Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados and is as rich in culture as it is history, with many interesting places to visit and lots of duty free outlets and gift shops. It is one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean region with continuous occupation since 1628.
Bridgetown was founded by a small group of English settlers who named it Indian River Bridge because of the bridge that goes over the Constitution River built by the very first inhabitants, believed to be the Amerindians.
Bridgetown was not an ideal location for the country’s capital city as it was a very unhealthy place back then, it sat on a mosquito-infested swamp and over 20,000 people died from cholera in 1654.
But it looks out over the beautiful Carlisle Bay and its geography was perfect at the time to develop the port, which become one of the main ports in the world during it’s heyday of the 17th century along with Boston and London.
The port has continued to grow over the years and is one of the largest in the Caribbean to berth some of the super cruise liners now in operation.
The wealth from the sugar and trade slave made Bridgetown, as it was later renamed a very grand city with excellent architecture displayed on colonial homes and warehouses.
However, not much of this grand city still stands after a fire in 1659, which destroyed over 200 houses in the city centre. Only 8 years later in 1667 a hurricane then hit Barbados destroying even more of the city, and then there was a great fire in 1668, which burned down a further 800 buildings.
Bridgetown was plagued by fire and was destroyed by a further 12 great fires from 1673 until the last recorded fire in 1910.
Despite all of these disasters, Bridgetown still has a lot of historical buildings and there are a number of monuments and statues to commemorate important events in Bridgetown’s history.
As you enter Bridgetown from the south coast you will see a huge expanse of open parade ground with a horseracing track on the outside, this area is called the Garrison Savannah and is now home to the Barbados Turf Club.
The Garrison Savannah was where the British Army were based from the 1600’s and is still home today for the Barbados Defence Force. Around the Garrison area you will find grand military buildings and two other major tourist attractions. These are the Barbados Museum with seven galleries to look around and Bush Hill House now known as George Washington House after his stay there in 1751.
The Careenage is a major focal point in Bridgetown and is home to charter fishing boats, catamarans and yachts to rent. The Limelight Café and the Waterfront Café, both of which have live bands and entertainment, overlook this tranquil scene.
Opposite The Careenage you will find the start of Broad Street, home to many of the major department stores and gift shops who offer duty free shopping, here you will also find places to eat and drink.
Much of corporate Barbados have head offices within the city centre, so here you will find tourists wandering the streets in shorts alongside office workers in suits.
At this end of Broad Street you will also find National Heroes Square, which has it’s very own Nelson’s Column erected in 1813, which was before its famous counterpart in London.
In 2007 the square underwent a major overhaul so that it now offers a great place to relax and watch the world go by on a lazy sunny afternoon.
There is a cenotaph to remember the dead from both world wars, the Dolphin Fountain to commemorate piped water in to Bridgetown and a statue of Errol Barrow – a national hero of Barbados and previous Prime Minister.
Also in Bridgetown are the Barbadian Parliament Buildings, located next to the Chamberlain Bridge, which were built in 1874 and home to the Barbados Parliament which was formed in 1639 making it the third oldest in the entire commonwealth.
Within a short walk you can also find another two historic buildings of religious significance in Barbados and they are St. Michael’s Cathedral and the Jewish Synagogue.
In close proximity to St. Michaels Cathedral is Queens Park, where you will find Queens Park House, a beautiful Georgian mansion built in 1783 which now has an art gallery for you to look around,
If you walk to the very top of Broad Street and onto Fontabelle you will find Kensington Oval, a very famous cricket ground in operation since 1882 and which was host to the final game of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup.
If you continue on up to Harbour road, you will come to the Pelican Craft Centre, a complex of design and working studio’s of local craftsmen selling original and authentic goods. The shops here are very unusual and make an ideal stop for presents.
Just outside of Bridgetown is Tyrol Cot, the family home of Sir Grantley Adams the first prime minister of Barbados. The house was built in 1854 and exhibits memorabilia from his political career and that of his son, Tom Adams who followed in his father’s footsteps to also become a Barbadian prime minister.
Finally, you wouldn’t be in Barbados, let alone the capital city if there were no mention of the countries national drink, and that is rum.
While wandering around the city centre try and make time to head out on the Spring Garden Highway for a tour of the Mount Gay rum factory, here you will learn the history of rum and how it is made.
Author: Brett Callaghan