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Top 10 Historical Activities in Barbados
Barbados is overrun with exciting opportunities to explore the Caribbean's past beyond the sun, sea and sand.
Today, a visit to Barbados brings history to life through guided tours, mapped routes and even self exploration. It is easy to connect with the past while exploring Barbados in the present.
Although a developing island with a booming tourism industry, Barbados remains true to its diverse roots by keeping up with architectural maintenance, carefully preserving artifacts and opening up relevant spots to tourists looking to gain insight into the historical spots that play a huge role in shaping the islands’ history.
These 10 activities are perfect for a rainy day or if you just want to do something different during your stay.
The Historic Bridgetown (the Capital City of Barbados) and its Garrison’ was declared a World Heritage Site in 2011. This area is an outstanding example of British colonial architecture consisting of a well-preserved old town built in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which testifies to the spread of Great Britain's Atlantic colonial empire. The property also includes a nearby military garrison which consists of numerous historic buildings.
The Barbados Museum and Historical Society is housed in historic buildings which were originally used as the military prison at St. Ann’s Garrison. The museum presents the history of Barbados in an easily accessed, self- guided tour.
The Barbados National Heroes Gallery and the Barbados Museum of Parliament are housed in the historic West Wing of the Parliament Buildings in the heart of the capital city of Bridgetown. The Gallery traces the lives and contributions made by the ten National Heroes of Barbados.
The first synagogue in Barbados was built about 1651 by Jews from Recife, Brazil, fleeing Portuguese lands to English territories during the Inquisition. The original building was destroyed in a hurricane in 1831, and rebuilt two years later. The Bridgetown synagogue, deconsecrated early in the century, was seized by the Barbados Government and scheduled for demolition. But through the tenacity of the island's tiny Jewish community, it underwent a $1 million restoration. It was since rededicated as a synagogue and remains a National Trust property today. The property also includes a Jewish museum and a ritual mikvah, which, built in 1652, was the first in the western hemisphere.
St.Nicholas Abbey, located in the parish of St.Peter, was built in 1658 and is one of only three genuine Jacobean mansions in the Western Hemisphere. You can take a tour through the great house to admire the architecture and historical furnishings and explore the steam mill and rum distillery which are now in full operation and are used to produce St. Nicholas Abbey Rum. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with tropical flora while the natural gullies are home to Mahogany and Silk Cotton trees.
George Washington House in Barbados is a historic house where the future first U.S. President George Washington visited, in 1751. He was 19 years old at the time, and with his ailing half-brother, Lawrence Washington. Barbados apparently is the only country outside the present United States that George Washington ever visited. This heritage site on the historic Garrison celebrates the visit and the role that Barbados played in the settlement of America.
Gun Hill Signal Station is the largest of the military outposts in Barbados, with military associations from at least 1697. Gun Hill was a central hub, relaying across the island messages of approaching vessels. In those early days of settlement the French, Spanish and Dutch were at constant war in the Caribbean waters, looking for rights and safe passage across the seas to the new world. The lion was carved in 1868 and long before that Gun Hill warned the island of vessels that were off shore using an elaborate system of flags and semaphores relayed across the island. This spot has some of the most beautiful views of the island!
The tunnel at George Washington House was ‘re-discovered’ purely by chance, in June 2011, while preparation work was being undertaken, by the Garrison Consortium, for the relocation of the on-site cafe. After research and exploration, it was realised that this tunnel extended far beyond the boundaries of the property measuring approximately 3,200ft in length! Originally constructed to provide drainage to the area (the first such system in Barbados), oral history has indicated that they were adopted for use as ‘escape routes’ for the Garrison troops, should the area have ever been invaded, and other clandestine uses. Take a trip down to George Washington House, walk 206ft underground and learn more about this fascinating tunnel system!
Foursquare Rum Distillery occupies the site of a former sugar factory that dates back to 1636. Eight acres of plantation yard have been beautifully landscaped as a park and entertainment venue, while the factory and plantation outbuildings have been restored to pristine condition. Besides the distillery, there are several attractions on the property including a sugar machinery museum, folk museum, bottling plants, and a glass fusing studio. Not all are open all the time, but you’re sure to get into the distillery, beautifully restored in 1996 combining the historic structure with modern technology, making it one of the most modern in the world.
Hike Barbados takes you through cane fields, gullies, tropical forests and coastal communities to explore the unique geological and social structure of Barbados. Along the way you will meet new friends, enjoy healthy exercise and observe the delicate balance of the unique heritage and environment of Barbados. The hikes are FREE but donations are welcome towards the work of the Barbados National Trust (preserving our built and natural environment).
Are there any other tours or sites that you would add to this list? Please let us know in the comments below!