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Saint Barthélemy ( ; , ), officially the Collectivity of Saint Barthélemy (French: Collectivité de Saint-Barthélemy), is an overseas collectivity of France. To the northwest lies St. Martinmarker, to the southwest Sabamarker, to the south St. Eustatiusmarker and St. Kittsmarker, and ultimately to the southeast Barbudamarker.

It has an area of 21 km² and a population of 8,398 (census 2006). Its capital is Gustaviamarker, which is also its main harbor. Also known as Saint Barth in French, or St. Barts in English, the collectivity is one of the four territories among the Leeward Islands in the Caribbeanmarker that comprise the French West Indies, along with Guadeloupemarker, Martiniquemarker and St. Martinmarker. It is the only Caribbean island to have historically been a Swedish colony. The Swedish influence can still be found in architecture and street names. The language, cuisine and culture are distinctly French.


The official currency of Saint Barthélemy is the euro.

INSEE estimated that the total GDP of Saint Barthélemy amounted to 179 million euros in 1999 (US$191 million at 1999 exchanges rates; US$255 million at Oct. 2007 exchange rates). In that same year the GDP per capita of Saint Barthélemy was 26,000 euros (US$27,700 at 1999 exchanges rates; US$37,000 at Oct. 2007 exchange rates), which was 10% higher than the average GDP per capita of metropolitan France in 1999. Tourism explains in a large measure the very high standard of living on the island.


St. Barts has long been considered a playground of the rich and famous and is known for its beautiful pristine beaches, gourmet dining in chic bistros and high-end designers.

St. Barts has about 25 hotels, most of them with 15 rooms or fewer. The largest has 58 rooms. Hotels are classified in the traditional French manner 3 Star, 4 Star and 4 Star Luxe.

Most of the rooms allocated to tourism on St Barts are found in private villas. There are approximately 400 privately owned villas available for rent on the island.


Saint Barthélemy was first claimed by France, in 1648. It was given to Sweden in 1784 (in exchange for trade rights in Gothenburgmarker), which sold it back to France in 1878. Slavery was practiced in Saint-Barthélemy under the "Ordinance concerning the Police of Slaves and free Coloured People" of 1787. The last legally owned slaves in the Swedish colony of Saint-Barthélemy were bought free by the state on 9 October 1847. The Swedish period left its mark in the names of many of the streets and the town (in honor of King Gustav III), and the presence of Sweden's national arms, the Three Crowns in the island's coat of arms, along with the Maltese cross, the Fleur-de-lis, the mural crown, two pelicans, and the island's supposed Amerindian name "OUANALAO".


Located approximately 250 km east of Puerto Rico, Saint-Barthélemy lies near the islands of Saint Martinmarker, Sabamarker and Anguillamarker. Some small satellite islets also belong to Saint Barthélemy:
  • Île Chevreau (Île Bonhomme)
  • Île Frégate
  • Île Toc Vers
  • Île Tortue
  • Gros Îlets (Îlots Syndare)

Gustaviamarker, which is the main town of the island, was named after King Gustav III of Sweden, and remains as a reflection of the Swedish period.

The oldest settlement still remaining is the village of Lorient (or L'Orient), although scattered in every cemetery on the island can be found Swedish grave markers. Lorient's sister village on the French mainland is the city of Lorient on the southern coast of Brittany. The population is spread among a number of quartiers, roughly corresponding to settlements. Besides the capital Gustavia, there are:
  1. Anse des Cayes
  2. Grand Fond
  3. Grand Cul-de-Sac
  4. Petit Cul-de-Sac
  5. Quartier de Colombier
  6. Quartier de la Grande Saline
  7. Quartier de la petite Saline
  8. Quartier de Public
  9. Quartier de Toiny
  10. Quartier des Flamands et Merlette
  11. Quartier du Corossol
  12. Quartier du Marigot
  13. Quartier du Roy
  14. Quartier de Vitet
  15. Quartier de Devé
  16. Quartier de Lurin
  17. Quartier de Gouverneur
  18. Quartier Lorient (oldest settlement)
  19. Quartier Saint-Jean


Of the 21 beaches on the small island, several are considered especially inviting. On the southern side of the island, Saline is a pristine beach with no development. On the western edge of the island is Colombier beach, which is only reachable by boat or a hike. St. Jean, Flamands and Grand-Cul-de-Sac beaches are also popular and attractive beaches which have hotels and other establishments on them. Shell Beach is popular for families with kids as it has little surf.

