Saint Barthélemy

Understand

St Barts is a popular tourist destination and is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. The Island’s economy relies upon the nearly 200,000 travellers who visit every year, drawn by the island’s tropical climate, white, sandy beaches, and sophisticated lifestyles. St Barts’ is a French-speaking island and its customs and traditions are greatly influenced by French culture. The capital city of Gustavia offers all the comforts of urban life, including boutiques, restaurants, and dozens of hotels and villas, while more rural areas of the island offer a beautiful natural landscape for visitors to explore.

For more information call or visit The Tourism Centre The Office Municipal du Tourisme, 011 590 590 27 87 27, located on quai Général de Gaulle, Gustavia.

History

Columbus discovered St Barts in 1493 and named it after his brother Bartolomeo. In 1763, French mariners from Normandy and Brittany settled the island. With the quantities of Spanish galleons they had acquired the French buccaneers found the place suitable for living.

St Barts remained French until 1784, when it was sold to Sweden by one of Louis XVI's ministers in exchange for trading rights in the Swedish port of Gothenburg. Now under Swedish rule, St Barts was very useful as a trade and supply centre for the colonial and revolutionary wars of the 18th and 19th century. When captains captured a prize or raided a settlement, they brought it to St. Barts and resupplied their ships. This period of prosperity was short-lived, however when motor vessels replaced sailing ships.

In 1878 the island was bought back by the French. To this day the free port status of the island remains. Swedish mementoes such as architecture, a cemetery, a few street signs, and the name of the harbour and capital, Gustavia are still the same as well.

In 1946, certain islands, including St. Barts, were expected to abide by the same rules that they do in France. The Department of France gave the citizens French passports, were expected to pay French taxes, and obey laws passed in Paris. Then In 1957, the American millionaire David Rockefeller bought a property on the island. It quickly grew to an upmarket tourist destination that everyone wanted to visit.

Within the past twenty years St. Barts’ population has more than doubled. Natives don’t want to leave, and outsiders are arriving daily to make a new home for themselves. In recent years a few of the Caribbean Islands including Saint Bart engaged in a process of political evolution. On July 15, 2007 and the islands first territorial council was elected and the new Overseas Collectivity of Saint Barthélemy was born. There were 19 members to the council and they elected Bruno Magras as the first president.

Because of the laws passed by the council St Barts is now tax-free and the natives love the lives they live. Everyone who wants somewhere to relax and enjoy the beautiful Caribbean air should consider coming to visit this island.