On your next visit to Barbados, explore the capital city of Bridgetown. One of Britain’s earliest established towns in the Caribbean, parts of Bridgetown, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Added in 2011, over 115 landmark buildings are within Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, all built during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
Below I highlight the top thirty places to see in Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison. But before outlining the historical places of interest to see in Bridgetown, it is essential to provide some insight into the history of Barbados, which was once the crown jewel in Britain’s colonial empire.
View of Bridgetown, Barbados from Virgin Atlantic flight. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Like much of the rest of the Caribbean, indigenous people lived in Barbados before the British established a colony in the 17th century. The earliest inhabitants of Barbados, originally named Ichirouganaim, were Amerindians (both Arawaks and Caribs) who arrived in three waves from South America starting in the 13th century.
But it wasn’t the British who changed the 169 square miles island’s name from Ichirouganaim, which means “red land/island with white teeth (reefs),” to Barbados. It was Portuguese explorer Pedro Campos who landed on Barbados in 1536. Campos, who was en route to Brazil, originally called the island Os Barbados which means The Bearded Ones. He called it Os Barbados after seeing the island’s fig trees which he thought resembled beards as they have long-hanging aerial roots.
English Settlers in Barbados
Italian Christopher Columbus, who made four voyages to the Americas under the Spain flag during the 14th century, never landed on Barbados. Portuguese explorer Pedro Campos, who landed and changed the island’s name to Barbados during the 16 century, did not establish a settlement.
The first European settlement in Barbados was in the 17th century. English mariners under the command of Captain John Powell first visited the island on May 14, 1625, and claimed it for King James I (who had actually died on March 27, 1625). Then, on February 17, 1627, four ships with a group of 80 led by John’s brother Henry landed on the leeward coast of Barbados, on present-day Holetown.
The first English settlement in Barbados was funded by Sir William Courteen, who had been granted a patent by King Charles I, who was the successor to King James I. Courteen’s company, who paid for the ships and supplies, also made the initial financial investments to prepare Barbados for large-scale agriculture.
Courteen’s right to develop Barbados was short-lived as James Hay, the first Earl of Carlisle, was granted by King Charles I a patent for Barbados and other Caribbean islands. Often described as the Great Barbados Robbery, Earl of Carlisle established another settlement at Carlisle Bay, later known as Bridgetown.
Things did not initially go smoothly for the Earl of Carlise as King Charles I had issued another patent to the Earl of Pembroke for Barbados and several other islands. The competing patents for English expansion in the Caribbean caused much confusion and political disagreements.
But as Professor Hilary Beckles outlines in his book History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Caribbean Single Market, the Earl of Carlise managed to secure a second patent revoking Pembroke’s claim. Then through a London merchant group, he started issuing land grants. Charles Wolverston was appointed administrator and became the first official governor of Barbados on September 4, 1628. With a plantation economy, Barbados became known as “Little England” and remained under British control until it achieved Independence on November 30, 1966.
Plantation Life in Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Barbados Sugar Revolution
As more English settlers arrived in Barbados seeking to make their fortune, government institutions were established, including a House of Assembly on June 26, 1639. The English settlers became part of the planter class producing mainly tobacco, cotton, and indigo. White indentured laborers from Britain were initially used for clearing and cultivating the land and harvesting the crops.
After the collapse of the tobacco and cotton industry, sugar cane production was introduced during the mid-1640s. And as demand and profits from sugar increased, the planter class’s greed and inhumanity led them to partake in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. “It is estimated that between 1627 to 1807, some 387,000 West Africans were shipped to Barbados against their will, in overcrowded, unsanitary ships.” The high death rate among enslaved Africans working on the sugar plantations in Barbados necessitated a continual supply of new arrivals.
Under inhuman and often brutal circumstances, the enslaved Africans would help Barbados become one of the more profitable British colonies in the Caribbean. In fact, by the mid-1660s, Barbados was conducting more trade than all of the other British colonies in the Caribbean. Geographically larger, Jamaica only surpassed Barbados during the mid-1720s.
