Basseterre is the capital of St Kitts and Nevis and the largest city in the small island nation. It was named by explorers from France in the early seventeenth century, and it is the oldest city in the eastern Caribbean with a long and rich history. Its name is French for "lowland." Although the French ruled supreme here for about 100 years, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, fires, and the damage from various military activities has made the city's elegant Georgian architecture today more English than French as colonists from England expelled the French in 1727.
Many tours of Basseterre focus on this rich history, visiting the most significant buildings to be seen as well as the two main squares. The Circus is actually more of a roundabout than a square, but is still architecturally significant. It was built during the time the British ruled here, and the roundabout is patriotically modeled on Piccadilly Circus in London. Independence Square contains the most things to do in Basseterre St Kitts if you're just strolling around the city. Most of the older buildings, including the cathedral and courthouse, are located here. It was named Independence Square on the occasion of the island nation becoming independent in 1983. Before that, it was named Pall Mall Square after yet another location in London. Ironically, also located in Independence Square is the original slave market where those brought from Africa to work on the sugar cane plantations were bought and sold. The square was built in 1790 primarily to handle this trade in human beings. You can experience some of this history on a ride through plantation country on the scenic St Kitts Railway. Many people combine their tours of Basseterre with this three-hour train and bus tour.
Basseterre is a major Caribbean port, with the ability to handle the largest cruise ships in the world. One of the first things that the thousands of passengers on Caribbean cruises that dock here see is the old Treasury Building. Every slave and every shipment of goods that landed here first passed through the Treasury Building, as did all the sugar transported by ship to Europe. Then one of the first things to do in Basseterre St Kitts that they find is shopping. Pelican Mall, located right at Port Zante, is full of souvenir shops, galleries, boutiques, and jewelry stores, as well as several excellent dining spots.
Cruise passengers often book their tours of Basseterre onboard ship as organized shore excursions. However, the town is quite small, and some people choose to explore it independently. Others look to save money by booking various tours once they disembark directly with various operators, and several of these will have offices prominently located around the port area. Just about everything available on the island can be purchased at the port, including scuba diving and snorkeling excursions, rides on the scenic railway, visits to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Brimstone Hill Fortress, and even treks to the summit of Mount Liamuiga.
Other things to do in Basseterre St Kitts include visiting one of the beaches. Many will gravitate to Frigate Bay, which boasts the liveliest and popular beaches on the island. In addition to calm Caribbean seas, a long stretch of golden sand, and good snorkeling, the beach is dotted with numerous beach bars, music venues, and casual dining spots. The beach is about a four-mile drive and if you don't have car rentals, a taxi will be happy to take you and then come back for you at the appointed time. If you happen to be staying on the island in a more remote location, you might come to Basseterre for a little nightlife or to attend special events. The city and the beach around Frigate Bay are the locations of many of the major events during the annual Carnival (Christmas season) and Culturama (July).