Georgetown is a city full of surprises, a melting pot of cultures and cuisines that’s as diverse as it is exciting.
Stepping off the plane in Georgetown, I was immediately hit by a wave of heat as intense as the city’s vibrant atmosphere. As a Colombian visiting the “Caribbean of South America,” I was curious to see exactly what that meant and find the unique blend of cultures that characterized the city.
As I explored Georgetown, the scent of spices and the sounds of reggae music invited me to get lost in its streets.
From the colourful markets selling fresh produce and handmade crafts to the grandeur of St. George’s Cathedral, the largest wooden cathedral in the world, Georgetown is a feast for the senses. While exploring the city more and more, I realized that this place was a contradiction that somehow worked. It was a city where Caribbean and South American cultures collided, creating something truly unique and special.
After talking to locals, visiting the city’s highlights, and exploring part of the city independently, these are the best things you can do in Georgetown, Guyana:
Markets, markets, markets
Georgetown is known for its bustling markets that offer a wide range of goods and produce. From the famous Stabroek Market, where you can find everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to handmade crafts and clothing, to the Bourda Market, where you can experience the authentic flavours of Guyanese street food, the markets in Georgetown are a feast for the senses.
But listen up, if you plan on visiting Stabroek Market, be extra careful. It’s a hotspot for pickpocketing, and some tourists have even been robbed at knifepoint, according to some news networks. On the flip side, Bourda Market is a safe place to visit on your own. I enjoyed getting to know the local culture and chatting with the vendors, who were always down to share their stories and traditions.
For those wanting to photograph inside the market, here’s a tip: make sure you buy something from the vendor and ask for permission before photographing. Guyanese are usually fine with getting their picture taken, but no one likes a camera shoved in their face without warning. When I wanted to take a portrait or get some shots of a shop, I’d buy some fruits or spices and chat with the vendor first.
Additionally, for those wishing to get deeper into the authentic flavours of the Guyanese market scene, check out the tours and food tastings available at both markets. They are offered for around 50 USD and can be scheduled online at the link above.
Explore Georgetown’s Colonial Architecture
Georgetown is a treasure trove of colonial architecture, and the best way to explore it is on foot. The city boasts a unique blend of European and Caribbean influences, evident in large part of its architecture.
One of the most impressive examples of colonial architecture (and probably Georgetown’s key attraction) is St. George’s Cathedral, the largest wooden cathedral in the world. Its magnificent Gothic design is truly a sight to behold, and the cathedral’s intricate wooden details and stained glass windows are breathtaking.
NOTE: Don’t forget to visit the cathedral from the inside. It is outstanding! There is no entrance fee or specific opening times, and the best option is to simply drop by during the day and ask if you can look inside.
Another notable building is City Hall, a prime example of 19th-century Victorian architecture. Its grand facade features ornate balconies and arches that are a treat for the eyes. The building’s clock tower is also a prominent landmark in the city.
Although not a traditional colonial building, Stabroek Market is an iconic structure that has been an integral part of Georgetown’s history for over 200 years. Its unique wooden design reflects the city’s colonial past and is a must-see for any visitor.
Other notable buildings include the High Court, the Parliament Building, and the State House. These structures feature traditional 17th colonial architecture and are worth visiting for their historical significance and appeal.
Stroll Around the Botanical Gardens and the National Park
If you’re looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of Georgetown, the Botanical Gardens are a must-visit. As soon as you enter the lush greenery, you’ll be transported to a serene oasis filled with exotic flora and fauna.
The gardens are huge and are home to a wide range of tropical plants and trees, including towering palms, vibrant orchids, and fragrant frangipani. As you stroll through the gardens, you’ll come across serene ponds, trickling fountains, and winding pathways leading to beautiful hidden corners.
One of the garden’s highlights is the historic bandstand, where live music performances are held on Sunday afternoons. It’s the perfect spot to relax with a picnic and enjoy music surrounded by nature.
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The National Park might not be as scenic as the Botanical Gardens; however, this is one of the few places in the world where you can see endangered West Indian manatees. A population of 10-20 manatees lives freely in the ponds of this park, and travellers can drop by and feed them with giant king grass.
