Margao, also known as Madgaon, is the capital of Salcete taluka, and Goa&rsquos second largest city. It has always been commercially abuzz. The River Sal, today silted up into a tiny stream, once had boats plying cargo to and from Arabia and Africa, making Margao quite a prosperous settlement even before the advent of the Portuguese. It was an important centre for trade, learning and religious activities. Educational institutions and cultural centres completed the picture. Today the place is obviously commercial. Yet its shaded streets lined with colonial mansions, its bazaars full of the rich produce of Goa with many buys not found anywhere else, Margao is a perfect base from which to venture forth into rural Salcete. Along with Vasco, it is also also one of the two major railheads in Goa connecting to major cities in India.
THINGS TO DO
Take In The Architecture At The Church Square
To many, the Church Square or Largo de Igreja is the most arresting part of Margao, and is one of its two focal areas. This is the Latin Quarter with graceful Colonial mansions. On one side of the square sits the Church of the Holy Spirit, built by the Jesuits in 1564, in the heart of Margao on the site of a temple and a monastery. Adil Shah&rsquos army swept in and destroyed the church in 1571. Makeshift repairs were carried out in 1645 when it was named the Church of the Holy Spirit. It was completed only in 1675. The interior of the church is worth a careful look &ndash especially the altars. Its external setting too is a feast for the eyes as it sits in splendour in a vast rectangular mango tree-lined square, looking at old Colonial homes in its vicinity.
One of these is the famous ancestral home of Eurico da Silva. Formerly a seven-gabled house, da Silva&rsquos Sat Burnzam Ghor (House of Seven Gables) now only has three.
Get A Glimpse Of Goan Life At Goa Chitra
This privately owned ethnography museum, is a place to learn about ancient Goa and its culture. Displayed here are traditional farming implements and other ancient tools of trade set up against the backdrop of a traditional organic farm, wood work, doors, windows, pillars, railings and other material collected from over 300 demolished traditional houses, etc. The museum is located in Mondo-Waddo, Benaulim, Salcete.
Spend A Day At Loutolim
Probably one of the most beautiful villages in Goa, Loutolim has lush paddy fields forming the backdrop for stunning Portuguese era mansions, including the home of the late cartoonist Mario Miranda&rsquos mansion. Check out the more than 250-year-old Casa Araujo Alvares mansion (located opposite Ancestral Goa). They take you on a tour consisting of an automated &lsquosound-and-light show&rsquo around rooms. And look out for the angled holes in an upstairs wall which were used for placing rifle barrels and shooting invaders.
Explore The Mock Villages At Ancestral Goa
Ancestral Goa (also known as the Big Foot museum) in Loutolim is often a favourite pitstop for its mock village setting with displays explaining the history and culture of Goa.The open-air museum depicts life in Goa&rsquos villages centuries ago. Besides, there are exhibits such as the Museum of Crosses, the Rosary Bead Museum, the Tiatr Hall of Fame dedicated to the actors of the Konkani theatre, etc. The Big Foot museum is open round the year, from 9am to pm. Ancestral Goa also has a restaurant, which serves authentic Goan cuisine in a Goan home.
Hang Out At The Menezes-Braganza House
Chandor village is worth a stop for the grand Menezes-Braganza House, a 450-year-old mansion with beautiful old furniture on display, old tapestries, ballrooms, banquet halls and beautiful old floors. The Braganza Pereiras have a 300-year-old chapel which has some intricate carving. However, the most important object is at the altar &ndash a toenail of St Francis Xavier.
Hit Up The Beach
Close to Margao (it's around 6km), Colva is among the best beaches in Goa for watersports. The powder white sands are lined by coconut palms and are a huge draw for tourists.
Make A Food Stop
Have a meal at the famous Longuinhos - they have excellent chorizo (Goan sausage). Nearby, on Miguel Loyola Furtado Road are Kamats which is great for vegetarian food. For Goan food that&rsquos authentic, reserve a table at Nostalgia at Uzro in Raia. Try their tart Goan prawn curry-rice and also sorpotel, complemented perfectly with toddy-leavened sannas.
Café Tato in the Apna Bazaar Complex on Varde Valaulikar Road has old-style coffee and south- and north-Indian thalis. Alcove&rsquos Restaurant near Cine Vishant has good butter chicken, pork vindaloo and sorpotel.
Hit up the Mercado de Afonso de Albuquerque indoor market, the Mercado Velho market and the Town Square for souvenirs to take back home.
Goa&rsquos second largest city is at the centre of Salcete taluka in southern Goa. It is 33 km from Panjim
Nearest airport Dabolim. Nearest rail Madgaon
When to go The weather is pleasant from late October to February end.