Discovering the Houses of Goa Museum

posted in: Asia, Culture, Goa, Heritage, India | 32

Goa is a perfect confluence of East meets West. The blend of the Portuguese culture with the Indian roots is what makes is such a colorful and delightful place. This fusion was evident to me during the heritage tour of the Fontainhas with its narrow streets and bright houses. However, it was a visit to the “Houses of Goa” museum that really enhanced my understanding of them. I did mention some of the unique things about the houses of Goa in this post but to understand them more, you need to visit this unique museum.

Houses of Goa Museum
Houses of Goa Museum


The museum was conceptualized by a local architect – Gerard da Cunha, who first used this concept in an international trade exhibition. Given its uniqueness and the interest levels of the visitors, he decided to take this on further as an independent museum. Today he is the chief curator and designer of the Houses of Goa museum. Thanks to Goa Tourism, I had the fortune of meeting him and chatting with him in person. In fact, he himself, took us on a tour of the entire museum.

Gerard showcasing the various facets of the Houses of Goa
Gerard showcasing the various facets of the Houses of Goa

The museum itself is spread over three floors and has galleries dedicated to

  • The History of the Houses of Goa
  • The different types of houses of Goa
  • The material, interiors and furniture used in the Houses of Goa
  • Section on the significant symbols of the final Goan house. This is also, a small amphitheatre with slideshows of the museum.

While the entire museum was a delight to tour around, here are my highlights of the “Houses of Goa” Museum

The building of the museum

Houses of Goa Museum
Houses of Goa Museum

The museum is smack in the center of the road and stands out owing to its ship like shape. What is even more amazing is that when you enter in, you do not have a straight flight of steps but a spiral staircase. It makes you feel as if you are ascending a mast pole of a ship. 🙂

History in pictures

Glimpses of Goa by Mario Miranda - at the Houses of Goa
Glimpses of Goa by Mario Miranda – at the Houses of Goa

Around the spiral staircase on the first floor is a pictorial representation of the entire history of Goa and the way the entire housing structure evolved after the arrival of Portuguese. The work of the famed cartoonist Mario Miranda, these pictures are quite interesting and in some cases, comical.

Glimpses of Goa by Mario Miranda - at the Houses of Goa
Glimpses of Goa by Mario Miranda – at the Houses of Goa

Adding to that is a set of images showcasing the various monuments of the world on a timeline. The entire experience of looking through these is not just educative but also, interesting. I found myself trying to spot the various monuments that I had seen or known of.

The coat hanger at the Houses of Goa Museum

The unique coat hanger at the Houses of Goa Museum
The unique coat hanger at the Houses of Goa Museum

This one was cute. The hangers were kind of fold-able and when opened resembled an umbrella. I also, thought that the entire structure was quite artistic. A bit of an ethnic touch in the design with a functionality that came in from the West.

Shell windows

Shell windows
Shell windows

I had mentioned in this post of  how the shell windows were a typical Goan concept. The Houses of Goa museum not just has these windows but also, tells you about the way it is made. It was quite fascinating to see the shell pieces that make up this cute window.

Symbols of the Houses of Goa

Symbols used on the various houses of Goa
Symbols used on the various houses of Goa

Remember the famous Portuguese rooster that were found on the houses in Fontainhas? If not, take a peek here. This was one of the main symbols of the houses of Goa. Quite like that, you can spot this policeguy. I do not know of its significance and truly, I forgot to ask,  but I do remember him on a few houses of Fontainhas, like this bright red one below. So, the next time you are in the “Houses of Goa” museum, don’t forget to spot this cute fella and check on why he is kept on the homes.

Portuguese homes in Fontainhas
Portuguese homes in Fontainhas

The Tulsi Aangan & the Holy Crosses

The various types of Tulsi Aangans - showcased in the Houses of Goa museum
The various types of Tulsi Aangans – showcased in the Houses of Goa museum

I had shared on how one can distinguish between a Hindu house and a Christian house in Fontainhas – the whole aspect of Tulsi plants Vs. the Holy Crosses. At the Houses of Goa museum, you actually realise how many varieties of these Tulsi aangans and crosses were used. It was just a pictorial representation but quite an insightful one.

