There are a number of must-see landmarks in Nassau, including Rawson Square, which is directly across from Prince George Wharf, the cruise dock. There you’ll find historic government buildings and the old goal, now reborn as a public library and museum. Other places of interest are The Queen's Staircase, The Water Tower, The Forts, Gregory Arch and The Caves.
Top of Elizabeth Avenue, off Shirley Street, Nassau
This 102-foot staircase was created to commemorate the 65 years of Queen Victoria's reign. The staircase was carved from coral-based sandstone by slaves at the end of the 18th century. It is the most-visited and famous architectural sight in Nassau, the Queen's Staircase is a flight of 66 steps linking Fort Fincastle to the Princess Margaret Hospital.
Top of Elizabeth Avenue hill, south of Shirley Street, Nassau
The Fort is a military site shaped like a paddle-wheel steamer, located near the top of the Queen's Staircase. Fort Fincastle was completed in 1793 as a lookout point to prevent pirates from sneaking into the harbor. Its 126-foot water tower, which is more than 200 feet above sea level, is the highest point on the island. From here, the panoramic view of Nassau and its harbor is simply breathtaking.
Duke and George Street, Nassau, Paradise Island
The Government House has been the official residence of the governor-general of the Bahamas since 1801. This impressive pink-and-white building on Duke Street is an excellent example of the fusion of Bahamian-British and American Colonial architecture. The styles also highlight the influence some southern states like Virginia and the Carolinas had on the islands. However, the bright pink color, cross-laid cornerstones, and wooden shutters are typical models of island structural design.
Bacardi and Carmichael Roads, New Providence Island
The Bacardi Refinery Tour opens its doors on Tuesdays for a taste testing. Bacardi manufactures some of the most popular rums in the world, and has over 50 selections to sample.
West Bay Street and Marcus Bethel Way, Nassau, New Providence Island
This military site is an imposing fort built in the late 18th century. It comes complete with a waterless moat, drawbridge, ramparts, and dungeons. Lord Dunmore, who built it, named the massive structure in honor of George III's wife. The fort is located one mile west of central Nassau.
Paradise Island Drive, Paradise Island
At the top of the Versailles Gardens stand the remains of a 14th-century French stone monastery. This landmark was taken to the United States in the 1920s by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. Forty years later, however, grocery-chain heir Hartford bought the Cloisters and had it rebuilt on its present site overlooking Nassau Harbour.
Bay Street, Nassau
Parliament Square's pink, colonnaded government buildings were constructed in the early 1800s by Loyalists who came to the Bahamas from North Carolina. The Square is dominated by a statue of a young Queen Victoria, erected on May 24, 1905, the day of her birthday. In the immediate area are six magistrates' courts. Behind the House of Assembly is the Supreme Court. Its quarterly opening ceremonies (held during the first weeks of January, April, July, and October) are similar to the pageantry of the Houses of Parliament in London. A pass must be obtained in order to view these sessions.
The Changing of the Guards
Nassau, New Providence Island
The Changing of the Guards takes place every other Saturday at Government House - the residence of the Governor-General, representative of the Queen. The Royal Bahamas Police Force Band performs.
Market Street and Trinity Place, Nassau, New Providence Island
The Balcony House is an 18th-century landmark named for its overhanging balcony. Known as the oldest wooden residential structure in Nassau, this pink two-story house - and its furnishings and designs - re-capture the elegance of an era. Inside the house there is a mahogany staircase recovered from a ship during the 19th century.
Eastern Road, Montagu Bay, New Providence Island
Fort Montagu is the oldest fort on the island.
Village Road, Nassau, New Providence Island
A garden / arboretum with a diversity of species and tropical palm trees, The Retreat offers a serene, peaceful, and silent environment. Strolling through these peaceful grounds, visitors will also find smiling Buddhas. The park also serves as the site for the Bahamas National Trust.
Christ Church Cathedral
George and King Streets, Nassau
Built in 1837, the Cathedral is a short walk from the main thoroughfare, and is worth visiting if only for its stained-glass windows. Inside the cathedral there is a glorious contrast between the white pillars and dark wood beams used to support the high ceiling. The Crucifixion in the center panel of the east window is flanked by depictions of the empty tomb and the Ascension. Before you leave, be sure to spend a few minutes in the small, flower-filled Garden of Remembrance.
Crystal Cay Zoo and Aquarium
Silver Cay, New Providence Island
Crystal Cay is a zoo / aquarium that occupies an entire island, and is linked to Arawak Cay and the mainland by bridge. Its observation tower rises 100 feet above the ocean surface. You can descend a winding staircase to a depth of 20 feet below sea level for a 360-degree view of coral, sponges, tropical fish, and other sea life - or wind your way along the Pleasure Reef snorkeling trail.
Royal Victoria Gardens
Shirley Street, Nassau, Paradise Island
The Royal Victoria Hotel was once the grand damme of the Bahamas. The hotel and its gardens were built during the American Civil War, finally closing in 1971. Shortly thereafter, a fire consumed the building. All that remained were the gardens and a sprawling, empty shell of pillars and stone. The resulting landscape is a stunning cross between a botanical garden and something resembling Roman ruins.
Junkanoo Festival Expo
Prince George Wharf, Downtown Nassau
This museum is dedicated to the Bahamas' Junkanoo Festival - a colorful, musical, and surreal festival held on December 26. Watch Bahamian culture explode in a kaleidoscope of masks and sounds. Visiting the Expo is the next best thing to being in the Bahamas during Junkanoo.
In this 19th-century home, you'll find a curious and colorful collection of artifacts recounting Bahamian history.
The Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation
Vendue House, Bay Street, Nassau
Vendue House served as the location for slave auctions in the 18th century, as well as a place where salvaged items from shipwrecks were sold. Today, the museum displays a fine collection of Bahamian history and art. A permanent exhibit portrays the slavery and post-emancipation eras of The Bahamas. In addition, work by local Bahamian artist Amos Ferguson is displayed in the art gallery on the second level.
The Bahamas Historical Society Museum
Elizabeth Avenue and Shirley Street, Nassau
The Bahamas Historical Society Museum showcases exhibits depicting the history of the Bahamas from pre-Columbus time to the present. In the museum there are many Lucayan-Taino-Arawak artifacts on display. Open Mondays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Closed holidays.
Paradise Island Drive, Ocean Club, Paradise Island
A garden filled with beautiful statues.
Chippingham Road, south of West Bay Street, Nassau
Showcases a garden, arboretum, zoo, and aquarium. Ardastra also home to a wide array of species and plants -- from rare tropical birds to native Bahamian rock iguanas and flamingos. Catch a glimpse of the national birds of the Bahamas as they give parading performances daily.
Pirates of Nassau
Marlborough and George Streets, Nassau
Pirate's of Nassau is a world-class, swashbuckling venue located in the heart of downtown Nassau. Experience the true story of pirates in an amazing, historically interactive program that promises to teach and entertain.