The best heritage trails in Goa tells the story of Panjim that’s rarely heard by visitors, the beauty of the past lining the streets hidden in plain sight. A heritage walk around the charming districts of Fontainhas and Sao Tomé will have you gawking in awe at just how beautiful it is. Add an extremely knowledgeable local guide who unveils her history with fascinating tales, and your day will turn out to be quite an interesting one.
The Portuguese arrived here in 1510 under their commander Afonso de Albuquerque, and captured the city from Adil Shah, the ruler of the Bijapur Kingdom. They came to the East in search of trade and to spread Christianity. Under Portuguese rule Goa rapidly became a major metropolis of the 16th and 17th century rivaling London and Paris, and at its peak had a population of over 150,000 people.
However, disease and decline in trade took its toll and the city rapidly deteriorated in the latter part of the 17th century. The capital was officially moved to Panjim in 1843. Eventually, the site of Old Goa was used as a quarry to build Panjim, and buildings were left to naturally decay and were eventually demolished.
Old Goa is a World Heritage site housing some of the most historically significant buildings and churches in the region. Among these are the Basilica of Bom Jesus where the remains of St. Francis Xavier are to be found, the imposing Sé Cathedral, the Church of St Francis of Assisi, the Chapel of St Catherine, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount, the Church of Our Lady of Rosary, the Church of St Cajetan, the Chapel of St Anthony and the ruins of the Tower of St Augustine’s Church.
You can feel the contrast in the course of an hour walk. This is the first city in India built on a grid, with pavements constructed along all of its main roads. Shade trees were imported from South America, engineering blueprints for drainage and sewerage from Germany, and concepts for park gazebos and bandstands from England. Panjim is where the first non-Western “world citizens” asserted themselves, self-confidently brought Hinduism back into the public sphere, created a range of modern institutions for their own use, and sought what the passionate historian of Panjim, Vasco Pinho, describes as “freedom from fear the like of which has existed perhaps nowhere else.”