The capital of Barbados, Bridgetown is a scenic destination for the island paradise in the far southeastern corner of the Caribbean. Founded as a port on Carlisle Bay by the British, it has grown to be the largest city in the nation and a popular tourist destination, as well as a center for finance and conventions in the region. With dozens of small shops and several fantastic beaches, the list of what to see in Bridgetown is very diverse. Here are a few favorites you’ll want to put on your itinerary:
National Heroes Square
The default central point of Bridgetown since it was created in the early 1800s, you will find several must see historic attractions here. The area is punctuated by the presence of the Lord Nelson statue, raised eight years after the admiral’s victory over the French navy in 1805. Standing near the center of a handful of monuments and fountains, the base of this bronze sculpture served as the originating point for distance from the capital for much of the colonial period.
Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels
Consecrated in 1665 and rebuilt in 1789 following a hurricane, this beautiful building is just two blocks east of National Heroes Square. As the focal point for the Anglican Church in Barbados and the Leeward Islands, you would expect this to be one of the most striking pieces of architecture on the island. Filled with stark contrast of ivory-colored walls and deep mahogany pews over a rich burgundy carpet, it’s like a slice of Europe in landed in unexpectedly in tropical sunshine.
The city’s main shopping district, you will find plenty to do and dine on in this section of Bridgetown. Deal hunters will be happy to see all the duty-free goods and vendors gather in a nearby market with local produce and meats, if you don’t want to sit down at a restaurant. Be sure to stop at the magnificent Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Society building, an icon of Victorian architecture, and Da Costa’s Colonnade, a pink and white storefront dating to the 1880s.
This fantastic gothic structure is home to Barbados’ bicameral legislature. Completed in 1874 and renovated periodically over the years, schedule a guided tour if you’re in Bridgetown on a weekday. And, if you’d like to see the debates, visit on a Tuesday when “strangers” – the official title for visitors in the House of Assembly – are welcome to watch.
St. Ann’s Garrison
Recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll find this historic area two miles east of National Heroes Square. Home to the British West Indies regiment in the 18th and 19th centuries, the southern end of the park is the base for the Barbados Defense Force today. Though its gorgeous red brick buildings hosted the official flag raising ceremony after independence in 1966, the site is more famous for welcoming George Washington for a visit to his sick brother in 1751. Even today, the small house in Bush Hill section where America’s first president stayed bears his name.