Saint Kitts and Nevis is one of the youngest countries on the planet, only achieving its full independence in 1983. In spite of this, both the islands that make it up and its capital city have some of the oldest history of the Caribbean, so what is its capital city?
The capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis is Basseterre. Basseterre has been the capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis for the entire duration of the independent state’s existence and was the capital of many of its predecessor colonies, both French and British.
In the rest of the article, we are going to learn about the location of Basseterre, its history, how and why it is the capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis, and what some of the best places to visit there are.
Where Is the Capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis Located?
Basseterre is found on Saint Kitts, the larger of the two islands that make up the federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The island of Saint Kitts is located toward the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, which themselves create a sort of border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The city is built on Basseterre Bay, which is on the southwest shore of the island of Saint Kitts. Although the city itself is located in a low lying valley, it is surrounded by highlands, giving it a nice nestled feel.
Brief History of Basseterre
The French founded Basseterre in 1627. Built on a natural harbor, the city quickly became an important site for shipping and trade. This prominence attracted the attention of the French and later British authorities, who focused their administrative efforts for the region on the city.
Sugar production was another huge part of the city’s economy, with those industries only closing in the twenty-first century as they were gradually replaced by manufacturing industries and the financial sector.
Although Basseterre has suffered at the hands of many natural and man-made disasters throughout its history, these have never led to the city being abandoned or replaced by a different site. These frequent and huge disasters do mean, however, that very little of the original city is still left standing, with most buildings being built following the fire that destroyed much of the city in 1867.
When Did Basseterre Become the Capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis?
Basseterre was originally built in 1627 to function as the capital of what was then the French Caribbean colony of Saint Christophe, which was made up of land on the island of Saint Kitts.
From shortly after its founding until 1660, Basseterre also served as the capital of the French West Indies, which represented France’s colonial administration of the region.
In 1727, the entirety of the island of Saint Kitts came under British jurisdiction, and Basseterre became the capital of the island colony.
In 1882, the colony of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla was created as a political entity, and Basseterre served as its capital. It held onto this status for the entire duration of the colony’s existence. This ended in 1967, when it became an associated state of the United Kingdom.
Basseterre continued to be the capital of this new associated state, which lasted until 1983.
In 1983, Saint Kitts and Nevis achieved full independence under the formal name of the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis. This new independent state inherited Basseterre as its capital city. Basseterre continues to be the capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis today.
Why Is Basseterre the Capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis?
Basseterre became the capital of the newly independent Saint Kitts and Nevis in 1983 because it was the capital of the associated state that came before it. It continues to be the capital because the government of Saint Kitts and Nevis is based there, establishing the city for the purpose.
The city originally became a capital of the many colonial administrations that preceded the current state due to its economic prominence. As early as the seventeenth century, it was one of the most important ports in the Caribbean and France’s most important port in their colonial holdings in the West Indies.
This centered colonial administrative efforts on Basseterre, which brought more growth and development to it. This development brought it more prominence, and the cycle continued through the rest of history all the way to today.
Basseterre continues to be a product of the same economic and trade prominence that originally made it a capital city.
Although the sugar industry that kickstarted the island’s wealth is no longer operating, the city has a strong industrial sector that serves as the economic heart of the country.
Basseterre is also a very important financial center, not just for Saint Kitts and Nevis but for the entire region. The Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, and the St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank are all based in the city and provide services to multiple Caribbean countries.
Best Places to Visit in Basseterre
The Circus and Berkeley Memorial: The Berkeley Memorial Clock tower sits in the middle of The Circus in Basseterre. This beautiful structure was built in 1883 and continues to be one of the most iconic monuments of the Caribbean city.
The National Museum of Saint Kitts: For a more educational trip to Basseterre, you can visit the National Museum of Saint Kitts, which is located in the city at the site of the old Treasury Building.
Saint George’s Anglican Church: This church was originally built all the way back in 1670, but sadly, no part of the original structure is standing. Even though the church has been rebuilt multiple times, the site still retains so much of the spiritual history of Basseterre.
We learned today that the capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis is Basseterre. We also looked at the city’s very rich and important strategic history in the region and learned about the prominence it continues to hold through its financial sector.