Whether you’re interested in nature, history, or culture, Paramaribo offers a completely different facet of South America.
Here are some of the best things to do in Paramaribo.
Located in the northern corner of South America, Suriname is one of the countries where even experienced travelers don’t know where to start. However, for those curious to explore a completely different side of this continent, Paramaribo, Suriname’s capital, is the perfect place to begin. The city is a reflection of the country’s unique mix of cultural heritage, colonial history, and natural beauty.
I traveled to Paramaribo without knowing what to expect and left with a newfound appreciation for the incredible multicultural diversity of this destination. From classic Victorian architecture next to Islamic mosques, to the richness of Suriname’s cuisine, this was a place I simply wanted to stay longer. Although one short visit is not enough, I asked experienced travelers and locals for their recommendations on the best things to do in Paramaribo. This guide provides everything you need to know before traveling to Paramaribo, Suriname.
Explore Paramaribo’s historic city center
Blending elements of Caribbean, European, and East Asian styles, there is no other place like Paramaribo’s historic city center. It is also difficult to compare this city to any other around the world. Victorian architecture can easily transport you to other Caribbean destinations such as Barbados, but you can also see the Dutch and Spanish influence everywhere. Additionally, one street can easily transport you to Bali, while another takes you to Goa in western India.
The best way to get lost in this architectural melting pot is by wandering through Paramaribo’s streets. Unlike neighboring Georgetown, Paramaribo is very safe to walk during both day and night, making it the best way to explore and create your own image of this capital. You also can’t leave the city without seeing some of its most impressive landmarks such as the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul, and Fort Zeelandia.
Discover markets you’ve never experienced before
I love markets. They are some of the first places I visit during a city trip, and Paramaribo was no exception. Additionally, with influences from all over the world, I was hoping to find markets offering everything possible – something that didn’t disappoint.
For travelers hoping to experience daily local life, the central market is the place to go. This is where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold every day and where life in Paramaribo starts. Walk and taste some of the most exotic fruits in South America and get lost in this labyrinth of flavors, smells, and colors.
For those hoping to find crafts, clothing, and jewelry in a more relaxed atmosphere, Waterkant Flea Market is the place to go. Mostly popular on the weekends, this is probably the hippest place to shop in Paramaribo. Additionally, the flea market next to the independence square opens every evening and offers a similar experience to Waterkant.
Travelers looking for a spookier vibe should visit the Maroon market. Here, you will find a large variety of herbs and seeds from the interior of the country, but you will also see lots of products used for cultural rituals and witchcraft. Keep in mind that vendors at the Maroon Market do not like to be photographed. However, once you start a conversation, try one of their aphrodisiac drinks, or buy something small to bring home, they may be happy to be part of a picture.
Taste the most diverse local cuisine in the world
Describing Surinamese cuisine can be a challenge. It’s a unique and eclectic mix of African, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese, and European culinary influences. For example, you can find Indonesian satay served with Dutch baked goods, and it’s a popular choice among locals. But that’s what makes this cuisine so special. It has taken its cultural heritage and created something new, modern, and different. Each dish has a unique flavor that may remind you of something you’ve tried before, but can’t quite place. If you’re looking to taste the flavors of Suriname, be sure to try roti and pom. Roti is a flatbread served with curried chicken, potatoes, and vegetables, while pom is a baked casserole made with chicken or fish and tayer root.
During my stay in Suriname, I tried a different restaurant for each meal, and based on recommendations from locals, Zus & Zo in the city center and Souposo, not far from the waterfront, are definitely worth a visit.
Read more: Best things to do in Georgetown Guyana
Enjoy the natural scenery of the most forested country in the world
With over 98% forested area, Suriname is unmatched when it comes to natural beauty. Everywhere you go outside of the city, you’ll see jungles and forests. However, since this guide is focused on the best things to do in Paramaribo, let’s stick to the parks and beaches within the city.
One of the first places that come to mind when we talk about nature in the city is Independence Square, also known as Onafhankelijkheidsplein. Here, you’ll find Paramaribo’s Palmentuin, a large park with thousands of giant palms. It’s a small forest in the heart of the city and a favorite spot among locals on hot days.
For travelers looking for more green spaces within the city, Tjin Liep Shie is a park known for its beautiful lake and birdwatching, while Eco Park is a natural park outside the city that offers adventurous activities such as ziplining, kayaking, and hiking.
Read more: Best adventure activities to do in Guyana
Celebrate the Nightlife
With more tourism than Georgetown, Guyana, or Cayenne, French Guiana, Suriname has a vibrant nightlife in its city center. This is where locals and foreigners meet for a drink, dance, and enjoy a good time.
The best spots for hanging out when the sun goes down are the bars around Independence Square. Expect to find karaoke bars, hip restaurants targeting tourists, and clubs blasting electronic music. For those looking for a more local atmosphere, there are several bars along the Waterkant market. Here you can sit, get a beer for just a dollar, or bring your own drinks and chat with young locals.
For a more laid-back vibe, head to ‘t Vat, a casual pub with outdoor seating and a relaxed atmosphere.
Paramaribo in a nutshell
- Don’t be afraid to try Paramaribo’s street food. This city is a foodie capital, and like Bangkok, Mexico City, or Athens, you should try as much food as possible.
- SIM card in Suriname costs only 20 SRD and can be purchased anywhere in the city. However, most restaurants, cafes, and bars also offer free WiFi, and once you leave the city, there may not be a signal at all.
- If you stay in the city center, you won’t need to use taxis or public transport. This is one of the safest cities in the region, and I felt very comfortable walking alone at night. Nevertheless, common sense when walking around is a must.
- Don’t book any tours in advance. With low demand and better prices, I booked all my tours outside the city only after I arrived in Paramaribo. There are several tourism offices where you can check options and compare prices.