9 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Bridgetown
Bridgetown, the bustling capital of Barbados, is a historical highlight of Barbados and worth spending some time touring. With the beautiful beaches of Carlisle Bay on the city's doorstep and interesting attractions to visit in the downtown area, this may even be an area you decide to base yourself.
Bridgetown was named for the native Amerindian bridge, which crossed the mouth of the Constitution River. Today the river, also known as the Careenage, slices Bridgetown in two and is mainly used for small pleasure craft. Mega cruise ships dock at an artificial port to the west of town, and it's a short ride to the historical center.
Steeped in British colonial history, Bridgetown exudes a distinctly English character with a laid-back West Indian feel. Popular things to do include browsing the duty free shops on Broad Street, swimming in the azure waters of Carlisle Bay, snorkeling and sailing tours, and exploring the city's museums.
History buffs will also enjoy the Barbados Garrison, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as the city's magnificent colonial buildings.
If you find yourself in town on a Friday or Saturday, be sure to swing by Cheapside market to pick up the freshest produce and grab a snack at one of the shops on the second floor.
Plan your time here with our list of the top attractions in Bridgetown.
See also: Where to Stay in Bridgetown
1. Carlisle Bay
Bridgetown overlooks Carlisle Bay, a natural harbor lined with beautiful stretches of beach. It's the setting for many water sports and some of the island's luxury beach resorts.
Pebbles Beach, on the south side of the bay, offers a pleasing crescent of soft, white sand and calm waters for swimming. Other popular areas along here are Brownes Beach and Bayshore Beach.
At the nearby Boatyard Beach Club, you can rent sun loungers and umbrellas, dine at the beachside restaurant, and participate in the many water-based activities on offer.
Carlisle Bay Marine Park is a popular spot for scuba diving, with many relics from old shipwrecks scattered across the ocean floor.
Address: Bay Street, St. Michael, Bridgetown
2. Barbados Garrison
Set high above downtown Bridgetown, the Barbados Garrison was the largest in the British colonies during the 18th and 19th centuries. Established in 1780 as the military headquarters for the Imperial Forces, the garrison is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It's home to the Barbados Defence Force, and the area encompasses many intriguing historic attractions. You can tour St. Ann's Fort, built in 1705; George Washington House, a Georgian-style mansion where the former American President stayed in 1751; and the Barbados National Armoury, with a large collection of 17th-century iron cannons.
The 10 miles of tunnels run under the garrison, and tours can be booked when visiting George Washington House.
Also within the garrison area, the Barbados Museum traces the island's history through its many excellent exhibits and galleries. The oval-shaped green space of the Savannah once served as parade grounds, but is now a popular park, jogging track, and venue for sporting events and horse races.
Address: Hwy. 7, Garrison, St. Michael, Bridgetown
3. Barbados Catamaran Snorkeling Cruise
A fun way to see the west coast of Barbados and enjoy a glimpse of the underwater world at the same time is to sign up for the Barbados Catamaran Snorkeling Cruise on an 18-meter catamaran.
The cruise departs from the docks in Bridgetown and includes two or three snorkeling stops, depending on whether you choose the three- or five-hour cruise.
Both options include a snorkeling stop at a shipwreck, as well as coral reefs where you can see schools of tropical fish, and if you're lucky, swim with sea turtles. The three-hour cruise includes unlimited beverages and a small breakfast. Lunch is also included on the five-hour cruise.
4. Parliament Buildings
At the top of Broad Street, the magnificent neo-Gothi-style Parliament Buildings, also known as the "Public Buildings," are important landmarks in Bridgetown.
The buildings were constructed of coral limestone between 1870 and 1874 to house the Barbados Parliament, the third oldest in the Commonwealth. Bejeweled with beautiful stained-glass windows depicting British monarchs, the east wing is home to the Senate and House of Assembly, while the west wing, with the clock tower, houses government offices, the National Gallery, and the Parliament Museum.
At the museum, you can learn about the democratic heritage of Barbados, from settlement to Independence. Museum entry includes a tour of the beautiful parliament buildings.
5. St. Michael's Cathedral
St. Michael's Cathedral was constructed of coral stone in 1789 after a hurricane destroyed the original wooden building dating from 1665.
The church was elevated to cathedral status in 1825 with the arrival of Bishop William Harte Coleridge. Adorned with beautiful stained-glass windows, the cathedral also features a tower and many arched windows.
