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Paramaribo is the capital and the largest city in Suriname. It is located at the central coastal area in the north, on the banks of the Suriname River. The city has a population of roughly 250,000 people, which is over half of the total Suriname population. The historic inner city of Paramaribo became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. The city is blessed with a rich ethnic diversity and synagoges, mosques, churches and temples are all to be found within a short distance from eachother. It is also the economical, political and industrial centre of the country and the transportation hub as well, with mostly goods roads along the coast towards Guyana and French Guiana and a few less maintained roads inland.
Jewish community in Paramaribo is reputed to be the oldest continuing Jewish community in the Americas and the current wooden Neve Shalom (Hebrew: בית הכנסת נווה שלום; literally "Oasis of Peace" or "Valley of Peace") synagogue dates from 1835 and replaced the building constructed in 1719 by Ashkenazi Jews. The original Jewish settlers were descendants of Jews fleeing persecution by the Spanish Inquisition in Holland, Portugal and Italy and came here via Brazil. Just one of the unique features of this Synagogue is its floor of sand rather than boards or tiles. This floor is supposed to be both a reminder of the 40 years in the desert that the Hebrews were forced to endure after their exodus from Egypt, and the times that marranos had to muffle their prayers and footsteps with sand so as not to be discovered by the Inquisition and put to death. There are several beautiful Torahs that are hundreds of years old and the carved woodwork exhibits fine craftsmanship.
Starting off the festival year in February is the Brazilian Carnival. While the tradition of Carnival is not one brought about by the people of Suriname, it has come to be an annual event. This is greatly due to the large Brazilian population that has migrated to Suriname but is intent on keeping its own culture alive. The festival is similar to the one which takes place in Brazil around the same time, only smaller in scale. Travelers can expect parades in the streets, great displays of Brazilian music and dance, and many food stalls serving delicious treats.
Held annually in April in the capital city, the International Film Festival is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. Organized by the Black Lot Foundation, the festival brings together film makers from around the world, showcasing over 40 films from more than 12 different countries. While the screenings are the main event, there are also several workshops and even competitions for children to keep everyone entertained.
July marks the arrival of the annual Staatsolie Swim marathon, an 18-kilometre open water, long distance race down the great Suriname River. The race starts in Domburg and ends in Paramaribo. The race draws together competitors from both Suriname and the international community and, after so many years, has become quite competitive. Not only is this a challenging marathon, but it is also one of the most beautiful as competitors swim alongside a gorgeous rainforest.
Celebrated by French-speaking countries around the globe, Fête de la Musique or World Music Day, is held every year on June 21st. Started in France in 1982, the festival’s main purpose is to celebrate what organizers call ‘the magical gift of music’. Free concerts are organized around the capital city, boasting music from a range of different genres. The festival is also characterized by impromptu street performances by both professional and amateur artists, something that can be really entertaining for festival-goers.
Lovers of jazz definitely need to be in the country during October when the annual Suriname Jazz Festival takes place. Bringing together renowned jazz musicians from Suriname and abroad, the festival is a feast of the genre. Different kinds of Jazz can be enjoyed including American, African and Asian interpretations. This festival is usually a hit with all who attend and is well worth sticking around for.
The National Art Exhibition in Paramaribo highlights the amazing talents of local artists who slip under the cultural radar for most of the year. Held at the end of October in galleries and showrooms around the city, the festival focuses mainly on the work of visual artists in the country. More than simply exhibitions, however, there are also several art workshops and interactive discussions with the artists themselves.
Weather is hot and humid throughout the year with fairly even rainfall as well. May and June are somewhat wetter, whereas September and October are the hottest months of the year with temperatures hitting 35 degrees Celcius almost on a daily basis.
Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport (PBM) receives all international flights and Suriname Airways is the national airline of Suriname. International destinations include Amsterdam, Aruba, Curacao, Belém, Miami and Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago. KLM has flights as well to Amsterdam for about €600 including taxes.
Several other airlines serve a number of regional destinations, mainly in the Caribbean and northern part of South America.
