Goa has been dazzling travelers for decades with its cultural richness and abundant natural wonders. However, many visitors often skip over its city center in pursuit of North Goa’s nightlife and/or South Goa’s beaches. But did you know that Goa also offers a world of things to do in Panjim, its bustling city center?
Panjim, also known as Panaji, is the capital city of Goa and the most important social, political and cultural center of the state. And it’s not easy to feel bored with all the things to do in Panjim. Just taking a stroll through Panjim’s many colorful streets reminiscent of 400 years of Portuguese influence is a fascinating enough reason to drop by.
Things to Do in Panjim
Visit the Latin Quarter aka Fontainhas
Since Goa was a Portuguese colony for centuries, you can feel the multicultural influence throughout the state’s: languages, architecture, music, food, language, religion, and people. But especially in particular neighborhoods like Fontainhas (aka the Latin Quarter). This is one of the most famous neighborhoods in Panjim, recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Zone. This is where you can see and feel the most vibrant remnants of Portuguese influence. Dedicate at least a few hours to take in the beauty, the painful history, the infrastructure, European houses and mansions with colorful facades that remind you of Lisbon.
You can do walking or biking tours here. Many of these tours you can find on Airbnb as an Airbnb experience with locals. Consider doing a bike tour with The Bicycle Trip Goa.
See the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church
The eye-catching Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church is hard to miss as it sits high above passersby. It is one of the most revered churches outside of Old Goa (where most of the churches are found). Famous for its distinctive zigzagging stairs which were built only in the 19th century, two hundred years after the church was constructed. You can enjoy the view from the Praca da Igreja among the many benches to sit down. It is definitely worth walking past and getting a taste of locals hanging out by the steps.
The Goa Inquisition
Not-so-fun-fact: Did you know the Portuguese killed THOUSANDS of innocent Hindus for HUNDREDS of years between 1560-1820. And if they did convert but were suspected of still retaining some faith towards another religion, they were imprisoned, publically flogged, burned, tortured, and/or executed them anyway.
The Portuguese also burnt books in Sanskrit, Arabic, Marathi and the local Konkani language. Thus limiting versions of history likely to have made it alive throughout those years. The oppressed were not just stripped of their ancient faiths but robbed of their ability to write/record and read in their own language! Moreover, almost all of the Goa Inquisition records were burned by the Portuguese when the inquisition was abolished in the 1800s. They also persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and converted Catholics (not believing that they were really converted).
So when you see these churches, try to take a moment to acknowledge the fuller history out of respect to the thousands of lives that were cruelly lost.
Nightlife in Panjim
If you are looking for nightlife in Panjim, you won’t be disappointed. One of the hidden gems is Joseph Bar located between the colorful streets of the Latin Quarter. Joseph Bar is opened until 11 PM making it is an amazing spot for warming up over local beer (Susegado) or a locally made glass of Kombucha (Borécha).
If you are a karaoke lover or love live music then head over to Down the Road next. This is a great place to hangout over a beer or local food while listening to local musicians perform. This spot is also popular among the local crowd of Goa. The best time to visit is after 6 PM.
And to call it a night you can hop up to SOHO: a beautifully decorated pub on the top floor of an antique mansion. This western-style bar offers a well-stocked bar, great mixologists, and fun music!
Still ready to continue the night? If you’re feeling lucky then consider one of Goa’s floating casinos located on a cruise ship along the Mandovi River.
Explore Panjim’s Local Gastronomy
Panjim is bursting with legendary local restaurants to choose from. Remember that restaurants in Goa close between 3 PM and 7 PM so schedule your visits accordingly!
The Awadh House – This spectacular restaurant is located within a beautifully decorated and renovated old Goan house. Here, the traditional dishes from the forgotten era of Nawabs are revived. There is no dish here where you could go wrong with. From Galouti Kebab where its meat blends with 150 exotic spices to tender lamb chops (Awadhi chops) marinated in a spicy mix of yogurt-flavored roasted cumin. Don’t miss the spicy delight: Murgh Angara which is presented in a copper vessel traditionally used to serve the dish. But our favorite? Tangdi Kulfi – another culinary delight of chicken wrapped and cooked in plantain leaves. Vegetarians can enjoy several dishes including their most popular dish and chef’s special: Dal Awadh. There are so many other dishes we tried here that it’s hard to go wrong. This restaurant is a must-visit in Goa.
Viva Panjim – This restaurant is down a little Portuguese style walkway. It offers local Goan cuisine and wonderful customer service. It gets crowded by 1:30, so try to get there before!
Hospedaria Venite – Considered one of the best restaurants in Goa, this charming restaurant offers an atmosphere transports you to Lisbon or Havana. Their seafood menu is spectacular.
TATAKI – This spot is hidden out of plain sight but located smack dab in the Panjim city center. This restaurant specializes in world cuisines like Pan Asian. The ambiance, food, drinks, and customer services are exceptional. Don’t miss their crispy tuna sushi!
