Honestly, Port of Spain is not exactly the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited in my travels. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its charms. It is a relatively small city (about 50,000 people live here, making it the country’s second largest city) so it won’t take you all that long to explore. Still, I do recommend at least a couple days here if you’re spending any time on the island of Trinidad. Read on to find out what kind of things you can see and do in Port of Spain!
There are many things to explore in Port of Spain if you’re looking to discover Trinidad’s culture. There is, of course, a national museum where you can check out historical and cultural exhibits. The National Museum and Art Gallery can also give you a good idea of the country’s carnival if you’re unable to be here for the actual event. If you are a culture junkie, though, Trinidad’s carnival season is definitely something you don’t want to miss! Also check out the Port of Spain National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA). I’ve never actually been inside this building but I really love its architecture on the outside!
Arguably, the heart of Port of Spain is the Queen’s Park Savannah, a lovely green space that doubles as the world’s largest roundabout. During the heat of the day, the park space is generally quiet; but as the sun starts to go down, people come to do their workouts or just come to “lime” (i.e. chill, hang out) on a bench, maybe sip from a fresh coconut on sale from the vendors around the park. Other nature-y things to do are the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Emperor Valley Zoo.
One of the things I enjoy about Port of Spain is its historic architecture. Unfortunately, much of it is slowly disappearing. However, you can still see gingerbread-style homes, several 19th-century churches, and squares with large trees and fountains. There is also the so-called Magnificent Seven – these are restored (mostly) colonial era mansions along one side of the Queen’s Park Savannah. They are all unique and most are very lovely in their own ways. Unfortunately, a couple of them are extremely run down and it makes me angry every time I see them…. Sigh.
In my opinion, the best thing about Port of Spain is the food. The city has a phenomenal array of delicious restaurants and food stands. Quite frankly, this is the main reason I like to visit this city! Trinidad has an amazing multi-cultural history and that is absolutely reflected in its culinary offerings. You can sample Trinidad’s flavourful version of Chinese, Indian, Hakka, East Asian, European, roti shops, doubles stands…. Oh, and never fear – pricing is all over the map so you can eat super cheaply or go for swanky! If you’re looking for nightlife, check out Ariapita Avenue in Woodbrook area for some good bars and restaurants. This street, especially on Friday/Saturday nights, is the place to see and be seen! The St. James neighbourhood is also a good place to check out.
Shopping: Frederick Street is the place to go for a mix of tourist and local shopping. Head all the way down to Independence Square. Rumour has it that the KFC in this square may be the most profitable in the world! Someone needs to confirm this for me, haha.
Beaches: Okay, obviously there isn’t a beach in town. But from Port of Spain, you can reasonably access the island’s most famous beach, Maracas Bay.
Views: There are a few places to which you can drive if you want to see Port of Spain from on high. Primarily, there is Fort George (bonus – the historic site is still there for you history buffs) and a view point along the twisty and windy Lady Young Road.
Day trips: You’re spoiled for options, both half day and full day. Some ideas are – Chaguaramas for nature, beach, and history; the rugged northeast coast of the island; and several amazing rainforest hikes.
Please note: Trinidad is generally not considered to be a safe country. It can be shocking to read about the country’s crime – not only are things like murder and robbery rates eye-twitchingly high, but some of the stories can be horrific. However, that being said, this should not mean you should not go. It just means you do what is necessary to stay safe – do not treat Port of Spain like some sort of idyllic island village. Stay smart and stay in the main areas, both day and night.