New Providence Island in the Bahamas with the City of Nassau
For many people, the city of Nassau is the Bahamas. Located on the island of New Providence, since early times it has been a commercial and transportation hub of the Bahamas.
Once a quit, sleepy place, Nassau is now a rapidly expanding city, where the place is sometimes hectic and traffic often crowds the narrow streets.
Geographical FactsNassau has a population of approx. 250'000 people. More than 70% of the Bahamian population live on this main island. The island New Providence stretches about 21 miles long and 7 miles wide New Providence provides 80 square miles of relatively flat and low-lying land intersected by low ridges. In the center of the island there are several shallow lakes that are tidally connected.
The city of Nassau in the Bahamas occupies the main part of New Providence with some small villages in the western and the southern part of the island.
You want to do some sightseeing while you are in vacation in Nassau, learn more about the colonial past of the city; and if you are interested in museums and art galleries, then read further in the sections below and find out what interesting places, Nassau has to offer.
You can also learn more about the best beaches and diving sites, the straw market and other interesting places you shouldn't miss to visit while you are staying in Nassau.
You can also book your Nassau Sightseeing Tours here.
If you are looking for hotels in Nassau, than visit the Nassau Hotel website for more information. You can also directly book your hotel stay.
The Colonial Past of Nassau
The colonial past can be found in many places on the island New Providence but particularly in downtown Nassau. One of the highlights are the three forts: Fort Montagu (east of downtown), Fort Charlotte (west of downtown) and Fort Fincastle (south of downtown). The forts are definitely worth a visit for the historic interested visitor.
Fort Charlotte, built in 1788, are in good condition and comes with a waterless moat, drawbridge, ramparts, and a dungeon including torture devices. The fort and its surrounding 100 acres offer a wonderful view of the city, the beach, the cruise ships and the ocean beyond. Fort Montagu is the oldest of the islands forts. Montagu was built in 1741 to repel Spanish invaders. The small fortification with some weathered canons is quite simple but offers a lovely elevated view of Nassau Harbor. Fort Fincastle, built in 1793, is shaped like the bow of a ship and perched near the top of Queen's Staircase, 66 steps carved out of limestone by slaves in 1790s and named as such to honor Queen Victoria. The fort was build as a lookout and served as a lighthouse in the 19th century. Today it offers a marvelous view about the city and Paradise Island.
In downtown, there are many old buildings where the colonial heritage is very visible. Balcony House on Market Street is a charming 18th century landmark - a pink two-story house named after its overhanging balcony. It is the oldest wooden residential structure in Nassau. The interior furnishings and design recapture the elegance of an era long ago. A mahogany staircase is one of the highlights of the interior. A guided tour is available through this interesting building.
The Government House is the official residence of the governor-general of the Bahamas. The imposing pink and white building on Duke Street is an excellent example of the Bahamian-British and American Colonial style. Here you can catch the changing of the guard ceremony every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month at 10am. Have also a look at the Christopher Columbus statue at the stairs in front of the building.
A nice accumulation of colonial building can be found around Parliament Square where the Bahamian Parliament (Senate and the House of Assembly) occupies the buildings. A statue of the young Queen Victoria dominates the place. Across Bay street is Rawson Square with the statue of Sir Milo Butler, the first native Bahamian governor-general.
There are also some churches from the colonial past. One of the main one is the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral at George Street with nice stained-glass windows over the altar, white pillars inside which supports the ceiling beamed with dark wood handcrafted by ship builders.
Other interesting old churches include the clean white, fresh looking St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church on Duke Street, the St. Francis Church, the first catholic church in the Bahamas on West Street as well as the Greek Orthodox Church, also on West Street which accommodates the small Greek community on the island.
Museums, Art Galleries and Gardens in Nassau
There are also some interesting museums and art galleries with exhibits of local artists in Nassau.
The major art gallery in the Bahamas is the National Art Gallery on West Street which was opened in 2003. The museum houses the works of esteemed Bahamian artists such as Max Taylor, Amos Ferguson, Brent Malone, John Cox, and Antonius Roberts. The museum is accommodated in a glorious Italian style colonial house, build in 1860 with double-tiered verandas and elegant columns. The Central Bank of the Bahamas at Market Street periodically exhibits on two floors of the lobby emerging and established Bahamian artists' work.
