February 26, 2019

things to do: Bridgetown, Barbados


BRIDGETOWN  The capital of Barbados, Bridgetown is the island’s epicenter and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The city center was originally where the old Indian bridge was in town, then became known as “the bridge,” then “bridge town.”

Bridgetown was the first stop in the Caribbean for the African slave trade.  Until 1807, all slaves entered the Americas here, by the trees on the bay.  They were “washed, cleaned, and shined” as cargo for sale.

lovely lady stands before the spot where all slaves once entered the Americas, in Bridgetown, Barbados
lovely lady stands before the spot where all slaves once entered the Americas, in Bridgetown, Barbados


Today the town is clean and safe and features an eclectic mix of low-end vendors hawking everything from homegrown vegetables and fruit to underwear and cleaning products.  It maintains a medieval serpentine layout depicted on High Street and Swan Street, which is historically known as “Jew Street.”

colorful building in Bridgetown, Barbados
colorful building in Bridgetown, Barbados

Parliament Buildings  Trafalgar St.  Barbados is the oldest continuing parliamentary democracy outside of England, and is the third-oldest parliament in the world after Britain and Iceland.  Bordered by National Heroes Square, the parliament buildings (also known as the "public buildings") are two spectacular neo-Gothic-style structures.  Both buildings were constructed of coral limestone between 1870 and 1874 and are now designated as UNESCO sites.

Parliament Building in Bridgetown, Barbados
Parliament Building in Bridgetown, Barbados

The building that houses the Senate and House of Assembly features beautiful stained-glass windows depicting British monarchs.

The other building bears the clock tower and houses the National Heroes Gallery and Museum of Parliament. Museum entry includes a tour of the parliament buildings (M & W-Sat 10am-4pm; closed Tu & Sun.)

More than 15 additional important landmarks are in the immediate area, including The James Blackwood Screw Dock, the only one of its kind remaining in the world.

Sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll witness a special parade through the town.  Look for the colorful women dressed as Mudda Sallies and the agile men dancing as Shaggy Bears.

Mudda Sallies dance in parade in Bridgetown, Barbados
Mudda Sallies dance in parade in Bridgetown, Barbados


Shaggy Bear dances in parade in Bridgetown, Barbados
Shaggy Bear dances in parade in Bridgetown, Barbados






Bethel Methodist Church  Bay St./Probyn St.  Built in 1844, this historic church has a small graveyard in the back.

exterior of Bethel Methodist Church in Bridgetown, Barbados
exterior of Bethel Methodist Church in Bridgetown, Barbados


small graveyard in back of Bethel Methodist Church in Bridgetown, Barbados
small graveyard in back of Bethel Methodist Church in Bridgetown, Barbados


Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum  246-436-6869.  Museum:   M-F 9am-4pm.  US$12.50/BDS$25.  Built in 1654 by Dutch Jewish settlers, this Sephardic Jewish temple is the earliest (or oldest, depending on your point of view) Jewish synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.  These early Jewish settlers introduced windmills to the island in the 17th- and 18th-centuries, when more than 500 dotted the island. Jewish visitors can research family histories.  A full mikvah (a ritual bath house) has been restored, and a large cemetery is adjacent.  This major archaeological site remains under excavation.

exterior of Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum in Bridgetown, Barbados
exterior of Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum in Bridgetown, Barbados


interior of Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum in Bridgetown, Barbados
interior of Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum in Bridgetown, Barbados


mikvah bath at Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum in Bridgetown, Barbados
mikvah bath at Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum in Bridgetown, Barbados


The Characters of Town--Historic Walking Tours  (246) 826-4002.  Colorfully costumed character-guides provide historic stories as they lead visitors through the town.

The Characters of Town walking tour in Bridgetown, Barbados
The Characters of Town walking tour in Bridgetown, Barbados






More things to do in Barbados.

More ideas for travel adventures in California and the U.S. and around the world.

images and videos ©2019 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


5 comments:

  1. I love how Barbados has preserved their traditional parades and dances. Your photos of Mudda Sallies and Shaggy Bears are great. What colours! I'd love to have an opportunity to see them some day.

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  2. I didn't realize there was such a strong Jewish history on Barbados. My travels to Barbados didn't allow me time to explore Bridgetown but it looks like it would be well worth spending some time there!

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  3. I'd love to visit Barbados, and would start my sightseeing with the World Heritage Sites you mention

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  4. Barbados hasn't really been on my radar until I read this post. I'm fascinated by the history of Bridgetown, even though some of it is shameful. The Jewish connection is interesting as well. I'd love to see the parades--such brilliant colors!

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  5. What a vibrant introduction to Bridgetown, Barbados. I appreciate the history as well as the look at the town and its people today.

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