Paramaribo, Suriname | Layover

Newcomers to Suriname’s capital are often surprised by its cosmopolitan charms — which you can enjoy on even a brief visit

Photo by Frans Lemmens/Alamy Stock PhotoPhoto by Nicholas LaughlinPhoto by Dolphfyn/Shutterstock.comPhoto by Nicholas LaughlinPhoto by Gilbert JacottPhoto by Gilbert Jacott

On the western bank of the Suriname River, with an old Dutch fort at its heart, Paramaribo surprises many first-time visitors with its friendly, sophisticated vibe. The relatively compact historic centre is easy to explore on foot and full of unexpected pleasures — perfect for exploring in a free afternoon or weekend break.

If Paramaribo is one of the Caribbean’s prettiest cities, that’s thanks to its traditional architecture, recognised by UNESCO and relatively well-preserved in the streets and squares closest to the river. Built of wood (on brick platforms), with balconies and classical columns, these heritage buildings are almost uniformly painted white with dark green trim.

Suriname’s ethnic diversity means Paramaribo is a culinary cornucopia. By all means try its Creole, Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, and other restaurants — and don’t miss the chance for a lavish Javanese meal. There are warungs — traditional restaurants — scattered across the city, but head for the northern neighbourhood of Blauwgrond, where numerous family-run warungs offer dishes like gado-gado and satay in unpretentious surroundings.

Onafhankelijksplein — that mouthful is Dutch for Independence Square — is the biggest green space in the centre of the city, but a stone’s throw from its manicured turf you’ll find the Palmentuin, a small park planted entirely with towering palm trees. It’s a tranquil, vertical green space that gives a hint of the vast forests in Suriname’s interior.

Is there anything more Caribbean than a trip to the beach? When Surinamese are ready for a swim, they don’t head to the sea — rather, they turn inland to Colakreek, a freshwater bathing spot with waterslides and camping facilities. The name comes from the naturally dark-tinted water, which does indeed look like Coca-Cola — perfectly clean, but stained by the tannins from forest leaves.

As the day ends and the sun dips below the horizon, Paramaribo’s most atmospheric spot just might be the Waterkant, the terrace running along the riverfront. Take a friend, buy a djogo (litre-size bottle) of Parbo beer, find a bench, and enjoy the spectacle of dusk settling over the river.

 

Caribbean Airlines operates regular flights to Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport in Suriname from Port of Spain, Trinidad, with connections to other destinations across the Caribbean and North America