Belize City was the colonial-era capital of Belize, but the capital was moved to Belmopan in 1970. Today, the old capital remains the largest urban area in the country and has a population of around 80,000 people.
Belize City is located on the Caribbean coast of north-central Belize and is the capital of Belize District. The city is the largest transportation hub in the country with a busy marina connecting to the islands (including Ambergris Caye), a bustling bus station, and the Sir Barry Bowen Airport (code: TZA), still widely known as the Belize City Municipal Airport. There are also two national highways that begin in Belize City, the Philip Goldson Highway (widely known as the Northern Highway) that connects to Corozal and onwards to the Mexican border and the George Price Highway (widely known as the Western Highway) that connects to Belmopan, San Ignacio, and onwards to the border with Guatemala.
The Philip Goldson International Airport (code: BZE) is located in Ladyville, approximately nine miles from the city but is widely known as the Belize International Airport.
As the former colonial capital, Belize City’s historic downtown district, ranging from the Swing Bridge and extending down to the Fort George area on the coast, is home to some of the oldest buildings in the country, including the Belize House of Culture (formerly Government House, the seat of colonial administration), the Museum of Belize (formerly the colonial-era prison), St. John’s Cathedral (the oldest Anglican house of worship in the Americas), and the Baron Bliss Lighthouse.
Other popular attractions in downtown Belize City include Belikin Brewery, home to the country’s only domestic beer production, and Traveler’s Distillery, makers of Belize’s most popular line of rum. Both facilities offer guided tours and tastings.
Despite a somewhat unsavory reputation, the old capital is eminently safe for foreign visitors as long as they avoid the more rundown residential areas on the outskirts of the city and take commonsense precautions such as avoiding becoming excessively intoxicated. Several upscale hotels, restaurants, and bars are located in downtown Belize City, and a Tourism Village is located nearby that is a popular stopover for cruise ship passengers.
Belize City is a lively, thriving port town. The seafront area is a great place to shop for souvenirs and for music CDs featuring homegrown genres like punta and punta rock. There are also grocery stores, banks, retail outlets, and a number of government offices.