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Bridgetown

This bustling capital city, inscribed in 2011—along with The Garrison—onto the UNESCO World Heritage List, is a duty-free port with a compact shopping area. The principal thoroughfare is Broad Street, which leads west from National Heroes Square. A shuttle service (246/227–2200) operates between hotels and downtown during business hours.

POINTS OF INTEREST

THE CAREENAGE

In the early days, Bridgetown’s natural harbor was where schooners were turned on their sides (careened) to be scraped of barnacles and repainted. Today, The Careenage serves as a marina for pleasure yachts and excursion boats, as well as a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. A boardwalk skirts the north side of the Careenage; on the south side, a lovely esplanade has pathways and benches for pedestrians and a statue of Errol Barrow, the first prime minister of Barbados. The Chamberlain Bridge and the Charles Duncan O’Neal Bridge span The Careenage.

PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS

Overlooking National Heroes Square in the center of town, these Victorian buildings were constructed around 1870 to house the British Commonwealth’s third-oldest Parliament (after Britain itself and Bermuda). A series of stained-glass windows in the East Wing depicts British monarchs from James I to Victoria. The National Heroes Gallery & Museum is in the West Wing.

QUEEN’S PARK

Northeast of Bridgetown, this national park is the site of one of the island’s two immense baobab trees. Brought to Barbados from Guinea, West Africa, around 1738, this tree has a girth of more than 60 feet. Queen’s Park Art Gallery, managed by the National Culture Foundation, is the island’s largest gallery; exhibits change monthly. Queen’s Park House, built in 1783 and the historic home of the British troop commander, has been converted into a theater, with an exhibition room on the lower floor and a restaurant. Originally called King’s House, the name was changed upon Queen Victoria’s succession to the throne.

NIDHE ISRAEL SYNAGOGUE

Providing for the spiritual needs of one of the oldest Jewish congregations in the Western Hemisphere, this synagogue was formed by Jews who arrived in 1628 from Brazil and introduced sugarcane to Barbados. The adjoining cemetery has tombstones dating from the 1630s. The original house of worship, built in 1654, was destroyed in an 1831 hurricane, rebuilt in 1833, and restored in 1987 with the assistance of the Barbados National Trust. The museum, housed in a restored coral-stone building from 1750, documents the story of the Barbados Jewish community. Friday-night services are held during the winter months, but the building is open to the public year-round. Shorts are not acceptable during services but may be worn at other times.

ST. MICHAEL’S CATHEDRAL

Although no one has proven it, George Washington is said to have worshipped here in 1751 during his only trip outside the United States. By then, the original structure was already nearly a century old. Destroyed twice by hurricanes, the cathedral was rebuilt in 1789 and again in 1831. It currently seats 1,600 persons and boasts the largest pipe organ in the Caribbean.