Margao is the commercial center of Goa.
Goa's cultural capital and commercial capital, this South Goa city is also the second-largest (after Vasco da Gama) by population but arguably the busiest. Being the administrative headquarters of South Goa might create a misleading picture; Margao too is close to the central coast.... the long white-sand beach stretch, rated by an early-1970s UNDP study as potentially one of the ten best beaches in the world.
This beach spans 30-odd unbroken kms., from Sancoale in the north to the Mobor Peninsula in the south. Margao lies somewhat in the middle of this beach, five kilometres eastwards. Hence a strategic base station for beaches like Velsao, Cansaulim, Arossim, Majorda, Betalbatim, Colva, Sernabatim, Benaulim, Varca, Fatrade, Cavelossim and Mobor.
Like other Goan places, Margao too gets called multiple names in different languages. It's called Madgaon by the Indian Railways, and the local Konkani pronounciation is Mudgannv or Modgannv. Margão is the Portuguese name and spelling.
Skirted in part by the River Sal, Margao is known for his huge Indo-Portuguese style mansions -- more visible around here than in other parts of Goa. Take a look around Abade Faria Road and its eastern parallel, the Padre Miranda Road, the area around the Holy Spirit Church and St. Joaquim Road that leads to Borda.
Margao is crowded and hot, but it's worth seeing. The hustle and bustle is quite incredible.
Some landmarks in Margao include (around Abade Faria Road and Padre Miranda Road) include Presentation Convent (Holy Spirit Church area) and Fatima Convent (near the municipal square) are two of Margao's oldest unisex high schools started and being run by Catholic religious congregations, for girls.
Clergy Home along arterial Padre (Pe.) Miranda Road, near today's district hospital -- Hospicio, an unique edifice in its own right, founded by Rev. Antonio Joao de Miranda a humble Catholic clergyman, after whom the thoroughfare outside is named -- was among the first shelters for retiring priests built by the Goa Archdiocese. Seen today is the recently reconstructed version.
Clube Harmonia was called the Clube de Margao (subsequently renamed as Teatro de Harmonia) operating from a house at the Borda locality. The idea of a modern building for the Teatro de Harmonia was mooted by its members in 1936. The present structure was built 1955. Together with Bernado Peres da Silva (BPS) Club, Clube ABC and Margao Cricket Club, Harmonia is today a leading socio club of the town.
Hindu Mathagramasth Sabha: As the 'mathagram' in the name suggests, it's a Brahmin institution. Has rendered yeoman's service in education, irrespective of creed or caste, to Margaoites. Runs the Damodar Arts & Science Higher Secondary School (not to be mixed up with Damodar College, that's run by Vidhya Vikas Mandal, a different ball game), one of the best higher secondary schools in Goa, if one goes by Std. XII science board exam results.
Agha Khan's Children's Park: Few would be aware that the northern half of the Margao municipal garden was actually developed by a businessman, Abdul Javerbhai Mavany, hailing from Margao's minuscule Agakhani community. He did that after two young sons were lost to cancer and High Highness, The Agha Khan, was visiting Goa. The park was inaugurated by Goa's last Portuguese Governor General, Vassalo e Silva, in 1959.
In Aquem Alto, Arlem was Goa's first brewery started by the Chowgules at a locality of the same name (Arlem), on the outskirts of Margao. Incidentally, Goa's second brewery was the Mallya's, at Bethora-Ponda. Former politician Monte Cruz must have been the last to join the club with his brand of Kings.
Goa Bottling, better known locally as "Gold Spot" after the popular aerated softie it bottled in the yesteryears, was a latecomer to Goa. It straddles the corner junction of Margao-Ponda NH-4A and Margao's Eastern Bypass road. Among Goa's very first aerated soft drink bottlers was a seaman from Velim, who, immediately in the post-Liberation years, started his Crunet bottling unit at Borda, in Margao. Coke's Goa franchisee, the politically-prominent family of the Sequeiras, later started their unit in Borim. The mining-based Modu Timblo group later started Goa Bottling. It's now owned by Pepsi's Delhi-based principal franchisee in India.
Cupid's Haven is a recent-coinage open air event venue located nearby. It hosts dances and wedding receptions.
Also located nearby is Goa's second plant that makes industrial and medical oxygen gas from thin air, Goving Poy Oxygen. (The first was Gas Carbonico, on Margao's outskirts at Nuvem, a village that was once part of Margao. The company was taken over by Margao Govind Poys, once a smalltime hardware establishment that diversified into multi-purpose gases with factories in Cochin, Nashik and Goa.)
Also part of the city's map are places like the Pandava cave (near the current St. Sebastiao Church at Aquem, Torsannzor -- a healing mineral spring, more famous than Ana Fonte in yesteryears -- among others.
Some of the buildings are still styled in a colonial way, from the Portuguese past. Some places to visit in and around Margao are:
There are markets all over the place.
Margao isn't as rich in decent eating places, as compared to the touristic coast nearby.
Check some on these list: The restaurant at Hotel Nanutel (Indian/Chinese/mixed). Longuinhos (Goan/Indian/Chinese). Hotel Woodlands' bar. The restaurant of Hotel Saaj (Malayalee specialities). Shahi Durbar along FL Gomes (Old Station) Road for Mughlai/Indian, with nice cuisine even if a crowded area. Gaylin along Varde Valaulikar Road (behind the Collectorate) and Rice Bowl at Reliance Park, along the Margao-Colva Road, just beyond the municipal limits (Chinese), which is worthy of a recommendation.
Places to stay include the GTDC-run Margao Residence, behind the municipal building; Hotel Woodlands; Nanutel; Hotel Saaj, behind Fatima Convent, Miguel Loyola Furtado Rd (Behind Fatima Convent); Government Rest House, Monte; and Gold Star Hotel, Isidorio Baptista Road.
GTDC-owned Margao Residency, a fair place to stay on a budget. Margao has only budget hotels. Others: Woodlands, Margao's first multi-storeyed modern hotel (the ones before were lodges and traditional *pensoes* that almost went to rut), Hotel Saaj and the slightly upper middle-end Nanutel which stands on part of the Cine Metropole property, opposite Ana Fonte.
There are of course, numerous lodges, cheap as they come (Rs. 300-500), and with corresponding facilities. Milan, Goa Lodge, and a sprinkling around the Khareaband road leading to Benaulim, are generally patronised by outstation travelling salesmen. But there are better places to eat and stay outside of Margao proper.
Cybercafes in and around Margao:
Salcete (around Margao):