Belize City sits on a small peninsula along the coast, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. With its population of about 80,000, Belize City is the country’s commercial and historical center, and the old capital.It was in the mid 1600’s that the land known today as Belize was first settled. In the next century, after buccaneers (pirates) took refuge in the safe waters inside the reef, they also saw the economic value of cutting logwood. Eventually the settlement grew, with an increasing number of families and their slaves.
Even though the main area of residence for the more affluent was St. George’s Caye, majority of the Baymen, as they called themselves, settled in what was then Belize Town. The settlement was established at the mouth of Haulover Creek in the 1700s. It is this creek that divides the city into the north and south sides.
The city was hit by two major hurricanes in history, one in 1931 and the other in 1961 (Hurricane Hattie). The latter was the reason for the subsequent transfer of the capital to inland Belmopan. Some of the old colonial architecture and wooden structures remain, but more and more modern buildings and homes are being built, particularly in the more affluent areas.
Belize City is the hub for travel around the country. Even though there are ports of entry in the north, south and west of the country, airline and cruise passengers arrive into Belize City. The Phillip Goldson International Airport is located in the area called Ladyville, which is about ten miles from downtown Belize City. Today, the city is expanding outward, closer to the airport. The Municipal Airstrip is located in the city, which is utilized by local commuter aircrafts. The Fort Street Tourism Village, the terminal for cruise passengers, is located near the heart of downtown. The city is also the base for public transportation, car rental companies, conference facilities and larger hotels. Banks, embassies, and major suppliers are also located here.
Even though Belize City is the largest urban area in the country, it is still small enough to get around quickly and easily. It is probably the only area in the country that has the most diversity of ethnic groups in one place. The city has an interesting personality, even though some areas appear run down. Reports of crime have affected the reputation of the city, but with common-sense precautions that would apply in any city, visitors can experience a unique culture. There are some areas to stay away from, but you should feel comfortable to walk downtown, or in the hotel zone. The city’s attractions include the Museum of Belize, Baron Bliss Lighthouse, National Handicraft Center, Fort Street Tourism Village, Belize Marine Terminal & Maritime Museum, Swing Bridge, Supreme Court Building, Battlefield Park, the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts, House of Culture, St. John’s Cathedral, and Yarborough Cemetery.