Barbados Sugar Cane at George Washington House & Museum. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
The sugar industry in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean resulted in what historians like Barry William Higman describe as a “sugar revolution” with a shift:
- from diverse agriculture to sugar monoculture
- from production on small farms to large plantations
- from free to slave labor
- from sparse to dense settlements
- from majority White to Black populations
- from low to high value per caput output
Essentially, increased demand for sugar from Europeans led to increased riches for the planter class and their financial backers, which intensified the Transatlantic Slave Trade and led to the development of colonies like Barbados with its capital Bridgetown.
Bridgetown was initially called Indian Bridge by the English settlers as the Amerindians over the Careenage River had constructed a rudimentary bridge. After a new bridge was built circa 1654, it became known as the Town of St. Michael in official documents before finally being named Bridgetown after Sir Tobias Bridge. A veteran of the English Civil War who served under Oliver Cromwell, Bridge was knighted in 1666 and went to Barbados a year later as colonel of his regiment.
When did Bridgetown and its Garrison become a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
As the plantation economy in Barbados expanded with mass agricultural production, so too did the number of buildings and institutions. Not just government and military buildings that became part of the Garrison, but others for business, school, retail, church, etc.
Thus, Bridgetown’s mix of well-preserved structures and numerous historic buildings from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries is considered an outstanding example of British colonial architecture. Also, Bridgetown’s twisting and serpentine urban layout is very different from other colonial towns established by the Spanish and Dutch built along a grid plan.
Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison were formally added to the UNESCO World Heritage List on June 25, 2011, under the cultural property category.
Barbados Garrison Historic Area sign near the original Bridgetown boundary. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
What are the top places to see in Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison?
Below is a listing of the top thirty places to see in Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison. I visited all except one (the Barbados National Armory Museum) over three days while walking about the capital from my base at the Hilton Resort Barbados! They tell the story of Bridgetown’s transition from “a medieval town to a major port town and garrison, which became the Eastern Caribbean Headquarters for the British Navy until 1816 and its Army until 1905.”
The top thirty Bridgetown UNESCO sites include six museums, three churches, four monuments/statues related to Barbados independence, one retail market, four military garrison sites, two parks / green spaces, plus another ten historic buildings and monuments. They are highlighted below as numbered on the Bridgetown map sourced from the official tourism website, Visit Barbados.
Top 30 Sites in Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison. Photo Credit: © Visit Barbados.
1. Barbados Parliament Buildings and Museum
Location: National Heroes Square, Parliament Square, Bridgetown, Barbados
The Barbados Parliament Buildings, with a neo-Gothic style reminiscent of the Victorian era, were built in the early 1870s in an area of Bridgetown known as the New Burnt District, which was part of a 10-acre area destroyed by fire in 1860. In the West Wing (completed in 1872), there are several government departments, along with the Barbados Museum of Parliament and the National Heroes Gallery. The East Wing (completed in 1873) houses the Barbados House of Assembly, the third oldest legislature in the Americas. It is also the location for the Barbados Senate.
Parliament Buildings & Museum. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Note: The Barbados Museum of Parliament is currently closed for renovation. However, I still recommend checking out this prominent coral limestone building in Bridgetown with numerous stained glass windows and a four-facing Clock Tower in the West Wing.
2. Blackwoods Screw Dock
Location: Cavans Lane, Bridgetown, Barbados
Blackwoods Screw Dock in Bridgetown is the only surviving dry dock with a screw-lifting mechanism of its kind in the world. Built between 1889 and 1893 by John Blackwood on land leased from the government, it was where ships arriving in Barbados went to be lifted from the water for repair and refurbishment. Along with checking out Blackwoods Screw Dock and Picture Gallery, you can stop in for a drink at the Blackwood’s Tavern.
