Saint Barthélemy is a popular tourist destination geared towards the high-end luxury tourist market. The island is small, its surface is just 24 sq km. Once you arrive on the island you can choose from a wide range of attractions. The capital Gustavia is a small town with picturesque streets, but it is above all a shopper’s paradise. In the quaint harbor you will find numerous fashion and luxury boutiques. But in Gustavia it is also possible to go back in time and explore the vestiges of the period when the island was a Swedish colony.
A BIT OF HISTORY
St. Barth was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 during his second voyage. The Genoese navigator named it San Bartolomé in honor of his brother Bartolomeo. The island was colonized by the French starting in 1648, then in 1665 Saint Barthélemy became a possession of the Order of Malta, but the following year it returned to France. In 1784 Saint Barthélemy was ceded from France to Sweden, the handover took place in 1785. With the Swedish control began the most prosperous period for the island that became a free port. After nearly a hundred years of Swedish control, in 1878, the island was returned to France.
If you like history a visit to the Wall House museum is a must. In the historic center there are some buildings dating back to the Swedish era including the Swedish vicarage house, built around 1790. A typical merchant’s house from 1780 is the Town Major’s House (The Treasury). Among the defensive structures of Gustavia (in defense of the port there were the forts Karl, Oscar, and Gustav) the most important was the Fort Gustaf of which few ruins and some cannons remain. Other historical buildings are the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church.
Take a moment to relax for example by spending a few hours or the whole day on one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Explore the coral reef with its varied fauna. St. Barth has numerous beaches, about fifteen are listed in the tourist office brochure. Among these we can point out the Flamands beach, the largest on the island, with fine white sand. The beaches of St Jean and Lorient are very popular. While two of the quietest are those of Gouverneur and Saline. To the north west is the Colombier beach which is only accessible by boat. To get around the island it is recommended to rent a car.
A POPULATION OF EUROPEAN ORIGIN
The island is home to fewer than ten thousand residents. This small island in the French Caribbean has the particularity, unlike the other Caribbean islands, of being inhabited by a population mostly of European origin. Therefore, more than in other Caribbean islands, the language, cuisine and culture are French.
From a culinary point of view, the island represents a small slice of France in the tropics, here the tradition of French cuisine has only partially adapted to the Caribbean style. On the island you will find mainly restaurants of French and Creole cuisine, but in addition to these there are also restaurants of Japanese and Italian cuisine.
WHEN TO GO TO ST. BARTH
The weather on this tropical Caribbean island is divided into two seasons. Between December and May, you have mild temperatures and fresh air. While between June and November the climate is wetter and the temperatures higher. Hurricanes can occur in the months between June and November, but are usually more frequent between September and October. Temperatures are constant throughout the year and vary between 27 ° in winter and 30 ° in summer. The sea water temperature can reach up to 29 °. The best time to visit Saint Barthélemy is from December to June.
HOW TO GET TO ST. BARTH
The island can also be visited on a day trip, there are several daily ferries that connect it with the port of Marigot on the island of Saint Martin. The time taken for the crossing between Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy varies between 30 and 45 minutes. Some tourist agencies in Saint Martin also organize day trips. There is also an airport on the island with flights from some Caribbean islands including Saint Martin and Guadeloupe.
STAYING ON THE ISLAND
If you want to stay on the island for a few nights, Saint Barthélemy offers a wide range of accommodation in hotels and private homes. You will find both luxury facilities and guest house accommodations. While in the real estate agencies of the island you can also look for a house for rent or an apartment for longer stays.