At the Pirate Museum on George Street you can take a journey through Nassau's pirate days. The interactive museum is devoted to such notorious members of the city's past like Blackbeard, Mary Reed and Anne Bonney. You can go to the Bahamas history site to learn more about the pirates in the Bahamas. In the museum, you can board a pirate ship, see dioramas of intrigue on the high seas and experience sound effects re-creating some of the gruesome highlights of the pirate's time.
The Pompey Museum at Bay Street, which is housed in a building, where slave auctions were held in the 1700s, is named after a rebel slave who lived on Exuma island. Exhibits focus on the issues of slavery and emancipation and highlight the work of local artists.
The Nassau Public Library and Museum near Parliament Square is accommodated in the previous jail from the year 1797. The small prison cells are now lined with books. The museum has an interesting collection of historic prints and old colonial documents as well as a small native fruit and flower museum on the second floor. Don't miss to ask for the dungeon under the library where you can see wall etchings of clipper ships created by prisoners.
If you want to know more about the most famous festival in the Bahamas, the Junkanoo, do not miss the Junkanoo Expo at Prince George Wharf. Handmade floats and costumes used during the Bahamian Junkanoo celebration are exhibited in an old customs warehouse at the wharf's entrance. Visiting the expo is the next best thing to seeing the festivities in person. If you want to know more about Junkanoo visit the Bahamas Junkanoo website.
Don't miss out the unique marching flamingo show at Adastra Zoo and Garden on Chippingham Road. The national bird of the Bahamas give a parading performance three times a day. The zoo with more than 5 acres of tropical scenery and ponds has also an aviary of rare tropical birds including the bright green Bahama parrot, native Bahamian creatures such as rock iguanas and the harmless Bahamian boa constrictor and a global collection of small animals.
Another park is The Retreat at Village Road which has nearly 200 species of exotic palm trees and other plant species. Stroll in a blessed silence through the lush grounds, past smiling Buddha's, and under stone arbors overhung with vines.
Beaches and Dive Sites in NassauNew Providence Island is blessed with stretches of white sand beaches studded with palm and sea grape trees. Some of the beaches are small and crescent shaped, whereas others stretch for miles.
Right in downtown Nassau is the Western Esplanade beach. It is next to the British Colonial Hilton hotel and offers public restrooms. Cable Beach is 3 miles west of downtown Nassau. Resorts line much of this beautiful, broad swath of white sand but there is also public access. This is a very lively beach, so do not expect quiet isolation.
Tiny crescent-shapes Caves Beach is on the north shore 7 miles further west. Love Beach further west is a snorkeler's paradise. Access technically lies within the domain of Love Beach residents, but they aren't inclined to shoo you away. On the south shore is Adelaide Beach, at the end of Adelaide Village and South Beach at the foot of Blue Hill Road. For more beach information visit the Bahamas Beach site.
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The Straw Market and Other Authentic Bahamian Places in Nassau
You can buy authentic Bahamian souvenirs at the Straw Market. Nearly every island has a small Straw Market but the major one is in Nassau. The Nassau market is located on the site of the old Public Market which was destroyed by fire in early 1974. Temporary stalls stand on the site at Bay Street under a big tent. Bahamians, mostly women, barter their straw works, T-shirts, jewelry, carvings and other assorted knick-knacks. Most of the straw items are made form the top of the thatch palm and are made into baskets, hats, table mats, and dolls.
If you want to visit authentic Bahamian places and come closer to the native Bahamian population, you should visit places like Arawak Cay, Fox Hill or Grant's Town which is adjacent to downtown Nassau just "Over-the-Hill".
Arawak Cay known to Nassau residents as "The Fish Fry" is a good place to drink the local beer "Kalik", chat with locals, eat some Bahamian food at the pastel-color waterside shacks, watch or join in a fast-paced game of dominoes. Arawak Cay is two miles west of downtown, half the way to Cable Beach. There are usually live bands at the outdoor stage on Friday and Saturday night and it is the place for festivals like the June Junkanoo festival.
Fox Hill, a residential area, which was established by freed slaves. There is not much of tourist interest, but driving through the streets of this area provides the experience of a true Bahamian village.
Grant's and Bain's Town was laid out in the 1800s as a settlement for freed slaves. It's a vibrant section of the city where you can come close with Bahamians at a funky take-out food stand or down-home restaurant. The entire area, which is densely populated, is a place of sharp contrast: an area with quaint shops where checkers or dominoes are still played under shady trees, and where porches, yards and streets are utilized heavily by a bustling and lively population.
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