Gustavia, St. Barts – The Complete Guide
The capital of St. Barthélemy, Gustavia, ranks among the best in-town experiences in the West Indies. Beautifully situated, rich with historical sites and world-class dining and shopping, it’s the must-see hub of the “Jewel of the Caribbean.”
In this guide, we’ll describe what makes Gustavia such a distinctive place to stay and explore. You’ll find plenty of information on what to do in Gustavia St. Barts, including outdoor activities, dining, and shopping.
We’ll also provide details on getting around town and the best accommodations, including outstanding luxury villa rentals. And you’ll learn a little about the eye-catching and well-equipped Port of Gustavia.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What is Gustavia Known For?
Occupying a site originally called Le Carénage, Gustavia is named after Sweden’s King Gustav III. That nods to the unique history of St. Barts, initially claimed by the French in 1648 but under Swedish control from 1784 to 1877. France regained ownership by repurchasing the island. St. Barts remains a French overseas collectivity today.
Historical photo of Gustavia Harbor
History buffs, see the ‘History of Gustavia’ section below.
The town certainly shows off some of that fascinating history. Among its standout heritage sites are the ruins of three forts from the Swedish era, built to protect the strategic Gustavia Harbor. Other historical landmarks include the Wall House, which is now a fine municipal museum.
Gustavia is famous for its shopping and dining, both of which reflect the strong influence of French culture. Besides those view-rich fort locations, there are loads of other sightseeing and recreational opportunities at your fingertips with a Gustavia home base.
Shell Beach serves as the town beach; there are other stellar sands just a short drive away. You can easily arrange a cruise in and around the harbor or beyond to neighboring isles.
Or charter a deep-sea fishing boat to pursue pelagic gamefish, not least the great marlin that plies offshore waters from May through September.
Map of Gustavia
Outdoor Activities in Gustavia
1. Kick Back at Shell Beach
Shell Beach, named for the countless little seashells on shore, offers the main “in-town” beachgoing on St. Barts. The beach lies within walking distance of Gustavia’s main area.
Take a dip, gather seashells, or enjoy a fine meal — and beachfront live music — at Shellona Beach Club.
2. Soak Up the Views From Fort Karl
One of a trio of Swedish forts built to safeguard Gustavia Harbor, Fort Karl stood atop a hill overlooking Shell Beach. Built-in 1789, the fort has succumbed to the ravages of time, but its hilltop perch offers grand views over the town and its harbor (and beyond to neighboring isles).
The dry forest and scrubland here also provide up-close looks at native plants as well as lizards and other critters.
3. Revel in the Scenery at the Gustavia Lighthouse
The Gustavia Lighthouse marks the site of another historic stronghold, Fort Gustave. The white tower with its red cap dates from 1961 and is still active.
Besides admiring its handsome form, you can goggle at far-reaching views. The sightlines extend to other islands such as Saint Kitts and Nevis, and St. Martin.
4. Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving
The underwater world around Gustavia is surprisingly rich. Go snorkeling off Shell Beach or nearby Corossol and Gouverneur beaches. Excellent diving awaits nearby at the Gros Islets and the shipwrecks of Marignan and Dakar.
Gustavia hosts a number of dive centers, including Serial Divers and Island Diving, which provide equipment, classes, and trips.
5. Enjoy Gustavia Harbor
Gustavia Harbor is at the heart of the town, bustling with huge yachts and other ship traffic. Take a sightseeing cruise, or enjoy the numerous restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries, and shops along the harborfront.
6. Dig Into Island History at the Territorial (“Wall House”) Museum
Located in the restored historical building of the Wall House, the Territorial Museum of Saint Barthélemy is a small but fascinating institution well worth checking out. It includes artifacts, historical photos, locally produced artwork, and other treasures.
Dining Options & the Best Restaurants in Gustavia
St. Barts is renowned for its vibrant and creative dining scene, and Gustavia is its epicenter. The following establishments shine when it comes to island cuisine and ambience.
