GUSTAVIA (ST BARTH)

Guide of GUSTAVIA (ST BARTH)

Gustavia is the capital of St Barthélemy, an island located in the Caribbean. St Barthélemy is part of the Leeward Islands, a volcanic group of islands that include the French West Indies, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. It has been a colony for hundreds of years and was initially colonized by the French who named the capital Le Carénage, this name was changed to Gustavia when it was given to the Swedish in exchange for trade rights in the 1700s and was named after King Gustav III. The harbour is very busy and is shaped like a horseshoe with the remains of forts still visible.

A brief history of Gustavia

The island was first inhabited by the ancestors of the Taíno people, who originated from South America and Taíno culture developed in the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus discovered St Barts in 1493 and named it after his brother Bartolomeo. Then in 1648, France claimed the island and then in 1784, it was sold to Sweden in exchange for trade rights. As a result, the Swedish set up the Swedish West India Company and they were prosperous during the Napoleonic wars, then the island was sold back to France in 1878.  The popularity of this island grew massively in 1957 when the American millionaire David Rockefeller bought a property on the island. Today, Gustavia has just over 3000 residents and the population has almost doubled over the past 20 years. The Caribbean residents quite recently set up the Overseas Collectivity of Saint Barthélemy and it was decided that the island would become a tax haven.

What to do in Gustavia

The waterfront has many bars and restaurants to enjoy and the main street has many boutiques and jewellery stores to shop until you drop. For nature lovers, there is a good hiking trail up to Fort Gustave, which was built in 1787 by the Swedish. The fort sits on top of a steep hillside and has great views over the port, that was once the refuge of pirates but today hosts a variety of fancy regattas. 

Beaches around Gustavia

Shell Beach, which is the closest beach to the centre of town, it is close to the port. As the name suggests, the beach is full of seashells that have washed up in the location. It has many services including umbrella and sunbed rental and amusingly, a restaurant named Shellona! Even more isolated and peaceful is the little cove of Gouverneur, located just a few kilometres from the port and it is an unspoiled natural landscape and one of the island’s most beautiful beaches. There is also St Jean beach, located in the northern part of the island, this is a white sand tropical paradise and one of the most popular beaches on the island, it is also the hub for water sports.

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