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Paramaribo, often called Par'bo, is the lively capital and only city of the sparsely inhabited country of Suriname. Home to about 250,000 people, or over half of the country's population, this laid-back South American gem lies just 15km from the Atlantic Ocean. It's the country's main harbour, governmental seat and centre for business and learning. Many visitors to Suriname come by here, spending some time to take in the city's pretty UNESCO World Heritage listed colonial centre. Paramaribo leads by example in Surinam's efforts to expand its tourist economy, with a strong focus on eco-friendly travel. To get a feel of this friendly city, take a pick from the large stacks of fruits at its bustling central market and wander around town to admire its colonial heritage. Then, head to the Waterkant (or water side) to join the locals for Djogo (local beer) and salty fish while gazing at the boats on the Suriname river. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Paramaribo
- Historical city centre. Paramaribo's distinctive historic city centre, packed with wooden buildings from colonial times, has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since July 2002. It's the planned nature and remarkable architecture that makes this place unique. The spacious, tree-lined street plan was laid out by the first Dutch governor in the 17th century. Most of the current mansions originate from the the first half of the 19th century however, as they had to be rebuilt after large city fires in 1821 and 1832. The designs are clearly inspired by Dutch architecture of the time, but incorporated a range of indigenous techniques and used local materials. The Waterkant and Mr.Lim A Postraat have some of the best examples. Many of the wooden houses are in dire need of restoration, however, to the point where UNESCO has urged the state to address the problem and threatened to revoke the city's status.
- Fort Zeelandia, Abraham Crijnssenweg 1, ☎ +597 425871, fax: +597 42 58 81, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-F: 09:00-14:00, Su 10:00-14:00. (closed Sa,M). The English laid the first foundations for the current brick fort around 1650, replacing an earlier wooden structure built by the French around an even earlier Dutch trading post. In 1667, Dutch and English forces fought over the fortifications, then called fort Willoughby, and the surrounding lands. The Peace of Breda later that year put the whole of Suriname in Dutch hands, however, when the Dutch preferred to retain Surinam and its Sugar factories rather than swap them for what later became New York and the fort was renamed Zeelandia. Initially used as a colonial stronghold for the Dutch, it later served as an army barrack and a prison. In 1982, Fort Zeelandia was the scene of the so-called December murders, as fifteen prominent Surinamese men who had criticized the then military dictatorship ruling Suriname were tortured here and then shot dead. The events remain controversial today, as the exact circumstances are still unclear, but the current president of Suriname is the main suspect. In 1995 the restored buildings were opened to the public as a museum. The collection of the Suriname Museum covers the different cultures of Suriname, the colonial period, 20th century art, a library collection and a photo archive. There is a café and a restaurant (Baka Foto) with an outdoor terrace in the courtyard. In front of the entrance are historical officers houses. This beautiful area gives you an impression of how the city once was when trees lined the streets. A statue of Queen Wilhelmina is on the waterfront, looking over the Suriname River.
- Numismatic Museum, Mr F.H.R. Lim a Po Straat 7, ☎ +597 520016. M-F 08:00-14:00. Highlight of this small museum is a 1679 copper Parrot coin. You'll probably need to have a real interest in the history of money to fully appreciate the collection on display, but there's no admission fee and walking in for a quick glance can't hurt. The museum is part of the Bank of Suriname, and it's housed in one of the nice colonial building. It hold almost every legal currency used in Suriname since the late 17th century. Free.
- Onafhankelijkheidsplein (Independence Square) and Presidential Palace. The square is the heart of Paramaribo surrounded by important buildings like the Presidential Palace, Court of Justice, the Parliament. It's used as a place for festivals like Carisfesta XI in 2013. Normally there's not much activity, but on Sundays men exercise the national hobby: letting their caged birds sing.
- Palmentuin (Palm Gardens) (Behind the presidential palace). The Palm garden, a small park filled with king palms behind the Presidential Palace, was part of the original city plans of Cornelis van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck, the first Dutch governor. He opened the garden for public in 1685, but was murdered only three years later, after which the property was closed again. Not until the early 20th century was the Palm Garden re-opened. In 2009 it was restored with funds from UNESCO. It has a small play ground now, some statues and benches to hang out on, making it a pleasant, shady place on a hot day. Except on holidays, when the place comes to live with food stalls and such, the garden is best avoided after sundown for the lighting is poor and the place attracts less friendly crowds.
