Paramaribo is located on the banks of the Suriname River and is famed for its diverse ethnic makeup. Here you’ll find a mix of Creoles, Indians, East Indians, Maroons, Javanese, Portuguese, Native Americans, Chinese, and other European descendants.
The city is quite small with around 250,000 inhabitants (half of Suriname’s total population) and has quite a funny story to it. In the 16th century as both British and Dutch ventured in the area, setting up colonies, disputes arose which led to ever-changing “ownership”.
Traded for New York
In 1667, the Dutch decided to take back Suriname, from the English. In return the English were left with New Amsterdam, a small trading post in North America, where you today will find New York!
City tour of Paramaribo
We did a very interesting city tour of Paramaribo in the afternoon with a great guide. I can honestly admit that I didn’t expect much from the city, but it provides some excellent architecture and some beautiful sights with fascinating buildings built out of wood.
Parbo, as it is nicknamed (which is also the name of the local beer), is an old trading post founded by the Dutch. It was taken by the English in 1630, and soon became the capital of the colony. As mentioned in an earlier post, the colony changed hands often between the English and Dutch. It’s been under Dutch rule from 1815 until the independence of Suriname in 1975.
The city of Paramaribo was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List of historical monuments in 2002 due to the unique architecture. Paramaribo is filled with historical buildings built in colonial style, alternated with modern hotels and office buildings.
We started our tour with a visit to the ancient building complex in Paramaribo, Fort Zeelandia, which is a fortress built by the British in 1651, and walked over to Independence Square surrounded by its historical buildings, and then continued on to Waterkant along the Suriname River, which is currently under redevelopment.
Two major fires in the 19th century, in the city center destroyed more than 440 houses and other buildings. Since most houses are still made out of wood, I can imagine that it spread quickly and was hard to stop.
Synagogue and Mosque, side by side!?
We continued via bus to other parts of the city, visiting the Neve Shalom Synagogue, which is adjacent to the Mosque Keizerstraat. This is one of very few places in the world where you can see a mosque and a synagogue right next to each other.
The biggest wooden structure
We also stopped at the impressive 114-year-old Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul with its 44 m high tower, which is the biggest wooden structure in the Western Hemisphere, and the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paramaribo. It was initially built as a Jewish theatre but was turned into a church in 1826.
A nice finish
We stopped by the colorful Hindu Arya Dewaker Temple, which is the biggest in Suriname, before finishing off a long day with a tasty and plentiful dinner at Baka Foto at Old Fort Zeelandia. A wonderful and plentiful meal of mixed dishes originating in various parts of the world (which in a nutshell symbolizes what Suriname is) was enjoyed in the humid and hot night, overlooking the Suriname River and the lights of the famous Jules Wijdenbosch Bridge in the distance.