Georgetown

Overview

Introduction

Georgetown, Guyana's capital city, is very small but densely populated (237,000). It lies on a coastal belt 6 ft/2 m below sea level, at the mouth of the Demerara River. Georgetown has charm and a faded Victorian elegance with wide tree-lined avenues, canals covered in lilies and many 18th- and 19th-century buildings, harking back to its colonial past.

Architecture is the highlight of the city, although it has suffered from a lack of investment in its infrastructure over the years, resulting in an increasingly decrepit look. The most impressive building is St. George's Cathedral (North Road), built in the 1890s. Reportedly, it is South America's largest freestanding Gothic cathedral made of wood. Designed by architect Sir Arthur Bloomfield, it stands at 143 ft/43 m, and inside its gorgeous interior the story of the cathedral is told on tablets and memorials.

The Umana Yana, near the Seawall, was constructed by the Wai Wai Amerindian community in 1972 and is a conical palm-thatched building, built along the lines of a traditional Amerindian benab. Many ceremonial and cultural events take place there, and it is well worth a look. Umana Yana is Wai Wai for "meeting place for people."

The Guyana Museum (North Road) has miniature displays of gold and diamond mines and a broad selection of Guyana's animal life and heritage. The Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology (Main Street) describes Amerindian history, lifestyle and folklore. Castellani House (Vlissengen Road and Homestretch Avenue ) is home to the National Gallery of Art.

Take a trip across the Demerara Harbour Bridge, the fourth-longest (more than a mile/kilometer) floating bridge in the world, which connects the east and west banks of the Demerara River.

Other places to see and visit include the State House (president's house); the prime minister's house (the Residence); City Hall (Regent and Avenue of the Republic); St. Andrew's Kirk, the oldest church in Georgetown (Brickdam and Avenue of the Republic); parliament building (Brickdam); and Stabroek Market (a red, lacy cast-iron building with a four-faced clock tower), which is extremely lively and stocked with juicy fruit, vegetables and all manner of goods.

The Square of the Revolution (at the top of Brickdam) is home to the 1763 monument to Cuffy, one of Guyana's national heroes. Cuffy was the leader of the unsuccessful 1763 slave rebellion that kept Dutch landowners out of the Berbice region for 10 months.

The Cenotaph (southern end of Main Street) is a funerary monument raised to the memory of all the Guyanese soldiers who died in service during the two world wars.

The 200-acre/80-hectare botanical garden has a phenomenal display of palms and Amazonia regia, a gigantic water lily and Guyana's national flower. Steal a kiss on the Kissing Bridge; visit the old-style zoo and feed the shy manatees. Across the palm-fringed roadway is the mausoleum of former president Forbes Burnham.

Housed in the compound of the Promenade Gardens (Middle Street) are several monuments, such as the oldest bandstand in the city and the statue of Mahatma Ghandi. Unbelievably, this lovely garden was the site of the public hanging of slaves involved in the 1823 East Coast Rebellion.

After you've seen the sights, join the locals walking along the seawall. The seawall was erected by the Dutch to protect Guyana from the whims of the Atlantic Ocean; as in the Netherlands, Guyana's coastal area is below sea level. They also built kokers (floodgates) to help with drainage. In the early morning and late afternoon, walkers, joggers and romantic couples congregate along the wall. However, it is not safe at night.

Cricket is the national sport and Georgetown is also home of the Bourda Cricket Ground, so you can attend a match at Bourda if one is scheduled during your stay.

Note: Be sure to ask your hotel's concierge for advice about the safety of all areas you plan to visit. Georgetown's crime rate is high, and places such as Stabroek Market and the seawall may be too risky, even during the day.

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