View from the courtyard of Fort Christiansvaern in the Christiansted National Historic Site Guide in the US Virgin Islands

Christiansted National Historic Site (Ultimate Guide)

👉 Jump to: History | How to Visit | Landmarks | Tips | FAQ

Christiansted National Historic Site is a seven-acre park managed by the US National Park Service on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. The grounds include five historic structures, including Fort Christiansvaern, that served as an integral part of the island’s deep and complex history.

Walking the district might have been one of my favorite things to do while visiting St. Croix while also making my list of the best places to visit in the US Virgin Islands. If you’re in St. Croix, take some time to enjoy this affordable activity for a few hours!

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History of Christiansted National Historic Site on St. Croix

The park brilliantly explores the way of life on St. Croix beginning with the Danish occupation in 1733 through the purchase of the island by the United States in 1917. On full display is the masterful restoration of Danish Colonial architecture and insights into the stories of the human experience on the island.

The Early Years

Aerial view of the Columbus Landing Site
The Columbus Landing Site on St. Croix is just west of Christiansted
  • Over 2000 Years Ago – Indigenous cultures migrated from South America into the Lesser and Greater Antilles, including St. Croix. Specifically, many Taino tribes called the Virgin Islands home.
  • 1493 – Christopher Columbus makes contact with Taino Villagers at Salt River Bay on St. Croix during his second voyage to the Americas. This was the first ever recorded armed conflict between Europeans and Native Americans.
  • 1625 – 1732 – Spanish, Dutch, English, and French colonists wrestle over control of St. Croix. No permanently successful colony was ever established during this time.

The Danish West Indies

Cannons facing the Christiansted Harbor in Fort Christiansvaern
The cannons overlooking Christiansted Harbor on Fort Christiansvaern
  • 1733 – The Danish West Indies Company (DWIC) purchases St. Croix from the French officially establishing Danish rule.
  • 1733 – 1755 – Newly appointed Governor Frederik Moth meticulously mapped Christiansted and parceled the land of St. Croix into plantations of 150 acres to attract new settlers. Sugar plantations began production exploiting the labor of at least 9,000 slaves from West Africa.
  • 1738 – Fort Christiansvaern was constructed to protect and militarize the island.
  • 1755 – The Danish crown seized control of the island to oversee the rapid growth of the cane sugar industry in the following decades.

The Garden of the Antilles

The author in one of the ruins of sugar mills in St. Croix
Ruins from the sugar mills are found all over the island
  • 1755 – 1820 – The booming sugar industry on St. Croix solidified its status as one of the most prosperous islands in the Antilles. Slaves cultivated sugar plantations with windmills and animal mills operating day and night.
  • 1803 – the island’s population was 30,000 including 26,500 enslaved Africans brought to the Antilles as a part of the infamous triangular trade between Europe, the Caribbean, and West Africa.
  • 1848 – Governor Peter von Scholten abolished slavery in the Danish colonies. 
  • The late 1800s – With rising labor costs, a declining price in sugar, and the rise of competing goods, the Danish economy on St. Croix suffered an irreversible decline. By the end of the century, most of St. Croix’s sugar plantations ceased entirely.

The US Virgin Islands & the National Park Service

The author at the entrance of Fort Christiansvaern
Entering the exhibits of Fort Christiansvaern
  • 1917 – the United States purchased the Danish West Indies as a strategic military location against Germany in WW1.
  • 1952 – at the behest of local citizens, Christiansted National Historic Site is established with the mandate “to preserve the historic structure and grounds within its boundaries and to interpret the Danish economy and way of life in Christiansted between 1733 and 1917.”
  • 1966 – The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Today – with Fort Christiansvaern serving as the centerpiece, the site is open for self-guided and guided tours highlighting the stories of the human experience on St. Croix. 

❓ Want to Learn More? For a deeper understanding of the complex history of St. Croix, check out this fascinating brochure courtesy of the National Park Service website!

How to Visit Christiansted National Historic Site

The welcome sign to Christiansted National Historic Site

🎟️ Entrance Fees: Adults 16 years and older are $7 to enter Fort Christiansvaern and its exhibits. Under 16 years are free. Valid National Park pass holders are free of charge according to their pass guidelines.

☀️ Seasons: Christiansted National Historic Site is open year-round, seven days a week excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas.

⏱️ Hours: the park is open every day from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

🅿️ Parking: You’ll find free, 2-hour parking at Fort Christiansvaern. All cars must be removed from the lot by 4:30 PM or they will be towed. Don’t forget to drive on the left!

🏠 Visitor Center: Christiansted National Historic Site is the NPS contact point for all three of St. Croix’s National Parks including Buck Island Reef National Monument and Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve.