- Paramaribo Zoo, Letitia Vriesdelaan, ☎ +597 545275, e-mail: email@example.com. daily 09:00-18:00. Establishing a zoo was an idea of Prime Minister Pengel in the 1960's. Awaiting the actual construction of the zoo, he started collecting animals in his own backyard, until the zoo was opened in 1972. Both the number of animals and (subsequently) of visitors declined over the following decades, however, leaving the zoo in poor state. Starting in 2003 it successfully engaged in a cooperation with Dutch Diergaarde Blijdorp in Rotterdam, which helped raise funds to restore the place. In recent years the zoo has gained popularity again. Its collection of animals includes mostly regional species, among which are many indigenous monkeys, jaguars, caimans, many tropical birds and a petting zoo. There's also a nice playground for kids. SRD10.
- St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Henck Arronstraat 22. 08:00-14:00. This Roman Catholic cathedral is one of the biggest wooden structures on the entire American continent. Building started in 1883 and the church was consecrated only two years later. The towers were not finished before 1901 though, and the characteristic yellow and grey painting of the outside was done only in 1926. The design of the church was inspired by the Redemptorist church in Roosendaal and the (then new) Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston, while the interior, carried out in unpainted cedar wood, was a Surinamese design. Poor restoration efforts were undertaken in the late 1970's, leaving the building in need of new repairs shortly after. Finally, termite damage and severe tilting led to the closure of the cathedral in 1989 for safety reasons. The Vatican provided some funds for initial repairs in the mid 1990's and after fundraising efforts and a large EU grant, thorough restorations were carried out between 2007 and 2010. The cathedral was re-opened for the public in that year. Only the large organ, of which most of the pipes had been stolen, is still a work in progress.
- The Central Market, Waterkant. 05:00-17:00. A large market with over 3,000 stalls inside a hall at the Waterkant. It's a colourful, buzzing place with smells and sounds to perceive deficit. They offer fresh fish (delivered directly by fishermen), vegetables, fruit and meat. On the first floor are non-perishables sold as clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils and more.
- The Jewish community in Paramaribo is reputed to be the oldest continuing Jewish community in the Americas and the current wooden Neve Shalom (Hebrew: בית הכנסת נווה שלום; literally "Oasis of Peace" or "Valley of Peace") synagogue dates from 1835 and replaced the building constructed in 1719 by Ashkenazi Jews. The original Jewish settlers were descendants of Jews fleeing persecution by the Spanish Inquisition in Holland, Portugal and Italy and came here via Brazil. Just one of the unique features of this Synagogue is its floor of sand rather than boards or tiles. This floor is supposed to be both a reminder of the 40 years in the desert that the Hebrews were forced to endure after their exodus from Egypt, and the times that marranos had to muffle their prayers and footsteps with sand so as not to be discovered by the Inquisition and put to death. There are several beautiful Torahs that are hundreds of years old and the carved woodwork exhibits fine craftsmanship.
Popular events in Paramaribo in the near future
Paramaribo has a tropical rainy climate, hot and humid. It has two rainy seasons per year. The long rainy season runs from late April to mid-August. The short rainy season runs from mid-December to mid-February. Usually it does not rain all day but there are heavy tropical showers mainly in the afternoon. The temperature is about 30°C but in the dry period from mid-August to mid-December it can rise to 35-40°C. Humidity is year-round about 80% and can exacerbate temperature extremes. It feels clammy and sticky.
- Stroll through the historic centre with its old wooden houses.
- Walk to the Keizerstraat where a mosque and a synagogue are built adjacent to each other. Not far from this place are also a Catholic church and a Hindu temple.
- Visit Waterkant, share a djogo (1 litre) Parbo, the national beer, and enjoy the sunset.
- Visit the flea market on Sunday and the daily lively Central Market.
