Walking Tour of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Island

A Whirlwind Walking Tour of Town

Follow this walking tour through downtown Charlotte Amalie by starting at the Visitors’ Bureau just across from Emancipation Gardens:

Visitors’ Bureau

Island information is available at this centrally located office — just off the Waterfront on Tolbod Gade (across from Emancipation Park). Pick up brochures, maps, and tourist publications. 777-8827.

Emancipation Gardens 

Now the site for many of St Thomas’ official ceremonies, this well-known meeting spot commemorates the emancipation of slaves by Danish Governor Peter von Scholten on July 3, 1848 — 15 years prior to Lincoln’s similar proclamation in the U.S.

Grand Galleria

In 1841, this unique structure opened as the Grand Hotel. It remained a popular place for vacationers to stay until 1975. The block long complex now houses a variety of shops and eateries including a sprawling two-story art gallery.

Frederick Lutheran Church

The congregation was established in 1666, the same year Erik Smidt took formal possession of St. Thomas in the name of the Danish West India Company. The present building was completed in 1793 — and rebuilt in 1826 — after a tragic fire where nothing remained but the walls.

Fort Christian / VI Museum

One of the oldest standing structures in the Virgin Islands, this Danish fortress dates back to 1671. The striking landmark once served as the local jail. Today the fort is home to a museum filled with artifacts that offer keen insight into what life was like for the original settlers of the island. 776-4566.

Legislature Building

Originally a barracks for Danish troops, the building dates back to 1874. This dramatic light green structure with white trim is the meeting place of the Virgin Islands Senate; you can stop in and request a tour — and even watch a session.

Seven Arches Museum

Once a Danish craftsman’s residence, a “Welcoming arms” staircase leads to the second level of the floral-framed front doorway. Dramatic high walls surround this intriguing complex. It was built in the 19 th century featuring a total of seven arches to support the staircase. Your tour of the property includes rooms filled with antique mahogany furnishings. A highlight is an old brick oven housed in a separate cookhouse. A local artist and her husband reside on the property and will host you to a cooling drink in the quiet courtyard. 774-9295.

Government House

This is the official residence of the Governor of the Virgin Islands. The building was constructed by the Danish Colonial Council between the years 1865 and 1867. The architectural design is typical of older homes and public buildings throughout the West Indies. The second floor reception area is open to the public during the week. At the foot of the front steps there is an authentic Danish guardhouse. It was presented as a gift to the people of the Virgin Islands by the Danish government in 1967 — marking the 50th anniversary of the transfer of the islands to the United States.  774-0001.

99 Steps

Stretching from Government Hill to Lille Tarne Gade — Danish for Little Tower Street — 99 Steps stands out as one of several ‘step-streets’ built by the Danes to solve the problem of getting around the town’s hilly terrain. The bricks were brought from Denmark as ballasts in the holds of trade ships. Walk to the top (actually 103 steps) and you will find yourself near the foot of more stairs leading to Blackbeard’s Castle.

Haagensen House

A restored home built in the early 1800s by island entrepreneur Hans Haagensen, this impressive building is just above Hotel 1829. The main house is surrounded by cookhouses, outbuildings and lush, terraced gardens. Colonial elegance is found in the details of salons and chambers furnished with grand antiques.

Crown House

Built in the middle of the 18th century, this stately home was the residence of two past VI governors. It is now a private residence.

Blackbeard’s Castle

The watchtower at this newly refurbished guesthouse and restaurant is well over 300 years old. Originally known as “Skytsborg,” it is considered by some to be the oldest historical structure in the Virgin Islands.  In the 18 th century, bands of pirates — including Edward Teach (the infamous Blackbeard) — were believed to have resided here. The panoramic view from Blackbeard’s is well worth the trek up from town. 776-1234.

Hotel 1829

This structure offers an ideal example of classic island architecture. It was built as a townhouse for a French sea-captain and now serves as an exclusive in-town hotel.

Blue Turtle Art Gallery

Owned and operated by well-known local artist Lucinda Schutt, this spacious in-town gallery represents some of the finest painters, sculptors and photographers in the Caribbean. The distinctive white building with blue trim is easily spotted from Emancipation Post Office. Lucinda is also artist-in-residence at the Ritz Carlton on the East End of the island. She offers painting classes to locals and visitors alike. 774-9440.

Post Office Square

A full service United States post office is located within the strategically located building that marks the beginning of “Main Street.” Be sure to look for murals by Stephen Dohanos. Many of the artist’s works appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

St. Thomas Reformed Church

Not only is this the oldest congregation in the Virgin Islands; it is also the longest standing denomination with a continuous ministry in the mainland United States. 776-8255.

St. Thomas Synagogue / Weibel Museum

There is documentary evidence that settlers of Jewish heritage have resided on St. Thomas since 1665. In 1796, the Jewish congregation built the synagogue, calling it: ”Blessing and Peace.” The original building was destroyed by fire. In 1813, the building was dismantled and a larger one erected. It remains the second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Clean sand is kept on the floor to commemorate the biblical exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The adjacent museum and gift shop features works of interest, ritual items, and Judaic arts and crafts. 774-4312.

Chamber of Commerce

At #6 Main Street, the St. Thomas / St. John Chamber of Commerce is an ideal place to pick up maps and brochures and get acquainted with friendly island business people. The group regularly hosts “Business After Hours” events. 776-0100.

Jonna White Gallery

Housed in a former colonial warehouse on Main Street at, Royal Dane Mall, this gallery features the largest collection of etchings by a single artist under the sun. Intaglio etchings by Jonna White are largely expressionist works featuring landscapes, seascapes, birds, and animals. 774-1201.

Tropical Memories Art Gallery — Royal Dane Mall

Located near the Waterfront section of the historic Royal Dane Mall shopping complex, this festive gallery is home to a variety of artistic styles with a strong emphasis on Caribbean themes. 776-7536.

Camille Pissarro Gallery

Camille Pissarro, the father of French Impressionism, was born and raised in the heart of downtown Charlotte Amalie The home of his birth is a treasured landmark — a lovingly nurtured art gallery on Main Street. Under the direction of Debra Wombold, this history-filled building features artworks created by over two dozen renowned artists including Camille Pissarro himself (1830-1903). 774-4612.

Market Square

People come here from all over the island to sell fresh fruit, fish, sauces, and vegetables. Unfortunately, a recent traffic accident took out the historic overhang. Nevertheless, colorful commercial activities continue to thrive. Traditionally, the busiest market day is Saturday; vendors arrive hours before dawn. In season, genips are a popular local treat. Break open the skin and suck the sweet and sour pulp from the pit. Delicious!

  2 comments for “Walking Tour of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Island

  1. C Weber
    July 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    We are visiting St. Thomas this fall and would like some info on the places to see and thing to do. Thanks!!

    • July 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      Hi,

      Which month are you planning to be in St. Thomas? I have my personal favourite things to do, as everyone else here does as well. For me, getting up and going to Megan’s Bay early with a picnic breakfast can be nice. Mim’s has a wonderful coconut curry lobster, and in my opinion Mim makes the best Bushwhacker. Taking a short ferry ride over to St. John and overnighting in the park to see the stars is also a great experience. A catamaran day cruise out of Bongo Bay also is a lot of fun! Is there anything in particular you are interested in, or just general ideas?

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