Blackwoods Screw Dock. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
3. Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum
Location: Synagogue Lane, Bridgetown, Barbados
Nidhe Israel Synagogue in Barbados is the oldest Jewish consecrated ground in the English-speaking Americas. Established in 1654, the original building was destroyed by a hurricane in 1831. A new building (the current one) was completed in 1833. As the Jewish population dwindled in the twentieth century, the Nidhe Israel Synagogue was sold in 1929 and had several different uses, including being offices for a company of traders and a law library. Now owned by the Barbados National Trust, renovations on the Nidhe Israel Synagogue were completed in 1989 with funding raised by the local Jewish community. Along with the restored temple, visitors can check out the excavated Mikvah (used for ritual baths) and museum housed in another historic building that dates back to the 1700s.
Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
4. Barbados Museum and Historical Society
Location: Dalkeith Road, Bridgetown, Barbados
Since 1933, a former military prison has been the home of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. The structures of the former Garrison Prison were built between 1818 and 1853 with yellow brick, and the exterior remains largely unchanged. Today, they house nine different gallery and exhibit spaces showcasing Barbados’ history plus its natural, social, military, political, and cultural heritage.
Barbados Museum and Historical Society. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
5. George Washington House and Museum
Location: Bush Hill, Savannah Garrison, Bridgetown, Barbados
The George Washington House is the oldest residence in St. Ann’s Garrison, commonly referred to as the Garrison Historica area. The two-story Georgian house was built in 1717 for William Cogan on their family plantation. When George Washington visited Barbados in 1751 with his brother Lawrence, he stayed in the house for about two months. The ground floor is decorated with furnishings sourced from other plantation houses and the Barbados National Trust. Five exhibit spaces on the second floor provide insight into what Barbados did during George Washington’s visit. Fun fact: Barbados is the only country visited by George Washington, who went on to serve as the first president of the United States.
George Washington House and Museum in Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
6. St. Mary’s Anglican Church
Location: Henry’s Lane, Collymore Rk, St. Michael, Bridgetown, Barbados
St. Mary’s Anglican Church is located in Bridgetown across from The Old Town Hall on a site believed to be the second oldest consecrated ground in Barbados. Constructed in 1825 from ballast brick and built in the Caribbean Georgian style, St. Mary’s Anglican Church seats 1,200 people in the pews and galleries. Consecrated on July 25, 1827, it features a jalousied south porch and decorated barrel-vaulted ceiling. It also has a beautiful baptismal font, pulpit, chancel, and a large Bell Tower.
St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Bridgetown. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Note: I climbed two flights of steep stairs while visiting St. Mary’s Anglican Church to check out the Bell Tower. I stopped short of climbing the third set of steep stairs to get to the top as the worn floorboards spooked me. So here is hoping that funding can be sourced for repairs. The building caretaker advised that you can enjoy fantastic city views from the top!
7. The Cathedral of St. Michael and All Angels
Location: St Michael’s Row, Bridgetown, Barbados
The first St Michael’s Church was a wooden structure built on the site where St. Mary’s Church now resides circa 1628 to 1630. After this original structure deteriorated, a new St Michael’s Church was built from stone at the current location (St Michael’s Row). Dedicated in 1665, a hurricane destroyed the building on October 10, 1780. A third St Michael’s Church was built with coral stone and was consecrated on September 29, 1789. Later dedicated as a cathedral, the large church has beautiful pews, stained glass windows, marble baptismal, and a Bell Tower with a clock that chimes every quarter of an hour. The graveyard provides insight into Barbados’ history, and I spotted headstones for a few former prime ministers, including Sir Grantley Herbert Adams (1898 to 1971) and Jon Michael Geoffrey Manningham “Tom” Adams (1931 to 1985).
Interior view of The Cathedral of St. Michael and All Angels in Bridgetown. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
8. The Barbados Military Cemetery
Location: Grave’s End, Needham’s Point, Bridgetown, Barbados
The Barbados Military Cemetery, also called the Garrison Military Cemetery, is located in Carlisle Bay near the Hilton Barbados Resort. A sign near the entrance of the walled cemetery that predates 1816 states, “Today this cemetery is for those that served in the two world wars and for those who have serviced since those wars.” While walking around, I spotted the headstone for Errol Walton Barrow, who served in World War II and was the first Prime Minister of Barbados.