- Visit the flower expo at the Letitia Vriesdelaan which is scheduled every other Sunday. They sell different type of orchids, cacti, and other plants.
- In the north of Paramaribo is the Blauwgrond quarter. On this former plantation live Javanese people. Sit down at a warung (Javanese for small restaurant or shop) and try one of the lovely dishes.
- Bike or take a taxi to Weg naar Zee (Road to the Sea) which is a Hindustani open air cremation site north of the Kwattaweg. You're permitted to attend a ceremony. Nearby is a pilgrimage sanctuary.
- Thalia theater (Surinamese theater company), Dr. J.F. Nassylaan 4, ☎ +597 472812. The Suriname theater company was founded in 1837 and is the oldest theater company of the Caribbean. The Thalia theater building was opened in 1840, but after its 2011 renovation it now seats 500.
- Carnival (Feb) - Colourful carnival parades.
- Avondvierdaagse (Apr) - Walking and dancing four days long in the streets of Paramaribo. The event starts at 17:00. The route varies and holds a different surprise every day. It meanders through the various neighbourhoods, each with its own characteristics.
- Suripop (National Song Contest) - This festival for Surinamese songwriters is held every two (even) years.
- Divali - This Hindu festival of light is a national day in Suriname since 2010
- Jaran Kepang - Jaran Kepang is a traditional Javanese dance accompanied by gamelan music. This spectacular folk-dance is very popular in Suriname.
- Winti Pré - This Creole worship is a dance ritual for gods and ghosts.
- Jaarbeurs (Nov) - This annual trading fair lasts a week and is held on the KKF-Beursterrein (Professor W.J. Kernkampweg) 17:00-23:00.
- Bodo (End of the Javanese fasting period) - Bodo is the Javanese name of the Eid al-Fitr (Sugar Feast) festival in Suriname.
- Owru Jari (New Year celebration) - Three days of festival to celebrate the old and new years with lots of fireworks.
Paramaribo's many restaurants reflect its diverse culture and strong Chinese, Javanese and Hindustan influences. Small food stalls serve inexpensive traditional snacks at the markets and along the Waterkant. If you're looking for Javanese style food, consider driving out to the Blauwgrond area of town. This Javanese part of the city is known for its many small restaurants, typically unpolished places with simple plastic outdoor furniture but great food.
However, for the travel weary visitor there's a Kentucky Fried Chicken around and a few places that cater to the much less spiced Dutch taste. Food is typically cheap by western standards, with full 3 course meals anywhere between SRD25 and SRD60 and simple mains around SRD20. If you follow the locals to smaller places you'll be able to eat for SRD10. Most of the small restaurants are quite casual in style. For a somewhat more formal experience, the upmarket hotels in town usually have their own restaurants, serving both traditional and international cuisine for obviously higher prices.
- Chi Min, Cornelis Jongbawstraat 83, ☎ +597 412155. 11:00-23:00. Chinese restaurant specialising in seafood.
- 't Vat, Kleine Waterstraat 1, ☎ +597 424631. For some reason, this place is especially popular with travellers and the many Dutch trainees staying in town. They cater to Dutch tastes as well, with anything from traditional Suriname Pom sandwiches to burgers and French Fries with Dutch "frikandel" sausages. They also offer a range of services besides the food, including some good mid-range lodging options, car hire and a souvenir shop. SRD25 for their special, 3-course tourist menu..
- Di Gadri, Zeelandiaweg 1 (Between Fort Zeelandia and the National Assembly), ☎ +597 420688. Mon-Fri 08:00-22:00 Sat-Sun 11:00-22:00. Good Creole meals, soups and snacks. At 08:00 fresh bread rolls. It has a nice terrace under a huge mahogany tree. Also popular with parliamentarians. Dishes around SRD20.
- Joosje Roti Shop, Zwartenhovenbrugstraat 9, ☎ +597 472606. M-Sa 08:30-22:00. East Indian restaurant in the centre of town, well known for their chicken roti.
- Dumpling #1, Dr J.F. Nassylaan 1. Famous for their king crab.
- Fatai Restaurant, Maagdenstraat 64, ☎ +597 473917. Asian food
- Restaurant Jawa, Kasabaholoweg 7 (uitvlught), ☎ +597 492691, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:00-22:00. A good choice for travellers on a budget, with tasty Javanese food. from USD5.
