Nassau Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Nassau

Nassau is the largest city and capital of The Islands of The Bahamas. Over 70% of Bahamian residents live in this bustling city. Nassau is the country’s government, education, administration, and media center.

Nassau was founded in 1670 by British nobility who sought to settle New Providence Island. The British named the settlement Charles Town and built a fort to defend the new town against the Spanish. Charles Town was used as a base for privateering operations against the Spanish. The Spanish raided Charles Town in 1694 and burned down the fort.

In 1695, the British rebuilt the town and named it Nassau to honor England’s William III, known as Prince of Orange-Nassau. William II belonged to the House of Nassau that ruled Nassau in Germany. European forces continued to fight over Nassau, and Spanish and French forces occupied the area in 1703. Spanish incursions continued to affect Nassau during the early 1700s.

When legendary pirate Benjamin Hornigold arrived in Nassau, over 1,000 pirates lived in Nassau. Pirates far outnumbered the 100 regular town residents, and Nassau became known as a pirate republic. Benjamin Hornigold, Charles Vane, Anne Bonny, and Edward Teach were just a few of the infamous pirates that called Nassau home. Visitors can learn more about Nassau’s pirate history at the Pirates of Nassau Museum.

Captain Woodes Rogers became the first Royal Governor of The Bahamas in 1718. Woodes Rogers clamped down on the pirate republic and sought to restore law and order, and Nassau experienced an economic boom. American Continental Marines briefly occupied Nassau during the American Revolution in 1776. In 1782, Spain briefly captured Nassau before being chased out by Loyalists.

Loyalists came from America after the American Revolutionary War and greatly impacted Nassau’s growth. Loyalists wanted to remain loyal to the British crown instead of the newly independent America. Loyalists influenced the area’s architecture, as seen in Rawson and Parliament Square.

Today, Nassau is a bustling tourist destination. Visit the historic Queen’s Staircase and Fort Fincastle to explore the area’s history. Nassau has several historic churches to visit, such as St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral. In addition, visitors can enjoy shopping along Bay Street or at the famous Straw Market. Take this self-guided walking tour and experience the history and beauty of Nassau.
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Nassau Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Nassau Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Bahamas » Nassau (See other walking tours in Nassau)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Prince George Wharf
  • Rawson Square
  • Parliament Square
  • Fort Fincastle
  • Queen's Staircase
  • Government House
  • St.Francis Xavier Cathedral
  • John Watling’s Distillery
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Pirates of Nassau Museum
  • Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation
  • Straw Market
  • Bay Street
1
Prince George Wharf

1) Prince George Wharf

Prince George Wharf is the largest cruise port in The Bahamas. It's the place to see massive cruise liners load and unload passengers. More than a million passengers arrive at Prince George Wharf every year.

Cruise ship passengers come and go through Festival Place, which is a great place to shop for resort wear and souvenirs. Festival Place is a bright and colorful area that features over 45 artisan and seller stalls. You'll find traditional crafts such as hand-crafted straw bags, textiles, and paintings.

Prince George Wharf is a great place to arrange tourist attractions such as horse-drawn carriage rides, scooter rentals, boat excursions, and hair-braiding. Visitors can also check out live Bahamian music on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

The adjacent Woodes Rogers Walk offers a great viewpoint of the historic wharf.
2
Rawson Square

2) Rawson Square

Rawson Square was named for Sir Rawson William Rawson, who was Governor of The Bahamas in the 1860s. Rawson Square is often the first stop for cruise ship passengers.

Rawson Square is a charming destination with cobblestone paving and colonial-style government buildings. The Churchill Building is on the south side of the square, and visitors can find horse-drawn surreys on the west side of the square. There's also a pavilion for open-air hair-braiding.

Rawson Square has a bronze bust of Sir Milo Butler. Butler was sworn in as the first Bahamian governor of an Independent Bahamas in 1973. Rawson Square also features a fountain named for the first Bahamian Minister of Tourism, Sir Stafford Sands. In addition, a life-size bronze statue features a woman holding a child and celebrates Bahamian women.

Visitors will also find a monument honoring Christopher Columbus. The Christopher Columbus monument was erected in 1992 during the Bahamas Quincentennial Celebrations.

