OLD GOA, formally known as ‘Ela’ and ‘Velha Goa’, was the capital of Goa from 1470 to 1893. Unlike the other capitals (Gowapuri and Chandrapura), of which almost nothing remains, Old Goa has numerous old buildings, many in superb condition. Its importance in ancient times was largely due to its deep-water harbour on the Mandovi estuary. Under the Adil Shahs (the Sultans of Bijapur) the city flourished and many fine palaces, temples and mosques were built. None of these remain, with the exception of the gate of the palace of Adil Shah. In 1510 the Portugese, under Alfonso de Albuquerque, took the city and, over the next 450 years, it grew into a major metropolis and then dwindled into obscurity. At its height it rivalled even Lisbon and was known as ‘Rome in India’.The remaining buildings are all from this period.
THE SE CATHEDRAL: built between 1562 and 1619, this Portugese-Gothic style building is the largest church in Goa. Only one of its original two towers remain and this houses the Golden Bell. The exterior is half Tuscan and half Doric style and the interior Mosaic-Corinthian. Besides the main altar (dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria) there are eight chapels and six altars.
THE CHURCH OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI: constructed in 1661, on the site of an earlier Franciscan chapel. The style is Baroque, though the central doorway is Manueline and the towers are octagonal. The interior is highly decorated and includes a floor made from old gravestones.
THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM: situated at the back of the church, was the old Convent of St. Francis. Among its exhibits are many badly retouched portraits of Goa’s viceroys, a statue of Alfonso de Aluquerque and carvings of various Hindu deities. Opening times: 10.00am to 5.00pm (closed Friday).
THE BASILICA OF BOM JESUS: constructed between 1594 and 1605, it has a three-storey facade in Ionic, Doric and Corinthian styles and a Baroque altar. Housed in a silver casket in a richly adorned chapel are the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, Goa’s patron saint. Every 10 years there is an exposition, the next being due in 2004, on the anniversary of his death (3rd December 1552).

There are many more buildings of interest, referred to in the map above. Facilities for visitors are limited and there is no accommodation. By the main roundabout there is a Post Office, Police Station, Bank and public toilets. On the north side of the town, on the bank of the Mandovi River, is a car-ferry to Divar Island