Margao, often called the commercial capital of Goa, is the capital of the southern taluka of Salcete and also of the South Goa district. Because of its location, it serves as a service and transport hub to all the areas of South Goa.
Surrounded by fertile farmland, the town of Margao was once a major religious centre, with dozens of temples and dharmshalas (religious resthouses). However, most of these were destroyed when the Portuguese absorbed the area into their Novas Conquistas during the 17th century. Margao's name is believed to have come from "matha-grama" (the village of religious mathas) as it was a village of temple schools (mathas) - including the principal Vaishnavi 'matha', Jeevottam, before it was shifted to Partagal in Canacona.
Margao is home to the popular deity of Damodar, as reflected in names of local educational and other institutions.
Skirted in part by the Sal river, Margao is known for its Indo-Portuguese style mansions - complete with shady balcaos (porches) and oyster-shell windows - 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.
It has four diocesan of churches, Holy Spirit in the central area, Our Lady of Grace adjoining the Municipal Square, St Sebastian at Aquem and Rosary near the Nehru Stadium at Fatorda.
The Largo de Igreja or the Church of the Holy Spirit dominates the entrance to the city just north of the Municipal Garden Square. It is Salcete taluka's second-oldest built in 1564-65; its present, fourth edition edifice is grander and was re-built in 1645. The church is one of the finest examples of late-Baroque architecture in Goa, boasting a pristine white façade and an interior dripping with gilt crystal and stucco. The church area is surrounded by beautiful old residential houses still in pristine condition.
The town has four chapels with near-Parish size following at Mungul, Ambajim, Borda and the picturesque 'Monte' hillock, all with resident Chaplains and daily services. In addition, there is a major church of the Carmelite order at Malbhat besides half a dozen chapels of various religious orders from Jesuits to Salesians.
Just within walking distance of the Holy Spirit Church, is the famous "House of Seven Gables" or "Sat Burzam Ghor". This magnificent mansion was commissioned in 1790 by Sebastino da Silva, emissary and private secretary of the Portuguese Viceroy. Although only three of the seven gables remain today, they are enough to give the visitor an idea of the size of the original edifice.
In the centre of the town is the Municipal Garden (known as Praça Jorge Barreto), around which most restaurants and office buildings are located. The colonial style red washed Municipal building (Câmara) built in 1905 and the Library lie on the park's south side. From this main square, bylanes lead to the bazaar and the area that used to be the fish market.
The road from the Holy Spirit Church splits into three at the entrance to Margao, one going into the city proper and the other winding up towards another Margao landmark. This road called Calçada de Nossa Senhora de Piedade leads up to Monte Hill. There is a small chapel at the top of the hill which remains locked most of the time. But it is worth coming up here for a spectacular view of the Salcete countryside in general and Margao in particular.
Located close to Margao are beaches like Velsao, Cansaulim, Arossim, Majorda, Betalbatim, Colva, Sernabatim, Benaulim, Varca, Fatrade, Cavelossim and Mobor.
- Clergy Home, located near the district hospital Hospicio, was among the first shelters for retiring priests built by the Goa Archdiocese. It was founded by Rev. Antonio Joao de Miranda, a humble Catholic clergyman. Seen today is the recently reconstructed version.
- Clube Harmonia was called the Clube de Margao (subsequently renamed as Teatro de Harmonia) and operated 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 in 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.
- Ravindra Bhavan, located near Fatorda's Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, is South Goa's major centre for the performing arts.
- Goa's largest stadium, the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is located at Fatorda. Here one can run into popular off-monsoon evening football matches, and even the occasional international cricket match.