Headstone for Errol Walton Barrow at The Barbados Military Cemetery. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
9. The Warehouses
Location: The Careenage, Bridgetown, Barbados
During the sugar revolution, warehouses were built along the wharfside of the Careenage River and nearby streets in Bridgetown to hold molasses, rum, and sugar that would be most easily taken by row boats to the ships in Carlisle Bay. Made from thick coral stone to withstand hurricanes, the warehouses in Bridgetown were often designed with decorative parapets, round windows, arched doors, and large interior spaces. One of the more important warehouses is the Da Costa Warehouse, a long two-story building with a recessed balustraded balcony surmounted by a pediment.
Da Costa Warehouse in Bridgetown, Barbados – The Spirit Bond. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
10. Barbados Mutual Building
Location: Lower Broad Street, Bridgetown, Barbados
One of the most iconic buildings in historic Bridgetown was built in 1895 for the Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Society (The Mutual), which lent money to the planter and merchant elite as well as policyholders from all other classes who met the borrowing requirements. Designed by Victorian architects Jethro Anstice Cossins and Frank Barry Peacock, The Mutual building features two elegant silver domes and a balcony that wraps around most of the top floor. Its ornate, cast-iron grillwork, now beautifully preserved, was imported from England and Scotland.
Barbados Mutual Building. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
11. The Old Town Hall
Location: Cumberland St, Bridgetown, Barbados
The Old Town Hall in Bridgetown is located across from St. Mary’s Anglican Church and was built in 1730. It is one of the few 18th-century buildings to survive the two great fires in Bridgetown (1766 and 1860) and multiple hurricanes. The Old Town Hall is a multi-purpose building, and a portion was used as meeting space for the Council, House of Assembly, Vestry of St. Michael, and even Town Jail. The building fell into severe disrepair and was re-developed in 2003 with the preservation of its southern and eastern walls to maintain its architectural heritage. Today is the home of several businesses, including the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc.
Old Town Hall in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
12. Dolphin Fountain
Location: National Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados
Did you know that Barbados has one of the oldest piped water infrastructures in the Western Hemisphere? After the cholera epidemic in 1854, which claimed the lives of over 20,000 people, the government introduced several public health measures, including cleaning and washing the streets, infant schools for the poor, and a piped water system. Thus, instead of going to nearby rivers and ponds for water, most Barbadians got water from lines installed in their homes or via one of the standpipes in their village. The Dolphin Fountain in Heroes Square celebrates the commencement of piped water to Bridgetown on March 29, 1861.
Dolphin Fountain in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
13. Montefiore Fountain
Location: Coleridge Street, Bridgetown, Barbados
A sign near the Montefiore Fountain indicates that it was “presented to the thirsty way-farers of Bridgetown by John Montefiore in memory of his father John Castello Montefiore, who died of cholera in 1854.” John Montefiore owned Neils Plantation and was one of the leading merchants in Bridgetown, with a wholesale and retail store on Swan Street. When the Montefiore Fountain opened on November 2, 1865, it was located in Beckwith Place until it was relocated to its present location in Coleridge Street in June 1940.
Montefiore Fountain in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Note: If you look closely at Montefiore Fountain, you will see that there are marble allegorical figures on each side representing fortitude, temperance, patience, and justice, with the following inscriptions: “Look to the end; Be soberminded; To bear is to conquer; Do wrong to no one.”
14. Lord Nelson Statue
Location: National Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados
There is an empty plinth where once stood the bronze Statue of British Admiral Horatio Nelson. The Barbados monument to Nelson, designed by Sir Richard Westmacott, Jr., was erected in 1813, some 27 years before his more famous monument in London’s Trafalgar Square. Now viewed as a relic of colonial rule, Nelson’s statue was relocated in 2020 from the National Heroes Square (formerly named Trafalgar Square) in Bridgetown to the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.
