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Bridgetown

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Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados, the eastern most island of the Caribbean. Bridgetown is the only city on Barbados and well over half the island's residents live there. Bridgetown is the port of call for many cruise ships and is known for its duty-free shopping as much as for its more cultural and historical attractions. The historic Bridgetown and its garrison constitute a world heritage site.

This article covers everything in Bridgetown itself and also the rest of St Michael Parish.

Get in

Bridgetown is the hub for the island's cheap and convenient buses. Buses from the south arrive at the Bus Terminal near the city center and buses from the north and center arrive at the bus terminal near Cheapside Market to the north of city center. Note that southern buses arrive outside the terminal, but you have to go into the terminal (entrance just around the corner near the bridge) to catch departing buses.

Get around

Most of the Bridgetown sites are in easy walking distance of city center. City buses run to many of the outlying sights, such as the Savanna Green. For sights off the main roads, such as the Malibu Rum Factory, a taxi or private car is your best option. See the Getting Around section of Barbados for more about transportation options.

See

Downtown

  • 1 The Careenage is the sheltered creek that was the island's original harbour, and the natural centre of the early town. The first British found a wooden bridge here built by the Arawaks; they replaced it and its present incarnation is the Chamberlain Bridge, usually closed to traffic. When the eminent Sir Tobias Bridge arrived as commander of local forces in 1667, smart residents suddenly came up with a great name for the town. 19th and 20th C shipping outgrew the creek and a deep water harbour was built further north, so this area was preserved from later industry. It now houses restaurants, bars and shops, in what used to be warehouses and stores for ship supplies. Enjoy a rum on the waterfront, and recall that "careenage" means hauling a beached vessel over onto one side to scrape the barnacles off the hull: bottoms up!.
  • 2 St Michael's Cathedral, ☎ +1 246 426 2761. Rebuilt in 1789 after hurricane damage, and promoted to a cathedral in 1825 when the Anglican Diocese of Barbados was created, it's a pleasant coral-stone structure. Note the tower, 17th C font, stain glass windows, and chapel. Sir Grantley Adams, the island's first Premier, is buried in the graveyard.
  • 3 St. Mary's Church, ☎ +1 246 426 2761. The current building was constructed in 1827 but there has been a church here since 1630.
  • Nidhe Israel Synagogue (בית הכנסת נדחי ישראל) was first built in 1654, so it's one of the oldest in the Americas. Jewish refugees arrived from Brazil in that era; they knew a lot about sugar cultivation and helped the Barbados cane industry to get started. The synagogue was wrecked by a hurricane in 1831, rebuilt, but fell into disuse and was deconsecrated in 1929. It was on the verge of being demolished, but refurbished and services resumed in the late 20th C, though it's nowadays primarily a museum. Excavation in 2008 revealed a 17th C mikveh or ritual cleansing bath. Sited on Magazine Lane, it's open M-F 9AM-4PM.
  • Parliament, Broad Street (near Trafalgar Square). M, W-Sa 10AM-4PM. The neo-Gothic parliament buildings are open to the public when parliament is in session. B$5.
  • Broad Street, Swan Street and Cheapside Market are good areas for just strolling.
  • Ilaro Court, the official residence of the Barbados Prime Minister, is occasionally open for public visits. It's on Two Mile Hill at the eastern edge of the city.

South of centre

  • 4 Garrison Savannah and St Ann's Fort is a historic district a mile south of city centre, transected by Highway 7. In the 18th & 19th C the whole area was a military base, centred on the Savannah, the parade ground and sports fields, which are now the island's racetrack. There are many attractive old buildings here, with the chief sights being the George Washington House and the Barbados Museum east of the highway, and St Ann's Fort and Needham's Point to the west. All the buses and minibuses from Bridgetown towards Oistins and south-side hotels run this way.
  • George Washington House (signposted from bus stop). M-F 9AM-4PM. The only overseas trip George Washington ever made was to Barbados, in 1751 aged 19, accompanying his older half-brother Lawrence who was seriously ill with tuberculosis. He stayed several weeks in this plantation-style mansion, fell ill himself with smallpox, but recovered to make his mark on history. His observations of Barbados farming methods, social structure and military defences were to serve him well when he returned to Mount Vernon, Virginia. The ground floor is reconstructed to that period, upstairs is an exhibition on island life over the centuries. The house backs onto that archaeologists' delight, a midden: the island's limestone gullies were long used as trash & dung heaps, so there's a rich mixture down there of Arawak fish-bone artefacts, plastic cups, broken buttons, and Washington's poxy poop. Beneath the house in 2011 were discovered tunnels, a star-burst of long, deep channels radiating from the Savannah, built circa 1820. They're said to be for drainage, but they're excessively elaborate for that simple task, up to 17 foot deep and half a mile long - maybe a work-creation Folly for the post-Napoleonic peace? There's a pleasant cafe. B$50.
  • 5 Barbados Museum, St Ann's Garrison, St Michael (jcn of Garrison Rd & Dalkeith Rd), ☎ +1 246 427 0201, fax: +1 246 436 1956, e-mail: musepr@barbmuse.org.bb. Mon-Sat 9AM-5PM, Sun 2PM-6PM. Housed in the former British Military Prison, this museum covers the emergence from the sea of this coral island, its indigenous peoples, the arrival of Europeans and African slaves, the colonial period, emancipation of the slaves, independence from Britain, and more recent history. Adult B$20, child B$10.
  • St Ann's Fort: the Garrison area west of the highway remains a military base and is off limits, but a weekly guided tour (currently Thurs) visits the historic sections. This takes in the Drill Hall, the cannon collection, and the weekly changing of the guard, dressed in natty Zouave uniforms.
  • Needham's Point is the tip of land beyond the military base. It has a lighthouse, nowadays within the grounds of the Hilton Hotel; it's accessible to the public but you can't go inside it.
  • 6 Wildey House, just south of the city limits off Errol Barrow Highway, is a Georgian mansion built circa 1760. You can visit downstairs M-F 8.30AM-4.30PM; free, donation appreciated. Upstairs are offices, the HQ of Barbados National Trust.
  • Also just south of the city limits in Southern Barbados is the Mallalieu Motor Museum.

