I have wanted to visit Suriname for awhile, so I made it a priority, knocking off days on my Colombia and Venezuela trip to do so. Suriname is a former Dutch Colony in South America with a very interesting history. The Dutch once swapped New York for this place with the British — had something to do with sugarcanes. What this means is, that when you go backpacking in Suriname, you’ll have almost the whole country to yourself.
Before you go to Paramaribo, you’ll need to get your Suriname Visa which you can get in Caracas if you’re en route. Below are some top things to see and do in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname.
1. Waterkaant – Waterkaant is a must of course – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage listed street. You would swear that you are in the Netherlands since the Dutch influence is evident.
Waterkaant in Paramaribo, Suriname.
2. Onafhankelijkheidsplein – A tongue twister if ever there was one. Get your gob round this one: Onafhankelijkheidsplein!
Onafhankelijkheidsplein, Independence Square in Paramaribo, Suriname.
Onafhankelijkheidsplein is the main square in downtown Paramaribo. The Dutch influence won’t wear off I assure you, but if you want to know, translated into English this means “Independence Square”.
Onafhankelijkheidsplein – Independence Square in Paramaribo, Suriname.
It’s a grassy area which (as you face the river) has the Waterkaant to the right, the Presidential Palace to the left, Fort Zeelandia ahead and a statue of Pengel, the former Prime Minister and a popular figure. On Sunday mornings the square becomes part of a Tweetyfest! A local bird singing competition.
Flags of the world at Independence Square, Paramaribo, Suriname.
3. Presidential Palace – Suriname is a relatively “new country” well it was formed in the 1970s, but the parliament building sits proudly in Onafhankelijkheidsplein. This is apparently only open to the public on the 25th November. It’s an elaborate white building with a Suriname flag flying in front of it.
4. Arya Dewaker Hindu Temple – Suriname is an eclectic mix of religions. There isn’t another country in the world quite like it (yes not even Singapore). The religious buildings sit side by side throughout the city.
A Hindu Temple in Paramaribo, Suriname.
5. Mosque Keizerstraat – Religion will feature in four separate elegant buildings in my Paramaribo top 10 and rightly so. I loved free spirited Paramaribo. Anything goes here. As the Lonely Planet once wrote (something similar) laid back Amsterdam meets the Wild West on a hill where Palestinians and Israelis live and eat side by side in harmony. On Keizerstraat sits the massive Mosque Keizerstraat the National Mosque of the country. In South America you’d do well to find better Mosques than this one. Somewhat epic.
Keizerstraat Mosque – surely one of the finest in South America.
6. Neveh Shalom Synagogue – I’m not sure if this is a world’s first or only or not, but it sure as hell sends out a positive message to the rest of the planet. DIRECTLY next door to the Mosque. Yes – Synagogue and Mosque side by side. Say a prayer for Palestine and Israel as you dander nonchalantly past.
Standing in the middle – between the Synagogue and Mosque in Paramaribo, Suriname.
7. St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral – This elegant Catholic Cathedral provides Paramaribites with their Roman Catholic fix, while at the same time it is the largest wooden structure in the Western Hemisphere!
The Largest Wooden Building in the World? This is the yellow and blue St. Peter and St. Paul’s Cathedral in Paramaribo, Suriname.
Inside the wooden Cathedral in Paramaribo, Suriname.
8. National Assembly – Also situated off Independence Square is the National Assembly building.
The National Assembly in Paramaribo, Suriname.
10. Stichting Surinaams Museum – Down by the waterfront, to the west side is a small museum. This is a good place to check out relics remaining from the colonial times and some local art and exhibitions.
The Suriname Museum
11. Fort Zeelandia – Fort Zeelandia is a typical Dutch Fort and though it’s not too touristy or popular it does give you a good idea of the Dutch influence here.
Fort Zeelandia down by the seafront in Paramaribo, Suriname.
12. The Palmentuin – I was actually warned that this leafy area near the parliament is where all the tramps, druggies and suspicious characters hang out.
The Palmentuin – looks leafy and a nice spot for a walk but it can be dangerous.
13. Royal Torarica Hotel – Take in a beer or a meal here.
Visit one of the posh hotels for a quick beer!
14. Waag (Weighing House) – A bit of a sad history here at the Waag. Here, they used to weigh slaves and the best ones would make it and be exploited and over worked. The lighter ones would end up mal nourished. Rumour has it that this building is ironically now a restaurant and it’s located on the Waterkaant.
Den Waag – the Weighing House.
15. Commewijne River – Escaping the madness (!) of central Paramaribo isn’t too hard. Buses and mini buses janut all around town and you can take a boat trip on the Commewijne River. Most people use it as a gateway to the Nature Reserve and Sugar Cane tours which are outside of Paramaribo itself.
The Commewijne River in Paramaribo Suriname.