Visitors can pose for pictures underneath a "The Islands of The Bahamas" sign with the historic cruise ship port in the background.

Rawson Square hosts several festivals and events throughout the year. Junkanoo festivals are held the day after Christmas, on New Year's Day, and during the summer. During Junkanoo, the square is packed with residents and tourists taking part in a vibrant parade.
3
Parliament Square

3) Parliament Square

Parliament Square was originally built in the early 1800s by Loyalists from North Carolina. Loyalists were residents of America who wanted to remain loyal to the British crown after England lost the Revolutionary War.

Parliament Square features gorgeous Colonial-style pink government buildings. The square is home to the House of Assembly, the Senate Building, and the Supreme Court of The Bahamas.

The two parliamentary houses meet with the Prime Minister in the House of Assembly. Visitors are welcome to watch debates from the gallery when the house is in session. The House of Assembly is one of the New World's oldest governing bodies in continuous session.

The 16-member Senate works in the beautiful Senate Building. Visitors will find a marble statue of England's Queen Victoria directly in front of the Senate Building. The statue was erected in 1905.

The Supreme Court of The Bahamas was built in 1921. The court holds sessions every quarter, and Bahamian judges wear traditional British wigs and robes during sessions. Behind the Supreme Court, there's a charming Garden of Remembrance. A cenotaph honors Bahamian soldiers who died during World War I and II. The monument's plaque is engraved with the names of the fallen soldiers.
4
Fort Fincastle

4) Fort Fincastle (must see)

Fort Fincastle was built with cut limestone in 1793. Its location on top of Bennet's Hill was chosen as the best strategic location to protect Nassau and the harbor from attacks. Governor John Murray, also known as Lord Dunmore and Viscount Fincastle, was in charge of the fort's construction. Visitors can access the fort by climbing the historic Queen's Staircase.

Fort Fincastle was built in the shape of a paddle-wheel steamer. The fort had a 68 cannon capacity but never fired a single shot. The fort also served as a lighthouse until 1817, when the Paradise Island lighthouse was built.

Bennet's Hill is the highest point on the island, and the fort offers fabulous views of historic Nassau, Paradise Island, and the harbor. Visitors can also read several information signs to learn more about the fort's history.
5
Queen's Staircase

5) Queen's Staircase (must see)

The Queen's Staircase is known as the 66 steps and is one of Nassau's most visited attractions. The staircase was cut from limestone and completed in 1794. The staircase provides a direct route to Fort Fincastle on Bennet's Hill.

When the staircase and fort were built, The Bahamas feared invasions by other European nations who wanted to control the Caribbean. As a result, the British built several forts to defend the country against European attackers and pirates. These forts include Fort Fincastle, Fort Montagu, and Fort Charlotte. Fort Fincastle is the highest of the three forts, and residents wanted a direct access route to and from the fort in case of an attack.

Six hundred slaves worked for over 16 years to complete the staircase. The enslaved people used hand tools to cut through solid limestone.

In the 1800s, the staircase was renamed after Queen Victoria, who ruled Britain from 1837 to 1901.

The Queen's Staircase has a beautiful water feature that cascades next to the staircase to a pool at the bottom of the stairs. The staircase is surrounded by a peaceful garden area with high stone walls and lush foliage.

Today, the staircase is still used to access Fort Fincastle. The garden setting makes it a wonderful place to visit during the day or night. Residents and visitors can enjoy the peaceful grotto in the middle of bustling Nassau.
6
Government House

6) Government House

Government House is the Governor General's official residence and is one of Nassau's most stunning examples of Georgian Colonial architecture.

The beautiful house is painted conch-pink, and four Ionic columns support its entrance. The architecture shows a mix of American and Bahamian British styles. The wood shutters and bright pink paint are examples of Bahamian influence. The columns and circular driveway are examples of American style brought by Loyalists who arrived in the Bahamas after the Revolutionary War.

The first Government House was built in 1737. Government House is located on the top of Mount Fitzwilliam and overlooks the harbor. The current house was completed in 1806. The 12-foot tall statue of Christopher Columbus was added in 1830.

Government House has been renovated several times. The east wing was added in 1909. A hurricane in 1929 damaged the house, and in the 1930s, the roof, facade, and entrance were replaced.