Balcaos of the Houses of Goa

Fontainhas, Goa
The Balcoa at a house in Fontainhas, Goa

The Houses of Goa Museum is where I learnt about this unique thing of Balcoas or sit-outs. All through my heritage walk of Fontanhas, I noticed these huge sit outs in the houses but did not know that they were called Balcoas or that this was used as an evening gathering place for neighbours. You can well imagine what a lively life they lead – what – with a good cup of tea and a dose of gossip 🙂

A Heritage house in the Fontanhas area of Panjim, Goa
A Heritage house in the Fontainhas area of Panjim, Goa

The museum has pictures of various balcoas along with a witty representation of the same by the famous cartoonist – Mario Miranda. On the same level, you can also, spot the unique Portuguese palanquin – the Machila. And while you are there, don’t miss the story of the Raj Aangans or the huge verandas that were used for feasts in the Hindu homes.

The houses of Goa museum is quite an insightful place for those who love knowing more about the culture and architecture of the local homes. It is quite well curated and unusual. Gerard has indeed done a brilliant job of preserving the heritage stories of Goa through this museum. The place is definitely another destination for those looking for Goa beyond beaches. And if you do decide to visit here, remember to opt for the tour of the unique schools built by Gerard – a story that I will keep for my next post. So stay tuned and till then, comment in and let me know on how you found this attraction.

Houses of Goa Museum

Getting here:

  • Goa can easily be reached by road, rail or flight from any city in India. It has its own railway station and airport.
  • The Houses of Goa museum is located just 5 kms from Panjim in Torda. You can reach this place with the help of a local taxi or car.

Travel Tips:

  • You can click here for the official website of this museum
  • The museum is open between 10:00am to 7:30 pm on all days except Mondays.
  • You can opt for a slide show of the Houses of Goa at the museum. However, for the same you will need to have a prior booking.
  • The entry fees to the museum is INR 25.
  • Please note that the museum is a small one and one needs to climb up to access it. You cannot carry a pram into the museum. It could also, be an issue for people with disabilities
  • You will need to remove your shoes and tour the museum.
  • Keep aside 30 – 45 minutes to tour this museum.
  • You can club a visit to the unique schools around this museum whilst here. These schools are built by Gerard and have some unique architecture. More information on the schools can be found here.
  • I also, recommend combining this visit with the Heritage walk throughFontainhas, it will definitely help you appreciate the same better.
  • Drop in to the Mario Miranda shop, near the museum, for some quirky buys – from funny badges to Tshirts and some crockery. Check them out.
Mario Miranda store near the Houses of Goa Museum
Mario Miranda store near the Houses of Goa Museum



P.S: I was invited by Goa Tourism to visit this museum. 




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32 Responses

  1. The museum building’s architecture is quite unique, but even then it doesn’t strike as anything out of the ordinary … it just seamlessly blends in. Beautiful!

  2. Never heard of this museum though have been to Goa a couple of times. Really unique building and intriguing as well. 🙂

  3. Yogi Saraswat

    The building itself is very attractive. Beautifully written with information.

  4. Amazing museum, Awesome pics.
    Thanks a lot for sharing.

  5. I love this! Such a window into the city and its culture. I would enjoy this museum… but then head to the beach 😉

  6. This is interesting… So many things to explore

  7. Wow.. that’s an amazing piece of work. Thanks for sharing this valuable info.

  8. The building is so interesting and is not an eye sore. Good stuff.

  9. Soemhow, all houses and street views that i have seen of Goa makes me think that its a very colourful city. there is a positive splash of colours and history in every corner of the city which is very inviting.

  10. Goa really seems to be luring more and more tourists these days.

    Nice to see it’s more than just lovely beaches

  11. Hi Ami, do you know when this museum first opened? I was in Goa in 1989 and I don’t recall seeing it. I imagine it probably was created more recently?

    • The museum is quite recent. It was definitely not there in 1989. Don’t know the exact date of its establishment.

  12. The outside appearance of the museum is already fascinating and your little tour inside makes it more interesting for a visit.

  13. Adam, Bite of Iceland

    It’s a pity I didn’t get there. I was in India for a month this year, but left Goa for the end of the trip and only had 5 days there. Apart from the beaches, I loved the architecture of Panaji.

    • Maybe the next time, you can start with Goa and go on to explore more of the other destinations down south. We have a treasure trove here.

  14. This is indeed a whole new perspective of Goa, that you have unveiled in this post. The houses of Goa Museum, is packed with such treasures from its heritage and culture, is really a revelation. I am particularly impressed by the sheer variety and designs of the Tulsi Vrindavan. Not something that we generally associate with Goa.

    • I agree Vyjay. We typically do not associate the Tulsi plant with Goa. It was fascinating to discover its roots.

  15. Great post – Hope to check it out when Im in goa soon!

  16. Wow! These houses looked too cool to be true!

Would love to know what you think