Most people are likely drawn to Dominica for its natural delights rather than its urban attractions, but in my opinion it’s worth spending at least a couple of hours in quaint and colourful Roseau before venturing into the heart of the island.
With a few pretty examples of historical architecture, some beautiful Botanical Gardens and a fantastic view from Morne Bruce Hill, there certainly are some good reasons to stick around for a bit. Here’s a list of five things you shouldn’t miss while in Roseau.
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Guided Tour of Roseau and Trafalgar Falls
If you don’t have a lot of time to spend in Roseau or prefer the company of a knowledgeable guide, you might consider taking a guided tour of the city. This one has great reviews and not only includes a sightseeing tour of the city and the Botanical Gardens, but also a trip to the nearby Trafalgar Falls. Have a look at some other options below:
5 Amazing Things to Do in Roseau
Hike to the Top of Morne Bruce Hill
The one thing in Roseau you shouldn’t miss is the climb up Morne Bruce hill, which sits to the east of the city centre. Named in honour of James Bruce, who planned the island’s fortifications in the 18th century, the viewing platform at the top affords some great panoramic views of the city and bay.
We also stumbled across some interesting vestiges from the past up here, including a few ruined buildings and some picturesquely overgrown cannons. More Bruce can be reached by road, but the nicer (albeit more strenuous) alternative is climbing up a footpath called Jack’s Walk, which starts at the northern end of the Botanical Gardens.
Roseau Botanical Gardens
Roseau’s pleasant Botanical Gardens are a great place to spend a relaxing hour or two. You can check out Dominica’s National Flower (the colourful Bwa Kwaib) as well as plenty of other local flora. Two aviaries in the northern section hold noisy imperial Amazon and red-necked Amazon parrots, which are native to the island.
Close to the southwestern gate are the remains of a school bus crushed by a Baobab Tree (fortunately while no one was inside) during Hurricane David in 1979. A dramatic reminder of the potentially devastating effects of tropical storms in the Caribbean. The Botanical Gardens lie directly to the east of the town centre and there’s no entrance fee.
King George V. Street and the French Quarter
This is central Roseau’s oldest quarter, which features some interesting colonial architecture, and is definitely worth at least a short stroll. Many of the historic wooden buildings sport some intricately carved balconies, and all of them are painted in pretty pastel colours.
Some smaller alleyways in the quarter offer a glimpse into the daily lives of the residents. We particularly enjoyed the small Fields lane, which runs parallel to King George V. Street, Roseau’s main thoroughfare.
Old and New Roseau Market
Roseau’s historic Old Market is located at the southwestern end of King George V. Street. Today it mostly deals in crafts and is a good place to stock up on souvenirs at the end of your trip.
Roseau’s New Market on the other hand is still a very much active produce market. There are plenty of stalls selling fruit and vegetables, as well as a small fish market. Located at the northwestern end of the harbour, we found it to be a nice place to mingle with the locals.
Roseau’s Harbour Area
While not the most picturesque harbour area in the Caribbean, Dame Eugenia Charles Blvd. features some interesting architecture and smaller historical attractions. Fort Young hotel, at the eastern end of the boulevard, was build on top of the older ramparts of Roseau’s Fort, which still can be seen around its foundations.
Nearby Peebles park, though small, is a nice place to take a break, while on the western end of the boulevard you’ll find the Old Barracoon, where slaves used to be imprisoned before being auctioned off – A grim reminder of Dominica’s colonial past.
Other Things in Roseau to Check Out
Roseau’s Gothic Cathedral is impressive from the outside, but unfortunately was closed when we were in the city. So was the small Dominica Museum, which is reputedly worth a visit, yet we can’t give you any first-hand information on that.
If you’re in the vicinity of Independence Avenue, you should visit Fran’s Pâtisserie, and try the amazing fruit tarts. Also, if you happen to travel during February or the early March, it’s worth checking the carnival dates. It’s a fun and gaudy affair, and definitely worth dropping by for.
Map of Roseau
All the places mentioned above can be found in this map of Roseau.
How to Get to Roseau
As Dominica’s capital and biggest city, Roseau is usually just a minibus-ride away from most places on the island. Routes along the coast (especially between Roseau and Portsmouth) tend to be served more frequently than those in the interior, where you might have to wait a little longer (or simply hitch-hike).
The Best Hotels in Roseau
We stayed at Ma Bass Guesthouse, which is clean, centrally located and run by the very sweet lady it’s named after. They don’t have a website, but you can call them at +1 767-448-2999. St. James Guesthouse also comes recommended as a good-value budget choice.
Where to Go Next
Soufrière or Scott’s Head, great bases for hiking and snorkeling
Trafalgar, Wotten Waven and Morne Trois Pitons National Park, home to the unique Boiling Lake
Portsmouth, home to the mysterious Indian River and historic Fort Shirley