The largest city in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amelie is situated on three low volcanic spurs known as Frenchman/ Foretop Hill, Berg/ Maintop Hill, and Government/ Mizzentop Hill. It is located on the southern shore at the head of Saint Thomas Harbor.
With a long and colourful heritage as a base for some of history’s most infamous pirates, Charlotte Amelie has been transformed into an upmarket tourist mecca and now plays host to over a million cruise passengers each year. With a population of around 20,000, it offers a wealth of luxury boutiques, gourmet eating experiences, and private safaris and tours. However, step beyond the chic shopping streets and glitzy malls, and the evidence of the town’s past is everywhere. Charlotte Amalie is easy to explore on foot.
The duty-free policies of the USVI are a magnet for shoppers. Charlotte Amalie has more perfume shops and jewellery stores than any other Caribbean town. Many of the luxury watch and jewellery brands, such as Tiffany and Rolex have stores on Main Street. The outdoor Vendors Plaza is another haven for shoppers as are the Havensight Mall and along Crown Bay docks.
Protected by Hassel Island, the harbour has docking and fueling facilities, machine shops, and shipyards. The deep-water harbour that was once a haven for pirates is now one of the busiest ports of call for cruise ships in the Caribbean, with about 1.5 million-plus passengers landing there annually.
Where to Anchor
Frederik Sberg Cove/Water Island
Offers good protection from all directions apart from southerlies. A good spot for provisioning/short stay. It’s usually packed. Anchorage is always turbulent and can be uncomfortable due to the wake of cruise ships and ferries. Tie your dinghy up at the end in the Yacht Haven Marina.
Close to downtown Charlotte Amalie, Long Bay is normally less crowded than Water Island.
Crown Bay Marina
Although it welcomes yachts up to 200ft, Crown Bay is the only reasonable option near Charlotte Amalie. All facilities including chandler’s service, laundry, and even pet grooming can be found there. 99 berths.
History and Culture
Charlotte Amalie is known for its Danish colonial architecture and historical links with Denmark. Many streets and buildings throughout the City are named after famous Danes.
Not to be missed are the historic buildings such as the 500-year-old Fort Christian, which is the oldest man-made structure in the Virgin Islands; the elegant Legislature Building, the Lutheran Church (built-in 1793); and the iconic 99 steps stairway. A replica of the Liberty Bell and a statue depicting a freed slave blowing a conch shell are found in Emancipation Park, which is a symbol of national pride as much as a tourist attraction.
4km from Charlotte Amalie, Magen’s Beach is often included in lists of the World’s Most Beautiful Beaches. Located on St. Thomas’ north coast it is safe for swimming and snorkeling. All the expected facilities are available: parking, lifeguards, equipment for hire, showers, as well as a good selection of restaurants and cafes bars.
Places of Interest
St Thomas Synagogue
This is the oldest American synagogue to be in continuous use. It is one of the five synagogues in the world with a sand floor. Guided tours are free, though you should expect to be urged to buy some souvenirs and/or make a cash donation. The ancient Torahs are of special interest.
Even if Blackbeards Castle is closed when you reach the top, this steep staircase is interesting in itself as it was constructed in the 1800s from the heavy wooden planks which previously served as ballasts for old Dutch ships. (Ballasts were placed at the bottom of sailing ships to help keep them upright).
Don’t be misled because, despite the name, there are 103 steps.
This fascinating place, one of the most famous historical sites in the Caribbean, is temporarily closed due to a natural disaster – the roof was damaged due to Hurricane Irma in 2017. However, it is still possible to climb to the 5-acre site and enjoy the views, as well as the Skytsborg Tower and Blackbeard’s statue.
Despite its dark past as a slave market, this open-air fruit and vegetable market is a great place to stop and sample the fresh produce, especially the local specialty – genips. These are local fruits also known as ‘Spanish Limes’.
Places to Stay
Although many of the familiar hotel chains have properties on St Thomas, if you’re looking to be close to the cultural sites of Charlotte Amalie, there are 19 hotels that are designated as ‘historic’ or ‘close to historic sites’. These include the Hilltop Villas at Bluebeard’s Castle and the Mafolie Hotel which is located close to the bay and shopping areas.
Places to Eat
Charlotte Amalie boasts a great selection of cafes and restaurants for all budgets. Freshly caught local fish and seafood, as well as tropical fruits and vegetables, form the basis of the local cuisine.
Located between jewellery shops this Café is famous for its huge seafood platters stews and selection of fresh tapas.
Gladys`s Café is one of the famous restaurants for local favourite foods located at the centre of the district of Charlotte Amalie. It is owned by a lady called Gladys, who is always present, and it is only open for breakfast and launch. It is known for its nutritious colourful Caribbean salad.
Things to do
Foodies who want to taste the local culture can’t afford to miss this guided sightseeing tour of St. Thomas. It includes stops at local eateries, a class so you can learn to make St Thomas’ signature rum cocktail, aka as a Painkiller. In addition to sampling Caribbean staples such as curried chicken, you’ll try “fungi”. Not a mushroom but a distinctive local dessert.
Virgin Islands National Park
A 45-minute ferry ride from Charlotte Amalie, on the Island of St John, this National Park reflects the area’s natural beauty- from the lush mountains down to the beaches and coral reefs. The huge park covers around 60% of the land area of Saint John, in addition to 5,500 acres of adjacent ocean, and most of Hassel Island