This is my favourite part of Goa. Teeming with things to do, interesting people to meet and great desserts, every time I have visited Panjim, I have grown increasingly fond of it.
The cultural presence in this city is significant. Perhaps the reason why it tops my chart of Goan destinations. Unaffected by the tourist influx, there is an art exhibition, a music or dance performance or theatre to indulge in through the year.
The other reason why I love Panjim is because it figures low on the travellers’ list. Miramar beach is the only one here and not really fabulous for beach bums.
Stay in the city
My pick is Hospedaria Abrigo de Botelho in the heart of the Fontainhas. It is a restored Portuguese bungalow and a perfect B&B with cosy, quiet, clean rooms and sufficient breakfast. Afonso Guest House is a tough competitor on my list. I love its basic, comfortable and no-frills advantage. These two are only a few steps away from each other.
The new kid on the block is the Old Quarter Hostel. I haven’t stayed in this one but stopped at the Urban Café, which was impressive. They have rooms and dorms (including a girl’s only dorm). If you do happen to stay here, leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Eat your heart out
Panjim has the best food in Goa. I’ll repeat, the BEST food. All the Goan curry and rice everywhere else is deplorable.
First up is Ritz Classic on 18th June Road for flavoursome, authentic food. I go back here to order the Pomfret Recheado, time and again. No one makes it better. If you love fish, their fish thali is highly recommended. It comes with about 4-5 varieties of Goan fish preparations. I was apprehensive of taking my vegetarian friends here but they relished their meal equally. Be warned: waiting for a table is a norm. Expect to wait at least an hour on Sunday afternoons.
Black Sheep Bistro came as a respite. I was exasperated with all the Goan and Konkani delicacies while I lived in Goa (no offence). And so Sangria in this casual dining, modern restaurant was a breath of fresh air. They change their menu often (which is great) and every time I have been pleased by the food here. Their desserts are a must-try. And a local of Goa had asked me if they had good vegetarian options; they certainly do.
If you’re looking for a filling, vegetarian meal, Kamat, near Panjim Church, is good pick. I tried the thali which was a lot, served promptly and kept me full for the entire day.
Down the Road or DTR is a good sports bar. Stay clear of the cocktails here. Stick to the beers. I’ve always been here for a drink while cheering for my favourite football team. The pub on the ground floor is definitely better than the restaurant on the first floor.
Café Mojo on MB Road is cosy with its wooden decor. I have to pick this one for the music. Every evening is themed in this pub, so look it up before going. I was here for a couple of beers by myself and was happy to notice no one staring at me.
The cafés in Panjim are the beat of the city. From the 24/7 open Aunty Maria in Hotel Fidalgo to my favourite Café Central, I never have enough time for these. Buy the exceptional mango cake from the latter. Also, their mushroom samosa is definitely worth a try. I’ve tried most of their bakes and have never been disappointed.
Verandah, Panjim Inn’s restaurant on 31st January Road, makes extraordinary caramel custard. It has been my quiet evening tea place. But I unfailingly stock up on their melt-in-the-mouth caramel custard.
Do yourself a favour
This is an exhaustive list.
I’ll start with the relaxed options of shopping. Head to the introverted shop called Barefoot, under Hotel Venite. This boutique sells creative home decor things and some apparels. I love their ceramics and the jewellery. Occasionally I’ve thought that their products can be a little expensive.
And then there are the two upscale, trendy stores for clothes—Sacha’s Shop (adjacent to Black Sheep Bistro) and Sosa’s on Rua De Ourem. The former has some exquisite but high priced jewellery and the latter has interesting, cotton resort wear. Both house some prominent Indian designers.
If you’re looking for Goan souvenirs like cashew nuts, head straight to MG Road. The row of shops opposite Café Real sell cashews and bottles of port wine. There is a difference in the quality and price of the products here in comparison with the popular 18th June Road.
I highly recommend diving with Dive Goa (+919325030110), for adventure seekers. They operate roughly from October to May and prioritise safety.
On a pleasant day, walk around Fontainhas and photograph incessantly. It is a fascinating neighbourhood.
In one of my first visits to the city, I discovered the green, biodiverse Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. It is an exotic belt of mangroves and a paradise for bird watchers. My day started early, met my guide in Ribander ferry wharf and we crossed over to the other side of River Mandovi, got on a boat to sail along the mangroves. It can get really hot by noon, so wrap up soon. Please avoid this place if you want to see big animals. Exclusively for birds, reptiles and other amphibian enthusiasts.
The other discovery was Gerard da Cunha’s Houses of Goa. A little away from Panjim, in Porvorim, this museum shares the history of Goan architecture. With all its strange artefacts and architectural traditions, it is definitely worth a visit. The property also has a Mario Gallery. From Mario’s print, stationery, books and merchandise, splurge all you want.
I must admit, I’m a big fan of Gerard da Cunha and this is why I followed him to see his restoration work on the Reis Magos Fort. This underrated fort is one of the oldest and a must experience. A little away from Panjim, stop by the Three Kings Church on your way here, which is only a few steps ahead of the fort.
If you’re an art lover, check the latest exhibitions in Sunaparanta, Goa Centre for the Arts in Altinho. Kala Academy is the hub of performing arts and all cultural events. They update their Facebook page as and when the events take place.
Panjim is an hour’s drive from Goa’s Dabolim Airport. The closest rail head is Karmali (about 30 minutes drive), followed by Madgaon which is a bigger station and an hour away.
As I have always said, Goa’s bus service is excellent. The KTC (Kadamba Transport Corporation) bus stand is 20 minutes/1.5 km walking from Fontainhas and is connected to all bus routes in the state. The interstate private bus stop is on Mandovi Bridge, a few meters away from the KTC bus stand.
Good to know
-Getting around is fairly simple in the city. I prefer on foot, gearless scooter, bus— in that order. You can rent a car from your B&B, if necessary. Same goes for a gearless scooter.
-To rent a scooter, be prepared to face some ill tempered Goan aunties/uncles. Once you have won their heart, they will keep an original photo identification document (as a deposit) and check your valid Driver’s License. Charges vary from ₹250 to ₹400 per day, depending on the season and their mood.
-Panjim is safe for solo travellers. I would, however, advice against gallivanting late at night around the casino stretch (on Avenida Dom João de Castro, Patto Colony towards MG Road). Those drunk revellers aren’t great vibes.
-On Sunday, most of Panjim is sleeping, including shops on 18th June Road.
Read: Travel Guide: South Goa
Do you adore Panjim as much as I do?