From nature to culture, this Caribbean island capital has something for everyone
The capital of the Caribbean island federation of Saint Kitts (or St. Kitts) and Nevis, Basseterre is perhaps best known for its spectacular beaches. But while those balmy shores are a main draw — with good reason, considering their delicate, powdery sands and abundant natural beauty — the city itself is more than worth even the most seasoned traveler’s time and attention. Though it’s relatively small in size and population, Basseterre — one of the oldest towns in the eastern Caribbean — is big on features, from deeply cultural to purely recreational.
With an estimated population of around 14,000, this port city is located on the southwestern coast of Saint Kitts Island. The French originally founded it in 1627, but the British took control of the island 100 years later and made it the capital of St. Kitts; it remained part of the British West Indies until its independence in 1983. Between the tourism-driven economy and the fact that Basseterre is one of the Leeward Islands’ main commercial depots, it’s a thriving hub of activity. French for “lowland,” its name pronunciation is “bass-tear” (“bass” rhyming with “glass,” and “tear” as in to rip). So, now that you can say it, what to do there? ...
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Basseterre is the gateway to the beaches of St. Kitts, the most notable one being South Friar’s Bay (alternately spelled South Friars Bay). It’s located on the thin peninsula part of the island called Friar’s Bay, which is split into two beaches: North Friar’s Bay on the Atlantic and South Friar’s Bay on the Caribbean side. Popular with both tourists and locals, South Friar’s Bay is considered the better beach largely because of its more gentle waters, which are also clear enough for snorkeling. Beyond that, there’s plenty of other natural beauty, with a variety of flora and fauna in its salt grove and mangrove swamp (which is also a treasured spot for bird-watchers). And an on-site restaurant is a particularly nice place to have a relaxed lunch.
From buzzing Independence Square to the National Museum of Saint Kitts, Basseterre has plenty of attractions to suit all types of travelers. One of the most common is The Circus, the city’s central hub modeled after London’s Piccadilly (not surprising, since it’s a former English colony). In the middle of The Circus stands the Berkeley Memorial, built in 1883 in honor of local legislator Thomas B.H. Berkeley. Its main feature — a large green clock — has four faces, each facing one of the city’s main streets. Beyond its historical significance, this especially vibrant area of town is full of shops, eateries, and more, frequented by a mix of both tourists and locals.
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