For food, fun and festivals, Port of Spain, the capital city of Trinidad and Tobago, is your ideal Caribbean location. The country's complicated history connects indigenous, Spanish, English, French, African, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese and Portuguese cultures — and this wide array of influences is reflected throughout the city. There’s always something going on in 'Town' as Trinidadians call it. 

Queen's Royal College is among the collection of mansions called the Magnificent Seven which run alongside Queen's Park Savannah. Andrew Ivanov/Shutterstock
Queen's Royal College is one of the Magnificent 7 mansions that run along the Queen's Park Savannah © Andrew Ivanov/Shutterstock

Queen's Park Savannah

Smack in the center of Port of Spain, the Queen’s Park Savannah is 260 acres of rolling turf. The perimeter’s 3.5 km long and dotted with fresh coconut vendors — perfect for a stroll or a run. The Savannah is next to the Emperor Valley Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens. It’s surrounded by the Magnificent Seven, fanciful Victorian mansions that harken back to the days when Trinidadian cocoa was king.

London-based actress Renee Castle performs with the mas group K2K Alliance & Partners during the presentation of the band titled 'We Stand United' as part of Trinidad Carnival at the Queen's Park Savannah. Sean Drakes/Getty Images
Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival is the biggest event in the country. Revelers from all over the world flock to Port of Spain to celebrate the two-day festival © Sean Drakes/Getty Images

Greatest Carnival on Earth

There’s no Carnival like Trinidad and Tobago Carnival and Port of Spain is its focal point. Exhilarating pre-season soca fetes (dance parties) start as early as August as excitement slowly builds towards the annual spectacle. Two days before Ash Wednesday, the capital’s streets are crammed with mas (a collective name for Carnival costumes), calypso and steel pan. Spectators and participants are welcome.

For some fishing, diving or a refreshing dip, Trinidadians head to Chaguaramas. Marka/UIG via Getty Images
For a little Trinidadian history, head 'down the islands' on a motorboat shuttle © Marka/UIG via Getty Images

History and leisure ‘Down the Islands’

'Down the Islands' is what Trinidadians (Trinis) call the rocky islets in the jewel-green sea around Trinidad’s northwestern Chaguaramas peninsula. Board a motorboat shuttle just outside Port of Spain for a short historical tour to a former leprosy asylum, a 20th-century sedition internment camp and a former whaling station. Swimming, diving and fishing are options for more leisurely day tours. You can book tours through the Chaguaramas Development Authority.  

True Trini breakfast

Trini food largely blends African and Indian influences — with pepper. The Femmes du Chalet Breakfast Shed on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, is an informal buffet serving up the best of Trini breakfast and lunch to eat in or take out. A local favorite is sada roti (flatbread) filled with choka (seasonal veggies roasted, seasoned and whipped with oil). It’s on the Waterfront, so you can also take in the view of the city’s port.

Tassa drums of Hosay

Who would have thought that a commemoration of the martyring of Shia Islamic saints would be the basis for a street celebration? But that’s Hosay, an annual procession that takes place over three nights in the Islamic month of Muharram. Elaborately decorated tadjahs (floats), which can measure up to 30-feet in length, represent the tombs of the martyrs. Processions are accompanied by rapid-fire tassa drumming which draws thousands to St James, a town on the western side of Port of Spain.

A woman holds a pair of deyas, clay pots filled with oil and is a representation of light Sean Drakes/Latin Content/Getty Images
Clay and coconut lamps called deyas are at the epicenter of the Divali celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago © Sean Drakes/LatinContent/Getty Images

Lighting up Patna Village

Divali is an annual Hindu celebration of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Trinidadians still light traditional clay and coconut-oil lamps, called deyas, in their homes and yards on Divali night and share feasts and homemade sweetmeats with friends and neighbors. The lighting-up at Patna Village in Diego Martin, west of Port of Spain, is open to the public. Expect to see deyas shining in fanciful bamboo frames on the darkest night of the year.

Bocas Lit Fest

The NGC Bocas Lit Fest is a five-day event held at the end of April and features daytime and nighttime readings, screenings, discussions, workshops and street performances. Internationally prominent writers like Mann Booker winner Marlon James from Kingston, Jamaica, appear with local scribes. Penguin Random House named it one of the best literary festivals in the world. All events are free; daytime events happen at the National Library, a modern architectural treasure in downtown Port of Spain.

The Port of Spain National Academy for the Performing Arts was the host venue of Trinidad+Tobago Film Festival in 2017 Trinidad+Tobago Film Festival
The trinidad+tobago film festival held its opening night gala at the Port of Spain National Academy for the Performing Arts © trinidad+tobago film festival

The trinidad+tobago film festival

For two weeks in September, filmmakers descend on Port of Spain drawn by The trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff), an annual international event which hosts most of its screenings in the city. Named one of the coolest international film festivals by Movie Maker Magazine, the ttff includes screenings of cutting edge local and Caribbean diaspora films, workshops and a film marketplace.

Camille Fraser (second from left) and Kendell Ettienne portray a queen and king at the annual Emancipation Day heritage celebration on August 1, 2014 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Sean Drakes/LatinContent/Getty Images
Emancipation Day is celebrated on Aug. 1 and consists of festivals and cultural shows that showcase the country's African roots © Sean Drake/Latin Content/Getty Images

Celebrating Emancipation

Emancipation Day, Aug. 1, commemorates the end of African chattel slavery. Port of Spain hosts a Pan African Festival that peaks in the moving and vibrant Emancipation Day street procession. At the festival’s Lidj Yasu Omowale Emancipation Village in the Queen’s Park Savannah, you’ll find African and local folk food and goods and nightly cultural shows.

The sweetest lime

Liming (hanging out) is a Trini specialty. Trinis have perfected the lime on Ariapita Avenue, a Port of Spain street where you’ll find restaurants, bars and nightclubs of all kinds. Start with an after-work drink at The Hog & Whistle and you might find yourself still there liming late into the night.

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Oruro, Bolivia - February 26, 2017: Tinkus dancers from the group Los Tolkas, performing in Av 6 de Agosto, at the annual Oruro Carnival in Bolivia. The event has been classified by UNESCO as being of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and attracts around 30,000 dancers and musicians.
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