The Capitals of the World: Charlotte Amalie
Charlotte Amalie is the capital and largest city of the U.S. Virgin Islands, being located on the south part of the island of Saint Thomas and next to Water Island and was named after Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel, queen consort to King Christian V of Denmark; this famous deep water harbor was once used by pirates as their main headquarters in the Caribbean but today, it is mostly used as a cruise ship port of call for the millions of tourists who come in this area every year.
Charlotte Amalie is also renowned for its many buildings of historical importance, also being the home to the second-oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, but this capital city is the center of the island’s shopping scene, many stores which hold various merchandise like products from the island’s plantations, sugar, molasses and other goods, being located on the waterfront side of town, in warehouses that date from the 17th or 18th centuries.
You can start you visiting tour on the island of St. Thomas in this shopping area, along the waterfront highway called Veterans Drive, with shops that have entrances at both sides or go to Main Street, another area filled with shops where the storeowner families live upstairs. Another alternative from where to start the visiting tour is at the 17th-century Fort Christian, the oldest building in St. Thomas with old guns and ramparts ripe made to be explored, which houses a small museum but was originally built in 1680 by the Danish settlers to protect the colony from hostile marauders; it housed the governor’s residence, a jail, a, a place of worship and a police station. Toward the harbor and across the street stands the Legislature Building, home to the sole lawmaking body in the territory, dating back to 1874 and originally serving as the barracks for Danish troops.
Government Hill is home to many historic homes and public buildings, including the Government House, constructed by the Danish Colonial Council between the years 1865 and 1867; the Hotel 1829, built as a townhouse for a French sea captain; and the Seven Arches Museum, located behind the Lieutenant Governor’s office and dating from the 19th century, originally being a Danish craftsman’s residence featuring a total of seven arches to support the staircase.
Haagensen House, a restored historic home, can be reached by following the 99 Steps that lead to Blackbeard’s Hill, home to Green Iguana Hotel and Inn at Blackbeard’s Castle. The 99 ‘step-streets’, which are actually 103, were built by the Danes to solve the problem of getting around the town’s hilly terrain, the bricks used being brought from Denmark as ballasts in the holds of trade ships, while the Blackbeard’s Castle located just above 99 steps is a Danish watch tower built in the late 1600′s, the tower offering a perfect view over the island and a perfect vantage point to spot enemy ships entering the harbor.
If you are still in the town proper than head east to visit the historic Frederick Lutheran Church or the historic St. Thomas Synagogue, with a sand floor to commemorate the departure of ancient Jews out of Egypt across the desert; this buildings dates to 1796 although it actually went up in 1833 and is located behind Main Street on Crystal Gade.
The lovely Magens Bay Beach is a palm-fringed beach and the island’s most popular one, where you can enjoy a few hours of swimming, snorkeling and relaxation, before moving along and continue your walk in Charlotte Amalie. The north and east side of the capital are also worth visiting; here you can find the restored St. Peter Greathouse Estate & Gardens and the Drake’s Seat which offers some great views of the town.
In the island’s south and north parts you can visit the Havensight area for a jaunt up Paradise Point Tramway or follow the southern Route 30 and then Route 32 to Red Hook, the place where ferries come and go to St. John island; from this point head west to visit the several luxury resorts or follow Route 38 in Smith Bay where the Coral World is located, a unique marine park that features an underwater observatory and petting tanks.
The Valdemar Hill Drive, also known by the residents as Skyline Drive, provides lovely vistas of Charlotte Amalie below; if you have the chance of spending more than one day on this island, the options of how to spend your time are plenty and include a sailing day spend on the waters between St. Thomas and St. John or the nearby British Virgin Islands; few hours spent at Mahogany Run Golf Course; go scuba diving with any of the numerous outfitters based in St. Thomas; or take the ferry to St. John for a day of hiking or swimming at the Virgin Islands National Park‘s luscious beaches.
The surrounding islands make some interesting locations worth visiting, even if your main destination was from the beginning Charlotte Amalie. While still in town, you can also visit the Market Square, where islanders come to sell fresh fruit, fish, sauces, and vegetables, the busiest day being Saturday when vendors arrive hours before dawn; and the Camille Pissarro Gallery, Camille Pissarro being considered the father of French Impressionism, being born and raised in the heart of downtown Charlotte Amalie, while the current gallery features artworks created by over two dozen renowned artists including Camille Pissarro himself.
There are some things you have to known about these islands before actually trying to visit them: the Virgin Islands form the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, but the United States Virgin Islands, also called Virgin Islands of the United States, is a group of islands located in the Caribbean, while the north-eastern islands form the British Virgin Islands, simply known as “Virgin Islands”.
The transportation system doesn’t differ too much in these two areas of the Virgin Islands and boats can move freely between the British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The transportation services in Charlotte Amalie are diverse and include buses for visiting tours, ferries, water taxis, beach scooters or you can rent a car for personal use; the U.S. part of the Virgin Islands having 1,257 kilometres (781 mi) of roadways, the Highway 30 (Veterans Dr) passing through Charlotte Amalie, but no railways, since there is not too much land space. Charlotte Amalies also serves as a harbor for many cruise ships all throughout the year; the Cyril E. King Airport, located two miles (3 km) west of the central business district of Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas, serves both St. Thomas and St. John islands, and provides regular nonstop service to many destinations along the east coast of the United States.11