The Fontainhas Latin Quarter is one of the main attractions in Goa's capital city, Panjim. It sits below Altinho, an affluent hilltop area in the center of the city, and gets its name (meaning "fountain") from Fonte Phoenix (the Fountain of Phoenix) spring at the foot of the hill.
Fontainhas was declared a UNESCO Heritage Zone in 1984. You'll be transported back in time as you wander past colorful old Portuguese homes, belonging to the last surviving Portuguese families of Goa. Narrow winding streets and lanes, quaint shops, art galleries, bakeries, and restaurants give it undeniable character.
The area was developed into a residential area for rulers and administrators the early 1800s, when headquarters of the Portuguese government were shifted to Panjim from Old Goa due to sanitary problems and outbreaks of the plague. Prior to this, it was apparently used as a coconut plantation by an affluent Goan expat.
The significance of the curiously named streets in Fontainhas is interesting. Rua 31 de Janeira (31st January Road) relates to the date of Portugal's independence from Spain on January 31, 1640. Bustling 18th June Road, lined with shops and restaurants, was named after the date in 1946 that Ram Manohar Lohia (an activist for Indian independence) called a meeting that led to the end Portuguese rule in India.
What to See and Do
Art lovers shouldn't miss visiting Gallery Gitanjali located adjacent to Panjim Inn. It has a collection of contemporary art and Scandinavian lithographs, lino prints and etchings from the 1950s and 1960s. Poetry readings, art discussion groups and courses on film appreciation are also held there. Plus, there's a cafe.
Shop at Velha Goa Galeria for gorgeous traditional hand-painted ceramics, including azueljos (tin-glazed ceramic tiles).
The well-maintained Chapel of Saint Sebastian, built in 1800, sits at the southern end of Fontainhas and has a number of interesting artifacts. These include a large crucifix that used to hang in the Palace of the Inquisition in Old Goa, a statue of the Virgin Mary that's originally from the High Court, and three intricately-carved altarpieces relocated from a church in Diu (which once formed part of the colony of Goa). An old well is also attached to the Chapel.
Climb Altinho hill to visit the attractive tangerine-colored Maruti Hindu temple, dedicated to Lord Hanuman, and you'll be rewarded with a scenic view over the Latin Quarter.
Take a Walking Tour
Where to Stay
What better way to immerse yourself in the heritage of Fontainhas than by staying in one of the Portuguese mansions. There are accommodations for all budgets.
- Boutique: The impeccable La Maison is tucked away on Saint Sebastian Chapel Road and has eight elegant, chic rooms. Expect to pay 4,000 rupees per night upwards, with breakfast included.
- Popular: Welcome Heritage Panjim Inn, built in the 1800s, was one of the first big mansions of Fontainhas. It's been owned by the same family for five generations and nostalgically restored to retain the feel of the bygone era. There are 24 unique rooms decorated with period furniture and antiques. Rates start from around 4,000 rupees per night for a double. Breakfast is included.
- Bed and Breakfast: Hospedaria Abrigo de Botelho is housed in a lovingly restored 150 year old Portuguese homestead that was turned into a bed & breakfast by local realtor Roy Botelho. He's the perfect host. There are eight rooms spread over two floors. Rates start from 3,000 rupees per night, including breakfast.
- Guest House: The groovy and quirky Afonso Guest House is a favorite. It has a convenient location in the Latin Quarter, with many bars and restaurants nearby. The owners live next door and are always available for assistance. There are seven rooms. Rates start from 2,500 rupees per night. Breakfast, served on the leafy rooftop terrace, is additional.
- Hostel: The Old Quarter Hostel is perfect for sociable young backpackers. Bicycles are offered on rent for exploring the area. Expect to pay 500 rupees per night for a bed in a mixed or female-only dorm. Private rooms (in a separate building) are available from 1,000 rupees per night.
Where to Eat and Drink
The lively, award-winning Viva Panjim on on 31st January Road serves yummy Portuguese and Goan cuisine. On the same street, Hotel Venite, with its art graffiti walls, has an unforgettable ambiance. It's popular with locals and travelers.
Overlooking the river on Rua de Ourem, Horse Shoe is renowned for its authentic Portuguese cuisine. It's evocatively located in a lovely 300 year old house. A couple of minutes walk away, on Gomes Pereira Road, Joseph Bar is an old local establishment that's been recently restored to its former grandeur. This intimate and hip hangout is only open in the evenings from 6-10 p.m. Try the feni cocktail.
To splurge, head to The Verandah at the Panjim Inn. It oozes Indo-Portuguese charm.
Grand Portuguese Homes Further Afield in Goa
If you're particularly interested in Goa's Portuguese heritage, take this Private Tour of the Braganza House and Palacio Do Deao. It includes a stop at the fascinating fish market in Margao.