The Duke of Windsor was the Governor of The Bahamas from 1940 to 1945 and one of Government House's most famous residents. The Duke of Windsor was the former King Edward VIII of Great Britain who famously abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry the divorcee Wallace Simpson.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor ordered many renovations, including the addition of the west wing, known as the Windsor Wing. The Duchess of Windsor added a black glass plaque to the front door. The plaque was shipped from the Windsor's house in France and features the Duke's Order of the Garter.
7
St.Francis Xavier Cathedral

7) St.Francis Xavier Cathedral

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral is the oldest Catholic Church in The Bahamas. In the late 1800s, dozens of Catholics lived in Nassau without a priest or Catholic Church. Lady Georgiana Ayde-Curran petitioned the New York Archdiocese to send a priest to The Bahamas and establish a Catholic Parish.

The cathedral's foundation stone was laid in 1885, and the building was dedicated in 1887. In 1899, transepts were added on either side of the building. In 1934, a southern extension and two towers were added.

In the 1940s, the cathedral added an outdoor basketball court. The basketball court was one of the few lit courts in Nassau, and thousands of young people have enjoyed playing basketball here.

The cathedral's patron, St. Francis Xavier, was a Spanish missionary who died in 1552. He was known as the Apostle to the Far East and dedicated himself to ministering in India, Ceylon, Japan, and China.

In 2004, a new cathedral building was dedicated next door to the old cathedral.
8
John Watling’s Distillery

8) John Watling’s Distillery (must see)

John Watling's Distillery is located on the Buena Vista Estate, which was founded in 1789. The distillery is named after John Watling, a pirate captain who sailed Bahamian waters. John Watling was known as "the gentleman pirate" who observed the Sabbath and threw out gaming boards.

Buena Vista Estate overlooks Nassau harbor and has two acres of landscaped grounds. The beautiful estate features more than 300 years of antiques and prints that showcase the area's history and culture. Visitors will also find a well carved from limestone over 200 years ago.

The distillery has over 1,000 white oak barrels. Guests can tour the estate and watch the rums being bottled by hand. Guests can also taste the various liquors, which are known as the Spirit of The Bahamas. Try the Amber, Pale, or Beuna Vista Rum. The Red Turtle Vodka is filtered with Eleuthera's pink sands, and the Gin is infused with botanicals from Andros.

The on-site Red Turtle Tavern offers special hand-crafted Bahamian cocktails.
9
Christ Church Cathedral

9) Christ Church Cathedral

The first Bahamian church was built on Christ Church's site in 1670. Unfortunately, the Spaniards destroyed the first two churches, the third church was made of wood, and the fourth church was constructed with cut stone.

The current Christ Church Cathedral was built in 1841. In 1861, Nassau became a city, and Christ Church became a Cathedral. Christ Church Cathedral is an Anglican/Episcopal Church.

Christ Church Cathedral features Gothic-style architecture with a stunning white stone tower. The interior features vaulted mahogany ceilings. Look for a tiny mouse carved into the baptismal font.

The handmade stained glass windows are one of the church's most attractive features. The stained glass depicts scenes from the life of Jesus.

Visitors will find tablets along the cathedral's walls that describe Nassau citizens' lives during the 1800s.

Outside, visitors can walk the 400-year-old grounds and experience the Garden of Remembrance.
10
Pirates of Nassau Museum

10) Pirates of Nassau Museum (must see)

The Pirates of Nassau Museum is a fun interactive museum that immerses guests into the lives and times of Nassau's pirates. Visitors can board the Revenge pirate ship and go on an adventure through time.

The years 1690 through 1720 are known as the Golden Age of Piracy, and Nassau was known as the pirate capital of the world. Nassau was the heart of pirate activity as pirates could helm their shallow-draft ships through the waters of The Bahamas that were too shallow for larger warships. The pirates could then quickly access the deeper water trade routes that larger, slower ships used.

The museum presents its pirate history in an entertaining, interactive way. Visitors begin their pirate adventure on a recreated dock and shanty town before boarding the Revenge replica pirate ship. Onboard, visitors will learn more about pirate history and can practice their pirate lingo.