Do

  • 1 Mount Gay Rum Distilleries, Spring Garden Hwy, Saint Michael, ☎ +1 246 425 8757, e-mail: mountgaytours@remy-cointreau.com. M-F 9.30AM-2.30PM, Sa (Nov-Apr) 10.30AM-2.30PM. The sugarcane is nowadays imported, but the rest of the process of making rum remains local. The basic tour is the "Signature tasting", B$40, 45 mins every hour, kids free. Pricier tours include transport, more rum, and meals.
  • West Indies Rum Distillery is on North Brighton Rd. It was sold in 2017 to Maison Ferrand and tours are currently only by special arrangement.
  • The Dive Shop (Scuba Dive), Ameys Alley, Upper Bay St, St. Michael, ☎ +1 246-426-9947. A one tank dive is US $60 and a 2-tank dive is US $100. Resort class and dive is US $85. Multi-dive packages also exist, such as a 3-dive (1-day) package. Snorkeling is also offered for US $25 US $60-100.
  • Watch cricket at 2 Kensington Oval, Pickwick (off Westbury Rd, north of centre). West Indies play as a combined team for international games. These are staged across the Caribbean and will usually include games here, in a variety of formats: Test matches lasting up to five days, and one- and two-day internationals. Barbados also plays as a nation in Caribbean tournaments. For tickets see the West Indies Cricket website. The Oval, capacity 28,000, is sometimes used for other sports, rock concerts etc but is primarily a cricket ground. It hosted its first international in 1895; in 2007 it was extensively redeveloped with the opening of the new "3 W's" stand and Sir Garfield Sobers Pavilion.
  • Go to the races at Garrison Savannah Racetrack (one mile south of centre on Hwy 7). This is a six-furlong clockwise (right-hand turning) grass track for flat racing, on the former parade ground of the 18th / 19th C military base. Notable fixtures are the Barbados Gold Cup (late Feb / early Mar, 8.95 furlongs) and the "Triple Crown" of the Barbados Guineas (mid-April, 7.8 furlongs), Midsummer Creole Classic (early July, 9 furlongs) and Barbados Derby (early Aug, 10 furlongs).

Buy

  • Several vendors sell tourist kitsch (sea shells, beads) on the Careenage at the south end of Constitution Bridge, next to Independence Arch.
  • There are numerous stores (including Cave Shepherd, the Macy's of Barbados) on Broad Street, especially for jewellery, and offer duty-free prices.
  • Swan Street, a pedestrian mall, has stores selling cheap clothes.

Eat

  • Waterfront Cafe, The Careenage, Bridgetown, ☎ +1 246 427 0093. M-Sa 10AM-10PM. Set on the cool side of The Careenage, Waterfront Cafe is an excellent place to sample Bajan cuisine washed down with a rum punch or Banks on tap. Live music every night. Fast food it's not - relax, you're in the Caribbean. B$15-B$50.

Drink

  • 1 Harbour Lights, Marine Villa, Bay Street. This has three aspects. By day it's a beach-club, B$20 entry, for cruise passengers and others who don't have a hotel beach. Another B$20 gets you a snorkeling trip with the turtles. On Mon & Wed evenings there's a dinner show, B$190, steel bands and all the rum you can handle. And Wed & Fri evenings it's a nightclub.

Sleep

There is little accommodation in Bridgetown itself. Most visitors stay in the beach-strip hotels to the south or along the west coast.

  • 1 Radisson Aquatica, Aquatic Gap, Bridgetown (just north of Garrison Savannah), ☎ +1 246 426 4000. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. 4-star hotel, building is tired but good reviews for location, views and services.
  • 2 Hilton Barbados, Needham's Point, St Michael, Bridgetown, ☎ +1 246-426-0200. Boxy 4-star hotel, wide range of facilities, gets very mixed reviews for quality of rooms and services.
  • Sweetfield Manor is an upscale B&B on Brittons Ridge, northeast of the Garrison Savannah. It was built in the 1900s by a Danish shipping magnate and is occasionally open for public tours.

Stay safe

Cope

Embassies and High Commissions

  • Canada, Bishop's Court Hill Bridgetown, Barbados BB11113, ☎ +1 246-429-3550, fax: +1 246-429-3780, e-mail: bdgtn@international.gc.ca.
  • United Kingdom, Lower Colleymore Rock Road, ☎ +1 246 430 7800. M-Th 9AM-4PM, F 9AM-1PM.



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