Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison

By Angela

What is Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison?

The historical Bridgetown area of Barbados is the capital of the island as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage site. This area includes the town and its Garrison (a military post). The Garrison also covers the George Washington House and the Savannah, one of the oldest horse racing tracks in the Caribbean region.

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From the port: small motor boats for pleasure fishing in the foreground, a number of quite grand white colonial-era buildings in the background.

Why is Bridgetown and its Garrison a UNESCO World Heritage site?

Bridgetown and the surrounding Garrison area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. According to UNESCO, this area played a pivotal role in development of the British colonies in the Caribbean and is full of the rich history and architecture that covers the 17th, 18th and 19th periods. Unlike other Caribbean colonies, Bridgetown’s urban layout follows an organic medieval structure rather than a planned grid of streets.

St. Ann’s Garrison and its fortifications are the most complete military complex of the ex-British colonies in the region. The Garrison illustrates how closely interwoven the trade and military functions of the colony were.

A view of the racecourse: white railings from left to right divide the viewer from the track. The track is grass but with a dirt track slicing through it, with white railings along both sides. More grass beyond that.
Savannah racetrack

What can you expect on a visit to Bridgetown and its Garrison?

This area of Barbados offers many buildings and places to visit in one area that is steeped in colonial history. A few areas of interest are:

  • The Barbados Museum which used to be the former British Military Prison.
  • Watch the weekly changing of the sentry at the Main Guard Clock Tower building.
  • The George Washington House is where the American president visited in his only trip outside of his country. The house has a network of tunnels in the grounds that can be explored.
  • Visit the Oldest Jewish Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere which is next to the Nidhe Israel Museum. Built in 1700, the museum traces Jewish history in Barbados back to 1628.
  • The Garrison Savannah Racing course has three different seasons: January to April, May to August and October. You don’t need to purchase a ticket to enter the paddock to watch a race as the track has a few open areas where you can watch for free.

Is Bridgetown and its Garrison worth visiting?

I would recommend that all or part of this is visited on your travels, whether you are interested in looking at historical buildings, visiting the museum, enjoying a coffee by the waters of Bridgetown to watch the boats and bustle of the town, or enjoying a day at the races.

What sorts of travelers would like Bridgetown and its Garrison?

This area would be most suitable for those with an interest in the history of the country and the architecture of the British colonial period. For horseracing lovers, the race track is a must. Anyone interested in military history will enjoy the Main Guard Clock Tower, the Barbados Museum, and St Ann’s Garrison. For American visitors you may enjoy the George Washington house with 45-minute tours of the property available Monday to Friday.

Use the map below to book accommodations in Bridgetown:

Tips for visiting Bridgetown and its Garrison

When visiting this area, apply sunscreen and a hat to protect you when you are in the sun. The insides of many of the buildings are cool but you will be in the sun as you walk from one to another. Comfortable shoes or sandals are advised.

From the Garrison down to the bridge of Bridgetown it’s about a 15-minute walk and best avoided at midday when the sun is at its hottest.

If you want to visit the beach after a tour of the Garrison area, the beaches are just a 10 minute walk away.

A pretty red-painted colonial building: one story, with a triangular pediment over the central entrance. Above the pediment, a tall tower, almost as tall as the building is long, with a clock halfway up and a domed top.
Garrison Clock Tower

For any guided walking tours, contact the Barbados tourist board or the concierge in your hotel will be able to assist you.

Take this guided walking tour about the development of Bridgetown, or this walking tour of the Garrison and the Museum.

Explore other UNESCO site destinations in the Caribbean.

Where is Bridgetown and its Garrison?

You will find that addresses in Barbados are not street specific but are listed as places within a parish or near a landmark. The Garrison area is in the south of the island and is two miles south of the capital, Bridgetown. The Barbados Hilton Hotel is located by it.

Local buses can be taken to the Garrison and you will note that the bus stops in Barbados are marked as “Bus Out of City” and “To City”.  A bus should take under five minutes from Bridgetown but it’s an easy 15-minute walk. For an easier journey there, take a taxi from your hotel. You can then have a leisurely walk to the beach and enjoy a meal or drinks with a sea view.

Text: Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, Barbados. Images: above, the Main Guard Clock Tower; below, a cluster of colonial-era buildings as seen from the port.

A helpful walking map of Bridgetown and the Garrison area is available at this website.

For more information about Bridgetown’s UNESCO site, see the Visit Barbados website.

Angela started her journey in the Caribbean in Barbados in 2013. She lived there for three years before moving to Aruba and now lives in Saint Lucia. She shares her island living on Another Rum Punch.

Have you been to Bridgetown? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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