ST. CROIX

Established in 1952 as the first National Park Service destination in USVI, Christiansted National Historic Site packs a lot of history and lore into its seven acres that are best explored on foot. Built in 1749 in a diamond shape around a small courtyard, yellow-hued Fort Christiansvaern is the best-preserved colonial fortification in USVI. It offers stellar harbor views from its seafront location and features exhibits on Christiansted history, as well as life on the island. Grab a self-guided tour map to make the most of your experience. Nearby, see the Danish West India and Guinea Company Warehouse, which served as the center of Danish commerce on Saint Croix during the 18th and early-19th centuries.

The Christiansted Government House offers one of the island’s most beautiful examples of neoclassical colonial architecture. Built in the mid-1700s as a merchant’s home, this grand Danish colonial building was created from the union of two older townhouses. Until 1871, it was used as the Danish governor’s residence. Inside you’ll find reproductions of original furniture, while outside features a European-style garden with trees, flower beds and walkways. Today, the building serves as the site of government social and cultural events.

Dating from the 1740s, Estate Whim Plantation Museum is the island’s oldest sugar plantation. Located on 12 lush acres on the west end of St. Croix, it includes a colonial-era great house with furnished rooms filled with original artwork and historic items. On the plant-filled grounds, you’ll find a restored windmill, cooks’ house, servant quarters and ruins of the sugar factory. Guided tours offer insight into Estate Whim’s past. The Living Museum spotlights the stories of those who once lived here with demos by local Crucians on cooking, music and conch shell blowing.

ST. JOHN

Cruz Bay, St. John’s vibrant main town, features a colorful mix of historic and contemporary Caribbean architecture. Pastel-hued cottages, quaint restaurants, waterfront bars and small boutiques can all be found in the 28 square miles that make up Cruz Bay, which was given National Historic District designation in 2016. It’s this eclectic combination of old and new, sometimes in the same space — don’t be surprised to see an of-the-moment jewelry shop housed inside a traditional West Indian cottage — that gives Cruz Bay its unique charm.

Odds are, Mongoose Junction is already on your must-visit list thanks to its interesting boutiques, fun restaurants and laid-back bars. But this North Shore Road complex is also noteworthy for its architecture. Inspired by the Danish plantations of the 1800s, Mongoose Junction utilizes local stone, brick and coral in its design, the colors of which pair beautifully with the tropical plants found throughout the two-story courtyard structure. Built in 1978, this one-of-a-kind shopping plaza is the perfect spot for a spending a leisurely afternoon.

As libraries go, it’s hard to find a more historic setting than the building that houses the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library & Museum of Cultural Arts. Newly renovated, the library is housed in a former sugar plantation great house and horse-driven mill. Located on a hill above Cruz Bay, there’s much more going on here than books, with the building’s Danish-style “welcoming arms” staircase offering a clue of what’s inside. (Be sure to look to your right before entering to see a small family graveyard.) Built in the early 1700s, a fire 150 years later left it in ruins until reconstruction began in 1979. The recently refurbished library reopened in summer 2023.

ST. THOMAS

As the second-oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, Charlotte Amalie’s St. Thomas Synagogue is full of stories of faith and resilience. Erected in 1833, the building is made of local stone, ballast brick from Denmark, and mortar made of molasses and sand. Local mahogany was used to craft the pews. Sand-covered floors represent the courage of Sephardic Jewish ancestors. Following a detailed restoration in 2000, the synagogue was recognized as one of only three National Historic Landmarks on the island. Sign up for a guided tour or visit the gift shop, which features items made by members of the congregation.

Located on Charlotte Amalie’s waterfront, across from the Emancipation Garden, Fort Christian has experienced many lives since it was built back in the mid-1700s. It’s been a Dano-Norwegian defense post, town center, governor’s residence, police headquarters and jail. These days, the lovely red brick building accented with diamond-shaped bastions and a striking Victorian clock tower is home to the St. Thomas Historical Trust Museum, featuring Dano-Norwegian-period artifacts and art. The oldest standing building in the entire USVI, Fort Christian was named a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

Yes, the Government House serves as the offices for the USVI governor and staff, continuing its function as the center of political operations on the islands since it was built in 1850. But it’s also a terrific place for visitors to explore. Located on Charlotte Amalie’s widest street in the island’s historic district, the Government House is a handsome three-story, neoclassical building constructed of yellow ballast brick painted white. The first two floors are open to the public and contain vintage West Indian furniture and art by noted artist and native son, Impressionist Camille Pissarro.

Learn more about USVI history and culture.

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