South America’s smallest country, Suriname is not on most tourists’ radars, which means it is still very much unexplored and far from becoming a tourist trap. Over 80% of this sparsely populated country consists of unspoiled rainforests, making it an ideal place to discover the native biodiversity and rainforest habitats.
Those looking to embark on an adventure in Suriname will need to head over to Paramaribo first. Unlike major cities in South America like Sao Paulo, Lima and Santiago, Paramaribo, Suriname’s capital city is considerably small. In the heart of the town, the Historic Inner City of Paramaribo, Dutch colonial wooden houses still line the narrow streets like in colonial times. There aren’t high rise buildings in the city. The tallest is only six-stories high. River views, delicious fusion cuisine, and friendly locals add to the charm of this laid-back city.
What to see and do
Join a Paramaribo bus tour
A typical three-hour tour will give you a quick rundown of the history, culture, and lifestyle of the city. The guided tour includes stops or drives by the following places:
- Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral
- Presidential Palace
- Fort Zeelandia Museum
- Colonial wooden houses
- Neveh Shalom Jewish Synagogue
- Suriname City Mosque
- Central Market
- Abra Broki (working class neighborhood)
- Upper middle-class neighborhood (where the wealthiest lives)
- Crossing Jules Wijdenbosch Bridge (Suriname’s highest bridge over Suriname River)
Discover the history of Suriname at Fort Zeelandia
Learn about the French, British, and Dutch in Suriname. Listen to stories of the different ethnic groups that arrived in Suriname including the Amerindians. See artifacts and photographs in the exhibition hall. The fort itself is an interesting place. There is a coffee shop for guests to relax and enjoy the warm weather outside.
Visit the houses of worship – a cathedral, a mosque, and a synagogue
Neveh Shalom Jewish Synagogue was built in 1835, and located next door is Suriname City Mosque. The mosque was completed in 1984 and became the largest mosque in the Caribbean. It has towering minarets and domes. The Neveh Shalom Synagogue’s entire floor is covered with sand. The pews are made of dark mahogany, and there’s a brass chandelier in the middle.
One of the most impressive houses of worship in Paramaribo is the wooden Gothic Revival style Roman Catholic Cathedral – Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral. Built in 1885 and completed in 1901, it is the largest wooden church in the Americas. The interior is made of unpainted cedar wood.
Check out the Numismatic Museum of the Central Bank of Suriname
Coin collectors or anyone interested in seeing coins and banknotes will find this tiny museum interesting. You’ll find coins and banknotes from the West Indian Company, tokens, commemorative coins, stamps, tools and machines related to making coins.
The museum’s prized possession is the “Papegaaienmunt” – the Parrot Coin. The museum is open on weekdays from 8 am to 2 pm.
See the colonial wooden houses
The colonial wooden houses are the coolest attractions in the Historic Inner City of Paramaribo. These houses date back to the 1800s and the street plan of the 17th and 18th centuries are still intact. The foundation of these wooden houses are made of bricks or concrete. The facade is painted white, the windows, shutters, and doors are usually painted dark green or black. These houses are decorated with hand-carved balconies, balustrades, and railings.
Where to stay
Hotel Palacio is an ideal hotel for those who want to be close to all the major attractions in Paramaribo. Located among the colonial wooden houses, Hotel Palacio is only a short walk to Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, Dutch Reformed Church, Fort Zeelandia and riverfront.
Courtyard by Marriott Paramaribo
The Courtyard by Marriott offers a beautiful view of Suriname River, has an outdoor pool, and a fitness center. It’s definitely a great place to stay if you like to stay in a chained-brand hotel.
Torarica Resort and Casino
Located along Suriname River, Hotel Torarica is one of the most renowned hotels in Suriname. It has an outdoor swimming pool, garden, restaurant, lounge area, bar, and a fitness center. It’s perfect for those who enjoy comfort, luxury, and fun at the casino.
What to eat and drink
Surinamese Creole food at De Gadri Restaurant
You can go for lunch, brunch, dinner or a late night meal at De Gadri Restaurant, located by Fort Zeelandia and Suriname River. Choose their outdoor seating and enjoy the gentle breeze by the river. This non-fancy restaurant serves the best Creole food in town. Try moksi alesi (mixed rice), cassava soup, pom ( a Suriname dish of Jewish origin) and the local Parbo beer.
Indonesian food at Sarinah and Mirosso Indisch Restaurant
Sarinah and Mirosso are two of the most popular Indonesian restaurants in Paramaribo. You can also find simple warung-style restaurants in the city. Sarinah is the best place for Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table). And go to Mirosso for authentic Indonesian fried rice, nasi rames (mixed rice), kropok and sate. These places will make you feel like you’re in Indonesia.
How to get there
There are no direct flights from the US to Paramaribo. You can fly from all major American cities to Port of Spain, Curacao, Aruba, or Georgetown (Guyana) and catch a connecting flight to Paramaribo. Or get a direct flight from Amsterdam to Paramaribo.
Currently, Suriname Airways, KLM and Caribbean Airlines fly are the only airlines serving Paramaribo.