Port of Spain

  • Trinidad's capital displays a diverse set of rather hefty buildings.
    Robert Lerich / 123RF
Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination Trinidad and Tobago

Surrounded by hills fixed against a backdrop formed by the mouth of the marshy Caroni River, Port of Spain, capital of the dual-island nation, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is a charming city, a real fusion of the two islands' cultures, architecture and people. The capital is located on the gulf of Paria on the northwest coast of the island of Trinidad and is the country's most developed city. Today the city, a capital since 1757, serves as an important administrative centre for the Caribbean. As its names suggests, the area was colonised by the Spanish in the 1500s, hence its strong Latin influences - this period was strongly marked by slavery. But the national love of music has helped the people from Trinidad and Tobago forget their painful past and unite in a vibrant present! In fact, the capital is best known for its carnival, where the mix of cultures and influences is even more explicit. Soca music fills the street as people come out of their houses moving to the music as if there was no tomorrow!

To get a good grasp of Port of Spain, strap on your sandals and have a stroll around the capital's streets. Wander around to the Holy Trinity Anglican cathedral that dates back to the 19th Century, the Jama Masjid mosque, the Immaculate Conception Catholic cathedral overlooking Independence Square, but don't forget to also swing by the numerous Hindu temples, have a look at the local homes with their quaint Victorian facades, the parliament, nicknamed 'Red House' due to its Renaissance red colour. Not far from the port, Frederick Street aligns its bazaars, smart boutiques and department stores. Going up this street, you will come across the National Museum and Gallery that trace back the country's national history with a focus on Port of Spain. The museums display works by Trinidadian artists, including some dazzling carnival costumes. The anchor displayed at the entrance is said to belong to the ship of Christopher Columbus - up to you to make your mind up! To relax, wander the alleys of the botanical garden with its meticulous flowerbeds and end your stroll on the lawns of the Queen's Savannah, a former plantation transformed into a sports and leisure park, equipped with a cricket field.

Port of Spain: what to do?

If going to Trinidad and Tobago, you cannot miss the carnival! It's one of the highlights of the Caribbean and takes places annually on the Monday or Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. See the nation go crazy to calypso and soca music all dressed up in the snazziest of costumes! You must also explore the mesmerizing beaches, where there is an array of water-sports but also deep-sea diving. For those of you who prefer a real 'Castaway' atmosphere, ask the locals where the quietest and most beautiful local beaches are and they'll tell you...we wouldn't want to spoil the adventure by giving away the country's best-kept secrets, now, would we? If however you aren't going to be around during carnival, then you must hang out, or 'lime', as the locals call it, around Independent Square in the evenings. Liming is a favourite activity here and just means hanging round, chatting with friends and eating street food, which sounds good to just about anyone human!

Don't miss the wonderful architecture of the city, sit around on a terrace sipping on a juice and watch life go by to get real insight into this jolly nation. If you're going to be in the capital, you may as well try and get yourself to Tobago Island, which is more adapted to tourists, or stay on Trinidad and once away from the administration hustle and bustle, explore the island, which hasn't been spoiled by development.

  • The vibrant mix of cultures.
  • The crazy atmosphere during carnival!
  • The delicious street food.
  • The beautiful beaches.
  • Can be dangerous - there is a high crime rate.

Reminders

Before booking, consider waiting until carnival, which is definitely worth the wait! Also, remember that Trinidad and Tobago has two real seasons; dry season, from December to May and wet season, from June to November.

To avoid

Avoid walking around alone at night in dark alleyways - it's just commonsense, but Trinidad does have an unusually high murder rate, so it's worth staying out of trouble. And don't flash the cash around. Keep expensive valuables at home or locked up in your hotel safe - you'll feel like it's easier to fit in that way anyway. Avoid relying too much on the locals to explore the area, so don't be afraid to just go with the flow! Also, apply lots of high factor sun cream, even if you are black or mixed race, as Trinidad is very close to the equator.

Port of Spain: what to eat?

As the country is split over two islands, the food is extremely eclectic and ranges between typical Caribbean dishes to Indian specialties all with a little Spanish twist, so don't shy away and dive right in! Some specialties include typical street food like roti (which is a bit like the Indian chapatti), Doubles (usually eaten at breakfast, Doubles is like a sandwich made with two pieces of fried flatbread filled with chick peas or beans), Bake and Shark (a type of fried street food usually eaten during Trinidadian festivities), Chow (a wonderful sort of spicy fruit salad) , West Indian style curry, and Jerk chicken or fish.

Port of Spain: what to buy?

You won't be able to bring back the delicious street food you will be probably fall in love with in Trinidad, but do think about buying a book of recipes so that you can try your hand at some of the local fare.

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