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Paramaribo

Photo © janejoe

Travel Guide South America Suriname Paramaribo

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Introduction

Palmentuin

Palmentuin

© All Rights Reserved tarmo

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.

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Sights and Activities

  • Historical city centre - Paramaribo's distinctive historic city centre, packed with wooden buildings from colonial times, has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since July 2002. It's the planned nature and remarkable architecture that makes this place unique. The spacious, tree-lined street plan was laid out by the first Dutch governor in the 17th century. Most of the current mansions originate from the first half of the 19th century however, as they had to be rebuilt after large city fires in 1821 and 1832. The designs are clearly inspired by Dutch architecture of the time, but incorporated a range of indigenous techniques and used local materials. The Waterkant and Mr.Lim A Postraat have some of the best examples. Many of the wooden houses are in dire need of restoration, however, to the point where UNESCO has urged the state to address the problem and threatened to revoke the city's status.
  • Fort Zeelandia, Abraham Crijnssenweg 1, ☎ +597 425871, fax: +597 42 58 81, e-mail: museum@cq-link.sr. Tu-F: 09:00am-2:00pm, Su 10:00am-2:00pm. (closed Sa,M). The English laid the first foundations for the current brick fort around 1650, replacing an earlier wooden structure built by the French around an even earlier Dutch trading post. In 1667, Dutch and English forces fought over the fortifications, then called fort Willoughby, and the surrounding lands. The Peace of Breda later that year put the whole of Suriname in Dutch hands, however, when the Dutch preferred to retain Surinam and its Sugar factories rather than swap them for what later became New York and the fort was renamed Zeelandia. Initially used as a colonial stronghold for the Dutch, it later served as an army barrack and a prison. In 1982, Fort Zeelandia was the scene of the so-called December murders, as fifteen prominent Surinamese men who had criticized the then military dictatorship ruling Suriname were tortured here and then shot dead. The events remain controversial today, as the exact circumstances are still unclear, but the current president of Suriname is the main suspect. In 1995 the restored buildings were opened to the public as a museum. The collection of the Suriname Museum covers the different cultures of Suriname, the colonial period, 20th century art, a library collection and a photo archive. There is a café and a restaurant (Baka Foto) with an outdoor terrace in the courtyard. In front of the entrance are historical officers houses. This beautiful area gives you an impression of how the city once was when trees lined the streets. A statue of Queen Wilhelmina is on the waterfront, looking over the Suriname River.
  • Numismatic Museum, Mr F.H.R. Lim a Po Straat 7, ☎ +597 520016. M-F 08:00am-2:00pm. Highlight of this small museum is a 1679 copper Parrot coin. You'll probably need to have a real interest in the history of money to fully appreciate the collection on display, but there's no admission fee and walking in for a quick glance can't hurt. The museum is part of the Bank of Suriname, and it's housed in one of the nice colonial building. It hold almost every legal currency used in Suriname since the late 17th century. Free.
  • Onafhankelijkheidsplein (Independence Square) and Presidential Palace. The square is the heart of Paramaribo surrounded by important buildings like the Presidential Palace, Court of Justice, the Parliament. It's used as a place for festivals like Carisfesta XI in 2013. Normally there's not much activity, but on Sundays men exercise the national hobby: letting their caged birds sing.
  • Palmentuin (Palm Gardens) (Behind the presidential palace). The Palm garden, a small park filled with king palms behind the Presidential Palace, was part of the original city plans of Cornelis van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck, the first Dutch governor. He opened the garden for public in 1685, but was murdered only three years later, after which the property was closed again. Not until the early 20th century was the Palm Garden re-opened. In 2009 it was restored with funds from UNESCO. It has a small play ground now, some statues and benches to hang out on, making it a pleasant, shady place on a hot day. Except on holidays, when the place comes to live with food stalls and such, the garden is best avoided after sundown for the lighting is poor and the place attracts less friendly crowds.
  • Paramaribo Zoo, Letitia Vriesdelaan, ☎ +597 545275, e-mail: pakro@surinametourism.net. daily 09:00am-6:00pm Establishing a zoo was an idea of Prime Minister Pengel in the 1960's. Awaiting the actual construction of the zoo, he started collecting animals in his own backyard, until the zoo was opened in 1972. Both the number of animals and (subsequently) of visitors declined over the following decades, however, leaving the zoo in poor state. Starting in 2003 it successfully engaged in a cooperation with Dutch Diergaarde Blijdorp in Rotterdam, which helped raise funds to restore the place. In recent years the zoo has gained popularity again. Its collection of animals includes mostly regional species, among which are many indigenous monkeys, jaguars, caimans, many tropical birds and a petting zoo. There's also a nice playground for kids. SRD10.
  • St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Henck Arronstraat 22. 08:00am-2:00pm. This Roman Catholic cathedral is one of the biggest wooden structures on the entire American continent. Building started in 1883 and the church was consecrated only two years later. The towers were not finished before 1901 though, and the characteristic yellow and grey painting of the outside was done only in 1926. The design of the church was inspired by the Redemptorist church in Roosendaal and the (then new) Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston, while the interior, carried out in unpainted cedar wood, was a Surinamese design. Poor restoration efforts were undertaken in the late 1970's, leaving the building in need of new repairs shortly after. Finally, termite damage and severe tilting led to the closure of the cathedral in 1989 for safety reasons. The Vatican provided some funds for initial repairs in the mid 1990's and after fundraising efforts and a large EU grant, thorough restorations were carried out between 2007 and 2010. The cathedral was re-opened for the public in that year. Only the large organ, of which most of the pipes had been stolen, is still a work in progress.
  • The Central Market, Waterkant. 05:00am-05:00pm. A large market with over 3,000 stalls inside a hall at the Waterkant. It's a colourful, buzzing place with smells and sounds to perceive deficit. They offer fresh fish (delivered directly by fishermen), vegetables, fruit and meat. On the first floor are non-perishables sold as clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils and more. Many market vendors, especially the Maroon people, strongly object to having their pictures taken.

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.

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Events and Festivals

Brazilian Carnival

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.

International Film Festival

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.

Swimming Marathon

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.

Fete de la Musique

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.

Suriname Jazz Festival

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.

National Art Exhibition

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.

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Weather

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.

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Getting There

By Plane

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.

By Car

Cars can be rented downtown or at the airport but aren't really recommended to travel elsewhere.

By Bus

Buses and minibuses connect Paramaribo with other towns in the country and across the border as far as Georgetown, Guyana and Cayenne, French Guiana.

By Boat

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.

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Getting Around

By Car

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.

By Public Transport

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.

By Foot

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.

By Bike

Renting a bike is a good alternative to get around and also to explore the outskirts of town.

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Eat

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.

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Drink

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.

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Sleep

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.

Budget

Mid-Range

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Guesthouse AmiceGravenberchstraat 5GUESTHOUSE-
Guesthouse Zin & Grand CafeVan Roseveltkade 20GUESTHOUSE79

Upscale

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Learn

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.

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Keep Connected

Internet

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.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country code for international calls to Suriname is 597.

Post

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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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 5.866667
  • Longitude: -55.166667

Accommodation in Paramaribo

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This is version 12. Last edited at 7:19 on Jul 29, 16 by Utrecht. 20 articles link to this page.

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