An early morning stroll through the weathered buildings of Belize City , starting in the Fort George Lighthouse area and toward the Swing Bridge, gives you a feel for this seaside population center. This is when people are rushing off to work, kids are spiffed up on their way to school, and folks are out doing their daily shopping. The streets are crammed with small shops, a stream of pedestrians, and lots of traffic.
There are decent art shops and galleries in and around the Fort George area  and Tourism Village, including the Fine Arts Gallery (Fort Street Tourism Village, tel. 503/752-8634, www.fineartsgallerybelize.com , 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri.), on Front Street, which has a nice collection of paintings and crafts.
Inside the Fort George compound is Rachel’s Art Gallery, which carries prints and original art by various artists, including Rachel herself. Around the corner, next to Memorial Park, look for the National Handicrafts Center (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.), an official Chamber of Commerce–sponsored shop with fine crafts purchased directly from artisans around the country.
As you cross to the Southside, you’ll encounter even more traffic and local color. Vendors sell fruits, vegetables, clothing, incense, jewelry, and cold drinks along the southeast side of Swing Bridge. Bliss Promenade skirts the waterfront and brings you to the Bliss Center for Performing Arts (Southern Foreshore, tel. 501/227-2110), which hosts social functions, seminars, arts festivals, and drama series. It is also the location of a theater, museum, and library, as well as the Institute of Creative Arts.