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Bridgetown travel guide: What to see, do and eat in Barbados capital

Author: Nicole Carmichael

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Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados offers the perfect cocktail of colonial heritage and Caribbean cool plus rum, sunshine and sensational seafood. This is what to do, see and eat there.

Bridgetown is a port city on the southwest coast of beautiful Barbados, a pear-shaped island so small that you can drive all the way around it in a couple of hours. A British colony for over 300 years, it once had a huge importance in the sugar trade.

Today Barbados boasts Mount Gay rum, cricketer Jofra Archer and singing superstar Rihanna among its most famous exports.

Barbados is sometimes called Little England, and if you spend a few hours exploring its bustling capital you’ll see why.

The island is divided administratively into parishes, and parts of the landscape could almost be Devon or Somerset. While the climate is sure to be warm enough for any sun-starved Brit, even the temperatures are gentler here than in most Caribbean hotspots, with the golden beaches fanned by tradewinds from the east.

To see the sights, make the most of the excellent duty-free shopping, then pour a Banks beer – or treat yourself to a potent rum cocktail – and sit back to enjoy that famous Bajan hospitality.

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What to do in Bridgetown

The Careenage

Today luxury yachts and catamarans line Bridgetown’s marina, also the site of the original wooden bridge from which the city gets its name.

Originally this was the island’s main harbour, where ships would be ‘careened’ on one side to be repaired, scrubbed and painted. Now it’s a beautiful boardwalk area that houses restaurants, bars and shops in what used to be warehouses and chandlery stores.

It’s surprisingly peaceful, especially on a Sunday, and a great place for taking photos.

St Mary's Church

Built in 1825 to serve the island’s growing urban population, the oldest church in Bridgetown stands opposite the striking town hall and the tranquil Jubilee Garden, one of the few public green spaces in the city centre.

Several noteworthy Barbadians are buried here, including national hero Samuel Jackman Prescod, the first man of African descent to be elected to the island’s parliament.

Behind its pretty Georgian neo-classical facade, the cool blue and white-painted interior offers welcome respite from the heat and bustle of the capital.

The clock in the church’s tower was a gift from the famous local department store Cave Shepherd, costing the princely sum of fifty thousand Barbados dollars.

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National Heroes Square

Formerly Trafalgar Square, this is a one-stop-shop for Bridgetown landmarks. There’s a statue of Lord Nelson, erected some 27 years before the London version, and a Cenotaph war memorial dating from 1925.

You can also visit the National Heroes Gallery and the Museum of Parliament, and close by is the coral-stoned St Michael’s Cathedral with its stunning stained glass windows.

Beaches galore

Ten minutes by taxi from central Bridgetown, Rockley Beach (also known as Accra) is a family favourite with safe swimming and plenty of places to eat and drink. Alternatively, head for the crystal-clear waters of Carlisle Bay for some of the best scuba diving in the Caribbean.

Barbados holidays: Rockley Beach (also known as Accra) is a family favourite with safe swimming. Credit: Shutterstock

What to see in Bridgetown

Errol Barrow Statue

Prime minister when Barbados gained its sovereignty from Britain in 1966, Errol Walton Barrow is known as the Father of Independence. Today he is commemorated on Errol Barrow Day – 21 January – and by this imposing 9ft bronze sculpture in Independence Square.

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Independence Arch

Located at the southern end of the Chamberlain Bridge, Independence Arch was built in 1987 and depicts various emblems of Bajan heritage and culture, including the peacock flower – aka pride of Barbados – and the national symbols of a pelican and a flying fish.

Harrison's Cave

Deep beneath the island’s central uplands, some 700ft above sea level, lies an incredible subterranean world of lofty caverns and milk-white stalagmites.

Well over a mile long, this incredible cave system was rediscovered in the 1970s, and today you can tour it by underground tram. When you emerge, you can take the air on a walking trail with stunning views of the lush island landscape below.

Barbados holidays: Harrisons's Cave is a subterranean world of lofty caverns and milk-white stalagmites. Credit: Shutterstock

Where to eat in Bridgetown

Brown Sugar

If you love seafood you’ll be spoiled for choice in Bridgetown, with many eateries offering excellent takes on local favourites such as flying fish and cou-cou (a bit like polenta). To get a handle on Bajan flavours, head to Brown Sugar for their famous all-you-can-eat Planter’s Buffet.

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Cuz's Fish Shack

It may not look much but this takeaway shack is a fixture on many visitors’ must-do lists for a reason. Quite simply, Cuz’s trademark ‘fish and cheese cutter’ could be the most delicious sandwich you have ever eaten.

Champers

At the other end of the scale, there is food – and a setting – to celebrate at this gorgeous seafront restaurant.

Light bites at lunch include coconut shrimp, crab crepe and chicken taco with pickled mango, but why not push the boat out and go for a dinner of roasted barracuda, or spice-rubbed pork tenderloin? It’s not cheap, and you’ll need to jump in a cab to get there, but if you’re after something special, Champers won’t disappoint.

Where to eat in Bridgetown: Cuz's Fish Shack (left) and Brown Sugar (right) are both worth a visit.

Where to shop in Bridgetown

Duty Free

With visitors’ discounts of up to 40 per cent on a wide range of goods (just show your passport and proof of departure at the checkout), Barbados is a bargain-hunter’s delight. Check out Bridgetown Duty Free (the former Cave Shepherd department store) on Broad Street, where you’ll also find several shopping malls.

Head to Woolworths (yes, they still have that here) for a pick-and-mix of bargains, or lose yourself among the local shoppers at colourful Swan Street market, parallel to Broad Street.

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Mount Gay Distillery

The history of rum is the history of the Caribbean, and here they’ve been making the golden nectar for more than 300 years. Take a tour to find out how they do it, stay for a tasting, then stock up on samples and souvenirs at the visitors’ centre shop.

You can even linger for a gourmet lunch – but remember, a typical rum punch recipe is said to be ‘one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak’, so it’s likely to live up to its name. Maybe don’t plan on doing too much for the rest of the day.

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