Panjim’s unique charm and tangible history is just part of what makes this city well worth your time. The main city has the same appeal of most other Indian cities with its dynamic energy and cultural attractions, whilst Fontainhas offers a haven of tranquility from which you can escape the madness. There’s a common misconception about the lack of cultural things to do in Goa, but this, as misconceptions tend to be, is wrong. Simply walking through the back streets of this crumbling, charming city is enough of a cultural injection to last you for your entire stay in Goa. This is handy for most, as the more trodden paths of Goa are shedding their Indian charm seemingly hourly, losing their sense mischief and selling out to the western world of Sunday roasts and bingo nights. Panjim gallantly holds onto to its mesmerizing history and quaint traditions and mixes in a splash of modernity for good measure. You will find the influence of the Portuguese all over Panjim, they made this city their home for over 450 years, so there is a wonderful clash of European and Indian traditions, making it truly one of a kind.
As you pull up to Old Quarter (you’ll have no trouble spotting it thanks to it’s unique design!) you’ll find yourself enjoying a charming combination of India’s history and its potential future. The best thing to do to begin your stay in Panjim is to walk through the streets of Fontainhas (the area surrounding the hostel) and get a little lost in it’s beauty, while enjoying the soothing atmosphere of this sleepy part of the city. You can rent a bicycle from the hostel and soak in the stunning buildings without having to worry about loud, hectic traffic jams, or many vehicles at all for that matter. After strolling through the streets head for a refreshment at The Panjim Inn, one of Panjim’s oldest restaurants which offers a varied menu with slightly higher prices than you may be used to, but the setting is worth paying a little extra for. You’ll soon find that Panjim is full of tasty places to eat, and you’ll easily find something to suit your budget and palate.
Kamat (opp the casino docks): This local veg restaurant is entirely unassuming and offers delicious local treats for next to nothing. You can enjoy dosas in the morning from around Rs50 and main meals from Rs100. The decor may not be up to much, but the food certainly is.
Hotel Venite (Rua 31 de Janeiro): Try and get a table next to one of the tiny balconies and enjoy watching the passersby as you tuck in to a delicious meal. The decor is a combination of the traditional Portuguese style with an unusual twist, and the menu is a selection of Goan and Portuguese cuisine. Meals start from around Rs250.
Black Sheep Bistro (Swami Vivekanand Road): If you’re looking to treat yourself during your stay in Panjim then head to the funky Black Sheep Bistro which serves up a wide range of dishes including a range of popular cocktails. Main meals start from around Rs350, but you can always opt for a few smaller dishes from their tapas menu.
Barrels and Bones (Mala): Serving up tasty gastro style American cuisine, Barrels and Bones is the perfect place to head to if you’re craving a decent steak. Although this is a little bit out of most backpackers preferred price range, it’s a great place to go for a treat.
Desbue (Fontainhas): This is the place to go if you are after delicious fresh salads and a wide range of healthy food bursting with flavour, the mezze platter is especially delicious . The food is reasonable priced, the staff are friendly and the location is lovely. If you’re a dessert fan then it wont be long before this place steals your heart, the chocolate lava cake, nutty chocolate dessert and the green tea pannacotta are all absolute musts.
Ritz Classic (18th June Road): If you want to eat like the locals do then check out Ritz Classic’s amazing fish thali, which will only set you back Rs180 and is ideal for a lazy lunch. The rest of the menu is equally is a appetizing, and the service is as fast and friendly.
Bombay Coffee Roasters (Rua 31 de Janeiro) : Of course, this is by far my favourite place to eat, drink and relax in the cool air-conditioned and peaceful atmosphere. The food available is healthy, reasonably priced and fresh, whilst the coffee is quite possibly the best in Goa.
After you’ve taken care of where you’re going to eat you can relax and enjoy the rest of the city. Panjim has a huge selection of shops, my personal favourite being Fab India (it’s a little out of the city so just jump in a tuk tuk) which is certainly more expensive than most shops in Goa, but it has a wonderful range of clothes and niknaks which make perfect presents. If you are trying to budget, then perhaps stay away, as temptation may soon get the better of you! There are a few cheaper clothes shops around the city, as well as a little market and a fruit and veg market which is well worth a look.
If you’re looking to party then Panjim is perhaps not the place to you as there is very little going on in the evening. The casinos are open 24hrs though and you can pay a set price and then drink and eat all night. Be sure to wear long trousers and look vaguely presentable and take your passport to gain entry. If you just fancy a few drinks then head to Down The Road, which does reasonably priced food and drinks, you might even be lucky enough to catch a karaoke night, which is always a good laugh. They also have a small club downstairs, and although you may find that you’re the only person on the dance floor, this is the place to head if you fancy a boogie.
There are plenty of cultural things to do in Panjim, such as checking out some of the city’s churches, especially Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception and exploring some of the heritage buildings. There is also a hindu temple just behind the hostel, which you will see lit up at night, you can head up here in the morning and receive a blessing to start your day off on the right track. You could spend an afternoon on a cruise of the Mandovi River, which is a great way to see some of the natural beauty of the surrounding area.
Once you’re done with exploring the city itself you can head out to Old Goa for the day, you can opt to go by bus (the bus stop is just a short walk from the hostel) or hire a tuk tuk for the afternoon. Old Goa was once the Portuguese Eastern Empire until it was deserted after a disease outbreak in 1835, the city’s dwellers took down most of the buildings and rebuilt their lives in Panjim, they did however leave the churches as they were. Today, the churches are in surprisingly good shape with many of them still functioning as places of worship. You can wander around the area and enjoy the Portuguese’s impressive legacies and learn about Goa’s extensive, and fascinating history. Be sure to make your way up to Mount Mary Church which is by far one of the best spots in Old Goa, thanks to it’s incredible views across the surrounding countryside.
After a day of sightseeing you’re sure to be ready to relax and unwind, and what better place to do just that than in front of the big screen? The Inox Cinema shows a selection of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, which you can enjoy from the comfortable air conditioned theatre. Our wonderful barrista, Utpal organises a weekly cinema trip for the guests of Old Quarter so you can join him if you feel like it. Make sure that you try some of the snacks available, the cheesy popcorn is particularly good.
Panjim is the place to go if you’re looking to relax and regroup for a few days as it’s so seductively opposite from Goa’s party scene, whilst providing you with plenty of entertainment. Embrace the romance of the city, walk around with a smile on your face and you’ll soon be welcomed with open arms.