Historic City Center of Paramaribo

  • Posted 2 months ago
  • Art & Culture, Historical sites

Paramaribo is a former Dutch colonial city from the 17th and 18th centuries and is located on the northern coast of tropical South America. The original and very characteristic street plan of the historic center has remained intact. Paramaribo is a unique example of the contact between the European culture of the Netherlands and the indigenous cultures and living environment of South America during the years of intensive colonization of this area: the 16th and 17th centuries. The buildings in Paramaribo reflect this; they are fine examples of the gradual merging of European architecture and construction techniques with indigenous South American materials and crafts.

Paramaribo is a former Dutch colonial city from the 17th and 18th centuries, planted on the northeast coast of tropical South America. Composed of mainly wooden buildings, the simple and symmetrical architectural style reflects the gradual fusion of Dutch and other European architectural and later North American influences, as well as elements of Creole culture, Suriname’s multicultural society. The historic city center is located along the left bank of the Suriname River and is determined by the Sommelsdijkse Kreek in the north and the Viottekreek in the south. Laid out from 1683 on a grid pattern along an axis running northwest from Fort Zeelandia, the main streets follow shell ridges that formed a naturally drained base for buildings. In the late 18th century, Dutch engineers and urban planning skills allowed the city to expand north over swampy land. Important elements in the cityscape are the Fort Zeelandia, built in 1667, and the large public park behind it (Palm Garden), wide, tree-lined streets and open spaces; the presidential palace (1730) built in stone but with a wooden upper floor, the Ministry of Finance (1841) a monumental brick building with classical portico and bell tower, the reformed church (1837) in neoclassical style and the neo-Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral (1885 ) built in wood.

Criterion (ii): Paramaribo is an exceptional example of the gradual fusion of European architecture and building techniques with indigenous South American materials and crafts to create a new architectural idiom.

Criterion (iv): Paramaribo is a unique example of the contact between the European culture of the Netherlands and the indigenous cultures and environment of South America during the years of intensive colonization of this region in the 16th and 17th centuries.


At the time of the inscription, it was recorded that most of Paramaribo’s urban fabric from the period 1680–1800 remains virtually intact, mainly due to low economic growth over the past three decades. The original urban development pattern is still authentic compared to the historically built environment, because no major infrastructural changes have taken place, no building lines have been changed and no high-rise buildings have been constructed in the city center. The wooden buildings are vulnerable to fire and the inner city is vulnerable to poor enforcement of protective controls and to neglect due to its socio-economic situation. Since then, the integrity of the property has been compromised by the insertion of a new flag square, changing the urban pattern around Independence Square and introducing a paved surface in place of green landscape. The integrity of the property is vulnerable to Waterfront development, which whilst it has the potential to contribute positively to the city’s economy, also has the potential to seriously impact the Outstanding Universal Value of the property if it is not properly designed and located.


There are 291 monuments in Paramaribo and in the past three decades only a few have disappeared in favor of new developments. Many of the monuments exhibit a high degree of authenticity due to the use of traditional techniques and materials in repair and rehabilitation work, although some wooden buildings have been replaced by concrete.

Protection and management requirements

The protection of the approximately 250 national monuments of Paramaribo was initially guaranteed by the Monuments Act 1963. In 2002, this law was replaced by a new Monuments Bill (S.B. 5 September 2002 no. 72) that provides for the designation of protected historic districts with control over interventions and in subsidies to owners for conservation works. In 2007 and 2010, two new monuments were added to the Paramaribo monument list and in 2011 the list was further expanded with another 25 official monuments.

To protect the site, the President of the Republic of Suriname has approved a State Decree implementing Article 4, paragraph 2, of the Building Decree 1956 (S.B. October 31, 2011 no. 74). This resolution established an Expert Building Committee (Special Advisory Committee) and designated the historic city center and adjacent buffer zones. The Expert Building Committee assesses new building plans within the World Heritage Site against aesthetic criteria for modern architecture. These special construction criteria have been published in the Government Gazette (Advertisement Gazette of the Republic of Suriname, A.R.S. April 29, 2003 no. 34).

The Paramaribo World Heritage Site Management Plan (PWHSMP) 2011-2015 was published on January 28, 2014.

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