The museum displays different pirate living quarters, weaponry, and tools. In addition, the museum has exhibits detailing famous pirates such as Blackbeard and Woods Rogers. Visitors can also learn more about women pirates like Anne Bonny and Mary Reid.

In the Marooned exhibit, visitors can see what it was like for pirates who broke the pirate code and were abandoned. In the Flag Room, you'll learn that pirates would raise a black flag as they approached their victims.

The Pirates of Nassau Museum has an on-site restaurant, Smugglers, where you can enjoy local favorites like conch salad.

Operation hours: Monday - Saturday: 8:30 am - 5:30 pm; Sunday: 9 am - 2 pm.
11
Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation

11) Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation

The Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation is named to honor Pompey, an enslaved person who lived on Rolle Plantation. Pompey led a revolt at the Rolle Plantation in Exuma in 1830 after plantation owner John Rolle ordered Pompey and 76 other enslaved people to move to another island.

Pompey fled the plantation and stole a sailboat, planning to sail for Nassau and petition the governor to be allowed to stay on Exuma island. Pompey didn't reach Nassau, but the British governor stopped the transfer. Pompey received 39 lashes from Rolle, but his rebellion was celebrated among enslaved people. The slave trade was abolished in 1834.

The museum is located in Vendue House, which was built in the 1760s. Vendue House functioned as a slave marketplace during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The small museum has a collection of photos and artifacts that describe the Bahamian slave trade and the daily lives of enslaved Bahamians. In addition, the museum features an exhibit titled Wade in The Water: Peter Mowell, the Last Slave Ship in The Bahamas. This exhibit looks at the events surrounding a slave ship that was shipwrecked in 1860 in the Abacos. The museum also discusses the 1834 emancipation.

Operation hours: Monday - Saturday: 9:30 am - 4:30 pm, Thurs 9:30am - 1:00pm
12
Straw Market

12) Straw Market (must see)

The Nassau Straw Market features thousands of hand-crafted items and has been a Nassau tradition since the 1940s. Traditionally, Bahamians weaved and braided straw baskets to use as fish traps and fruit baskets. After World War II, Americans began visiting The Bahamas on vacation and bought these beautiful hand-crafted baskets and bags.

The original Straw Market burned down in 2001. The current two-story structure was completed in 2011 and provides an indoor, air-conditioned space.

Visitors will find handmade straw items, wood carvings, shell jewelry, and delicious treats at over 400 stalls. Visitors are welcome to barter and bargain for eye-catching items. In addition, there are plenty of mass-produced souvenirs, t-shirts, and knock-off designer bags.

The Straw Market is the place to go for unique Bahamian gifts and fun souvenirs.
13
Bay Street

13) Bay Street (must see)

Bay Street is Nassau's busiest shopping destination. Visitors will find local vendors selling handmade crafts as well as luxury brands. As you stroll, you'll find shops selling jewelry, designer purses, liquor, and souvenirs.

The Island Book Shop features a variety of local interest books. Shoppers will also find several exclusive cigar shops. In addition, Bay Street is home to the world-famous Nassau Straw Market, where you can barter and bargain for hand-crafted straw items.

Bay Street is also home to museums and historical attractions. The interactive Pirates of Nassau Museum is one of Bay Street's attractions. In addition, you'll stroll past the Nassau Public Library, Rawson Square, Parliament Square, and the Pompey Museum. There are many waterfront adventure outfitters along Bay Street where you can book a sailing, diving, or fishing charter.

Bay Street features a variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars. Try Bahamian conch fritters or enjoy American comfort food. Two miles west of Rawson Square, you'll find the Fish Fry, a favorite place for Bahamian food and beverages.

Walking Tours in Nassau, Bahamas

Create Your Own Walk in Nassau

Create Your Own Walk in Nassau

Creating your own self-guided walk in Nassau is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Museums & Art Galleries Tour

Museums & Art Galleries Tour

Nassau is the capital of Bahamas and therefore offers several museums and art galleries for tourists to visit. The art work reflects the history, culture and the local way of life. As with many cities set on an island in the ocean, one of the most popular museums is the Pirates Museum. Nassau also provides a plethora of other outstanding museums such as the Pompey Museum of Slavery &...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles