The capital, and only official town on St. Barts, the harbourside settlement of Gustavia takes its name from the Swedish King Gustav III after the island was ceded by France to Sweden in 1874. Postcard-perfect Gustavia is defined by its scenic clusters of red-roofed buildings gathered round a turquoise bay on the island’s west coast.
A day spent trekking around the town will reveal a host of historic sites, including a string of 17th century forts complete with a lighthouse and cannons at Fort Gustaf. Evidence of Sweden’s historic influence on St. Barts is still tangible at the Swedish bell tower and the monument of the Swedish Battery of Fort Gustav III. Nearby, the popular location of Shell Beach is a favourite for beachcombers in search of the island’s famously pristine shells.
In the town’s interior, cosmopolitan spoils await with a bustling selection of duty-free boutiques and trendy restaurants overlooking the harbour studded with some of the world’s most expensive superyachts. Here you will find a selection of the island’s top 5-star hotels and swathes of beaches perfect for catamaran sailing, surfing, diving, snorkelling, or just a refreshing dip. Gustavia combines upscale exclusivity with the easily accessible Caribbean charm that can be enjoyed simply by taking a wander along atmospheric cobblestone streets dotted with palm trees.
As night falls, following a predictably spectacular sunset, a selection of beach clubs provide the perfect location to party the night away, including the relative newbie on the scene GypSea Beach Club, and the iconic favourite, Nikki Beach.