Barbados Cultural Vacations
The Caribbean island of Barbados is as rich in culture as it is in history.
If you are looking for a cultural vacation in Barbados, then we have compiled a comprehensive guide on how to have the best cultural experience.
To understand the culture of the Barbadian people, you first have to understand the history of the island.
Barbadian culture today is made up from the influences of African slaves with the majority of the population being black, and a minority white population that has descended from the white plantation owners and the first white slaves.
Culturally there is the African influence of dance and song blended with the etiquette of Victorian England. You will find Barbadian people well mannered and polite; it is usual to greet complete strangers that you pass on the street with ‘Good Morning.’
The children have a lot of respect for their elders and religion features highly in most families. The Barbadian nation is very caring, and the people are very laid back, they love to sing and dance and enjoy social gatherings.
So in alphabetical order let us tell you about the many places that you go to experience Barbadian culture and the many things that you can do to get the best experience from Barbados, and it’s people.
Places and Things to do of Cultural Interest in Barbados
The Barbados Museum can be found at the Garrison Savannah in St. Michael.
Here you will find seven galleries taking you through the hundreds of years of history in Barbados. After you have visited the Barbados Museum, you will begin to understand how the culture of Barbados has come about.
The galleries will take you through the Amerindians, Caribs, English settlers, African slavery and finally Independence.
You can also learn about housing on the island from plantation houses to chattel houses. There is also an excellent display of African heritage with masks and musical instruments.
The Barbados Museum will give you a good background on Barbados so that you can see how the culture on the island has been derived. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, and from 2 pm until 6 pm on Sundays. Please call (246) 427-0201 for further information or click on the link below to read more about sightseeing.
Barclays Park can be found on the east coast of Barbados just north of Bathsheba. The park was a gift from Barclays Bank to celebrate Independence in 1966.
Taking a picnic to this peaceful park will help you to appreciate the rugged beauty of the east coast and let you enjoy Barbadian culture at it’s best.
If you ask any local person where in Barbados they would recommend that you go – almost all of them will tell you to visit the east coast.
This is where Bajan’s go to relax with their families and where they often rent beach houses for a complete change of scenery. There is something so magical about the east coast, and it is where a lot of the island’s musicians go for their inspiration.
Beach Culture is a big part of Barbadian life, from children through to pensioners; everyone enjoys spending time at the beach. Being on an island and being surrounded by many beautiful beaches you will be spoilt for choice as to which one to visit first.
Most mornings, from the first light you will see school children taking a ‘sea bath‘ as it is known in Barbados, and swimming right next to them you will see elderly ladies and gentleman – all of whom start their day with an early morning dip.
Bajan’s are very keen on exercise and in the early morning, you will find people doing their work out on the beach and walking their dogs before they start work. Local people like to go to the beach very early in the morning and in the late afternoon when the sun isn’t too hot.
Bridgetown is the capital city of Barbados and can be found in the parish of St. Michael. To feel the heartbeat of culture in Barbados, you have to visit Bridgetown and take a wander around.
There is plenty to do in the city center, with shopping being people’s usual pass time. However, if you are looking for the cultural experience of Bridgetown then you have to visit one of the local markets for fresh produce, You will meet the Bajan market vendors and get a feel for the people.
Also in Bridgetown, you will find Baxter’s Road, which is renowned for its local Caribbean cooking with great food at reasonable prices.
You can also sit down by the careenage at one of the waterfront café’s and soak up the atmosphere as charter fishing boats come and go.
You can also visit some of the historical sites in the city such as the Parliament Buildings – Barbados has the third oldest parliament in the Commonwealth.
There are also two beautiful cathedrals – St. Michaels and St. Patrick’s, there is also the Jewish Synagogue, one of the oldest in the world – all of which will give you an insight into how important religion is in Barbadian society.
Also in Bridgetown, you will find the home of the nation’s highest passion – cricket! Kensington Oval was recently the host to the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2007.
Cricket plays a considerable part in Barbadian culture, with games played at all levels, all over the island, on purpose-built cricket pitches through to any patch of grass with children nearby.
Another sport, which features highly in Barbadian culture is horse racing and close to Bridgetown; you will find the Garrison Savannah, which is home to the Barbados Turf Club. The most significant event of the year is the Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup, which is held in March.
For further information about things to do in Bridgetown, please read the article below.
