. If you prefer a guided tour, then sign up for walking tours with Soul Travelling, Make It Happen or The Local Beat. But if you prefer just walking around, unhurried, all by yourself, here are our pick of top places of interest in Fontainhas.

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 & Taverns

No trip to Fontainhas Goa 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, 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 or Goan snacks before heading out to explore the rest of the Latin Quarters. You may have trouble finding this place, so take the help of locals.

Not too far lies Gourmestan, which has vegan and gluten-free options. Their mango cheesecake is a star with a cup of coffee. A little break from the sun is refreshing in the air-conditioned cafe and re-energises you to get back to exploring. For some modern eats and tea, head over to the Tea Trunk Experience Centre, curated by India’s first tea sommelier. Make sure to sip their Floral Galaxy Lemonade and hibiscus iced tea to escape the heat. If hot tea is still your game, the saffron kawha, lavender white tea and masala chai hot chocolate are must-haves. For a quick snack, go for the roasted chicken croissant sandwich and for sweats the lemon lavender tea cake, chamomile cupcake and earl grey shortbread cookie.

In the narrow streets, you’ll also spot local taverns, where you can swing by a for a glass of feni or homemade wine. Joseph’s and Miski bars are our favourite watering holes, but if you want something swankier, there's DTR (Down The Road), Soho, The Outpost and more.

Admire Local Artistry

Close to Panjim Inn is Gallery Gitanjali. Housed in a gorgeous vintage building in Fontainhas Goa, 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 50s and 60s. 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.

You can also hop over to the Mario Miranda stores, Marcou Artifacts, The Good Life or Global to Local for some Goan keepsakes.

Eat At Local Goan Restaurants

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. Try the house wine at both these restaurants, you won’t regret it.

If you want a less touristy experience, there's Anandashram for fish thali, which is served for lunch and dinner. Cafe Tato’s well known for its Puri Bhaji breakfast and is the go-to for a vegetarian thali. You can also ditch the old-school for a more cosmopolitan meal at new restaurants like Petisco, Vedro, For the Record - Vinyl Bar and Soul Chef.

If you're a sucker for cool cafes, you can hop over to Caravella, Teal, the cafe at The White Balcao and the newly opened Goldspot.

Send Out A Postcard From A 180 Year Old Post Office

Panjim's Head Post Office, located in the historic Casa do Estanco building, was once home to the Goa Special Police Quarters. The century-old Post Office in Fontainhas Goa also houses a Philatelic Bureau, where you can buy special stamps and postcards. Go back in time and write that post card to a favourite or even yourself. Ask for the permanent pictorial cancellation (PPC) when you hand in the postcard at Panjim's General Post Office. This PPC is only available there and it is collectible on its own!

Climb Up The Altinho Hill

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. Oh, and there's the Sunaparanta Centre for Arts and inside lies one of our favourite cafes of all times. Head over to Cafe Bodega for your fill of smoothies, cakes and calm set in an old Portuguese house.

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Remote mechanical Engineer, living in Goa, owns a modern sustainable postcard shop - Heenas.in and loves to explore - @explorer.heena on IG.