Directory of Restaurants in Gustavia
Top Fine Dining Restaurants in Gustavia
Bonito St Barth: High-end French/Pan-American cuisine defines Bonito’s menu, overseen by Paris-born chef/owner Laurent Cantineaux. Don’t miss the Peruvian ceviches and tiraditos! The DJ-driven soundtrack is always lively. (Phone: +590 590 27 96 96)
Bonito Restaurant, Gustavia
Orega: A bold fusion of French and Japanese cuisine prevails at Chef Clement Laffitte’s Orega. The open-kitchen design draws diners to the bar seating, perfect for watching sushi prep. (Phone: +590 590 52 45 31)
L’Isola: Housed in a venerable stone building, L’Isola serves homemade pasta, seafood feasts, and more in a candlelit, white-tablecloth setting. (Phone: +590 590 51 00 05)
Marius St. Barth: The dishes at Marius St. Barth reflect a blend of Japanese and French influences. Their stellar wine list is a highlight. (Phone: +590 590 77 80 12)
Bagatelle St. Barths: This waterfront French-Mediterranean eatery is a sister location to restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles. The pizzas are among the stars of the menu. (Phone: +590 590 27 51 51)
Bagatelle Restaurant, Gustavia © www.bagatelle.com
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Saint Barth: Enjoy French-inspired cuisine — including signature Joel Robuchon dishes — at this Gustavia restaurant overlooking the harbor. You’ve got lots of options for dining, including À La Carte, Discovery, and Tasting menus. (Phone: +590 590 77 30 30)
Asian Restaurants in Gustavia
Black Ginger: Three first-rate Bangkok chefs who trained under the renowned Vichit Mukura crafted Black Ginger’s menu of Thai cuisine. The excellent plates are matched by a great ambience, especially in the interior courtyard. (Phone: +590 590 29 21 03)
© www.blackgingersbh.com Black Ginger, Gustavia
Quarter Kitchen & Cocktail Lab: This restaurant offers a unique tapas-style menu inspired by Asian street food. Tuck into dumplings, ramen noodles, bao, and other crowd-pleasing goodness. (Phone: +590 590 27 51 82)
MEGUMI SUSHI St Barth: Offering sushi delivery around St. Barts, MEGUMI SUSHI features a wide variety of signature rolls. (Phone: +590 590 29 13 13)
Skybar St. Barts: Survey the Gustavia harbor while enjoying French-Italian cuisine at Skybar St. Barts. Top-notch mixology complements such dishes as truffle pasta and risotto with spiny lobster. (Phone: +590 590 27 63 77)
Sky Bar, Gustavia © www.skybarstbarts.com
L’Isoletta: This Roman-style pizzeria is the little sister to L’Isola. Along with well-made pizzas, enjoy pasta dishes, sandwiches, and Italian desserts here. (Phone: +590 590 52 02 02)
Le QG Saint Barthélemy: At Le Quartier Général, you’ll savor French gastronomy tinted with West Indian influences. Le QG Saint Barthélemy evolved out of the former Côte Port restaurant and carries the banner well. (Phone: +590 590 87 41 36)
Crêperie St. Barth: The sweet and savory creations at Crêperie St. Barth have earned quite the following. Besides crépes, you can also order various sandwiches, salads, and other meticulously crafted meals here. (Phone: +590 590 27 84 07)
La Cantina: This casual but chic restaurant offers French/Mediterranean and Creole-inflected small dishes. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a tempting Happy Hour menu. (Phone: +590 590 27 55 66)
La Cantina Restaurant © www.access.sb
L’Entracte: A globally inflected menu — from French bistro classics to Asian-style spring rolls — delights at this brasserie-style eatery. (Phone: +590 590 27 70 11)
Arawak Café: Tucked into an alleyway, the Arawak Café doubles as a charming café and hip cocktail bar. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which includes a worthwhile tapas menu. (Phone: +590 590 27 53 23)
Bar de L’Oubli: Alongside breakfast foods, burgers, paninis, salads, and other fare, you’ll find an impressively large cocktail lineup at Bar de L’Oubli. If you want to catch Sunday NFL games in Gustavia, this is the place to be. (Phone: +590 590 27 70 06)
Le Repaire: Opened in 1991, Le Repaire offers French-inspired breakfast, lunch, and dinner with lovely views of Gustavia’s harbor and Wall House. Alongside beef tartar, mussels, and the like, you can partake in a game of pool here. (Phone: +590 590 27 72 48)
Le Select: Enjoy a casual and wholly satisfying lunch or dinner in the center of Gustavia at the popular Le Select. (Phone: +590 590 27 86 87)
Eddy’s Restaurant: Soul-nourishing Creole cuisine and a tropical garden atmosphere have made Eddy’s a Gustavia favorite since 1995. (Phone: +590 590 27 54 17)
Eddy’s Ghetto, Gustavia © www.eddysghetto.com
Fish Corner Food & Market: From catch-of-the-day to fish tacos, ceviche, fish-and-chips, and tuna burgers, local seafood dominates Fish Corner’s lunches and dinners. Order fresh fish tartar-style or grilled. (Phone: +590 590 51 36 33)
Shellona: Fantastic ambience right on Shell Beach, within shouting distance of downtown Gustavia. Mediterranean-inspired dishes are often accompanied by live music to enjoy. And the beachfront sunsets are to die for. (Phone: +590 590 52 45 31)
Sella: A singular St. Barts dining experience awaits at Sella, featuring the exquisite culinary craft of Michelin-starred Chef Assaf Granit. The Israeli/Mediterranean cuisine here fuses Jerusalem gastronomy with the island spirit. (Phone: +590 690 56 15 22)
Shopping in Gustavia
Without question, Gustavia is one of the two best places to shop in St. Barts (along with St. Jean). That’s all the more true during the two designated sales seasons in early-to-mid-November and mid-May to June. The following list spotlights some of the town’s standout boutiques and purveyors.