The Celtic Festival is held each year in the last two weeks of May and aims to celebrate everything Celtic in Barbados. Here you will find Welsh choirs, Celtic music, haggis night, rugby, clog dancing, kilts, golf and even highland games. This tradition celebrates the Celtic roots of many Barbadians – another example of how diverse the culture of Barbados is!
Crop Over is the most prominent festival celebrated in Barbados. It is the traditional celebration to mark the end of the sugar cane season for another year.
The African slaves used to celebrate with song and dance and all these years later that is still the main focus of the event.
Crop Over starts in May and ends on the first bank holiday weekend in August. Calypso music features heavily in the event with many live performances from Caribbean Calypsonians.
If you are visiting Barbados between May and August make sure you attend at least one of the crop over events as this immerses you in Barbadian culture and you get to enjoy yourself with the local people who will show you how to party the Bajan way!
Dominoes is another national pastime, played anywhere on a flat surface, you will hear the rattle of the dominoes slapping the table before you will see where it is coming from.
You will find a crowd of Bajan’s sitting under the shade of the tree, drinking rum and playing Dominoes, so if you want to be a part of the Bajan culture then pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of rum and get playing.
Farley Hill is another national park in Barbados, where Barbadians love to go for a picnic. It is the grounds of what was once the grandest mansion in Barbados, the walls of which still stand.
There are two main music festivals held here, and they are the Barbados Jazz Festival in January and the Barbados Reggae Festival in April.
The park has a lot of mahogany trees and is a breezy spot commanding breath-taking views. Whatever time of year you are visiting Barbados, try to get to Farley Hill to appreciate where Barbadians enjoy relaxing.
Holetown is where the first English settlers arrived in Barbados.
This lively town is located on the west coast of Barbados, and each year in February there is a week-long festival to celebrate the culture adopted in Barbados through its English heritage.
Click here for further information on the Holetown Festival.
‘Lime‘ is the Bajan term for hanging out or for an event. To get into the culture where you have to go to at least one ‘lime,’ this could be just going to a rum shop for a few hours and relaxing or attending an event with live music where you just sit back and enjoy.
One of the main things about being in the Caribbean is the laid back attitude of everyone and attending a ‘lime’ is the best way to feel really at home here.
National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) is held each year in November and is hosted by the National Cultural Foundation.
If you are visiting Barbados in November, then you will enjoy a cultural delight as this event showcases the up and coming talent of young Barbadians celebrating their culture through dance, song, poetry, writing, and art.
Oistins is a lively fishing town with a wonderful ‘fish fry’ every Friday night. Here you will find the locals and tourists enjoying fresh fish prepared in the colorful huts that line the beach.
There is also music playing and this is one of the cultural experiences that you have to enjoy while in Barbados. Every Easter there is the Oistins Fish Festival, where everyone comes out to enjoy music, good food and competitions amongst the fisherman.
There is a fishing boat race, a fish de-boning competition and the greasy pole, in which a $100US bill is placed at the top of a greasy pole and all the fisherman try their luck to see if they can get to the top and retrieve the money.
Plantation Houses are a big part of Barbadian history and have therefore played their part in how the culture on the island has developed. There are hundreds of plantation houses still in existence, some are now privately owned residences but some are open for public viewing.
It is well worth taking a tour of one of these houses for a glimpse of Barbadian life during the hey day of sugar cultivation on the island. You will find these homes a step back in time with wonderful antique furniture and artifacts.
Polo was first brought to Barbados by the English Army and has been played here ever since. There are four polo fields on the island all of which are home to international polo matches.
The original ground is at Holders Hill in St. James and the other three are Clifton, Water Hall and Lion Castle. Attending a game of polo allows you see how Colonial life has left it’s mark on Barbados and it is a very English afternoon sipping on ice-cold champagne and eating a few cucumber sandwiches served with afternoon tea.
Rum shops are one of the best places to experience Bajan culture first hand. There are over 1,200 rum shops in Barbados so you won’t have to look far to find one. These are the real hubs of local community where everyone goes to get their news and share their views.
If you want to meet a Bajan then drop in to the nearest rum shop and order a drink, it won’t be long before you know everyone’s name and find your self having one of the best times of your life in very rustic surroundings!
Wukin’ Up is the Bajan term for dancing to Calypso and Soca music. For a really cultural experience you only have to attend any musical event on the island or pop along to Oistins on a Friday night before someone will show you how to ‘Wuk Up“.
The dance revolves around the hip movement and can become quite sexual if you allow your teacher to get carried away.