You’ll understand in a short time why Georgetown has a reputation for being Guyana’s most fun city. Framed by the endless Atlantic Ocean to the north, it offers more than just a tropical welcome. It is the gateway to the country’s historical and natural wonders. Give yourself a couple of days in the capital for orientation before you deep dive into Guyanese adventures.
Explore the museums, monuments and markets or enjoy the simple pleasures of chatting with friendly locals to feel at home right away. Don’t forget to pay special attention to the architecture, especially the famous Demerara shutters and colonial influences. The other engineering genius is the web of sluices and canals from where the excessive water is daily drained out from the city and into the ocean. Wind down at the end of the day at one of the many bars, where the mood is alive till the wee hours of the morning.
The museum trail of Georgetown is the best way to find out about events and backgrounds that shaped the country. Be it extensive exhibits that showcase the life of Amerindians at Walter Roth Museum, or the beautifully preserved animals representing most of Guyana’s biodiversity at the National Museum. To know more about the African heritage, walk through the expertly curated sections of musical instruments, art and textiles at the Museum of African Heritage. While on the topic of arts, visit the Roy Geddes Steel Pan Museum. It is a haven for steel pan music lovers, where one can view photographs, drums and souvenirs that document the musician’s life around this one-of-a-kind music. Remember, if you’re visiting the National Gallery, you’d be walking inside the once home of President Forbes Burnham.
Once the tallest building in the city, the Lighthouse is now relegated to second spot after a hotel that’s taller. But it’s still one of the best places to get a bird’s eye view of Georgetown. From here you can spot the red-roofed bandstand near the Sea Wall, a 280-mile dyke constructed by the Dutch to prevent the Atlantic from spilling in. See if you can identify others like Umana Yana, a Wai Wai benab (hut) built by the Amerindians as a meeting place, and the African Liberation Monument to commemorate freedom fighters.
Churches of Georgetown
Being the capital, Georgetown has always been the epicenter for religious structures. Centuries-old churches bear a stamp of colonial heritage with Gothic architecture, but are constructed in local material, especially the Greenheart wood for flooring. The most iconic address in town belongs to St. George’s Cathedral – a 19th-century church that towers above the modern buildings in the heart of the city. Look up to see the high ceiling supported by arches and a dazzling chandelier, a gift from the Queen of England. Other spectacular churches include, St. Andrew’s Kirk (the only church where slaves were allowed to pray), Christ Church and the Brickdam Cathedral.
Nothing makes you feel more like an insider than jostling through the frenzied pace of local markets. As you step in to the Stabroek (partially hanging over the Demerara River) and Bourda Markets, a burst of colourful veggies, fruits, seafood, and all manner of wares meet the eye – and that’s just one stall. Peer into the network of alleys and you’ll find shops selling CDs, watches, clocks, clothes and what seems like everything under the sun. As you stroll through the markets, listen out for colourful Creolese language at play as punters and shopkeepers haggle over a purchase.
Parks and Promenades
The Botanical, Zoological and National Parks are the lungs of Georgetown. The zoo in Georgetown gives you an option to get up close to a jaguar, boa constrictor, a sloth and even a harpy eagle. For un-caged avian friends, walk along the Botanical Gardens and you could get lucky, spotting about 50 species of birds. Other enthralling creatures in the park are the manatees that live below the Kissing Bridge on a lake.
Not too far away is the Parade Ground, which was once an execution spot for the slaves. Right across this are the Promenade Gardens where fountains, manicured lawns, a bandstand and a bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi make for a more cheerful theme.
Guyana has always had a special affinity to cricket. Visit historic Bourda Cricket Ground that has hosted several International championships in the past. The new ground at Providence hosted the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Guyana’s love for sports spills over to football, with great fondness for their neighbours, Brazil.
Treat yourself to the captivating architecture of Georgetown by strolling past the most prominent buildings of the city. You can peek into the President’s house and see Italian influence in the Prime Minister’s home, albeit from the gate. The domed Parliament, City Hall and the Red House, where former Prime Minister Cheddi Jagan once lived are the other impressive structures. Once you’ve glanced at the statue of the Queen Elizabeth with a missing limb, steer the gaze beyond the garden, to the Gothic and Tudor architecture of the High Court.
Music lovers get a chance to peek inside the home of Eddie Grant, the Grammy winner who was first to put Guyana’s R&B music on the world map – remember ‘Gimme Hope Jo’anna’ and ‘Electric Avenue’? Other typical colonial buildings with Georgian windows and steep roofs belong to Austin and Moray House. More than a century old, the National Library contains shelf loads of books, and colonial architecture to marvel at.
Sugar Estate: Uitvulgt
Visit the Dutch-rooted Uitvlugt estate as homage to the flourishing sugarcane business that gave rise to the dark history of slavery in Guyana. The trip is poignant and at the same time captivates you, as you ride in a jeep to inspect lush fields as far as your eyes can see. The sugarcane-covered terrain is fractured by canals, where heavy loading boats glide through the water to carry the canes right to the factory.
Processing takes place over loud clanking machinery, so it’s best to listen to the guide before you step in. Wander inside the maze of machines to see the intriguing world of sugar and its by-products.
Sugar estate of Uitvulgt
Dining and Nightlife
Georgetown’s easygoing vibe makes way into every aspect– even dining and nightlife. The downtown area has a number of options from casual cafes to fine dining restaurants. Choose from the traditional indigenous ‘pepper pot’ to dishes that are influenced by the Indian, African and Chinese heritage of the country. Lately, new experimental chefs are giving the city’s culinary scene an edge by rooting their craft in fusion of local and International.
Guyanese take their fun seriously – and beer and rum feature high on the list for that. You can raise a glass to the country’s rum drinking tradition on an hour-long walk at Demerara Distillers Ltd. Here you can witness all the ‘behind the scenes’ action that goes into making the best rum in the world – El Dorado. Don’t forget to pick the 10 or 15-year-old classics on your way out. To complete the picture, a trip to Banks beer bottling factory is essential. The tasting session is the most anticipated part of the trip. Reserve evenings for the pubs where soca and chutney music complement the drinking scene.