Old Goa is a small town in the region of North Goa (Goa), the former capital of Portuguese India. The city, also known as Goa Velha, has a rich history and amazing architecture. It is famous for its temples, which are recognized as World Heritage Sites. You can say that the Old Goa is a whole cultural and architectural complex, an open-air museum that tells its guests the history of the development of this part of India under the protectorate of Portugal.
The city is situated on the banks of the Mandavi, the largest river in the state of Goa not far from its mouth and just 9 Km away from Panaji, the modern capital of the state. Old Goa is a small town of just 4 square kilometers and a population of about 6,000, though it was founded in 1510. Goa Velha owes its appearance to the Bijapur Sultans-they decided to build a new port city to replace Govapuri. For some time, it was the capital of the Bijapur Sultanate.
In 1510 Stai Goa was taken over by Portugal and was also used as the capital of the Portuguese dominions in India. It was under the Portuguese protectorate that the city reached an unprecedented peak of prosperity. In 1542 it had a population of about 200 thousand and was the largest port on the Arabian Sea. But at the beginning of XVIII century. plague decimated most of the population, after which the city was practically abandoned, the remnants of inhabitants moved a little further south.
Today the economy is based mainly on tourism. In the sphere of guest services the main part of the population is occupied.
The climate of Old Goa, like the state of Goa as a whole, subequatorial, but with a characteristic rather tropical 2 seasons. The rainy season lasts from mid-May to mid-October. If in January, February and March precipitation may not fall at all, and if it does, then not more than 1.5 mm, the norm for May is 113 mm, while in June and July the amount of precipitation “jumps” to 868 and 995 mm respectively. August and September also belong to the rainy season, but the amount of precipitation significantly decreases (513 and 252 mm).
The last months of the year are considered dry, but some amount of precipitation is still observed (about 31 and 17 mm). But changes of temperature from season to season are not so evident: if at night in winter it is a little bit colder than in summer (in January average night temperature +19 °С, in May +26 °С), then during daytime here is from +29 °С to +34 °С at any time. Water temperature ranges from +28 ° C to +30 ° C (it gets the warmest in May), the bathing season does not end.
Unlike many other cities, in Goa Velha it is impossible to name a “major” or the most famous landmark that is a symbol of the city: all Catholic churches are considered world heritage, they were included in the UNESCO list in 1986. Photos with descriptions of attractions of Old Goa can be seen in brochures, inviting to visit the state, and they really deserve to see them, especially since access to them is completely free. The most famous temples are:
In addition, there are other interesting attractions in the city, such as:
- Jesuit House;
- Museum of the History of Goa;
- Vickeroi Arch.
Where to settle?
Tourists often prefer to stay in Panaji, where the choice of accommodation is richer, a lot of hotels and between the capital and Goa-Velha. However, there is a place to stay in the Old Goa: The city offers more than a dozen housing options, of which – several hotels. The best among them are considered:
Old Goa has several restaurants offering, among other things, stunningly delicious fish dishes. The best among the restaurants in and around the city are:
- Garrafo Bar;
- Greenyard Restaurant & Bar.
There are many restaurants in Panaji and between the two cities.
Old Goa – rather an open-air museum. Shopping here is to buy souvenirs. But on the road from Panaji to Old Goa there is a big 3-story department store called Habitat that offers a wide variety of goods.
How to get to the city?
Most tourists come to Old Goa with excursions that can be bought in any major city in India. For those who want to reach here on their own, they first need to get to Panaji. By air you can get to the state’s only airport, Dabolim, where you can fly in from Delhi and other major cities in the country.
There is a bus service from Panaji to Old Goa. It departs from the bus station near the State Museum. The journey takes about half an hour. You can also rent a car or a scooter. On your own from Panaji to Old Goa you can take the Ponte de Linhares Causeway or NH748, both of which take about 20 minutes. From the airport you can reach Old Goa by car on MDR 1 in around 40 minutes, or by bus, all passing through Panaji.
Attractions in Old Goa
St. Catherine’s Cathedral Sri Mangesh Cathedral Se Port Dona Paula Church St. Francis Xavier Basilica Bom Jesus Church St. Kaetan Historic Centre of Old Goa
This site compiles Old Goa attractions – photos, descriptions, and travel tips. The list is based on popular travel guides and is presented by type, name and rating. Here you’ll find answers to what to see in Old Goa, where to go, and where to find popular and interesting places in Old Goa.
St. Catherine’s Cathedral
St. Catherine’s Cathedral is the most revered among the Catholic cathedrals of Asia. It is famous for its five bells. One of the bells is golden and is the largest in Goa.
The cathedral, built in the Portuguese Gothic style, was built by Portuguese and Italian architects for almost 75 years and was finally completed in 1631. It is 37 meters high and as long as 76 meters, making it the largest cathedral in all of Asia.
In the chapel of the cathedral there is a miraculous cross that cures all diseases. It is in a case with a hole for the worshippers to touch it.
Coordinates : 15.50361600,73.91214700
Sri Mangesh Temple
The Sri Mangesh Temple, dedicated to Shiva, combines a variety of architectural styles. The temple is also considered a cultural center for musicians – various music festivals are constantly held here.
The temple was built in the 16th century. Its main deity is God Mangesh – manifestation of God Shiva. Several architectural styles are evidenced by the tower above the sanctuary, the roof design and the facade influenced by Christianity, while the dome of the temple is influenced by Muslim culture.