Take a Coffee Break
If you are a coffee lover then you will love Blue Tokai where you can sip on freshly roasted Arabica coffee. I think this is the only place you can get a perfect flat white coffee. But there is also a cute and trendy place called Bombay Coffee Roasters where you can sip coffee and also have a beautifully plated healthy breakfast.
Shopping in Panjim
For shopping, you can take a walk down M.G. Road and 18th June Road where you will find different stores, both international and local. There is also Panjim Municipal Market where you can get many Goan specialties like the locally made liquor – fenny to take home. Drop into other cool fancy stores too like Chumbak, O.M.O., SYNE Boutique and Design Studio, Sosa’s, Sacha’s Shop, Wendell Rodricks Design Space.
Art Galleries and Museums
For those art lovers, we have some good news. Panjim offers different beautiful art galleries to choose from! Here are the top two:
Gallery Gitanjali is a Goa’s oldest surviving contemporary art gallery. Gallery Gitanjali also offers a collection of Scandinavian art from the 1950s to the 1990s. You can sign up for different workshops and courses, and attend a book launch/book reading.
Velha Goa Galeria is a cute spot to buy beautifully painted azulejos (Portuguese ceramic tiles) as a souvenir.
Interested in seeing more art galleries? Here is a guide to Goa’s Must-Visit Contemporary Art Galleries.
Half-Day Tour to Old Goa
Old Goa, also known as the ”Rome of the East’ proudly wears that name with its towering churches and cathedrals. Today, the Churches and Convents of Goa are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With every turn, you can find another church very close by. You will see there a lot of Catholic Indians who also come here from other parts of India. To get to Old Goa from Panjim you can hop on the HOHO Bus, but you can also go with a tuk-tuk, taxi etc.
Day Tour to Divar Island
This green oasis is one of Goa’s hidden treasures. Full of lush flora, birds, and idyllic lookout points over the water, this island is well worth the trip. This serene respite from Panjim city living offers plenty of bicycle routes or easy paths for walking. Grab a bite at a local bakery or restaurant.
- Our Lady Of Piety
- Shaktivinayak Ganesh temple, Diwadi
- Wonderful Old Homes including Island House
- Classic Ferry experience (free!)
To get to this island you can catch a free ferry or take a bus into town.
Divar Island is where you can see a more rural part of Goa comprised of four different villages. Before Portuguese rule, Divar was a Hindu pilgrimage site with a lot of temples but, unfortunately, many temples were destroyed during religious persecution and thus churches also take a part of its imagery today.
Be sure to learn more about the island’s history while you’re there. It is full of deep stories and generations.
Where to Stay in Panjim
Spending the night in Panjim is the perfect way to see more of the area. There are hundreds of places to choose from in Panjim. Here are two suggestions:
Old Quarter Hostel ($)
A hip and well-decorated hostel in the center of Panjim that is budget-friendly. The hostel is enveloped in the toasty smell of coffee from the near cafe: Bombay Coffee Roasters mentioned above. The hostel is definitely one of those trendier places of Goa’s growing hip scene. It is managed by thehostelcrowd, a group of young people who also manage two more hostels in Goa: one in South Goa/Palolem called Summer and another in North Goa/Vagator named Jungle.
Double Tree Hilton ($$)
This four-star hotel is just a short drive from the city center of Panjim. It is set in a peaceful location overlooking the beautiful Mandovi river enclosed by a verdant landscape. The relaxed ambiance and gorgeous decor inside provide a sweet respite from the city hustle and bustle. But our favorite part of this hotel? It has an infinity pool with an amazing view of the river. It also has 24/7 access to a modern fitness center. Prices start at $80/night.
Getting Around in Panjim, Goa
FULL DISCLAIMER: Getting around Goa is simply NOT EASY. Yes, there are some buses and a major train station. But there are no designated bus routes between many places or trains that get you from one spot to the next. Unlike other parts of India, there is also NO Uber here. That is because there is an aggressive taxi mafia. So if you try to hail a cab on one of their “turfs” the cab driver will be too scared and refuse. This is out of fear for his own safety sometimes.
Taxis in Goa/Panjim: Despite the unethical mafia, the most efficient way to get around is by taxis. Although Uber is banned in Goa, they have a similar application called Goa Miles. But it’s best that you set this up before going to Goa because it requires a registration + deposit which might be too time-consuming if you’re on the go. Outside of Goa Miles, don’t forget to bargain with taxi drivers. It is easy to do so while in the city but near hotels, they have the mafia turfs where they charge 5+ times higher prices. Near these turfs, there have been reports of members of the taxi mafia throwing stones at Goa Miles drivers.
If you are on a serious budget you may have to bargain. This includes being persistent and walking away if their price is egregiously high. They will either chase after you with a better price or you will find another taxi outside a turf who will be more than happy to accept your better price.
Other ways to get around Panjim: bikes, tuk-tuks, taxis, and even on foot.
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