- Liang Lang, corner Dr J.F. Nassylaan and F. Derbiestraat. Famous for their 'tjoeng'
- Mirosso Indonesisch Restaurant, J. Samson Greenstraat 104, ☎ +597 455362. Tu-Th 18:00-24:00. M,F-Sa 18:00-02:00. This is considered one of the better options in Blauwgrond and was granted the Fernand de Rooy Certificate. Service can be on the slow side, but the food is very nice. It gets crowded on weekends, so call ahead if you want to ensure a spot.
- Pannekoek & Poffertjes Cafe, van Sommelsdijckstraat 11, ☎ +597 422914. Pancakes and poffertjes (typical Dutch small, fluffy pancakes)
- Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits, Domineestraat 39, ☎ +597 426401. On the first floor of the Krasnapolsky Hotel. Popeye's serves Cajun style fast food.
- Sun Do, corner of Weidestraat and F. Derbiestraat. Serves good dim sum.
On the Waterkant, between the street and the river, are a number of pavilions with simple, but atmospheric, terraces. There's no service and you have to get your drinks yourself. Music is everywhere and while adults pour out a djogo in cups, children play between the tables and teens hang out near the quay wall. There's always something happening on the Waterkant.
- Club Touche (Corner Dr. Sophie Redmond - A. L. Waaldijkstraat), ☎ +597 401181, e-mail: email@example.com. Every day.
- Margaritas Poolcafé, Kleine Dwarsstraat 3, ☎ +597 7194500. Every day. Pool billiards, cocktails, has a terrace.
- Starzz, Kleine Waterstraat 5-7, ☎ +597 474967, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. W,F-Sa 23:00-?. Starrz Disco is one of Parbo's coolest dance venues with a good blend of DJs playing a variety of sounds
- Torarica, Mr. L.J. Rietbergplein 1, ☎ +597 471500, e-mail: email@example.com. daily. Torarica is for all kind of activities. Dancing and casino at night, B&B and swimming at the pool, entertainment.
Paramaribo is packed with small shops, boutiques and markets stalls, selling anything from Western brand clothing (plus at least as many fake versions) to cheap daily amenities, great hammocks, illegal DVD copies and Chinese jewellery. It remains a fairly cheap place for foreign visitors, which makes shopping for souvenirs a fun way to spend an afternoon.
The Centrale Markt, on the far east side of the Waterkant, is in many ways the beating heart of the city. A colourful range of street stalls and sellers mark the entrance of the covered market area, supposedly the largest one of its kind in in the Caribbean. It's a two story market tucked away in a massive warehouse, with stalls selling anything from fresh vegetables and meats (on the ground floor) to t-shirts and hair extensions (on the second floor). A visit to town is hardly complete without a quick visit to this bustling place and if you're not interested in any of their goods, you might be in one of the many tasty snacks for sale. Open for business daily except Sunday, from early morning until 15:00, but coming early is advised. The Flower Market around the Kleine Waterstraat is another colourful experience, and set nicely against a colonial background.
The Maagdenstraat is your best bet when you're interested in Chinese jewellery. Most of the jewellers are specialized in labour-intensive handmade jewels. You can also have your own jewels cleaned, returning the glow they used to have, or have them repaired. These services are typically cheap, but make sure to agree on a price beforehand. On the corner of Maagdenstraat and Steenbakkerijstraat, Ready Tex is a highly popular place for souvenir shopping, with a broad collection including postcards and T-shirts as well as Suriname ceramics and art works. The Domineestraat is another main shopping street, with a number of quality clothing shops, some mobile phone shops and several book stores. You might be approached by souvenir sellers at the Waterkant, with a small selection of necklaces or leather works. Use your negotiation skills to settle for a reasonable price.
For a more modern experience, follow Paramaribo's middle and upper class to the Hermitage Mall, Lalla roohkweg 229. It's the largest mall in the country with about 20 clothing stores, gift shops and a food corner. A mega theatre is currently under construction.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Paramaribo on Wikivoyage.