There are dozens of small airports serving the isolated places further inland, but most flights are chartered for tourists making a multiple day trip inland.
Cars can be rented downtown or at the airport but aren't really recommended to travel elsewhere.
Buses and minibuses connect Paramaribo with other towns in the country and across the border as far as Georgetown, Guyana and Cayenne, French Guiana.
Boat taxis can take you over the Suriname River to the Commewijne district. You can find boat taxis in downtown Paramaribo at the platte brug (between Central Market and Waterkant) to Meerzorg across the Suriname River, or at Leonsberg, North Paramaribo, to take you to New Amsterdam. You can take your bike on these boats.
There are several car hire services based in Paramaribo. Because of its neighbours and the historical accident of the first imported vehicles being from Britain, Suriname drives on the left with steering wheels on the right.
In Suriname, the buses are private. The drivers, however, follow collectively determined routes. The buses are somewhere between private taxis and public transportation and leave the bus station only when they are totally full, meaning there are not specific schedules. If you do see a bus, take note that the buses are hand painted.
A central bus station can found in the Knuffelgracht near the Waterkant.
The old colonial centre mostly lies directly behind the Waterkant and most of the main sights, including the fort, the palm garden, colonial officers' houses and the central market are easily explored on foot.
Renting a bike is a good alternative to get around and also to explore the outskirts of town.
Paramaribo's many restaurants reflect its diverse culture and strong Chinese, Javanese and Hindustan influences. Small food stalls serve inexpensive traditional snacks at the markets and along the Waterkant. If you're looking for Javanese style food, consider driving out to the Blauwgrond area of town. This Javanese part of the city is known for its many small restaurants, typically unpolished places with simple plastic outdoor furniture but great food.
However, for the travel weary visitor there's a Kentucky Fried Chicken around and a few places that cater to the much less spiced Dutch taste. Food is typically cheap by western standards, with full 3 course meals anywhere between SRD25 and SRD60 and simple mains around SRD20. If you follow the locals to smaller places you'll be able to eat for SRD10. Most of the small restaurants are quite casual in style. For a somewhat more formal experience, the upmarket hotels in town usually have their own restaurants, serving both traditional and international cuisine for obviously higher prices.
On the Waterkant, between the street and the river, are a number of pavilions with simple, but atmospheric, terraces. There's no service and you have to get your drinks yourself. Music is everywhere and while adults pour out a djogo in cups, children play between the tables and teens hang out near the quay wall. There's always something happening on the Waterkant. Just next to the pavilions are 3 more upscale restaurants (JiJi, De Waag and Brotik - see the "Eat" section above) with good bars, followed by a 24/7 bar that also has a nice terrace that overlooks the river.
As Paramaribo's tourist economy develops, hotels and guesthouses are popping up while older ones get restyled. There's plenty of choice now to fit your budget, from €15 dollar single rooms in a basic guesthouse to €100 and more for a stay in one of the upmarket resorts. If you're travelling with a family or group, apartments are a good option and often cheaper while more convenient than multiple rooms. VAT and service charges are typically included in hotel prices and almost all of them can arrange tours to other towns or the country's tight jungle backlands. Note that many hotels charge their prices in either US dollars or euros. Usually they will accept Surinamese dollars, but check in advance.
|Guesthouse Amice||Gravenberchstraat 5||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Guesthouse Zin & Grand Cafe||Van Roseveltkade 20||GUESTHOUSE||79|
Paramaribo has its own university, which offers a few courses in English. Many of the country's ambitious young people head abroad however, to study at different universities or pursue different fields of study at universities in the Netherlands, in the United States or neighbouring South-American countries.
Many hotels and Bed and Breakfasts offer their guests a Wi-Fi connection - mostly for free. The number of internet cafés in the city is declining due to the usage of smart phones and tablets.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country code for international calls to Suriname is 597.
Main Post Office, Kerkplein 1, ☎ +597 477524. M-Th 07:15-14:00, F 07:15-13:30. The main office of SurPost, the country's postal company, handles anything from postcards and packages and large sea post freight.
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