Empty plinth in Bridgetown, Barbados, former location of Lord Nelson Statue. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Note: Removal of Nelson’s statue from National Heroes Square is justified as he was a strong advocate for the slave trade upon which Barbados’ plantation economy was based. Thus, Nelson is not a fitting hero for Barbados. Furthermore, where it stood can be considered “sacred ground” as it was part of THE CAGE, used to detain free and enslaved Black people during the 17th to 19th centuries. The CAGE is commemorated on a wall directly across from the former Nelson plinth. The plaque unveiled on August 27, 2008, reads:”
“Established by an Act of Parliament in 1688, THE CAGE was originally located at the top of modern day Broad Street, in the area next to the Cheffette restaurant. It was a temporary prison made of wood and wire used to imprison runaway slaves until their owners came to reclaim them. Due to the noise and stench made by the slaves, which it was felt presented a poor image of the island’s capital, the Bridgetown merchants petitioned Parliament to remove THE CAGE from its central location. In 1818, it was removed from its original site and transferred to the Pier Head.”
Plaque for THE CAGE in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
15. The Cenotaph
Location: National Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados
The Cenotaph, also located in Bridgetown’s National Heros Square, is a war memorial erected in 1925 to remember the Barbadian soldiers that fought and died in World War I and II. The names of the Barbadian veterans from the two great wars are listed on plaques at the base of The Cenotaph, an obelisk grey granite structure with a coral stone basin. On the Sunday nearest to Armistice Day (November 11), there is a parade and solemn service attended by the Barbados government and military dignities.
The Cenotaph in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
16. Errol Barrow Statue
Location: Independence Square, Bridgetown, Barbados
Barbadian Errol Barrow enlisted in the British Royal Air Force during World War II. After the war, he studies at the London School of Economics and Inns of Court to become a lawyer. Returning to Barbados, Barrow became a politician serving in the House of Assembly and eventually the first Prime Minister of Barbados. Known as the Father of Independence, Errol Barrow is honored with a towering statue in the middle of Bridgetown. Designed by Saint Lucian sculptor Ricky George, the nine feet tall bronze statue weighs 200lbs. Looking towards the Parliament of Barbados, the Errol Barrow Statue was unveiled on January 21, 2007 — a day that would have been his 87th birthday!
Errol Barrow Statue in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
17. Barbados Independence Arch
Location: Bridgetown, Barbados
Near the Errol Barrow Statue at the southern end of Chamberlain Bridge is the Independence Arch, built in 1987 to commemorate Barbados’ 21st anniversary of Independence. National emblems for Barbados are featured on the Independence Arch in Bridgetown. This includes the Barbados coat of arms and the broken trident on the Barbados national flag. Also showcased are the Pride of Barbados, the national flower and dolphin for fishing and pelican for Pelican Island. Near the base of each column is a pledge that reads:
“I pledge allegiance to my country Barbados and to my flag to uphold and defend their honour and my living to do credit to my nation wherever I go.”
Also, at the base of each side of Independence Arch is a gold painting of national hero the Right Honourable Errol Walton Barrow.
Independence Arch in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
18. Codd’s House Memorial Monument
Location: Coleridge Street, Bridgetown, Barbados
Across the street from the Montefiore Fountain is the Codd’s House Memorial Monument, built to mark the location of one of the homes owned by businessman William Codd. He leased it to the Barbados government from 1837 to 1849, and they used it as the New Town Hall and the site of Parliament. Several significant legislations were signed at Codd’s House, including the one that ended the Apprenticeship system in 1838, fully emancipating the formerly enslaved Black population.
Codd’s House Memorial Monument is part of the Synagogue Historic District in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Note: Codd’s House was also the site for the 1840 declaration making Bridgetown the island’s 12th constituency — this led to Samuel Jackman Prescod becoming the first non-white Barbadian elected to the House of Assembly for Bridgetown. Sadly, Codd’s House, also the location for Barbados’ first library, was demolished in 1985 to make way for new development projects, which were later canceled.
