Historic St. Kitts
Sugar, slavery, and the colonial legacy of constant sparring partners England and France are all woven into the history of St. Kitts, where a still formidable (and highly Instagram-able) hilltop fortress has stood guard for more than 300 years.
Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis
A stroll of St. Kitt’s capital, whether started at Port Zante Marina or the centrally located Independence Square, is an entertaining way to learn more about the island’s past. While the French named Basseterre (it means “low land”), the British are responsible for the town’s most recognizable landmark—the green, cast-iron Berkeley Memorial Clock in the center of the Circus, where several streets intersect. Make sure to visit the area, as well as Independence Square, St. George’s Anglican Church, and the Old Treasury Building, which now serves as the National Museum of St. Kitts. Along your walk, you’ll also find duty-free shops and local boutiques, plus a lively produce market by the waterfront if you come on the weekend.
St Kitts & Nevis
In the 17th century, the British and French were fierce rivals for control of St. Kitts. The only thing that eventually brought them together was the existential threat of an attack by the island’s native Carib inhabitants—a fear so real that, in 1626, a joint force of British and French soldiers cornered and massacred more than 2,000 Caribs at what came to be known as Bloody Point. Today, guests can visit the historic site by hiking along the river—which was said to have run red for three days after the slaughter—from the village of Challengers through Stone Fort Canyon, where they can also find 100 petroglyphs carved into the rocks.
Perched high above the sea on the east coast of St. Kitts is Brimstone Hill, a massive stone fortress built by African slaves for the British during the 17th and 18th centuries. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the military stronghold, which took 100 years to complete, is considered one of the best-preserved fortifications in the region. From the top, you can see six neighboring islands on a clear day.
E Independence St, Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis
Dedicated in 1928 after an earlier church was razed and rebuilt, the Immaculate Conception Co-Cathedral is typical of Catholic architecture, with two cross-topped towers, a central rosette window, and a cruciform layout. The church is open for visitors to attend mass on weekdays at 6:30 a.m., Saturdays at 6:30 p.m., and Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
Independence Square lies at the busy center of St. Kitts’ capital city, Basseterre. Known as Pall Mall Square prior to the island’s independence in 1983, it’s always been the center of commerce—albeit a darker business in years past. A careful look at the surrounding historic buildings reveals places where slaves were held prior to being auctioned off in the square. Today, however, an ornate fountain stands at the center of the park, and the grassy areas play host to parties and public gatherings.
This comprehensive museum, which was dedicated in 2002, is housed in St. Kitts’ historic treasury building. Constructed from hand-cut limestone in 1894, the building is still known as the gateway to Basseterre, thanks to its imposing size. Inside, three galleries trace the history of St. Kitts from the island’s indigenous inhabitants to its independence in 1983. Visitors can learn about the sugar, slave, and rum trades as well as carnival customs, and see traditional dress on display.
Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis
To say St. George’s has a rough past is an understatement. It was christened as Notre Dame Catholic Church in 1670 by French Jesuits, then burned down by the English, who rebuilt it as St. George’s Anglican Church in the early 18th century. Over the next two centuries, the church sustained two more fires, plus multiple earthquakes and hurricanes. Like Lazarus, however, it couldn’t be kept down—it was rebuilt time and time again, most recently after being damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Today, guests can visit to learn more about the church’s fascinating history, climb the bell tower, or even attend services.
Adjacent to Romney Manor and the Caribelle Batik factory, Wingfield Estate is a former sugar plantation dating back to the mid-1600s. Here, you’ll find ruins of the rare St. Kitts sugar mills, which were powered by water instead of wind. Also on-site are the remains of a stone chimney, a distillery, and an aqueduct system that brought water from the Wingfield River down the slopes of Mount Liamuiga.