Highlights in the interior are the baptismal font, dating to the 1600s, and the roof over the altar resembling an inverted boat prow.
If you don't want to go inside, you can walk through the shady grounds. The graveyard contains the graves of some historically important figures.
Address: Henry's Lane, Collymore Rock, St. Michael
6. National Heroes Square
Tucked between the Inner Basin of the Constitution River and the Parliament buildings is National Heroes Square (formerly called Trafalgar Square). The area around the square is quite built up, busy with traffic, and not a place where people tend to linger, but it is home to three significant memorials.
The first, an obelisk-shaped cenotaph, is a memorial to the Barbadians killed in the two World Wars. The second, a bronze statue of Lord Horatio Nelson, marks the city center and was erected in 1813, before the famous Nelson's column at Trafalgar Square in London. The third structure is a clamshell-shaped fountain to commemorate the first piped water in Bridgetown.
7. Nidhe Israel Synagogue
Dating from 1654, Nidhe Israel Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere. In 2011, the synagogue was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current structure was erected in 1833 after a hurricane destroyed the original building.
Interesting features of the synagogue include the marble accents and mahogany furniture, while the tombstones in the adjacent cemetery date from the 1630s.
At the small museum, you can learn about the fascinating history of the Jewish community in Barbados and the key part they played in the island's lucrative sugar industry.
The synagogue was abandoned in 1929 but saved and restored by the Jewish community in 1983.
Address: Synagogue Lane, Bridgetown
8. Queen's Park
To the east of downtown, along St. Michael's Row, Queen's Park was once the grounds of the 18th-century home of the commander of British Troops in Barbados.
Today, the park is a venue for many local festivals and events, while the restored Georgian-style Queen's Park House serves as a theater and art gallery.
To the east of the building is a children's playground and a giant baobab tree with an 18-meter circumference. Some sources say the tree came from Africa on a slave ship. Other sources report that the baobab's seed floated to the island, and the tree is more than 1,000 years old.
The tree is not well marked, does not have a pathway leading to it, and is surprisingly difficult to find. Look for the playground.
Address: Constitution Road, Bridgetown, Saint Michael
9. Barbados Museum & Historical Society
Housed in a 19th-century British military prison at St. Ann's Garrison, the Barbados Museum is a great place to visit to learn more about the island's history.
In addition to displays on Amerindian and African culture, the museum features European decorative arts; a children's gallery; and a fine collection of antique maps, prints, and paintings.
The natural history section highlights the island's ecology, with exhibits on the flora and fauna of Barbados, and the museum also houses a research library, gift shop, and café.
Address: St. Ann's Garrison, Hwy. 7, Garrison, St. Michael
Where to Stay in Bridgetown for Sightseeing
- Luxury Hotels: In the UNESCO-listed Garrison historic area, a short stroll from Carlisle Bay, Island Inn Hotel is an intimate all-inclusive hotel with only 24 guest rooms. You can easily walk to nearby shops and restaurants.
Another luxury option is the Hilton Barbados Resort. The hotel features rooms with expansive views, a multitude of pools, a great beach, and beachfront dining.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Also in the Garrison historic area, across the road from Coconut Court Beach, Courtyard by Marriott Bridgetown, Barbados provides complimentary towels, umbrellas, and sun loungers for its guests on the beach.
On Needham's Point, overlooking Carlisle Bay, the Radisson Aquatica Resort Barbados offers easy access to a host of water sports on the beautiful white-sand beach. Both of these hotels also come with fitness centers and outdoor pools.
Frequently Asked Questions
How far is it from the cruise terminal to downtown?
It is just over two kilometers from the cruise terminal to the heart of downtown. Although it doesn't seem far, it's not an overly pleasant walk when you combine the traffic, heat, and humidity. A taxicab is recommended.
Is there a beach near the cruise terminal?
Yes, Brandon's Beach is two kilometers away. It's a 20-minute walk or a short cab ride away. It's one of the nicer local beaches in the area. The beach is wide with soft sand, and a few restaurants are set back in the trees.
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
Exploring Barbados: Bridgetown is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to places to visit in Barbados. Beaches, caves, scenic areas, and historical sites are found all over the island. Learn more about the area with our article on the top attractions and things to do in Barbados. Wondering when is a good time to plan a trip here? See our guide to the best time to visit Barbados.