Why is Paramaribo the Capital of Suriname?

Why is Paramaribo the Capital of Suriname?
Why is Paramaribo the Capital of Suriname?

The old country of Dutch Guiana, now known as Suriname, is one of the smallest countries in South America. Suriname shares its northern border with the Atlantic Ocean, making it a convenient port and it also shares borders with French Guiana, Guyana, and Brazil.

The capital of Suriname is Paramaribo. Like most countries that have access to oceans, major rivers, and harbors, Suriname chose Paramibo because of its location next to the Atlantic Ocean. 

While the capital doesn’t sit directly against the Atlantic Ocean, it’s not far down the river that feeds from it, known as the Suriname River. The population is roughly a quarter million, with a much higher population when you take the surrounding areas into account. 

Where is the Capital of Suriname Located?

Where is the Capital of Suriname Located?
Where is the Capital of Suriname Located?

Paramaribo is located on the banks of the Suriname River, very close to the Atlantic Ocean, on the northern edge of the South American continent, and almost directly in the center. The economic value of being a port city is reflected in industrial production. 

Paramaribo is responsible for the vast majority of aluminum, food, wood, and textiles throughout the country. The economic power of Paramaribo’s location made it an indispensable commodity for the rest of the country. 

Paramaribo is southwest of Nieuw Amsterdam, north of Lelydorp and Onverwacht, and east of Groningen and Boskamp. The vast majority of all of the cities in Suriname are located on the northern edge of the country, most of which surround Paramaribo. 

Brief History of Paramaribo

Cannons on the coast of the Suriname river in Suriname, South America
Cannons on the coast of the Suriname river in Suriname, South America

Suriname began as a Dutch Colony, which is surprising given the immense level of Spanish interest in the area at the time. At the time, the Dutch just wanted to use the area as a trading post and nothing more. It was established in 1613 by Nicolaes Baliestel. 

This trading post was in heavy competition with other settlers in the area, namely the English and the French. Later, the trading post was completely abandoned and stayed that way for several decades. 

In the 1650s, the British Governor of Barbados, Lord Francis Willoughby, established the town of Paramaribo, even though it wasn’t called by that name anymore. He then constructed Fort Willoughby to defend the town and its borders. 

When King Charles II granted Willoughby permission to settle the area, Lord Willoughby then put Paramaribo under a state of massive expansion, growing the city’s borders to nearly what it is today. 

The Second Anglo-Dutch War put an end to that and the area was conquered and taken by the Dutch in 1667. Once again, Suriname and Paramaribo became a Dutch colony, thanks to the Treaty of Breda

Once the Dutch settled in, Paramaribo became the leading city of the new Dutch colony, despite the fact that it was considered the capital of Suriname nearly since its inception throughout the colonial days. The original Fort Willoughby was renamed Fort Zeelandia as well.

The population of Paramaribo exploded in the mid to late 1800s, as a result of freeing the slaves in 1863. Despite decades of off-and-on fires that devastated the city, it has grown into a fairly prosperous city and the capital of Suriname. 

When Did Paramaribo Become the Capital of Suriname?

The synagogue Neve Shalom and the Mosque 'Keizerstraat' in Paramaribo, Suriname
The synagogue Neve Shalom and the Mosque ‘Keizerstraat’ in Paramaribo, Suriname

Technically, Paramaribo has always been the capital of Suriname. However, it was never the official capital of Suriname until the country became independent in 1975, with Paramaribo selected as its capital.

Paramaribo, as a city name, has existed since 1603, despite the Dutch trying to rename it a couple of times (the local population refused to adhere to any name changes for the city). Despite the fact that the city has changed hands numerous times, Paramaribo remained the name of the city. 

While no one may have officially called Paramaribo the capital of Suriname, it’s always been considered to be just that. Suriname became an independent nation, from the Dutch, in 1975. As a prosperous city, Paramaribo was a no-brainer for the leading role as the capital of the newly independent Suriname.

Why is Paramaribo the Capital of Suriname?

For the same reason that many coastal cities become capitals. It makes sense from an economic standpoint. Paramaribo was one of the first established towns in the area. In fact, it was established as a trading post, and for very good reason. 

Its location makes it a crucial port for the import and export of trade goods and to feed its industrial machine. Paramaribo is not just a port—it’s also the center of industrial activity throughout the country. 

Half of the entire population of Suriname lives in Paramaribo. It’s the economic center of activity in the country and it’s not even a close comparison between other cities. 

Best Places to Visit in Paramaribo

Dutch colonial history shines through in Paramaribo, despite its racial and cultural diversity. If you’re interested in Dutch history, there’s a lot to be found half a world away from the Netherlands.

The Central Suriname Nature Reserve is one way to get a bird’s eye view of the wildlife and natural beauty of the region. It’s the largest nature reserve in the country of Suriname and contains everything from spider monkeys to electric eels and wildly colorful birds of paradise. 

The JodenSavanne is a unique slice of Jewish history in the area, having been established by Spanish Jews as an agricultural community in the 18th century. You can travel here to explore the ruins of the original Jewish synagogue.

The Presidential Palace of Suriname should be high on your list as well. An immense building entirely molded in Dutch architecture and constructed in the 1700s. A major part of the Presidential Palace is the Garden of Palms, which in itself is another major tourist site in the country.

Whenever there are diplomatic visits to the area, they mostly take part in the Garden of Palms. 

In Closing

Paramaribo is the capital of Suriname and despite the fact that it hasn’t always been official, its always been considered the capital of Suriname. It didn’t reach what most would consider the official honor of being named the capital until 1975 when Suriname gained its independence. 

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!