The island’s capital, St George’s, with its terraces of pale, colour-washed houses and cheerful red roofs, was established in 1705 by French settlers, who called it Fort Royale. Much of its present-day charm comes from the blend of two colonial cultures: typical 18th century French provincial houses intermingle with fine examples of English Georgian architecture.
Unlike many Caribbean ports, which are built around bays on coastal plains, St George’s straddles a promontory. It therefore has steep hills with long flights of steps and sharp bends, with police on point duty to prevent chaos at the blind junctions. At every turn is a different view or angle of the town, the harbour or the coast. The tourist board publishes a booklet, Historic Walking Tour of St George’s, which is recommended.
St George’s is one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful harbour cities. The town stands on an almost landlocked sparkling blue harbour against a background of green and hazy blue hills. The Carenage runs around the inner harbour, connected with the Esplanade on the seaward side of Fort George Point by the Sendall Tunnel, built in 1895. There is always plenty of dockside activity on the Carenage, with food, drinks and other goods being loaded and unloaded from wooden schooners. It is planned to redevelop St George’s harbour, moving the cruise liner dock from the mouth of the Carenage to a point further down the southwest coast. The Carenage would then be left to small shipping and all the shopping would be duty-free. So far, a small promenade and shelter have been built.
The small National Museum, in the cells of a former barracks, in the centre of town (corner of Young and Monckton Streets) is worth a visit; it includes some items from West Africa, exhibits from the sugar and spice industries and of local shells and fauna. n US$1, open Monday-Friday 0900-1630, Saturday 1030-1400. Fort George (1705) on the headland is now the police headquarters, but public viewpoints have been erected from which to see the coast and harbour. Photographs are not allowed everywhere. Some old cannons are still in their positions; tremendous views all round. Just down from the Fort is St Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk (1830) also known as Scot’s Kirk. On Church Street are a number of important buildings: St George’s Anglican Church (1825), the Roman Catholic Cathedral (tower 1818, church 1884) and the Supreme Court and Parliament buildings (late 18th, early 19th century). St George’s oldest religious building is the Methodist Church (1820) on Green Street.
The Public Library is an old government building on the Carenage which has been renovated and stocked with foreign assistance. In this part of the city are many brick and stone warehouses, roofed with red, fish tail tiles brought from Europe as ballast. A serious fire on 27 April 1990 damaged six government buildings on the Carenage, including the Treasury, the Government Printery, the Storeroom and the Post Office. Restoration work has been carried out. Also on the Carenage is a monument to the Christi Degli Abbissi, moved from the entrance to the harbour, which commemorates “the hospitality extended to the crew and passengers of the ill-fated liner”, Bianca C (see Diving and marine life above). It stands on the walkway beside Wharf Road. The Market Square, off Halifax Street (one of the main streets, one steep block from the Esplanade), is always busy. It is the terminus for many minibus routes and on Saturday holds the weekly market.
Just north of the city is Queen’s Park, which is used for all the main sporting activities, carnival shows and political events. It is surrounded by a turquoise palisade. From Richmond Hill there are good views (and photo opportunities) of both St George’s and the mountains of the interior. On the hill are Forts Matthew (built by the French, 1779), Frederick (1791) and Adolphus (built in a higher position than Fort George to house new batteries of more powerful, longer range cannon), and the prison in which are held those convicted of murdering Maurice Bishop.