19. Grantley Adams Statue
Location: Bay Street, Bridgetown, Barbados
The Grantley Adams Statute is located in front of the headquarters building for the government of Barbados. The bronze statue was built for Sir Grantley Herbert Admas, who was Barbados’s first Premier and served as the first and only Prime Minister of the West Indies Federation (similar to the European Union). At the base of the Grantley Adams Statue is a beautiful quote by Sir Hugh Springer, the first General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union and fourth Governor-General of Barbados, which reads:
“He was ready at the time when the people needed a leader who would be the symbol of their emancipation and their leader out of the wilderness to the promised land. They felt no doubt about this. They called him Moses. It was his inspiration always that put heart into the rank and file, and the example of his devotion to the movement created the confidence that was necessary for success.”
Grantley Adams Statue in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
20. Barbados 50th Anniversary Monument
Location: Garrison Savannah, Bridgetown, Barbados
Designed by Barbadian Taisha Carrington, the 50th Anniversary Monument located in the middle of the Garrison Savannah in Bridgetown has several features, including:
- A depiction of the broken trident on the front
- A pathway to Independence” featuring plagues that highlights defining moments and significant people throughout Barbados’ history
- A commemorative trident, which traveled around Barbados before resting permanently within the monument
- A time capsule meant to be open in years on the 100th Anniversary of Barbados’ Independence
- A large Barbadian flag
Note: The Barbados 50th Anniversary Monument is located in the middle of Garrison Savannah, now the largest green space in Bridgetown, and it is used for various sporting and leisure activities. One of the major sporting activities is horse racing which has occurred on the track since 1845. The officers from the nearby British Regiment, along with wealthy planters and merchants, would use what was then just a parade ground to race their horses. Now home of the Barbados Turf Club, there are spectator races throughout the year!
Barbados 50th Anniversary Monument in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
21. Barbados National Armory Museum
Location: St Ann’s Fort, Bridgetown, Barbados
The Barbados National Armory Museum, home to the most extensive collection of 17th-century English iron cannons, is located within St Ann’s Fort. Completed in 1707, St Ann’s Fort was initially named St. Ann’s Castle after Queen Anne of Great Britain and Ireland. Formerly occupied by the British military, St Ann’s Fort is now the Headquarters of the Barbados Defence Force and the Barbados Regiment. Thus, guided tours conducted by the Barbados Garrison Historical Consortium Inc of the Barbados National Armory Museum, which opened in 2004, are by appointment only. Contact the Barbados Garrison Historical Consortium Inc via their Facebook page. Alternatively, just head to the Garrison Clock Tower. You will see some less rare cannons pointing inward around the Garrison Savannah.
Cannons pointed inwards towards the Garrison Savannah. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
22. Garrison Clock Tower
Location: Garrison Savannah, Bridgetown, Barbados
The Garrison Clock Tower (also called Main Guard) was built in 1804 on the western side of the Savannah Garrison. Its colonial architecture, with Roman arched portico and pediment in front of the domed octagon tower, makes it one of the more unique buildings in the Garrison. Overlooking the Savannah, the Clock Tower was the internal security headquarters for the Garrison complex developed mainly in the 18th century. Other historic buildings around the Garrison Savannah include the Drill Hall and the Soldiers and Officers’ Barracks (known as the “A”, “B,” and “C” Blocks). Also, St Ann’s Fort, home of the Barbados Defence Force and the Garrison Prison, which, as previously mentioned, is now used for the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.
Garrison Clock Tower in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
23. Garrison Tunnels
Location: George Washington House & Museum, Garrison Savannah, Bridgetown, Barbados
Built by the British military, the Garrison Tunnels, which are two miles in length, were initially used 200 years ago to drain away excess water on the then swampy Savannah. They were also used to facilitate the underground movement of troops. Rediscovered circa 2011, you can walk through a portion of the Garrison Tunnels via George Washington House in Barbados. With an arched roof carved through limestone rock, the Garrison Tunnels are dark, narrow, and spooky, so they are not for claustrophobic folks.
