Bridgetown, St. Michael
St. Michael

Bridgetown and its Historic Garrison – Barbados’ Capital and Largest City

Established in 1628, with a population of nearly 290,000, Bridgetown is the beating heart of Barbados. Both its capital and largest city, it’s a vibrant, vivacious place steeped in history, where its unique blend of African, American and British heritage comes alive.

The History of Bridgetown

Early, indigenous Amerindian peoples were drawn to Bridgetown’s now-named Careenage river with its natural harbour. These early settlers named the town ‘Indian Bridge’ after the first bridge that crossed the river, before it was renamed the town of St Michael, and finally became Bridgetown. In 1966 Barbados attained its independence from Britain and was presented with various national symbols; the national flag featuring the broken trident, the coat of arms featuring Pride of Barbados flowers, a dolphin symbolizing the fishing industry, a Pelican, and some sugar cane on a saltire cross, to represent the sugar industry.

There’s evidence of habitation going back to 1623 BC, with four ceramic cultures found in Bridgetown. By 1550, the Amerindian communities were gone, destroyed by slave raids from Spanish colonizers. English ships first landed in 1624 claiming Barbados for the crown, establishing the cultivation of cotton and tobacco which was quickly overtaken by sugar cane, transforming Bridgetown’s economy and society and turning Barbados into a key hub for international trade. British troops were still stationed there until 1905.

In 1966 Barbados became independent and has seen many changes. Barbados’ fascinating heritage was brought to the world’s attention in 2011 when Bridgetown was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status, where visitors can immerse themselves in the history.  On June 25, 2011 Barbados joined an elite group of nations with world heritage properties when Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This inscription is a tremendous feat for a small Caribbean island states. It presented the opportunity to address the obvious geographical imbalance in sites from Latin American and the Caribbean. UNESCO’s commitment to the identification, protection and preservation of the world’s cultural and natural heritage is enshrined in the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972).

Bridgetown Facts

  • Bridgetown and its Garrison is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with buildings dating back to the 17th, 18th, and 19th Century
  • Bridgetown’s parliament has met continuously since 1639 - making it the third oldest in the world
  • Bridgetown was originally named ‘Indian Bridge’ after the primitive wooden bridge built by early Indians
  • Early documents refer to Bridgetown as the ‘town of St Michael’
  • The southern part of Bridgetown was once a huge swamp
  • Bridgetown was destroyed by a fire in 1666, causing the House of Assembly ordering all buildings in Bridgetown be built from stone
  • Bridgetown has its own Trafalgar Square, complete with a Lord Nelson statue. Erected in 1813, it’s older than its more famous London counterpart.

Things to do in Bridgetown

  • Walking Tours
  • Museums
  • Foodie Tours
  • Art Galleries
  • Duty-free Shopping
  • Beaches
  • History and Culture
  • Bars and Restaurants

Browne’s Beach, Pebbles Beach and the famous Carlisle Bay are some of the glorious beaches of Bridgetown, perfect for soaking up the sun. Sightseeing highlights include Garrison Savannah and the Careenage, and sports fans will love the Kensington Oval for some world class cricket. Enjoy the buzz and bustle of St Lawrence Gap, explore the Barbados Museum, and shop till you drop at Pelican Craft Centre or Sheraton Mall, before tucking into some fine-dining, Barbados style. And why not book a Rum Factory tour at the Mount Gay Visitors Centre? This is the birthplace of rum after all!

Where to Stay in Bridgetown

From all-inclusive five-star resorts to stylish apartments and cozy guesthouses, there’s no shortage of great places to stay near Bridgetown. Staying close to the city means the activities, shopping and historical highlights are all on your doorstep, not to mention the mouth-watering restaurants and buzzing nightlife, with the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea just moments away.

Getting Around in Bridgetown

Exploring Bridgetown couldn’t be easier. A well-organized public transport system can whisk you around by bus, and there are plenty of safe private buses and taxis, as well as hire cars at your disposal for exploring further afield.

Walking is the best and easiest way for exploring the downtown area, popping into shops and soaking up the relaxed atmosphere. Tired visitors can jump on the bus, which is reliable and affordable, and can take you to many attractions throughout Bridgetown and the rest of the island.

Taxis are comfortable vans carrying several visitors at a time. To explore Barbados and return you to your hotel, rental cars are a great option. ZR “Zed-Rs” Vans are smaller vans known for their high speed and cool reggae music and are a must-do experience!
If you’re stopping off during a cruise, you’ll dock in a large port directly in Bridgetown.

The Cruise terminal and the surrounding malls, craft markets, shops, bars and cafes are an easy 10-minute walk from Bridgetown. Or why not hit the beach? Local buses are on standby to whisk you off to a beach complete with bar or restaurant for a lazy day by the water.

Weather in Bridgetown

The best time to visit Barbados’ historic capital is between December and June, when rain is almost unheard of. It’s always warm in Bridgetown with August often being the hottest month. July through November can be rainy, with November being the wettest month.

From history and culture to events and festivals, fabulous beaches, world-class restaurants and a vibrant nightlife, discover Bridgetown for an unforgettable holiday.