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Barbados

Bridgetown Barbados Walking Tour

Bridgetown shopping
A Bridgetown walking tour offers a wide range of shopping, dining and attractions. © 2021 Scott S. Bateman

Bridgetown Barbados, the nation’s capital and a financial and commercial hub for the region, is among the most cosmopolitan of the Caribbean’s cities.

It’s also a popular port of call for eastern Caribbean cruises.

Though the area was uninhabited when the first British settlers arrived in 1628, Arawak Indians had previously called the island home before disease and earlier European explorers drove them away.

Though the island gained independence from Britain in 1966, British culture has left an indelible mark. English is the principal spoken language and the city’s shops and restaurants feature an interesting mix of British and Caribbean influences.

The city hosts a population of about 100,000 people and is quite dense, making exploration by foot an easy and rewarding venture for visitors. Though modern office buildings are a common sight, colorful colonial buildings are a staple on smaller side streets and neighborhoods.

A historical tour with a guide will cost about $50 to $60. We have found guided tours worthwhile when we think larger cities and tourist attractions have a deep history, such as Old San Juan or Chichen Itza near Cancun. In the case of Bridgetown, we enjoyed a walking tour on our own.

Walking Tour Highlights

  • Broad Street, the main shopping area, is a long walk from the cruise port.
  • Historic attractions include St. Mary’s Anglican Church and Barbados Parliament Building.
  • Independence River and Square have waterfront dining.

Shopping

Bridgetown Map

Like most Caribbean islands, Barbados cruise visitors can walk right off the ships and start shopping and dining. It starts with the cruise terminal, which has about 20 shops for tourists.

But the city center and the most important shopping is located a mile away. Moderately fit visitors can walk to the city center while others may want to take a taxi or rent a car.

Whether to walk or take a taxi depends in part on the heat of the day. A hot day in Barbados can make a walk feel a lot longer.

We took a taxi on our visits and got dropped off in the middle of the city. We like to walk, but the day was hot. What made our choice even better was the amount of walking we ended up doing in Bridgetown.

Bridgetown’s main thoroughfare is Broad Street, where many duty-free shopping opportunities exist, offering both locally crafted and international goods. It is about one mile southeast of the cruise terminal.

Walkers may want to take Princess Alice Highway / Hincks Street right outside of the terminal to the end and then go one block north to reach it. Jubilee Gardens is a nice stop along the way.

Cave Shepherd is a shopping center on Broad Street and has some of the best variety in duty-free shopping. Those looking for local crafts should travel a little farther down the road to Pelican Village, where a wide selection of handcrafts, art and local food is available.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Bridgetown shopping
Bridgetown shopping. © 2020 Scott S. Bateman

Broad Street is also home to some of the city’s historic attractions, such as St. Mary’s Anglican Church, built in 1825, and the Barbados Parliament Building, a truly unique municipal building with a beautiful clock tower and vaulted windows.

St. Michael’s Cathedral is a short walk away and, together with a nearby synagogue, has been standing since the mid 17th century. Though a bit off the main drag, these sites are well worth the visit for those interested in getting a taste of the island’s history.

Near the Parliament Building is National Heroes Square and the War Memorial and Fountain Gardens, a great place to stop and enjoy the city’s atmosphere while you rest by the fountain.

Walking a bit more will take visitors to Wharf Street, where they can wander along the boardwalk, charter a boat for a sea turtle tour or take off for a helicopter tour of the island.

Wharf Road lines Independence River. Look for the Lord Nelson Statue on the city side. Cross the river through Independence Arch to reach Independence Square. The river has some nice outdoor restaurants for a relaxing meal.

Anyone who still feels like walking can reach Bayshore, Pebbles and Brownes beach directly south of the river by taking the nearby Bay Street.

Outdoors

For some outdoor fun, taking a boat to one of the many sandy beaches in Barbados for snorkeling, swimming and windsurfing is a popular choice. Several dedicated ships make these journeys, some of them offering entertainment such as calypso parties, open bars and rope swings into the ocean.

Many locations on the island can be visited through a Land Rover tour. Gun Hill Signal Station provides excellent views of the island. A drive through Joe’s River Tropical Rainforest will allow visitors to see the island’s lush natural vegetation firsthand.

For those looking to get a more potent taste of the island’s vegetation, several rum factories offer tours just north of town. These, along with most sites on the island, are easily accessible by rental car, taxi or by public bus.

While rental cars are readily available on the island, traffic can be heavy and somewhat aggressive in the city, so visitors should exercise caution and consider using the reliable and well-organized public transit system if necessary.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
January 22, 2021