A portion of the Garrison Tunnels is accessed via George Washington House and Museum in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
24. Golden Square Freedom Park
Location: Golden Square, Bridgetown, Barbados
Golden Square Freedom Park is a two-acre park in the middle of Bridgtown. The location was a depressed urban area in 1937 when riots kicked off after the deportation of Clement Payne, born in Trinidad to Barbadian parents. Payne held meetings in Bridgetown to rally working-class Black Barbadians to demand better working and living conditions from the still-in-control White planter class. The four-day riots, which resulted in the deaths of 14 people (along with 47 wounded), are now viewed as the catalyst for modern Barbados, which became a republic on November 30, 2021. With green spaces and benches, Golden Square Freedom Park was designed to be “a space of peace and reflection, education, agitation, and nation-building,” and within are various points of interest, including a 1937 Memorial Wall, 1937 Rebellion Monument, bust of Clement Payne, Community Wall, and Builders of Barbados Wall.
Golden Square Freedom Park in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Note: The Builders of Barbados Wall includes the surnames of everyone who helped to build the triangular (or pork-chop) shaped island, starting with the unsung heroes who lived during the Amerindians era to the now independent republic.
25. Charles Fort and Light House
Location: Needham’s Point, Hilton Barbados Resort, Bridgetown, Barbados
Charles Fort and Light House are located west of Bridgetown on Needham’s Point, now the Hilton Barbados Resort location. Dating back to 1650, Charles Fort was built by the British military to protect Carlisle Bay from enemy attacks. Decommissioned in 1905, several cannons at Charles Fort were thrown over the wall; you can see them as you walk along the beach. But much of Charles Fort remains today as it was stabilized in 1966 when the Hilton Barbados Resort was built. The Light House, which dates back to 1855, is still standing and viewable from different vantage points in the hotel, including the Lighthouse Terrace Restaurant.
Needham’s Point Light House in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
26. Barbados Exchange Interactive Centre
Location: Spry Street, Bridgetown, Barbados
The Exchange Interactive Centre is next door to St. Michael’s Cathedral in the Central Bank of Barbados courtyard. It is a relatively new museum in Barbados housed in a three-story building dating back to the 1700s that was used for Harrison’s Free School, now known as Harrison College. Opened in January 2018, the Exchange Interactive Centre has a comprehensive exhibit providing insight into the development of trade and business in Bridgetown. Sections of the museum are also dedicated to currencies from around the world, the history of the Central Bank of Barbados, and Freemasonry in Barbados, whose members included prominent Barbadian politicians like Sir Grantley Adams and Errol Walton Barrow.
Bridgetown Financial Hub of Barbados at Exchange at Exchange Interactive Centre. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
27. Church Village Green and Amphitheatre
Location: Lucas Street, Bridgetown, Barbados
Less than a 5-minute walk from the Exchange Interactive Centre is the Church Village Green and Amphitheatre. Opened on March 15, 2014, the community park has an amphitheater with seating for 200 people or 1,000 standing. Managed by the Central Bank of Barbados, the green space also features a stone walkway with replica historic coins, benches under two wooden roof pergolas with stone work columns, a footbridge, and a fish pond with water lilies and aquatic plants.
Church Village Green and Amphitheatre in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
28. St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church
Location: Bay Street, Bridgetown, Barbados
Another historic church in Bridgetown is St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. Originally built from 1840 to 1850, a fire virtually destroyed it on June 17, 1897. Almost two years later, a new catholic church was completed in 1899 and opened on March 17, St Patrick’s Day! Built-in a gothic architectural style, St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Bridgetown has two feet thick outer walls made from local limestone. The main inside columns are also made of limestone, while those in the apse are of red granite. The hammer beam ceiling stands 52 feet high and is crafted from seasoned pitch pine.
St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
29. Cheapside Public Market
Location: Cheapside Market, Bridgetown, Barbados
As you walk around Bridgetown, you’ll notice many markets throughout the city! The biggest of these markets is the Cheapside Public Market, where farmers sell a range of products, including fruits, vegetables, plants, and spices. There are also vendors selling clothing, craft, and other trinkets.
