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Nassau is the capital of The Bahamas, a member of the British Commonwealth. It is the largest city in the Bahamas and its low-rise sprawl dominates the eastern half of New Providence Island.
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Points of Interest in Nassau
- Take a walk around Old Town, an interesting mixture of abandoned buildings and bright Caribbean structures. It doesn't take long to get away from the over-scrubbed tourist areas in the very center. Walk ten minutes uphill to the pink Parliament Building, which has a statue of an enthroned Queen Victoria out front.
- Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Center, ☎ 242-323-5806, fax: 242-323-7232, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 9AM-5PM. Visit the Bahamas' only zoo. See the marching flamingo shows. Let the parakeets land on you as you feed them. $15.
- National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, West & West Hill Streets, ☎ 1-242-328-5800. Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM. Opened in 2003, this showcases Bahamian art from the precolonial era to the present. The quality of art is rather uneven to say the least, but the renovated building — once the residence of the Chief Justice — is a sight in itself. Adults $5, Students/seniors $3.
- Pirate Museum, ☎ 1-242-356-3759, e-mail: email@example.com. M-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 9AM-noon. Recreations of a pirate town, a pirate ship and a pirate battle, with a few real artifacts mixed in. Cheesy, but fun. Try to catch a guided tour. $12.
- Fort Fincastle. A small fort built in 1793 which overlooks the city of Nassau from a small hill south of town. Several cannons are on display. Tours are conducted Monday through Sunday, 8am to 3pm.
Founded around 1650 by the British as Charles Town, the town was renamed in 1695 after Fort Nassau. Due to the Bahamas' strategic location near trade routes and its multitude of islands, Nassau soon became a popular pirates' den, and British rule was soon challenged by the self-proclaimed "Privateers Republic" under the leadership of the infamous Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. However, the alarmed British soon tightened their grip, and by 1720 the pirates had been killed or driven out.
Today, with a population of 260,000, Nassau contains nearly 80% of the population of the Bahamas. However, it's still quite low-rise and laid back, with the pretty pastel pink government buildings and the looming giant cruise ships that dock daily.
Orienting yourself in central Nassau is fairly easy. Bay Street, which runs parallel to the shore, is the main shopping street, filled with an odd mix of expensive jewelry boutiques and souvenir shops. The hill that rises behind Bay St contains most of the Bahamas' government buildings and company headquarters, while the residential Over-the-Hill district starts on the other side.
The bus tours are pretty interesting. They'll drive you around, and tell you about the local government, tell you about different points of interest, and take you to old forts, and to Paradise Island, to see the famous Atlantis hotel resort and its stunning aquarium.
Get out of the hotel and try real Bahamaian fare. You can get greasy fish, sides and desserts at one of the holes-in-the-wall in downtown Nassau for around $8. On the upscale side, there's no shortage of waterside seafood restaurants where it would be easy to part with $50 for an excellent piece of lobster. Sbarros, McDonalds and Chinese restaurants are mixed in to satisfy the budget diner or someone who has had enough conch.
- The Shoal Restaurant and Lounge, Nassau Street, ☎ 323-4200. Sa-Th 7:30AM-11PM, Fri 7AM-7PM. If the tourist crowds are getting you down, take a taxi out to where the locals eat. Enjoy fish that falls off the bone, friendly service, and a dessert of guava $10-$20.
- Cafe Matisse, Bank Lane (behind Parliament Sq, off Bay St), ☎ 1-242-356-7012. Tue-Sat noon-11 PM. Tucked away on a quiet lane, Matisse serves excellent Italian food with fresh local ingredients. Reservations recommended; try to get a seat in the delightful garden courtyard, which is shady by day and lit up at night. "Proper" dress (no shorts or sandals) required for dinner. $50-70.
Nassau isn't a spring break mecca for nothing. The club scene is nightly and rowdy. Some popular establishments:
- Señor Frogs, ☎ (242) 323-1777. 11AM-3AM. right next to the cruise dock. Situated next a stinky sewer pipe, check which way the wind is blowing before you order. Doesn't serve Kalik.
- Club Waterloo, East Bay Street. 8PM-4AM. on the north side of the island, about two miles from the dock.
- Cocktails and Dreams, West Bay Street, ☎ (242) 328 3745. draws a sketchier crowd, although it is on the beach. Come here in a group.
- Club Fluid. draws a very local crowd. You will get lots of recommendations from Bahamians you meet but it is not a tourist club at all.
Cover charges average $20, although all major hotels sell "passes" for $5. With a pass, cover charge is only $5, so you actually pay $10. Cover charges on weekends can climb up to $45, so it's a good idea to get a pass from your local taxi driver/hotel desk.
You can also opt for an all-inclusive entertainment pass, which will include a schedule. Expect to follow this itinerary with at least 5,000 other co-eds. (It might be a good idea to pick up this schedule even if you don't plan on participating. It will give you a good idea of places to avoid on certain nights.)
Drinks in clubs can get expensive, depending on the club and its location. Many locals "drink up" before going out, to defray this cost. Otherwise they may be found in the parking lots with a cooler. Expect to pay at least $4 for a beer and $5 for a cocktail. The one exception is rum, which is cheap and plentiful. Cocktails with rum at a club will be strong.
- Straw Market, Bay St. Originally a locals' market, this is now devoted to touristy bric-a-brac. If you are in the market for some souvenirs, this is the place to come. Don't be discouraged by the initial price of things, as this is the only place you can haggle for a better one. Americans don't have to worry about exchanging any money either, as US currency is accepted universally.
- Potters' Cay, under the Paradise Island bridge. Best known for its fish market, and there are plenty of stalls that prepare fresh conch salad, conch fritters and other Bahamian seafood delicacies, but there's plenty of other exotic tropical produce available too.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Nassau on Wikivoyage.