The hub of Trinidad's booming economy, PORT OF SPAIN is also the centre of Trinidad's rich cultural life, with art galleries, panyards and theatres – not to mention the endless clubs and bars - that place the capital at the forefront of T&T's nightlife scene. The city is bordered by the Gulf of Paria on one side and the Northern Range on the other, providing its 51,000 inhabitants with both mountain and sea views. The mish mash of architectural styles, with tower blocks and concrete behemoths, seems rather ugly at first sight – especially downtown – but look closely and you'll spot many fine nineteenth-century buildings along with quaint "gingerbread" houses, so named because of their intricate fretted woodwork.
Thanks in large part to its fine natural harbour, Port of Spain was made Trinidad's capital in 1757. The downtown area is the oldest section of the city, and serves as the shopping and financial centre. Within the compact grid of streets surrounding broad Brian Lara Promenade/Independence Square and bustling Frederick Street, internationally known shops jostle for space with old Spanish warehouses, offices, shops and the paraphernalia of the docks, while the thoroughfares are jammed with traffic, pedestrians and pavement vendors – all overshadowed by the sleek bulk of new government tower blocks, the oldest which are the imposing, 1970s-eque twin towers of the Central Bank.
West of the city centre lies Woodbrook, an elegant middle-class suburb settled in the early twentieth century. Established by Indian immigrants in the nineteenth century, the St James district further west still has streets named after the settlers' home towns.