Charlotte Amalie is the capital of Virgin Islands. It is also the largest city of Saint Thomas island. It is clear that the city’s economy is based on tourism: in 2004, almost a hundred times as many tourists visited the city than its population is. In numbers, this means around two million tourists.
The majority of visitors arrive with a ship as part of a cruise ship vacation. Over 1.5 million tourists landed in the city’s harbor. If the deep-water port was a heaven for pirates now it’s a heaven for visitors.
There is only one thing about Charlotte which you could find weird and may not like: the people travel with cars made for right-hand driving countries but with left-hand drive rules.
Like Philipsburg in the West Indies, Charlotte Amalie also practices the no duty tax policy. However, there is also a difference compared to other Caribbean cities, this is that the limit is twice as high, meaning that visitors can bring with them goods valuing up to $1,200 without paying duty. Of course, the locals soon realized that this is a perfect opportunity and uncountable shops opened in just a few years. Foreign famous companies also operate shops in the city, just like world-wide-known designers boutiques.
The history also plays an important role in the city’s life. Several guided tours are operating to show visitors the beautiful sights of the town. One of the most popular attractions is the Fort Christian, which was built by the Danish to defend the settlement near it. Over the years, it was used as Government House, jail and even as church. In the late 1980s it became, what it is these days too, a history museum. Several exhibits can be seen if you visit this fortress. Even the roof of the building is an exhibition in itself. Of course, not the roof itself, but the amazing views of the harbor from up there.
The Emancipation Park is the home of official ceremonies and several local events. Just across the street is the Grand Hotel. Until the mid 70s, it was used as a hotel but today it houses restaurants and some shops. Not far from this is the Hotel 1829, which operates as a hotel to date. If you take a few steps to the left of this hotel, you will see the 99 Steps, which as its name says is a hillside made of steps. However, there is an error in the name of this landmark: in reality, there are 103 steps. It is not known why it is called 99 Steps.
If you don’t want to count and see if it is true that there are 103 steps, you can still visit the Government House. Visitors are only allowed in the lobby of this neoclassical white building. It is however well worth to enter and admire the painting in the lobby and the furniture. In a narrow alley on the same street is the Seven Arches Museum. This 18th century Danish building was restored and these days everybody interested can admire the West Indian architecture as well as the exhibitions inside in exchange of a small donation.
If you choose to climb the 99 Steps, you can visit the Blackbeard’s Castle. As you may have already guessed, the watchtower got its name after a pirate, who – according to the legend – used to watch his and the enemies’ ships from the top of the tower. Today life-size pirate statues make you feel like in the 18th century.
If you want to explore the ocean, too you can visit the famous Atlantis Submarine. From the board of Atlantis XV you can watch the exciting underwater world. The same company gives you the opportunity to participate in sailing trips.
If you want even to conquer the sky the St. Thomas Skyrides takes you to over 200 above the city. From here, you can enjoy the beautiful views of the Magens Bay. If this wasn’t enough, you can pay a trip at the exciting helicopter adventure.
While in the city, you shouldn’t miss the Coral World Marine Park where you can touch various sea plants and animals at the specially arranged pool. The Wild Thing Park gives you the opportunity for an adventure of your life.
The nightlife scene in Charlotte Amalie is also a very diverse one. One of the most popular bars in the city is Cabana Bar. Here you can enjoy jazz music and live piano. Those who would like to try out how it is to sing in front of a crowd should visit Turtle Rock Bar, where karaoke and live music are at home. The Green House is another very popular party place. The DJ mixing club and house music guarantees that the dance floor is never empty.
It doesn’t matter if you want to spend a family holiday or week out with your friends, Charlotte Amalie is the perfect place for both.