Sign for Cheapside Public Market in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
30. National Library and Old Law Courts
Location: Coleridge Street, Bridgetown, Barbados
Three years before the first Public Libraries Act in Britain, the Barbados House of Assembly passed legislation on October 21, 1847, to establish a public library and museum. Initially located at Codd’s House, it relocated to the Parliament Buildings in 1874. Then in 1906, the Free National Library moved to a new building funded by a £4,800 grant from American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Closed since 2006 for restoration, it is still worth checking out the Carnegie-funded building, built with coral stone in the English Renaissance style.
Entrance to National Library and Old Law Courts in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Note: Since December 2008, the Free National Library has been temporarily housed in a blue building on Fairchild Street in Bridgetown, opposite Independence Square.
How to explore Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison
Now that you have insight into the thirty main sites across Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, here is my suggested walking tour itinerary over three days, starting from the Hilton Barbados Resort.
Top 30 Sites in Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison. Photo Credit: © Visit Barbados.
DAY ONE in Bridgetown, Barbados:
- 5. George Washington House and Museum
- 23. Garrison Tunnels (at George Washing House and Museum)
- 4. Barbados Museum and Historical Society
- 20.50th Anniversary Monument
- 22. Garrison Clock Tower
- 21. Barbados National Armory Museum
- 8. Barbados Military Cemetery (near Hilton Barbados Resort)
- 25. Old Fort and Light House (at Hilton Barbados Resort)
DAY TWO in Bridgetown, Barbados:
- 28. St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church
- 19. Grantley Adams Statue
- 24. Golden Square
- 16. Errol Barrow Statue
- 17. Independence Arch
- 12. Dolphin Fountain
- 14. Lord Nelson Statue
- 15. The Cenotaph
- 1. Barbados Parliament Buildings and Museum
- 3. Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum
- 13. Montefiore Fountain
- 18. Codd’s House Memorial Monument
- 30. National Library and Old Law Courts
DAY THREE in Bridgetown, Barbados:
- 29. Cheapside Market
- 6. St. Mary’s Anglican Church
- 11. The Old Town Hall
- 10. Mutual Building
- 7. The Cathedral of St. Michael and All Angels
- 26. Barbados Exchange Interactive Centre
- 27. Church Village Green and Amphitheatre
- 9. The Warehouses
- 2. Blackwoods Screw Dock
Note: I had celebratory drinks on the third day at Blackwoods Screw Dock after visiting all but one place on the Bridgetown UNESCO World Heritage List. Day two and three could have been condensed into one, but I wanted to go slowly, allowing time to explore and reflect on each site. Also, I was continually stopping to check out other buildings, shops, and markets in the historic town center.
Having a cocktail at Blackwoods Screw Dock in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
18th-century three-story building with faded red and blue paint in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
If you only have one day to explore historic Bridgetown, military buffs should focus on the Garrison area. For those looking to gain a general understanding of the history of Bridgetown, I’d recommend visiting the Barbados Museum and Historical Society and then walking (30 minutes) or taking a taxi (Exquisite Chauffeur Services) into the city to wander around and explore. For a more curated experience, consider a tour with Barbadian Historian Morris Greenidge, author of Bridgetown, Barbados: A Walking Tour In Six Parts.
Whether you decide to explore historic Bridgetown over one, two, or three days, here are some general tips:
- Eat a hearty breakfast at your hotel
- Start the day touring by 9 am to maximize your time exploring.
- Wear proper walking sandals or trainers/sneakers – I walked at least 5 miles daily!
- Carry a small bag or backpack with sunscreen, an umbrella, a brim or a bucket hat, and bottled water, as it gets super hot in the middle of the day!
- Eat lunch on the go to maximize tour time. In fact, get the full Bridgetown experience by sampling Barbadian street food, including a snow cone to cool you down!
- See as much as you can, but if one of the sites moves you, allow time to just sit and reflect.
- Be flexible on time to visit the churches as they may have other events throughout the week along with regular Sunday service.
- Reward yourself with a 3-course meal back at your hotel or one of these three restaurants: Champers Restaurant, La Cabane, or Baia Restaurant. Of the three, Champers is my favorite as love the scenery, the food is fantastic, and there is an Art Gallery on the second floor!
Art Gallery at Champers Restaurant in Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.