Georgetown is the financial, commercial and administrative centre of Guyana. The capital, located on the east bank of the Demerara estuary, is a grid-city designed largely by the Dutch in the eighteenth century and named Stabroek before being renamed Georgetown by the British after George III, in 1812.
The capital, which covers around 16 sq. miles, is several feet below sea level on its northern shore. It is shielded from the Atlantic Ocean by a Dutch-built seawall, which protects the city from flooding. This seawall extends some 450km along the Atlantic coast of Guyana and Suriname and also doubles up as an excellent place to jog, fly kites, take romantic evening strolls or hang out with friends.
In the past, Georgetown was often referred to as the Garden City, in reference to its wide tree-lined avenues, botanical parks and the abundance of flowers and vegetation. However, today, a makeover would not go amiss and many of its historic wooden buildings harking back to its colonial past need some serious work to return them to their former glory.
Nevertheless, this small, densely populated city possesses its own charm and appeal, with its wide tree-lined avenues, pretty botanical parks, outstanding art collections and a history that is well worth discovering. It won’t keep you occupied for more than a few days but if time is in short supply, then I highly recommend a city tour or visits to a few famous landmarks in order to learn a bit about the city and the country’s heritage. This is not difficult because the city is relatively simple to navigate. Just get a map and hire a taxi or book a half-day sightseeing tour of the city.
European influences are still very evident in the capital’s layout, street names, architecture, irrigation canals and sluices. This is also evident in the names of its neighbourhoods e.g. Thomaslands, Kingston, Bourda, Cummingsburg and Queenstown as well as South, North, East and West Ruimveldt.
Georgetown boasts several grand, colonial-styled timber public buildings (some of which could do with a makeover), churches and houses, with pretty wooden louver shutter windows, known as Demerara or Jalousie Windows depending on how they open. Many of the older city houses were built using a mixture of wood, concrete and clay bricks, with a veranda to relax on. Some houses rest on columns, with space underneath (often referred to the bottom houses), often used to park vehicles or to store things. For practical reasons, many of the buildings constructed today tend to rely heavily on concrete and are far more modern and elaborate in style. However, their designs and colour schemes can sometimes be completely at odds with the general look and feel of the city.
Eating establishments abound, offering foods representative of the country’s diverse population, at affordable prices, including a growing number of Brazilian restaurants. Bars and nightclubs, while not abundant, offer something for the young at heart.
Getting around is fairly easy as there are plenty of private numbered minibuses and yellow taxis providing transportation around the city and its suburbs. Taxis are a safer and more pleasant option as the minibus drivers appear to delight in ignoring traffic laws, make numerous stops to pick up or offload passengers, usually play loud music and may not drop you right to your door.
A word of warning, do not walk around looking and acting like a tourist. Like in any other country, take sensible precautions and keep your valuables are out of sight.
For a map of Guyana and more information on Guyana, things to do, where to eat and drink, where to stay and handy tips, click on the thumbnail pictures on the right.