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Nassau ist ein beliebtes Ziel bei Kreuzfahrttouristen, Bild: Bogdan Dyiakonovych / shutterstock

Cities in the Caribbean

On holiday on one of the beautiful Caribbean islands , many are attracted to sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and a drink in hand. But when you’re visiting one of the tropical islands, whether it’s for a few days or more than a week, there’s so much more to explore than just your resort. After a few days of beach, sun and swimming, it’s time to explore the country. The cities on many Caribbean islands are rich in history and unique architecture. Get to know the people and culture of the country you have traveled to. An easy way to do this is to take a day trip to one of the big cities.

St. John’s

St. John's, capital of Antigua
St. John’s, the capital of Antigua, Image: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

St. John’s, the capital of Antigua , is a colorful jumble of wooden, brick, but above all concrete houses. Not a single building seems to be intact, not even the beautiful cathedral, which is in a never-ending reconstruction. Since there is not much in the way of tourist attractions, cruise tourists usually end up shopping in the boutiques on the waterfront. The more adventurous head to the public market, which is packed with fruits, vegetables, fish, and spices.


Nassau in the Bahamas is entirely geared towards the many cruise tourists who arrive here every day. Jewels and fashion shops lie like pearls on a string on the main street, where friendly tugs will try to guide you to their bars. Outside, pastel-colored Downtown Nassau is surprisingly run-down and rather unattractive, but there are some interesting corners that exude their own melancholic charm. Several beaches are within walking distance, and those who want to take a look inside a Disneyfied resort complex should visit the gigantic Atlantis on the other side of the bridge on Paradise Island.


Red Clock Tower Barbados
Famous red bell tower on top of the main guardhouse in Garrison Savannah. UNESCO Garrison Historic Area Bridgetown, Barbados, Image: Filip Fuxa/shutterstock

Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados , is actually a classic city, with lots of people, shops and offices. There are a few historic buildings here and there. Otherwise, the first row of shops in the direction of the port, where the large cruise ships arrive, is usually reserved for what their passengers apparently demand the most, such as souvenirs and jewelry. The further you get into the city, the more Bridgetown becomes a colorful, lively Caribbean capital full of friendly people, but without any notable sights other than the parliament building.

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Kralendijk, Bonaire
The promenade of Kralendijk, the capital of Bonaire, Image: byvalet / shutterstock

The capital of Bonaire is not much more than a large village, but it still offers some interesting sights. Kralendijk is home to most of the accommodations on Bonaire and is located right in the middle of the island, making it a perfect base from which to explore the rest of the island. A really beautiful promenade follows the ocean in the middle of downtown: the best place to enjoy sunsets. Great house reefs offer excellent diving right in front of the hotels and dive shops, and good restaurants and cafes abound. The city may not be THE party location in the Caribbean, but you’ll most likely have a great time while you’re there.


Cienfuegos, Cuba
Cienfuegos in Cuba, Image: Anna ART / shutterstock

Cienfuegos in Cuba is a cool port city. Although it is famous for its French architecture, which has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status, it cannot be compared to the splendor of Havana. Fortunately, this means that the hordes of tourists skip this simple city, so those interested in the “real Cuba” can explore the place at their leisure. The side streets behind the historic center of Parque José Martí have real character and charm. This is where people hang out and gather on their house steps and porches, and there are small shops. At the Malecón, which leads to the sprawling Punta Gorda neighborhood, you can enjoy the beautiful waterfront surroundings. Come here to enjoy Cuba and the Cubans in their lightness.


Capitol Havana
The Capitol is one of the most popular sights in Havana, Image: lazyllama / shutterstock

You probably have a clichéd idea of what Havana should be like: dilapidated colonial buildings, big old American cars cruising along tree-lined wide boulevards, old fat cigar-smoking men resting in the shade, young beautiful Latinos chilling on balconies while salsa music plays in the background. And yes, it is exactly like that – and even more. The old historic center, La Habana Vieja, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been finely spruced up to the delight of the many tour groups. Away from the tourist-appealing historic center, every street looks — and feels — like a movie set. Dilapidated houses with old American car wrecks parked in front of the door, children playing baseball in front of empty government shops, a complete absence of billboards, but worn walls painted with colorful revolutionary slogans (Socialismo o muerte = socialism or die) and pictures of national heroes like Che Guevara and José Martí. Strangely enough, you hardly see a picture of the Castro brothers.

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Curacao, Willemstad, ABC Island
View of Willemstad, the capital of Curacao. Image: emperorcosar / shutterstock

Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, is the largest (albeit only) city of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao). Its four historic districts are rather unusual in the Caribbean: their typical Dutch architecture has earned them the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But the city has not yet fully exhausted this prestigious status. In each of these neighborhoods, perfectly restored houses stand next to crumbling buildings.

But this is by no means disappointing, but only illustrates Curaçao’s economic situation and prevents the feeling of being in an artificial, touristically perfect world. Each neighborhood has its own personality: the hyper-touristy Punda, the fast-gentrifying Dutch hipster ghetto Pietermaai, the lively Otrobanda and the historic Scharloo. Outside of these neighborhoods, Willemstad is more of a mix of suburbs, oil facilities, and nondescript beaches.