For four hundred and fifty years the Portuguese held sway in Goa. It was sufficient time for the Portuguese culture to infuse into Goa and for Goan styles to leave an imprint on the Portuguese. Most of the signs of their rule have been erased by time but there are remnants and that one remnant is Fontainhas in Panaji, Goa is popularly known as the Latin Quarter. This area developed rapidly during the 17th century as the Portuguese built houses haphazardly in order to escape from the plague in old Goa. Fontainhas is the Little Fountain, the only source of water then. Fontainhas the Latin Quarter of Goa enchants you with the quaint and charming colonial houses and narrow winding lanes. It got its name “Latin Quarter” from the buildings and its location that gave one the feeling of being in Paris. This is a World Heritage Site preserved for posterity.
Fly into Dabolim airport or arrive by train. There are lovely beaches to the North and South of Panaji that are best visited by having one’s own vehicle. It is easy to get a self drive car in Goa from Ziphop rentals the same agency that offers bike rental in Goa. The Latin Quarter or Fontainhas is in the centre of the city with the Altinho hill to its west and the Ourem creek towards the west. Leave your car or bike outside and explore this lovely place with its haunting memories. It is as if time has stood still. Fontainhas is 20 km from Tivim railway station and 25 km from the airport.
Things to see
Just walking through the narrow crisscrossed lanes flanked by old colonial houses is an experience in itself. Some of the old houses are now guest houses, the best known of which is Mitaroy that offers home stays and exquisite heritage suites. You will come across the chapel of St Sebastian at the southern end and it is worth going inside for a look at the relics of the Goan inquisition. Walk to San Thorne square, once known as the Tobacco Square where you come upon the Panaji Post Office, once a private house. You will come upon Confeitaria 31 de Janeiro on the 18th June Road and it is worth trying Goan sweets and bakery products available here.
Where to stay
For a truly Portuguese experience it is best to pick a guest house or hotel inside the Latin Quarter. There are cheap home stays available as well as high end hotels like the Welcome Heritage Panjim Inn housed in an old colonial mansion. You can stay at the Mitaroy, another heritage house known for its luxurious suites.
Where to eat
Explore the Latin Quarter and dine there. Try to sample Portuguese and Goan confectionary, especially bebinca at the Confeitaria 31 de Janeiro on 18th June road. If you like Chicken steak in mushroom sauce, Hotel Venite Restaurant on 31st January road is the place to visit. If you have a fancy for Italian food, then it is Baba Wood Café. Goan and Portuguese food of the finest variety is available at Viva Panjim on 31st January road.