Menu
Menu
Search
Search
Search
Close

The Americas & Caribbean

About Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis

Capital of the two-island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis, the picturesque port of Basseterre is one of the oldest towns in the Eastern Caribbean. Founded by French colonists in 1627, it lies on the southwestern edge of St. Kitts, where the lush and verdant Basseterre Valley spills onto a tranquil stretch of champagne-colored sand and meets the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, St. Kitts remained relatively untouched by Europeans until 1624, when the British founded the colony of St. Christopher on the scenic island’s shores. This was the Crown’s first permanent settlement in the Caribbean. Three years later, the French established a community on the site that would later become Basseterre.

Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, St. Kitts remained relatively untouched by Europeans until 1624, when the British founded the colony of St. Christopher on the scenic island’s shores. This was the Crown’s first permanent settlement in the Caribbean. Three years later, the French established a community on the site that would later become Basseterre.

St. Kitts Lifestyle and Culture

Celebrated today for its tropical rain forests, cloud-wreathed mountains, and alluring beaches, St. Kitts was prized by European settlers for its rich, volcanic soil. The island became a center for tobacco production, but as the Virginia colony on the mainland began to dominate that market, settlers switched to sugarcane. St. Kitts soon became a sugar-producing powerhouse, with more than 68 plantations operating on the island at the height of the boom.

To meet the global demand for sugar, landowners began importing slaves to work on their plantations. Britain abolished slavery throughout its empire in 1833, but it would be several years more before Kittitian plantation workers achieved true emancipation.

Today, this complex cultural legacy is reflected throughout the island. British influence is evident in the colonial architecture—from sprawling plantation homes to genteel Georgian buildings—and in the enduring appeal of cricket, the nation’s official sport. Africa’s legacy is felt in the beguiling strains of calypso and steel pan music and the annual Carnival celebration. Held each December, the lively festival features masquerades, parades, concerts and “street jamming”: impromptu outdoor gatherings featuring local musicians, clowns and moko- jumbies (stilt-walkers).

St. Kitts Sights and Landmarks

Basseterre’s Independence Square is a grassy expanse punctuated by an ornate, palm-ringed fountain and bordered by gracious Georgian-style homes and the imposing Immaculate Conception Co-Cathedral. Originally called Pall Mall Square, it functioned primarily as a site for legislative meetings. Renamed in 1983, the year St. Kitts & Nevis became a sovereign state, it is a popular gathering spot for locals.

Closer to the waterfront, you’ll find the Circus, a modest roundabout surrounded by shops and restaurants and fashioned after the much grander Piccadilly Circus in London. At its center stands the Berkeley Memorial, including a towering cast-iron clock erected in 1883 to honor a Kittitian planter and legislator.

Closer to the waterfront, you’ll find the Circus, a modest roundabout surrounded by shops and restaurants and fashioned after the much grander Piccadilly Circus in London. At its center stands the Berkeley Memorial, including a towering cast-iron clock erected in 1883 to honor a Kittitian planter and legislator.

The National Museum occupies St. Kitts’s Old Treasury Building, which was built in 1894 as the gateway to the island: All visitors arriving by ship had to pass through the building’s archway. Exhibits here detail the nation’s history, from early settlement and sugar production to independence and cultural traditions.

St. Kitts is also home to Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built by the British during the late 18th century, the sprawling, 38-acre stronghold was once known as the “Gibraltar of the Caribbean.” It sits atop a steep hill about a 30-minute drive from Basseterre, and offers sweeping views of the sea below and neighboring islands.

St. Kitts Entertainment and Activities

You can relive the days of sugar barons on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway. Built between 1912 and 1926 to bring sugarcane from inland plantations to Basseterre’s harbor, this narrow-gauge railway skirts the volcanic slopes of Mt. Liamuiga, crosses numerous steel-girder bridges, and provides glimpses of dramatic black-sand beaches and weathered plantations.

Though many colonial era properties have fallen into disrepair, several have been painstakingly restored and are well worth visiting. One is the 300-year-old Fairview Great House and Botanical Garden. After admiring the beautifully preserved and authentically furnished rooms of the main house, explore the meticulously landscaped grounds, filled with fragrant tropical blooms, chattering birds and vervet monkeys.

Another noteworthy plantation—boasting an equally admirable, six-acre garden—is Romney Manor, located near the original English settlement. Reportedly once owned by an ancestor of Thomas Jefferson, the estate is now home to the celebrated Caribelle Batik Studios. The manor is adjacent to Wingfield Estate, home to the island’s oldest sugar mill and an active archaeological site.

St. Kitts also offers plenty of aquatic activities. From windsurfing, kiteboarding and swimming with dolphins to snorkeling coral reefs and diving among shipwrecks, you’ll find plenty of options for outdoor exploration.

St. Kitts Restaurants and Shopping

As you’d expect from an island nation, seafood reigns supreme in St. Kitts. The country’s rich cultural heritage has also left its mark on local menus, which reflect French, African, Indian and Creole flavors.

A local favorite for more than three decades, Fisherman’s Wharf sits atop a pier reaching into the Caribbean, offering diners superb views of Basseterre. Standouts here include the conch chowder, grilled lobster, and salted fish with plantains and spiced johnny cakes.

El Fredo’s, an unassuming, family-owned establishment on Bay Road, is another restaurant beloved by islanders. From Creole-spiced snapper and curried mutton to stewed oxtail and “goat water,” a spicy stew redolent with clove and cinnamon, the lunch-only menu is traditionally Caribbean.

In Port Zante’s Amina Craft Market, you can find works by local artisans, including pottery, woodcarvings, handmade jewelry and batik clothing. The boutiques and galleries in and around the Circus also offer a fine selection of art and handicrafts.