Latin Quarters in Panaji
A walk through the beautiful Fontainhas and São Tomé is not just a journey that will take you back in time but will also make you appreciate the states’ passion to keep its colonial legacy alive. It is the heritage quarters of the capital city, situated along the banks of the olden Ourem creek. This old district has a completely distinctive atmosphere as compared to the noisy and crowded main city. With its narrow streets, Portuguese style houses with overhanging balconies and colorful buildings, this area is a must-see while visiting Goa.
The area was set up on a reclaimed land during the late 18th Century by ‘Mossmikar’, an expatriate who made his wealth in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique. The entire area of Fountainhas is positioned at the base of a hill known as Altinho and since this area is surrounded by many natural springs, hence it was named Fontainhas. This area is known for retaining its old world charm due to the fact that all the buildings over here are built according to the Portuguese architecture and are still painted in some of the traditional colors of yellow, green and blue. Moreover, the buildings still have red tiled roofs with overhanging verandas.
South of Fontainhas lies the beautiful Chapel of St. Sebastian, built in 1880. It overlooks the area where locals used to celebrate the annual Feast of Our Lady of Livrament. There is also an old well, situated right next to the Chapel. It also houses a remarkable and a very realistic crucifix, which was once placed inside the Palace of Inquisition in Old Goa. The Chapel also houses two marquetry chests, a statue of Virgin Mary and three beautifully carved reredos from a Diu (as in Daman and Diu) church.
Just a few minutes walk from the Chapel lies a beautifully renovated edifice, which is now used as the office for Fundacao Oriente, an organization responsible for restoring the heritage buildings in Goa. Just at the end of Fontainhas, lies a very small but eye-catching natural spring known as Fonte Phoenix, which has been recently renovated to turn it into a popular tourist spot.
To the north of Fontainhas, lies the São Tomé area with small lanes and beautiful pastel colored houses on each side of the lane. One can even find a few Goan taverns selling authentic Goan Feni and other types of alcohol. The main Post Office (HPO) of Panaji is located near São Tomé. This building was once the tobacco trading house and right next to it is a building which was once the old Portuguese mint house. Across the road lies the town pillory, where justice was once announced in the form of executions. Situated nearby is the São Tomé church, built in 1849. At the end of the road, one can find the Linhares Bridge that has handled majority of the traffic coming towards the city for over a century. Walk on the beautiful lanes surrounding the bridge and explore as you go.
Goa is known for many things – a vibrant nightlife, sun-soaked beaches, fun-filled festivals, beautiful historic forts, cathedrals and temples and adventurous water activities like river rafting, para sailing, wind surfing and jet skiing. But one thing that rises above all is the vintage side of Goa, whose heritage flourishes even after the Portuguese left the state.