Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Reference work entry


Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, is one of the prime ports of the West Indies. The city is on Trinidad’s west coast on the Gulf of Paria that separates the island from Venezuela. Port of Spain has a geometric pattern with squares and parks. Not dependent on tourism, the city has a diversified industry and is the financial capital of the Eastern Caribbean.


The town was first visited by Columbus in 1498. Originally a fishing village named Conquerabia by the native Indians, it was renamed Puerta de Espana (Port of Spain) by the Spaniards. In 1757 it replaced St Joseph as capital. By 1784 Port of Spain had become an important town with flourishing trade and commerce. In 1808, most of the town was destroyed by fire. The 1840s saw the liberation of African slaves on the island and their migration from the sugar plantations to the urban area. The city was the capital of the Federation of the West Indies from 1958–62.

Modern City

The chief airport of the Caribbean, Piarco International Airport, is east of the city. Educational institutions include Fatima College, St Mary’s College and one of the campuses of the University of the West Indies. Petroleum products, rum and sugar are among the chief exports. Other exports include beer, margarine and oils, cigarettes, plastics and building materials. Port of Spain has sawmills, textile mills and citrus canneries. Angostura Bitters, known worldwide, is produced only in Port of Spain. The capital is also famous for steel pan instruments and calypso music.

Places of Interest

Nineteenth century colonial buildings and hotels are geared towards business travellers. With its mix of ethnic groups the city has a diversified character. The centre of the old city, Woodward Square, is surrounded by Whitehall (the prime minister’s office), the palace of the Roman Catholic archbishop, Knowsley House (government ministries’ offices) and the Red House (neo-Renaissance building from 1906). There are Hindu temples and Muslim mosques in the city. Queen’s Park Savannah, once part of a sugar plantation, is a public park with a race track. Next to it is the Magnificent Seven (a line of seven colonial buildings) including Stollmeyer’s Castle, built to resemble a Scottish castle. Celebrations and festivals include the Carnival, the Hosay festival (Muslim religious festival) and the Hindu festival of Lights. Names of public places and streets reflect the city’s links with various cultures, such as Lapeyrouse House, Calcutta Street and King George V Park.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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