Barbados has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world... and such an affection for its colonial heritage that it’s sometimes known as the region’s ‘little England’. Add to that fields of sugar cane, cosmopolitan towns and its own unique calypso rhythms, and you’ll understand why it’s so very special.
Bridgetown is the duty-free shopping capital of Barbados, and at its heart is the Broad Street area. Large department stores, jewellery shops and shopping centres congregate here. On the city outskirts, the old harbour police site now hosts the Bayshore Complex (Bay Street), which has good shops, as well as watersports, restaurants and bars. For handicrafts and souvenirs, head to Pelican Village (Princess Alice Highway), where artisans make and sell straw bags, carvings, pottery, paintings, jewellery and more. Then just north of Bridgetown is Earthworks (2 Edgehill Heights), a pottery workshop where you can also watch the masters at work.
Food & Drink
Food in Bridgetown can be as elaborate or as homely as you like, with myriad restaurants to try. Barbados’ top gourmet haven is The Cliff (Highway 1, Derricks), romantically perched over the Caribbean and accessible by private yacht. Typical Caribbean food at mid-range prices is on offer at Brown Sugar (Bay Street), which is set in a cosy old Barbadian home. Locals love a good fishy fry-up: follow them to the old Oistins Fish Market (Christ Church), just southeast of Bridgetown, for just-off-the-boat freshness. Friday nights buzz with atmosphere, music and crowds.
Just north of Bridgetown is Holetown, the point at which the first settlers arrived in 1627. A week-long celebration of national customs and culture takes place here every year, with concerts, pageants, feasts, fairs and competitions.
The Caribbean's top cultural festival, the Barbados Holders Season features an exciting array of performances, from open-air theatre to gospel, jazz and Caribbean music concerts. The 17th-century Holders House, a historic plantation home, hosts the annual festival.
Crop Over Festival
If you only make one event in Bridgetown, make it the Crop Over Festival. Barbados' biggest party celebrates the sugar harvest with music, dancing, parades and food.
Barbados Legends Tournament
Retired footballing greats don their boots again in this annual six-a-side tournament, with many British teams, from Man United and Chelsea to Liverpool, well represented.
Barbados Food, Wine and Rum Festival
Foodie alert: with cookery demonstrations by top chefs, wine and rum tastings galore, and Bajan feasts, this four-day festival is the one for you. Events take place across Bridgetown and at several top resorts and restaurants.
Hotels in the centre of Bridgetown are mostly businesslike, but many dreamy Barbados resorts also lie further out on the coast. Cobblers Cove (Road View, Speightstown) and more affordable and laid-back Mango Bay (2nd Street, Holetown) are both excellent beachside resorts, just north of the capital. Closer to the centre, mid-range Island Inn (Aquatic Gap) is a small, all-inclusive hotel in the UNESCO-listed historic area near Pebbles Beach. Alternatively, for those on a tight budget, Malfranza Apartments (Train Line Road) are a self-catering possibility, a short drive inland.