Main City in St Thomas Virgin Islands – Charlotte Amalie History
Historic Charlotte Amalie
Charlotte Amalie is the capital of the United States Virgin Islands and it holds a lot of history. Fort Christian is a Dano-Norwegian fort that was built starting in 1676 under the direction of Governor Jorgen Iversen on Denmark’s second expedition to St Thomas. It was demilitarized in the 1870s and is now a National Historic Landmark. The fort holds a museum that shares the history of the Virgin Islands from the Stone Age to present day. It also is home to an art museum, a historic Danish furniture collection, and a natural history exhibit.
Check out the Government House as well, a lovely neoclassical three-story white building that was constructed by the Danish colonials from 1865 to 1867. After appreciating the architecture, you can head inside to the lobby where there is a display of art and a history of the islands’ governors.
Charlotte Amalie is built on several steep hills, and the Dutch who first laid out the city implemented brick staircases throughout the city instead of streets in the 1700s. The bricks originally served as ships’ ballast and then were repurposed into stairs. If you were looking for a workout on the island, these historical stairs are perfect!
Head to Main Street in Charlotte Amalie for some duty-free shopping. United States residents can purchase up to $1600 worth of alcohol, tobacco, crafts, and cologne or perfume duty-free. If you are looking for local souvenirs, head to Zora for some custom sandals or check out Vendors’ Plaza for any manner of crafts and art pieces.
Many of the shops in Charlotte Amalie are in historical buildings, so you can easily shop and sightsee at the same time, and stop in a restaurant or bar for some refreshment while you power shop. Keep in mind that many of the shops align their hours with when and how many cruise ships are in port, so hours can be irregular and unpredictable.
Check Out the Botanical Garden
Although it’s not in downtown Charlotte Amalie, the Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden is worth checking out. Constructed over the course of 20 years and recently recovered after hurricane damage, the garden is home to an astonishing collection of orchids, bromeliads, palms, succulents, and aroids. Owner Patsy Breunlin will happily share her knowledge with you and show you around her beautiful space.
Since 2015, the garden has offered daily admission and tours, educational classes and botany workshops, and field trips. It also serves as a venue for small weddings and for commercial photography. You can purchase refreshments in the garden and buy plants there as well to start your own garden at home.
The garden is reasonably priced, with adult day passes only costing $10. Residents can get in for $8 a day, or choose a yearly membership option for unlimited visits and special perks.