St. Barths has a tidal difference of only 8–15 cm. The beaches vary according to ocean currents — the weather travels onto the island following the sun from the East. One of the main surfing beaches (Toiny) is known for its riptide, while Grand Fond is one of the island's only non-swimming beaches. Although tourism doesn't allude to it, there are a small variety of warm water sharks in the Caribbean. So, swimming at dusk and dawn or in murky waters is not recommended. Otherwise, scuba and snorkeling are a great way to see the nurse sharks, lobsters, conch and green sea turtles that abound in the waters surrounding St. Barth.

The beach of Grand Cul-de-Sac is the easiest beach in the Caribbean for learning sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing as it has a reef which closes off the entire bay. The current that passes outside the reef here also carries the migrating whales and dolphins.


According to the January 2007 census, the population of Saint Barthélemy is 8,450 inhabitants, with a population density of 402 inh. per km² in 2007, white people in a large majority. Most of the population are French-speaking descendants of the first settlers.

Many of the full time residents are French citizens who work at the various establishments on the island. French is the primary language spoken, the natives' languages (patois and creole) are still surviving, but many residents also speak English, particularly at hotels and restaurants. The French patois is spoken in the leeward portion of the island and is closely related to Quebec French whereas a French Creole related to Antillean Creole is spoken in the windward portion. Both varieties of language are spoken exclusively by a white population of European descent.

Historical population
1766 1785 1812 1885 1961 1967 1974 1982 1990 1999 2007
327 950 5,482 2,600 2,176 2,351 2,491 3,059 5,038 6,852 8,450
Official figures from French and Swedish censuses.

Politics and government

Until 2007, administratively, the whole island of Saint-Barthélemy was a French commune (commune de Saint-Barthélemy) part of Guadeloupemarker, which is an overseas région and overseas département of France, and therefore part of the European Union. In 2003, the population voted in favour of secession from Guadeloupe in order to form a separate overseas collectivity (COM) of France. On 7 February 2007, the French Parliament passed a bill granting COM status to both Saint Barthélemy and neighbouring Saint Martin. The new status took effect on 22 February 2007, when the law was published in the Journal Officiel. Saint Barthélemy remains part of the European Union.


Saint Barth has a small airport known as Gustaf III Airportmarker that is served by small regional commercial aircraft and charters. Most visiting aircraft carry fewer than twenty passengers, such as the Twin Otter, a common sight around Saint Barth and throughout the northern West Indiesmarker. The short airstrip is at the base of a gentle slope ending directly on the beach at St Jean. The arrival descent is over the hilltop traffic circle and departing planes fly right over the heads of sunbathers on St. Jean Beach (although small signs advise sunbathers not to lie directly at the end of the runway). Due to the close proximity of arriving and departing planes, either location is ideal for viewing by aircraft enthusiasts. The nearest commercial jet airport is on the neighboring island of Saint Maartenmarker: Princess Juliana International Airportmarker .

Ferries to and from Saint Maarten are the only other real option (although the passage from St. Martin to St. Barth is often rough), unless one is arriving by private charter boats/yachts.


The junior national French surf champion from Lorient, was named recently in the winner of 2006.

See also Rugby union in Saint Barthélemy.


The tropical location and natural beauty of St. Bart's makes it a prime location for modeling photo shoots, particularly for swimwear publications such as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, which featured the island in its 1991 edition. St. Bart's was also the location of Brande Roderick's 2001 Playmate of the Year pictorial for Playboy.

See also



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