🌞 Weather: Average highs year-round are between 84°F and 89°F. Check the current weather in St. Croix from the National Weather Service.

🌀 Hurricane Season: Peaks in September and October. ​​Monitor disturbances in the Western Atlantic with the National Hurricane Center

🌐 Website: National Park Service – Christiansted National Historic Site

📍 Google Maps: Christiansted National Historic Site

☎️ Phone: (340) 773-1460

🏞️ Nearby National Parks: The US National Park Service manages six national parks in the Caribbean including Virgin Islands National Park on St. John and San Juan National Historic Site in nearby Puerto Rico!

Landmarks in the Christiansted National Historic District

Fort Christiansvaern

The author posing for a photo with a canon in Fort Christiansvaern

📍 Google Maps | Constructed in 1738

🇩🇰 Original Purpose – protected Christiansted from external threats like privateers and pirates and inward slave revolts. It was also used as a prison, police station, and courthouse, amongst other purposes.

🇺🇸 Today – Fort Christiansvaern is the focal point of Christiansted. This is the contact point for St. Croix’s three national parks and features exhibits highlighting the human experiences during the island’s deep history. Begin your walking tour of the 7-acre district here.

Steeple Building

The Steeple Building under the clear blue sky

📍 Google Maps | Constructed in 1753

⛪ Original Purpose – the Steeple Building was the home to the island’s first Luthern congregation before becoming a bakery, hospital, and school.

📷 Today – before the hurricanes of 2017, the Steeple Building was open for self-guided tours. As of October 2022, you can enjoy the building from outside.

Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse

View from the outside of Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse

📍 Google Maps | Constructed in 1749

🗃️ Original Purpose – the DWIC building was used as a storehouse and auction site for the slave trade.

📦 Today – the building is still used as a storeroom for the National Park Service. Outside of the warehouse are public restrooms.

Danish Custom House

The Danish Custom House in St. Croix from the outside

📍 Google Maps | Constructed in 1844

🧾 Original Purpose – the Customs House was used as the clearinghouse for all things entering and exiting the island. Taxes were collected for goods weighed at the Scale House, ships were inspected and records were made of all people and cargo.

💻 Today – the administrative offices for the National Park Service are inside the old Customs House.

Scale House

View of the entrance to the Scale House

📍 Google Maps | Constructed in 1856

⚖️ Original Purpose – all imports and exports to St. Croix were weighed on a massive scale on the 1st floor. Weight was recorded and the goods were taxed appropriately at the nearby Customs House.

📚 Today – You can view the impressive scales before wandering through the joint NPS bookstore. The Scale House borders the popular Christiansted Boardwalk.

Tips for Visiting Christiansted on St. Croix

Visit During the Offseason

The courtyard under the clear blue sky in Fort Christiansvaern
An empty courtyard in the fort

The offseason in the US Virgin Islands coincides with peak hurricane season. Although you run a slight risk, it’s the cheapest time to visit and you might have the place to yourself.

Stroll the Christiansted Boardwalk

Chairs and tables outside a restaurant in Christiansted Boardwalk
Restaurant on Christiansted Boardwalk

Wandering around the Historic District will inevitably bring you to the other attractions within Christiansted. The Government House, Lutheran Church, and Boardwalk are a few noteworthy places to check out.

Visit all National Parks on St. Croix

If you’re limited on time, I recommend sailing to Buck Island in the AM, exploring Christiansted National Historic Site in the afternoon, and finally, kayaking Salt River Bay Historical Park and Ecological Preserve at night to witness the iridescent bioluminescent bay. This rare natural phenomenon also occurs nearby in Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays.

📕 Related Reading: 10-Day US Virgin Islands Itinerary

FAQs About Christiansted National Historic Site

What is the main town in St. Croix?

Christiansted is the main town on St. Croix on the northeast coast serving as the hub of activity for the entire island.

Does St. Croix have a National Park?

St. Croix has three National Parks managed by the US National Park Service: Christiansted National Historic Site, Buck Island Reef National Monument, and Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve.

Are there any National Parks in the Caribbean?

The US National Park Service protects and manages six different national parks in the Caribbean between the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

– Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, USVI
– Virgin Islands Reef National Monument on St. John, USVI
– Christiansted National Historic Site on St. Croix, USVI
– Buck Island Reef National Monument near St. Croix, USVI
– Salt River Bay Historical Park and Ecological Preserve on St. Croix, USVI
– San Juan National Historic Site in San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Christiansted is one of the most enjoyable places in the Virgin Islands and I hope you love it as much as I do. Leave a comment below letting us know what your favorite part was! 

Until then, check out our budget tips on how to make travel to the USVI affordable!

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