For those interested in the history of Guyana, a visit to the museum located within the gardens is a must. It features exhibits on the country’s flora and fauna, as well as its indigenous people and colonial past.
Taste Guyana’s Multicultural Cuisine
Guyana’s cuisine is unique, and Georgetown is where it all started. It reflects the country’s diverse history and culture, with influences from Africa, India, Europe, and the Caribbean. The cuisine is characterized by its use of spices, herbs, and fresh ingredients, resulting in a blend of flavours and textures not found elsewhere.
One of the most popular dishes in Guyana is “roti,” a flatbread made from wheat flour and filled with savoury ingredients such as curried vegetables, chicken, or goat. Roti shops throughout Georgetown, including popular spots like Shanta’s Puri Shop and the New Thriving Restaurant.
Another must-try dish in Guyana is “pepperpot,” a stew made with meat, cassareep (a sauce made from the cassava root), and various spices. Pepperpot is often served with rice, bread, or roti and can be found at many local restaurants, including the Guyana Marriott Hotel and the Cara Lodge.
For a more local experience, visit Bouda Market and check out their food stands. Here you will find every traditional dish for just a few bucks and glimpse how Guyanese eat. Street food plays a significant role in Georgetown’s cuisine. Vendors can be found throughout Georgetown offering a range of tasty snacks such as “pholourie” (fried dough balls), “bake and saltfish” (fried bread with salted fish), and “channa and aloo” (chickpeas and potatoes in a spicy sauce).
Finally, for travellers looking to taste Georgetown’s most authentic cuisine, the traditional restaurant is Backyard Café. Located in a neighbourhood once notorious for high crime rates, Chef Delven Adams has transformed his backyard into a tiny restaurant, quickly becoming a favourite among locals and tourists alike.
I joined Chef Adams one morning in getting the daily ingredients at Bouda Market and saw firsthand how important it is for him to get the freshest and best products in Georgetown.
Get a glimpse of Georgetown’s vibrant nightlife
Georgetown’s nightlife may not be as famous as other big cities, but it still offers options for every kind of traveller. The city has a mix of bars and nightclubs, ranging from upscale to casual and laid-back.
Palm Court Restaurant and Bar is known for having a great vibe. The place is always buzzing with locals and tourists enjoying live music, great food, and fancy cocktails. Another trendy option right now is Tribe. I visited this bar with some friends; it was the city’s most vibrant and exciting spot for a Friday or Saturday night.
Windjammer International Cuisine and Wine Bar is an excellent choice for a more relaxed vibe. You can sip on some of the best wines in town or try their craft beers and cocktails while listening to live music or playing darts.
If you want to experience a more authentic local scene, Red Mango Bar and Lounge is the place to go. This popular spot offers a friendly and laid-back atmosphere, making it a local favourite. You can enjoy cheap drinks while dancing to Caribbean music or chatting with locals.
As someone curious to explore the real Georgetown, I also enjoyed visiting small pubs all over the city centre. Sheriff Street is a go-to place for young people, while the area between Chalmers and Brickdam Streets is full of bars that open early in the afternoon and stay open late.
Keep in mind that Georgetown has a lot of petty crime, and some of these streets, especially around the main road, can be considered dangerous for walking alone at night.
No visit to Guyana is complete without trying their Guinness beer. Yes, Guinness! Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is brewed not in Ireland but in Guyana. This makes the taste completely different from that in Ireland or any other part of the world. Unlike traditional Guinness stout, the taste of Guyanese Guinness is less creamy and more with a hint of chocolate.
Georgetown in a Nutshell:
- Book-A-Ride is the only ride-hailing app available in Georgetown. To create an account on this app, you must download it and provide a local phone number. Book-A-Ride works similarly to Uber, but with only a few vehicles available, your ride may take a while to arrive.
- Upon arriving in Guyana, you can purchase a SIM card from one of the vendors at the airport. There are several mobile network providers in Guyana, including Digicel and GTT, and they both have kiosks at the airport where you can purchase a SIM card. Prices start at around 25 USD for 10 GB, and you only need a copy of your passport. A good signal is available almost everywhere in Georgetown, and sometimes the SIM card will be even more reliable than any local wifi connection.