St Barts is a Caribbean island synonymous with luxury, but it’s also one of the most culturally vibrant in the region. This book explores the island’s rich heritage through its historic landmarks, local festivals, and cuisine. From fresh seafood to Creole dishes, the author highlights some of the island’s finest dining establishments.
The island first saw human habitation when Christopher Columbus passed by in 1493, naming it for his brother Bartolomeo. Arawak Indians and then Carib Indians occupied the island for another century before it was settled by French colonists in 1648. A few years later, the island was made a possession of the Order of Malta. In 1763, it was reoccupied by sailors from Brittany and Normandy, who made a successful colony. During the ensuing era of buccaneering, the port became an important stop for ships bringing in booty from raids and plundering Spanish galleons. Merchants sprung up in St Barts and the economy boomed. Overflowing warehouses surrounded a port packed with vessels from many nations, and a mercantile tradition was established that has lasted to the present day.
Today, the capital of St Barths, Gustavia, offers a glimpse into the island’s rich culture. Streets are lined with rust-colored buildings, art galleries, and designer shops selling the likes of Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and Cartier. When you need a break, head to a waterside cafe for a refreshing tropical drink and a bite to eat. You won’t find any fast food restaurants or beach vendors hustling for business here.
St Barths’ culture is reflected in its architecture, which embraces the landscape rather than dominating it. Even the posh hotels are designed to complement their surroundings. “The result is a rare, photogenic cohesion,” writes Chamberlain. “Nothing here looks out of place or architecturally dissonant.”
In addition to exploring the island’s most famous attractions, such as the Church of Saint Barts and the Gustavia harbor, the author also introduces readers to lesser-known spots. The neighborhood of Terre Neuve, for example, includes the charming Corossol village, which offers a look back in time with its quiet beaches and traditional fishing boats. Just up the road, you’ll find Au Regal, a quirky restaurant-bar that serves unique Creole dishes and cold beer.
St Barths is home to a host of international festivals and events, from yachting races to the annual Gourmet Festival. During the winter, the island is a playground for New Year’s Eve revelers from all over the world. In spring, sailing enthusiasts enjoy the Bucket Regatta and Les Voiles de Saint-Barth Richard Millet. And during the fall, culinary stars gather for the annual Gourmet Festival.