Basseterre City Tour and Shopping Trip
Duration: Half Day
Exploring the historic city of Basseterre during your holiday in St Kitts is a must for those who want to delve deeper into the island’s rich colonial heritage. Being the first French capital in the Western Hemisphere and one of the oldest towns in the Eastern Caribbean, it has much to offer its visitors. This tour will reveal the city highlights before giving you the chance to browse some of the best shops on the island.
Set against the dramatic backdrop of St. Kitts' lush green hills, and framed by the pristine setting of the natural harbour and sparkling Caribbean Sea, Basseterre is one of the most picturesque towns in the Caribbean. It is also one of the oldest and most interesting due to its rich British and French heritage. Founded by French settlers in 1627, the city originally served as capital of the French colony of St. Christophe, which comprised the northern and southern sections of the island, whilst the centre was occupied by the British. Basseterre didn’t become the capital of the entire island, however, until the British gained full control over the French in 1727. As you explore the city you will notice that it has retained traces of both the French and British occupation, reflected mainly through the elegant colonial architecture and monuments.
During the tour, your informative local guide will unravel Basseterre’s fascinating past, which is one of the most turbulent of all the Caribbean capitals. Despite a tragic history of wars, earthquakes, floods, fire, hurricanes and riots, many of the original buildings still exist in downtown Basseterre after careful restoration. The town itself is actually very small, with only four main streets laid out in a grid pattern, and city life tends to revolve around the two main centres: Independence Square (formerly Pall Mall Square) and the Circus. Built in 1790, Independence Square contains most of the older buildings such as the beautiful St. George's Anglican Church, Georgian House, Spencer Cameron Art Gallery and the Co-Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. This historic square was also the site of the original slave market, where African slaves were temporarily quartered.
In contrast, the Circus is the hub of modern activity, where both tourists and locals congregate to shop, eat and drink. This Georgian roundabout was reputedly modelled on London's Piccadilly Square and there are similarities. The centre is dominated by the Berkeley Memorial Clock Tower, a stately Victorian monument that was erected in honour of Thomas B.H. Berkeley, a planter and president of the St Kitts General Legislative Council in the 1880s. Another famous city landmark nearby is the 19th century, domed Treasury Building on the waterfront, which serves as the entrance to the city as well as a reminder of the island’s importance as a centre of sugar production. Today, this historical building houses the National Museum of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
After all the sightseeing, it’s time for some serious shopping. Downtown Basseterre hosts a variety of shopping malls, boutiques and duty-free shops, where you can buy all sorts of goods from bright funky clothes and beachwear to leather, jewellery, perfume and liquor at discounted prices. You will also find a good selection of independent stores selling beautiful island crafts made by talented local artisans. Exquisite artwork, batik and jewellery made from raw materials such as dried coconut shells, wood, metal stones, sea shells and colourful fabrics can be found here, as well as locally produced items such as homemade jams and St. Kitts' very own liquor – Cane Spirits Rothschild (CSR) – made from local cane juice. This is a great opportunity to pick up unusual gifts and souvenirs to take home with you.
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In a joint partnership with British Airways, St Kitts has branded ten London taxis with images of the St Kitts' Scenic Railway, and put them on the streets of London. The campaign will run for 12 months and will promote the Caribbean nation to Londoners going about their daily lives. Promotional initiatives will take place throughout the year including social media activities and competitions.
Following the success of this year's festival, St Kitts and Nevis in the eastern Caribbean has announced that it will host the second Nevis Blues Festival next 14-16th April 2016, showcasing the best blues talent from around the world in the idyllic setting of Nevis' Oualie Bay beach.
The St Kitts Tourism Authority has announced that the annual St. Kitts Music Festival will take place from 25th to 27th June, 2015. This year's event will feature live music from RandB, jazz, hip-hop, reggae, rock, calypso, gospel and contemporary music artists, and previous headliners have included John Legend, Lionel Richie, and Shaggy.