Shopping in Gustavia © Cate Brown
Poupette St. Barth: Outfit yourself in the “everyday-chic” style of Monique “Poupette” Girard. (Phone: +590 590 27 94 49)
Lolita Jaca: Set in the Carré d’Or shopping complex, Lolita Jaca offers clothing and accessories reflecting a breezy blend of French and Caribbean styles. (Phone: +590 590 27 59 98)
Louis Vuitton: Not much needs to be said about Vuitton, right? You might just luck out snagging a limited-edition St. Barts-branded bag here. (Phone: +33 590 87 90 24)
Human Steps Trading: The owner Francoise handpicks all the elite products at Human Steps, from Gucci and Jimmy Choo to Giuseppe Zanotti and Stella McCartney offerings. (Phone: +33 590 27 93 79)
Carla Saint Barth: Handmade leather shoes hailing from Fiesso d’Artico in Venice are among the standouts here. At Carla Saint Barth, you’ll find elite designers such as Claudio Merazzi and Amina Muaddi. (Phone: +590 590 27 64 03)
Fabienne Miot: This exceptional store has been serving discerning customers for some four decades. You can even design your own custom necklace or bracelet. (Phone: +590 590 27 73 13)
Shopping at Fabienne Miot in Gustavia © Cate Brown
Cartier: You can’t go wrong with Cartier, boasting a spectacular lineup of men’s and women’s jewelry and accessories. (Phone: +590 590 27 66 69)
Kalinas & Tainos: The owner of this boutique hunts for treasures all around the world to incorporate into his one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. (Phone: +590 690 65 93 00)
Vilebrequin: Suit up for St. Barts’ beaches in style with men’s and women’s swimwear at Vilebrequin. (Phone: +33 590 27 77 69)
Ligue St. Barths: A hop, skip, and a jump away in Lorient, Ligue St. Barths has offered island-made botanical beauty products and treatments for more than a half-century. (Phone: +590 590 27 82 63)
Le Comptoir du Cigare: Cigar connoisseurs will thrill at the celebrated shop’s walk-in humidor. Le Comptoir du Cigare ships its products to the States and maintains quite the selection of Panama hats. (Phone: +590 590 27 50 02)
Clic: Calypso’s founder Christiane Celle oversees the eclectic Clic collection of home decór, contemporary art, photography, and more. (Phone: +590 590 29 70 17)
Eden Gallery: This Eden Fine Art location carries works by such internationally renowned artists as David Kracov, Dorit Levinstein, and Yoel Benharrouche. (Phone: +590 590 29 79 99)
Le Cellier du Gouverneur: This fabulously stocked downtown Gustavia liquor store features fine French wines and champagnes as well as international spirits. (Phone: +33 590 27 99 93)
Le Cellier du Gouverneur in Gustavia © www.cellierdugouverneur.com
La Cave du Port France: Established in 1989, La Cave du Port France manages an inventory of more than 200,000 bottles. Superlative French and Italian wines steal the show. (Phone: +590 590 27 65 27)
Varda: You’ll find more than 50 exclusive luxury brands at Varda, which has a remarkably varied selection of vintage goods, sunglasses, chocolates, and more. (Phone: +590 590 77 62 17)
Chamade: Souvenirs drenched in Caribbean vibes — beach towels, postcards, etc. — await you at Chamade, including St. Barts-branded items. (Phone: +590 590 27 51 13)
Where to Stay in Gustavia
You’ve got both villa-rental and hotel options in Gustavia.
Private villas offer the widest selection. The five-star Hotel Barriere Carl Gustaf, meanwhile, serves as a fine representative of Saint Barthélemy’s small, upscale hotels.
Featured Villa Rentals