Bridgetown: The Capital of Barbados

Bridgetown is the capital city of Barbados, and it’s a great place for travellers to visit when on the island, with its blend of colonial architecture and bustling markets. From its humble beginnings as a colonial outpost to its current status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bridgetown has evolved over the centuries, lets explore what it has to offer!

A History of Bridgetown

Bridgetown’s was originally settled by the indigenous Arawak and Carib peoples, the arrival of European colonizers in the 17th century marked a significant turning point in the city’s history.

The British colonization of Barbados in 1628 laid the foundations for Bridgetown’s development as a strategic port and commercial hub. Named after the bridge that once spanned the Careenage, the city grew rapidly, fueled by trade in sugar and rum.

Bridgetown’s history is not without its darker chapters. The legacy of slavery looms large, casting a shadow over the city’s past. The Barbados Museum and Historical Society offers insights into this history, chronicling the experiences of enslaved Africans and their descendants who toiled on the island’s plantations.

With the abolition of slavery in 1834 and the gradual shift towards independence in the 20th century, the city emerged as a vibrant cultural center, embracing its African, British, and Caribbean heritage. Today, remnants of its colonial past mingle with modern developments.

Teddy next to fruit and veg at Bridgetown market

What to see in Bridgetown

Bridgetown’s architectural landscape is a blend of old-world charm and modern innovation – from elegant colonial buildings to vibrant Chattel Houses.

At the heart of Bridgetown lies the historic Garrison area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts some of the finest examples of colonial architecture in the Caribbean. Here, visitors can wander the cobblestone streets lined with 17th-century forts, elegant mansions, and stately government buildings, each steeped in history.

Among the most iconic landmarks in Bridgetown is the Parliament Buildings, a striking example of neo-Gothic architecture that serves as the seat of government in Barbados. Designed by renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, the buildings are full of intricate carvings, stained glass windows, and a clock tower.

St. Michael’s Cathedral is also worth a look, a beautiful Anglican church that dates back to the 17th century.

Bridgetown is also home to lots of vibrant Chattel Houses – colorful wooden structures with movable roofs that were once common throughout the Caribbean.

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Lucy in Bridgetowns historic centre

Things to do in Bridgetown

Bridgetown offers a number of activities to suit every traveler’s taste:

  1. Explore Historic Landmarks: Embark on a journey through time as you explore Bridgetown’s historic landmarks. Visit the Barbados Museum and Historical Society to delve into the island’s past, wander through the UNESCO-listed Bridgetown and its Garrison, St. Michael’s Cathedral and the Parliament Buildings.
  2. Shopping in Bridgetown: Have a look at the Markets like Pelican Craft Centre and Cheapside Market, there are some upscale boutiques although these are more found at lime grove shopping centre, there are also a number of duty-free shops along Broad Street. There is even a Woolworths (one for the UK readers!).
  3. Savor Bajan Cuisine: Sample the flavors of Barbados with a culinary tour of Bridgetown. Dive into a plate of flying fish and cou-cou at a local rum shop, savor fresh seafood at Oistins Fish Fry, or indulge in a traditional Bajan buffet at one of the island’s many restaurants. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a glass of rum punch or a refreshing Banks beer!
  4. Relax on the Beach: Bridgetown has 3 good beaches nearby – calm waters of Carlisle Bay, the surf-friendly shores of Pebbles Beach, or the secluded sands of Brownes Beach.
  5. Discover Underwater Wonders: Dive into Bridgetown’s crystal-clear waters and discover a world of underwater wonders. Go snorkeling or scuba diving to explore vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life, or take a glass-bottom boat tour for a glimpse into the colorful underwater world.
  6. Experience the Nightlife: Experience the lively nightlife of Bridgetown with a visit to its bars, clubs, and entertainment venues. Dance the night away to the sounds of soca and reggae, sip cocktails on a rooftop bar overlooking the city, or enjoy a sunset cruise along the coast for a truly unforgettable evening.

Our trips to Bridgetown

Having visited Bridgetown multiple times, we keep going back because its colorful sights, lively markets, and the warm embrace of Bajan culture. It’s nice to visit – but only once a trip because it can be stressful to drive around and its full of people. After one trip you are ready to hit the beach again!!

It’s just a short 30-minute drive south from Villa Sunnyside. In terms of parking, there are a few options but The Princess Alice Highway Car Park is our go-to spot, its got plenty of spaces and convenient location just a 5-minute walk from the town center.

Bridgetown is bustling and full of colors, from the vibrant shops to the markets offering local food. Bridgetown can get incredibly busy, especially during peak times. If crowds aren’t your thing, it’s best to plan accordingly. When we are in Bridgetown we just like strolling along the streets, soaking in the sights and sounds of this city. We sit at the Marina Bar next to the bridge, have a drink while watching the world go by. We also like to walk around the Garrison and historic centre, but the town itself is not that big you can easily walk around it within an hour or so.

Visiting Bridgetown during the Christmas season you will see the Christmas trees by the waterside that have been decorated by local schools, each one representing a different country theme.

Colourfull decorated christmas trees in Bridgetown

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john, Lucy, Teddy & Margo at hunts gardenss
Lucy Bridge

I love to travel with my family. Over the years, we’ve found ourselves coming back to the magic of Sunset Crest. So much so, that we finally decided to take the plunge and buy Villa Sunnyside in 2022!