Our first instalment of Walkin’ It takes you on a walking tour of Fontainhas, popularly known as the ‘Latin Quarter’ of Panaji, a neighbourhood that William Dalrymple rightly called a “small chunk of Portugal washed up on the shores of the Indian Ocean”. It was established in the 18th century by Antonio Joao de Sequeira, a Goan who made his fortune in Mozambique. This area is a distinct reminder of Goa’s tryst with the Portuguese. The houses, painted in bright primary colours have white trims and terracotta tiled roofs. Narrow lanes, overhanging balconies, and an abundance of azulejos tiles give Fontainhas its quaint Mediterranean feel. The area is dotted with eateries selling fresh seafood and feni and old-world bakeries laced with the mouthwatering aroma of buttery bebincas and the ubiquitous Goan pao. Many of Fontainhas’ oldest residents trace their ancestry to Portuguese seafarers and traders who settled here and speak the language of their ancestors to this date.
Grab your comfy-est walking shoes, a bottle of water, your camera and notepad, and put on your sunglasses as we hit the streets! Photo-ops other than the stops themselves are marked with a ♣.
Fonte Phoenix: Located at the base of the Altinho Hill, Font Phoenix or Fountain of the Phoenix gives Fontainhas its name (fountain, fonte in Portuguese) and thus its the perfect starting point to our walking tour of Fontainhas. We wanted to see if the image of the golden phoenix wearing the viceroy’s crown still exists but we couldn’t climb down as the façade was being renovated. The current structure around the natural spring was constructed during the tenure of the Portuguese Governor, Joaquim Jose Januario Lapa in 1885. (Here, we would like mention that Fontainhas was built on reclaimed land rich in natural springs. Only two– Fonte Phoenix and Boca de Vaca– survive to this day.)
Maruti Temple1: The most important landmark in the Hindu district of Mala is this bright orange temple that is decked with lights every night. It is located on the Altinho Hill. Huff and puff up the slope and you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of Fontainhas and its red-roofed cacophony of maroon, yellow, and indigo houses shimmering in the sun.
Rua Armada Portuguesa2: We stumbled upon a beautiful stairway adorned with colourful tiles at the western end of Rua Armada Portuguesa while rambling through Fontainhas at sundown. To reach, trace your steps down Altinho Hill and head north along Ramachandran Naik Road.
Fundação Orienté: Located in a marvellous Indo-Portuguese building on Felipe Neri Road, Fundação Orienté works to preserve Goa’s colonial-era cultural legacy. They organize a number of events throughout the year and the annual Monte Music Festival in the courtyard of the restored Capela da Nossa Senhora do Monte. The building houses a collection of paintings by Goan painter António Xavier Trindade (1870-1935).
Bombay Coffee Roasters: Stop for coffee by Bombay Coffee Roasters at Old Quarter by the Hostel Crowd. If you are a tea lover like us, we recommend the chilli chai.
♣The colourful graffiti on the southern façade of the hostel.
Gallery Gitanjali: Heading north along Rua 31 de Janeiro, the next stop on our walking tour of Fontainhas is Gallery Gitanjali. Located across the street from Panjim Inn, the gallery houses a fantastic collection of artworks by local artists. Also on display are lithographs, etchings, woodcuts and other artworks by Scandinavian artists from the 50s and the 60s. The gallery is in a bright maroon heritage Portuguese house with a terracotta tiled roof and bright mosaic floors.
♣Rua 31 de Janeiro, the stretch between Panjim Inn and La Maison Fontainhas, has a wealth of colonial-era architecture. ♣If you can, tour Panjim Pousada (a restored Hindu home turned heritage hotel) for its display of artworks. ♣The bright yellow building that houses Guesthouse Afonso.
Marçou Artifacts: We picked up a souvenir, a set of Mario Miranda postcards, from this wonderful curio shop selling artefacts designed and crafted by local artists. Their collection is quintessentially Goan. Apart from posters and paintings, they stock an impressive selection of ceramics from trays, vases, and azulejos to the cutest baby squids and fishes.
♣ The tiny altar of Jesus in the wall between Marçou and Viva Panjim.
Viva Panjim: A brief stop at this family-run eatery ensures we are well-fed. Opt for any of their pork dishes, the xacuti or the crab xec xec, or please your sweet-tooth with a serving of bebinca. You can either lunch here or further ahead at Horseshoe.
♣ The vintage furniture at Viva Panjim, especially the majestic mirror.
Chapel of St. Sebastian: On the large wooden crucifix, Christ’s eyes are open to strike fear in the heart of “heretics,” so beware! Built in 1818, this pretty whitewashed church houses one of only a few relics remaining as testament to the Goan Inquisition: a crucifix, which until 1812 stood in the infamous Palace of the Inquisition in Old Goa. Mass is held daily in Konkani at 6:45 am and in mid-November, the streets are lit for the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Livrament. To reach, walk west from Viva Panjim and turn south on Rua de Natal.
♣ The intersection of Rua Natal and St. Sebastian Road that is marked with azulejos tiles on a maroon wall. ♣Walking south from the chapel, through a tangle of houses, we found some of the prettiest nameplates painted on azulejos. Check out the narrow staircase on your right.
Poço do Rego well: Right next to the Chapel of St. Sebastian, this wishing well with two brightly painted roosters keeping watch seems straight out of a book of illustrated fairytales!
Rua de Natal: Rua de Natal is, perhaps, my favourite slice of Fontainhas. Traditional Portuguese houses flaunt their brightly painted façades and house signs hand-painted on azulejos tiles. Keep an eye out for the strips of seashells stuck on the windows panes. They are supposed to keep the interiors cool and dry.
♣ Abrigo de Botelho, the bright blue building with overhanging balconies.
Confeitaria 31 Rua Janeiro3: Find this little gem of a bakery tucked away in an alley because you owe your tastebuds some love! Their beef pastries and mushroom pastries are to die for! If you have a sweet-tooth, go for their Swiss roll.
♣ The fruit seller outside Vachan Mandir.
Horseshoe Bar & Restaurant: Head east on the Rua Sua Janeiro, turn left on Rua de Ourem to reach Horseshoe which is known for its authentic Luso-Indian fare. Vasco Silveira, owner and chef, sources fresh ingredients daily and the spices are ground in-house.
♣ The pedestrian bridge across the road from Horseshoe.
Patto Bridge4: Post lunch, head north to one of Goa’s historical monuments, the Patto Bridge. Painted in white, the curved balustrade structure supported by Roman-style arches straddles the Ourem Creek. Though this is officially not a part of Fontainhas, we will end our walking tour of Fontainhas on this bridge with the cool breeze fumbling against our skin.
Thus with minds full of historical nuggets and bellies full of food, we end our walking tour of Fontainhas on the busy Rua de Ourem that snakes along the Ourem Creek.
- If you continue along the hairpin bends on 20 de Junho Avenue, past the Maruti Temple, you will reach the Bishop’s Palace.
- Turn right on Rua Tomas Ribeiro to reach the High Court of Bombay in Goa.
- Head west along the Rua Emidio Garcia to the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
- Head east along Rua Dom Joao de Castro to Sao Tome Chapel and further towards Adil Shah’s Palace.
Our Walkin’ It series brings to you itineraries for self-guided walking tours in cities across the world. We will cover interesting locations, share tidbits and of course, direct you to hole-in-the-wall eateries.
Are you a fan of walking tours? What’s your preferred mode of exploring a city?