Around the Queen’s Park Savannah
A mile or so north of Woodford Square, between the downtown area and the hills of the Northern Range, the Queen’s Park Savannah is the city’s largest green space, enjoyed by everyone from joggers and cricketers and Easter kite-flyers to vendors of oysters, corn and coconuts.
Occupying approximately 260 acres of land, the Savannah is the oldest recreation ground in the West Indies and, reportedly, the world’s largest roundabout. It was originally part of the Paradise Estate owned by the Peschier family. In 1817, then governor Sir Ralph Woodford bought it and turned it into a city park. A portion of land in the centre of the Savannah, though, is a burial ground for members of the Peschier family.
Today, the Savannah is like the lungs of the capital city and the concert capital because it is the venue for most big music concerts. At almost any time of day or night, there’s sure to be something going on there. Locals can be seen jogging, cycling and walking their dogs. On the weekends and after 4pm during the work week, the Savannah comes alive with football and cricket games, even more jogging, and couples and families talking strolls or having picnics. You can watch matches from the shade of one of the Savannah’s magnificent old trees: a spreading samaan, perhaps, or a scarlet flamboyant, or maybe a fairytale pink poui.
It is home to coconut vendors whose trucks line the street on the western side. Other vendors sell roasted corn, oysters, pholourie, and there’s a huge and highly contested conflagration of food vendors of every description in a paved area opposite the Memorial Square and National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) on the southeastern end. On the Savannah’s southern flank, the grounds host the cultural shows and competitions that take place throughout the year.
The Southeastern End
The National Museum & Art Gallery:
A stroll around the Savannah’s perimeter, starting from the top of Frederick Street at its southeastern end, takes you past the National Museum on your left. Among its collections are paintings by Trinidad’s first major artist, Michel-Jean Cazabon (1813-88), and exhibitions of Carnival arts, natural history, life during World War II, and the energy industry. The national art collection on the upper floor features work by leading local artists. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm. T 623-5941.
Opposite the National Museum, the Park’s cenotaph is in honour of nationals who served and died in military service. There’s an annual wreath-laying ceremony on Remembrance Day.
The National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA):
This new building, opened in November 2009 for the Summit of the Americas, houses a 1,200 seat main auditorium (the Aldwyn Roberts, Lord Kitchener Auditorium); with additional stages, practice halls and teaching rooms in the University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT) part of the building. [As of late 2013, the Auditorium is closed for repairs]
As the road begins heading west past the huge NAPA compound, the foreign ministry can be seen on the left, sited in one of the city’s finest old houses. You then pass the modern regional headquarters of British Petroleum (bpTT), and the Anglican parish Church of All Saints (1845).
The “Magnificent Seven” (Northwestern end)
Along the northwestern side are seven extravagant mansions nicknamed The Magnificent Seven. They date back to around 1900 and display a dizzying range of colonial fantasy. Many are marked for national heritage preservation. In order, they are:
- Queen’s Royal College (where Dr Eric Williams and the Trinidadian Nobel prizewinner VS Naipaul went to school)
- The Residence of the Anglican bishop
- The Roman Catholic archbishop’s residence
- Mille Fleurs
- Roomor (a private residence)
- Whitehall (for many years the office of the prime minister)
- Stollmeyer’s Castle (or Killarney), the weirdest of them all, partly modelled on Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
After Wild Flower Park and the turn-off to Maraval and Maracas Bay at the Savannah’s northwest corner, the road along the northern side of the Savannah meets Lady Chancellor Hill on the left next to the newly refurbished zoo, which leads up to a lookout point above the city, and is a popular route for joggers.
The Emperor Valley Zoo:
The zoo opened in 1952 and was recently renovated. When it opened, it consisted of 2.5 hectares of land, 10 cages, 127 animals, one gatehouse and a kiosk. Today, it is home to hundreds of animals; visitors can refresh themselves at an outdoor café, and there are paths for animal viewing. It is probably the most extensive collection of local and foreign animals in the Caribbean. The macaws are always welcoming, and the big cats, monkeys, tropical fish and reptiles are popular with children. Open daily 9.30am to 6pm with a modest admission fee
The Botanical Gardens:
These lovely grounds are a favourite among locals for post-zoo picnics, and general exercise and relaxation. Their 25 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds spread back from the Queen’s Park Savannah toward the President’s House. Governor Ralph Woodford and botanist David Lockhart, who is buried in a small cemetery in the Gardens, established them in 1820, making it one of the oldest gardens and oldest collections of exotic plants and trees in the western hemisphere. More than 200 species grow in the Orchid Display House. The Gardens are especially popular on weekends and public holidays when school groups, families, couples and strollers come out to take in their ambiance and charm. Open daily 6am–6pm. Admission free.
Along the northern flank, the Botanic Gardens and the Zoo adjoin the stately (and undergoing restoration work) President’s House — fronted by its own manicured gardens — and new Prime Minister’s Residence & Diplomatic Centre.
The roundabout beyond gives access to the suburbs of St. Ann’s and Cascade (left) and the Lady Young Road which snakes over the foothills to join the highway out of the city heading east. You can see the Queen’s Hall, Trinidad Hilton, and Carlton Savannah from the roundabout beyond the President’s House.
The Eastern Side
Along the eastern side of the Savannah, more renovation and construction are taking place, with banks, restaurants, and government ministries. This end is also where you can enter the eastern suburbs of Belmont, and Laventille further south past Memorial Park.
More in our round-the-island Trinidad tour:
- Touring Trinidad: A walk around the capital, Port of Spain
- Touring Trinidad: the Port of Spain suburbs
- Touring Trinidad: Chaguramas & the northwest peninsula
- Touring Trinidad: Heading north: the north coast & northern range
- Touring Trinidad: Heading northeast: the East-west corridoor & northeast coasts
- Touring Trinidad: The east coast: Mayaro & Manzanilla
- Touring Trinidad: Central & the west coast
- Touring Trinidad: The second capital: San Fernando
- Touring Trinidad: Trinidad’s southwest: the “deep south”