Old Goa was a thriving city even before the Portuguese arrived in 1510. It had been the capital of the Bahmani Sultan Adil Shah. The large palace of Adil Shah, surrounded by fort walls, towers and a moat was located here as well as many temples and mosques. Unfortunately none of these structures remain in existence today except for the ruins of the gateway to the palace.
After the Portuguese conquest, Old Goa went on to become a bustling metro glittering with gold and glamour. As its reputation grew, the fabulous city attracted visitors from all over Europe. Under the Portuguese the city grew rapidly in size and splendor, eventually coming to rival Lisbon itself. At the height of the Portuguese power, it was called the ‘Rome of the Orient’, its population surpassing that of even the European cities of London and Lisbon.
Afonso Albuquerque – the founder of Goa – built the first church here, that of Our Lady of the Rosary. He also built the Se Cathedral, the largest church in Asia, that took 80 years to get complete. The construction of Churches continued at a fast pace and eventually there were some 12 huge and magnificent churches and monuments roughly in an area of one square kilometer in Old Goa. The magnificent splendor of Old Goa was however quite short-lived. By the end of the 16th century the Portuguese maritime and colonial power waned. The fortunes of Old Goa began to dwindle too. The city’s decline was accelerated by the activities of the inquisition.
Today, Old Goa is a World Heritage site. There is a small village around the huge churches and convents. Some of these are still in active use, and others have become museums maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The city no longer bustles with crowds and trading people, but with a little imagination, you can picture the thriving city that used to be at the site. Early morning and late evening (till 5:30) are the best times to visit the site.