Before enjoying the beaches of St. Lucia, take the time to drop by its bustling capital, Castries. Home to over a third of the island nation’s total population, Castries exudes an urban lifestyle, without losing its island feel.
The city, which has seen a lot modernization over the years, is situated on the northwest coast. The highlight of a visit here has got to be its lively street life. And because Castries is easily navigated on foot, it is quite easy to experience this. At the downtown area, you will find more than a dozen blocks loaded with shops, commercial buildings and locals trying to go about their day.
The huge fires that happened between the years of 1796 and 1948 destroyed most of the city colonial structures. Today, you will see more modern concrete buildings, giving the city a more contemporary look. But a major part of the city remains picturesque because of its deep harbor that is usually occupied by cruise ships.
Castries is a shopping mecca especially for cruise ship passengers. Duty-free shopping can be enjoyed here throughout the year. The main spot to get retail therapy in the city is the Spanish colonial complex called Pointe Seraphine. Located in the northern part of Castries, near the harbor, Point Seraphine is loaded with several shops and boutiques that sell everything from perfume, leather items, and designer clothes to jewelry and accessories. Another prominent shopping sites is the La Place Carenage mall on Jeremie Street. This street is also the location of a vibrant Castries Market, which sells a wide range of locally made goods including hand printed fabrics and fashion accessories. This outdoor market is definitely one of the must-sees during your visit.
Just across the harbor lies the Vigie Peninsula. If you still cannot get enough of shopping, you should make your way to Vigie as it is home to the biggest duty free complex on the island. The peninsula also houses the George F.L. Charles Airport. And when you work up an appetite from all the shopping, you can always satisfactorily relieve your hunger at one of the waterfront restaurants located here. Then spend the rest of the day relaxing and sunbathing on Vigie Beach.
Castries’ location makes it an excellent gateway to other nearby attractions. Whether you are renting a car or taking public transport, you can easily and conveniently reach the landmarks in the north, east and south of the capital. The island’s luscious mountains, charming fishing villages, forests and banana plantations await you.
One of the nearby attractions that you should definitely check out is the Morne Fortune (mountain), which once acted as a natural defense structure of the island. These days, you can visit the mountain and find interesting remains of old fortifications. Morne Fortune also has a wonderful lookout point, where you enjoy panoramic views of the harbor.
If its marvelous scenery you are after, consider going on one of the catamaran tours that explore the gorgeous coastline of St. Lucia. In Castries, you can also charter a boat and go for an exciting deep-sea fishing excursion. To relax and watch the world go by, head over to Derek Walcott Square, formerly called Columbus Square and enjoy the sights.