|Photo by Dana Kosko
Unlike the rest of the Central American countries, Belize was not colonized by Spain. Instead, the Spanish failed to clearly mark the southern boundary of the Yucatan peninsula, which allowed fleets of notorious pirates to attack the Spanish trade routes and ships filled with gold and other treasures. The pirates would make their attack and then find refuge along the coast of Belize and what was known as British Honduras. But in September 1798, the British finally claimed victory over the Spanish at the Battle of St. George’s Caye, which help solidify the region as a British colony.
Belize City, originally known as Belize Town, was established as the first European settlement in mainland Belize. A major trading post for the British lumber industry, it harvested the wealth of wood from the surrounding jungles and served as a haven for workers who spent their hard-earned pay enjoying the rum and other frivolities. In addition, the city has survived a wide variety of disasters ranging from fires and epidemics to devastating hurricanes such as Hattie in 1961 and Richard in 2010.
Today, visitors will not only find the country’s only cruise ship passenger terminal in Belize City, but the largest hotels (with substantial conference facilities), plenty of restaurants, museums, and other historical attractions. Best of all, it offers a blend of old-world British colonial charm mixed with Garífuna and Mestizo cultures, which can be seen in everything from the food to music. The city is completely worth taking an extra day or two to enjoy it before venturing out toward the inland Mayan ruins and the clear-blue waters off shore.
Travel Information - The country’s official language is English and the government is naturally modeled after the British Westminster System, with the Queen of England as the official head of state and a prime minister as the head of government. The Belize dollar is the official currency of Belize and it is generally exchanged at two BZ dollars to one US dollar. Although most tourists arrive by way of cruise ship, the city is also served by both the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (located northwest of the city in Ladyville) and the Belize City Municipal Airport within the city itself. The international airport offers direct international flights from Atlanta (Delta Airlines), Dallas and Miami (American Airlines), Houston and Newark (Continental Airlines), and Charlotte (US Airways). For regional flights into the city, there are also a variety of flights on Maya Island Air, TACA Airlines, and Tropic Air.
Major Attractions in Belize City
|Photo by Bernt Rostad
House of Culture - Located on Regent Street, this was the residence of the governor-general until Belize gained its independence from Great Britain in 1981. Built in 1814, it was originally called the Government House, which also included the administrative offices for the government. In 1996, it was renamed the House of Culture and opened to the public. Visitors can take daily tours where they can view the original furnishings and silverware as well as rotating exhibitions by well-known Belizean artists. The setting is naturally a popular venue for social events and formal parties. It is open seven-days-a-week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
|Photo by Bjorn Torrissen
|Photo by Max Cacher
|Photo by T. Bachner
Swing Bridge - Built in 1922, it is the only functioning manually-operated swing bridge in the world. The bridge, located in downtown Belize City, has become a major attraction. It swings open once every morning (5:30 a.m.) and evening (5:30 p.m.) to allow traditional fishing and sailboats to pass upriver. The bridge offers great vantage points for visitor who can observe everything from activity at the mouth of the Belize River to the cruise ships anchored just offshore.
|Photo by Bjorn Torrissen