Barbados’ best party and cultural event takes place in the southern fishing village of Oistins every Friday and Saturday night. Hundreds of people gather for the Friday fish fry, a local institution that sees young and old gather to eat fried fish, listen to live music, dance, chat and play dominoes. It’s like walking into a vibrant movie set with an infectious, convivial cheer, the smell of grilled swordfish lingering in the air and diners of every age and origin laughing, singing and dancing to a backdrop of calypso beats.
Oistins is the heart of Barbados’ fishing community and was once known only for its fish market where locals would gather to buy fresh fish and seafood for dinner. A few fish stalls served catch straight off the boat and were later joined by crafts stalls and musicians, until the whole event became the best place on the island for supper.
The fish stalls are there every day but Bay Garden, the beachfront next to the fish market, really comes to life on Friday and Saturday nights when crowds gather to enjoy good value meals and performances by buskers and street performers.
Old men in suits and women in floral dresses waltz along the waterfront, breakdancers perform on a stage, crowds gather around domino games, tourists throng the souvenir stalls and music and laughs leak from the karaoke bars. It’s the best night out on the island, and a wonderful insight into local culture for visitors.
Choose from tuna, swordfish, marlin, mahi-mahi, flying fish, lobster, fish cakes or chicken fried or grilled and served with rice or sweet potato, macaroni pie, breadfruit or cou cou (cornmeal and okra) all of it cooked right in front of you in giant pans. There’s plenty of informal seating, and even tables along the water's edge where you can dip your toes in the water as you eat.
Feast on fresh fish, pit your wits against local domino players, or browse the stalls selling leather goods, pottery, wood carvings, clothing and paintings. Later on, the party takes off with live music or DJs, young and old dancing on the waterfront and plenty of good-natured socializing.
Fish Friday gets very busy between December and April, peak season on the island, come early (most stalls open at about 7pm) or be prepared to queue.
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