When you enter the temple, you must buy a bright orange wreath at the entrance, an offering to the deity of the temple. It must not be sniffed or put on oneself, as the offering must be “pure”. Inside the temple there are many statuettes and flowers with an intoxicating aroma. The floor is paved with marble and the silver altar door is richly decorated with floral ornaments. The altar contains the Shiva Lingam, the golden serpent Shesha and an image of Shiva.
Coordinates : 15.44493200,73.96629100
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Se Cathedral is the oldest religious structure in the state of Goa, India, and the largest church in all of Asia. Today, the Sé Cathedral is a Catholic church of the Latin rite and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For tourists, Sé Cathedral is interesting for its elaborate architecture and gigantic bell, and is the most revered European religious building in India. Xie Cathedral is located in the main square of Old Goa. Construction of Sé Cathedral began in 1562 on the site of the small earthen church of St. Catherine. Completion and solemn consecration of the cathedral took place in 1640.
The building of the cathedral was built in Portuguese colonial Gothic style. Originally the cathedral had two towers, one of which was never rebuilt after its destruction in the XVIII century. This gives the church a unique silhouette. The facade of the cathedral is 35 meters high, 76 meters long and 55 meters wide. The main attraction of Se Cathedral is the Golden Bell, the largest in Goa and one of the largest in the world.
Coordinates : 15.43896900,73.89776900
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Dona Paula Port.
One of the most secluded spots in Old Goa is Dona Paula Port, named after the daughter of the viceroy of colonial India who threw herself off a cliff because of an unhappy love affair. Now a sculpture depicting the lovers, who were never meant to be together, has been erected on this spot. Today the port is a popular tourist attraction with dozens of little cruising yachts arriving daily from different parts of India. The place attracts with its lush vegetation and crystal clear waters. Here is a cozy sandy beach, which has everything for a comfortable rest. At the top of the cliff, near the monument of lovers, there is a beautiful square, equipped with benches and fountains. At night, the port “Dona Paula” turns into a wonderful romantic spot, here come many couples in love to relax in the square and listen to live music.
Besides tourist yachts, the port of Dona Paula is also visited by small merchant ships bringing fruit, fish, clothes and many different trinkets. Therefore, temporary open-air markets are formed here. Tourists love to visit them because you can buy quite interesting things for a reasonable price.
Church of St. Francis Xavier
The Church of St. Francis Xavier is a stone building with a distinctly European design. For all that, the locals have remained faithful to their traditions – instead of the usual pews that are usually found in Catholic churches, this one uses the national mats for seating.
Particularly striking are the unique frescoes with which the church is painted. These beautiful murals were commissioned by missionary Franz Matthias Wozner, who was at one time chaplain to the famous Austrian Trappist family. The frescoes were painted at his request by the famous Mexican artist Jean Charlo. He was assisted by his wife and son Martin. The frescoes were painted in the church sometime between October 1962 and January 1963.
Bom Jesus Basilica
One of the most visited tourist sites in Goa, Bom Jesus Basilica really deserves to have UNESCO World Heritage status. The Basilica is famous for housing the remains of St. Francis Xavier, a Portuguese missionary.
“Bom Jesus” is the term most commonly used for the Child Jesus. Literally it can be translated as “good, holy Jesus. The church was consecrated and opened in 1605. The architecture of the building is a fine example of Baroque style.
Bom Jesus Basilica is one of the most richly decorated churches in Goa. The interior of the church is beautiful and exquisite. The floor of white marble is inlaid with semi-precious stones. The altar of the basilica is decorated with elaborate carvings and gilding, the walls with paintings depicting scenes from the life of Francis Xavier. The body of the saint is kept here, in the basilica, in a silver casket. Once every 10 years, on the day of his death, the coffin is opened for public viewing. The last such event took place in 2004. The relics of the saint are said to have exceptional healing powers.
Church of St. Caetano
The church and monastery of St. Caetano were built by Italian monks from the Teatinas Order in 1661, modeled on the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. Externally it is the most majestic Christian temple in Goa. It was originally called the Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence. That is why its central altar is dedicated to Our Lady. The majestic facade of the church is decorated on both sides with towers of bell towers.
Attached to one of the interior columns is a wooden pulpit perched on a square platform. Under this platform is a well. It is thought to be built on the site of an ancient Hindu sanctuary, of which this spring was a part.
Historic Center of Old Goa
The historic center of the city is a coherent architectural ensemble and in this sense can be regarded as a monument to the colonial era of Goa. The beautifully preserved and unaltered Catholic cathedrals of Old Goa have been enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Most of the stone structures of Old Goa were created by Portuguese and Italian artists. From the Arc de Triomphe des Viceroys, with the figure of Vasco de Gama at the top of its façade, the road will take us to the active Church of St. Caetano, which is built as a replica of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Moving on, we will see the Cathedral of St. Catherine, a majestic temple, famous for the sound of the Golden Bell in its bell tower, so named for the purity and richness of its sound. To the left of the Cathedral is the church and monastery of St. Francis of Assisi. The facade of the monastery is interesting because of its exquisite, truly Portuguese, Manueline style. Part of the monastery is occupied by the Archaeological Museum. Beyond the cathedral are the remains of the Palace of the Inquisition.
Coordinates : 15.50190500,73.90918500
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