Settled in 1612, St. George’s was the first settlement in Bermuda and in 2000 became an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. St. George’s has opened its doors for Christmas and has a host of events and shopping days that show off the town and its heritage at its finest. Head down every Sunday from November 29th until December 25th to shop and celebrate Bermudian business and culture.
Regardless of the season, St. George’s is the historical heart of the island, and as you walk through the cobbled streets, surrounded by centuries worth of heritage, it is hard not to feel proud to be Bermudian.
Climb the steps of St. Peters Church: The crowning gem of St. George’s historical repertoire is St. Peter’s Church. Established in 1612, this church is the oldest Anglican church outside Britain and the oldest Protestant church in continuous use in the Americas. The famous author Jane Austen’s younger brother Charles Austen was married in this same church in 1807. The graveyard surrounding these iconic walls and spires is a stark reminder of the evils of slavery that mar Bermuda’s history. The church is home to one of the oldest black graveyards in the Western Hemisphere. The separate burial grounds were for free and enslaved black Bermudians who made up a third of the population of St. Georges by 1698. Black people were still being buried in this segregated graveyard as late as 1854, twenty years after slavery was abolished. The cemetery is a reminder of the racism that Bermuda still struggles with to this day. It is now memorialized as part of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail.
Get sent to the Stocks in Town Square: The main square in St. George’s in the heart of the town and is home to the Town Hall where on special occasions you can find the town crier dressed in original period costume ringing a large copper bell or the Mayor of St. Georges. The square is also home to cedar stocks where criminals and ne’er-do-wells were made to stand their heads and wrists head in place and pelted with rotting fruits and vegetables. Luckily, this form of corporal punishment was long abandoned, and now the stocks are an Instagram opportunity waiting to happen.
Slurp a Swizzle at Tobacco Bay: It might be too cold this time of year, but the unique rock formations and shallow blue waters make Tobacco Bay an ideal snorkeling spot. If you can’t quite stomach getting wet, rent a paddleboard or kayak and spot glittering parrotfish just under the surface. The bar and restaurant have recently been renovated, and the porch is the perfect place to sip on a cocktail and watch the sun slip below the horizon. If you are into history, this is the site of the iconic gun powder plot that
Take a Stroll to the Unfinished Church: Tucked away behind the main tangle of roads only a ten-minute walk from St. Peter’s Church, the gothic ruins of the Unfinished Church loom far above the palm trees. Striking arches and empty windows create a dramatic effect as the only parts of this building that were completed and still stand are the large limestone walls and pillars. The church’s interior is closed, but once you have had a explore around the grounds, take your time heading back into town. These backstreets are home to the true residents of St. George’s. The walk reveals lovely cottages and an abundance of local flora and fauna, so go slow and savor the shade from palms and cedar and the bright hibiscus or morning glory.
Visit the National Heritage Museum: In May, many of us marched for the Black Lives Matter movement. This year, it seems more important than ever to understand the complex racial diversity and the inherent racism that is still alive on our small island. Take some time and celebrate iconic civil rights movements and honor the social, cultural, and political achievements of Black Bermudians throughout Bermuda’s history. The small museum hosts an extensive collection of artifacts, photographs, and installations memorializing heroic acts of resistance like the 1959 Theatre Boycott that ended segregation in Bermuda and is part of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail that traces the afterlives of slavery in Bermuda and throughout the world.