Nassau is both the capital of the Bahamas and its economic hub. With more than 260,000 people, Nassau is home to roughly two-thirds of the country's population.
Nassau is located on the eastern half of New Providence Island. Bay Street, which runs parallel to the shoreline, is the city's main thoroughfare. A stroll down Bay Street brings you Nassau in a nutshell (or conch shell in this case): high-end shopping, sophisticated art galleries, touristy boutiques, international finance, restaurants and pubs for every taste and price range, and tourists from all over the globe. Across the harbor lies Paradise Island, site of the vast Atlantis Resort.
The Bahamas host more than 5 million tourists annually, and most of them pass through Nassau. On any given day, the majority of visitors in the city will be cruise ship passengers, but Nassau has also emerged as a destination for the young and adventurous, especially during spring break.Of course, today's party scene pales in comparison to Nassau's notorious past. Founded by British settlers soon after reaching the Bahamas in 1648, Nassau soon become home port for some of the Caribbean's most feared pirates. The outlaws of the sea even proclaimed a short-lived "Privateers Republic" under the leadership of Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard). Britain's establishment of formal rule over the Bahamas in 1718 brought the age of the privateers to an end, but the past lives on in the Pirates of Nassau Museum.
The past is also on display in Old Town's well-preserved historic buildings. The Bahamas remained a British colony until 1973 and Nassau boasts many fine examples of colonial-era architecture. The Caribbean influence, however, sets the mood of the city, with pastel facades and an abundance of mahogany and lignum vitae trees.
Nassau also revels in a distinctive Afro-Caribbean culture that sets it apart from its colonial heritage. Along with Jamaica, Bahamas has exported a musical style all its own. The music is the backdrop for the Bahamas home-grown street festival, known as Junkanoo. The biggest Junkanoo parades take place on December 26 and January 1, but there are smaller displays throughout the year. Cuisine is also a source of Bahamian pride, and nothing is more Bahamian than conch. The sea snail can be found on menus in every form imaginable: served raw in flavorful salads, fried into fritters or "cracked" conch, stewed in chowders and vegetable dishes, blended with spicy rice and curries, and the list goes on.