Sights and Attractions
With all the shops, traffic, and people, it's sometimes hard to remember that Charlotte Amalie really is part of the Caribbean and not an annex of New York, Atlanta or Miami.
But the colorful names of plants will remind you that you're in the West Indies. "Catch and Keep" is the thorny vine that sticks to everything. The trunk of the "Monkey Don't Climb Tree" bristles with thorns. "Jump Up and Kiss Me" is a beautiful scarlet blossom. And the "Nothing Nut" is just that, good for nothing.
Instead of starting at the waterfront, this walking tour begins with a good overview of the city from Government House.
1. Government House: On Government Hill on Kongen's Gade, this is the residence of the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Visitors are allowed on the first two floors of the three-story building. The floors are made of wood and the walls are decorated with paintings and murals by Camille Pissarro, the impressionist who was born here and whose house you will see later on this tour.
2. 99 Steps: Next to Government House, these steps date to the 1700s and go from Government Hill to Lille Tarne Garde (Danish for "Little Tower Street"), a shortcut up the hill. If you climb them, count and see how many you come up with.* Many such staircases were built to get up and down the steep hills here.
3. Hotel 1829: Also on Kongen's Gade, this 19th-century, Spanish-style building with its narrow passages, dark bar and picturesque open courtyard once was one of the island's better restaurants. It also still functions as a hotel. You are welcome to look around the public rooms.
4. Frederick Lutheran Church: At the head of the street leading to Fort Christian , the building went up in 1793, replacing two earlier structures lost to fire (1750 and 1789). It's still the second-oldest Lutheran church in the Western Hemisphere. Refurbished in 1826, this was the official church of the Danish West Indies.
5. Grand Hotel: Built in the 19th century, it now houses offices and gift shops. This can be a good stop for T-shirts, seashells and Haitian woodcarvings. It opened in 1840 as a hotel and coffeehouse. The Greek Revival building had a third story, but lost it to hurricane damage around 1896.
6. Emancipation Park: Containing a gazebo and a replica of Philadelphia's Liberty Bell, the park commemorates the freeing of the slaves in 1848. Official ceremonies are still held here occasionally. Grab a bench, relax and watch the local children at play.
7. Fort Christian: The dark red walls of this fort were begun in 1672, as soon as the Danes arrived. That first colony was so small everyone could fit inside the fort, which later served as a jail, governor's residence, courthouse and church. A museum of local history is located in the former dungeons. Along with Blackbeard's Tower, it also claims to be the oldest standing structure in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Who to believe--pirates or government? It's a tough call.
* There are 103 steps at 99 Steps.