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ST THOMAS — Considered the most distinguishable landmark in St. Thomas, this popular site is located near Blackbeard’s Castle, one of the island’s National Historic Landmarks. Built in the 18th century, the 99 steps on Government Hill in Charlotte Amalie are a glimpse into the island’s historic past. The island’s hilly terrain was too steep for regular roadways and made it difficult to navigate the island. As a result, the Danes created at least 45 sets of stair-stepped streets to connect the waterfront to hillside homes and dwellings. Originally named “Store Taarne Gade”, which means Greater Tower Street, the 99 steps are made of Danish brick that were used as the ships’ ballast on its voyage from Denmark to the Caribbean. Upon their arrival, these ballast bricks that kept the vessels afloat were removed and cargo in the form of sugar and molasses was loaded.

The steep walk to the top of the staircase is rewarding in more ways than one. Lush, tropical foliage adorns either side of the steps, making it the perfect spot for a scenic stroll and an impromptu photoshoot. This visit is one where you take your time getting to the top thanks to the level of effort required to complete the climb. Your reward in the end is worth the journey. One of the most breathtaking views of the island awaits you, giving you a clear view of the Charlotte Amalie Harbor. Near the top are more stairs that lead to Blackbeard’s Castle. Those that have leftover energy after the ascent can continue the climb to reach the highest point on Government Hill for even more picturesque views of the island.

Visitors can maximize their time at the 99 steps landmark with stops at other historic sites in the area, including Fort Christian, Emancipation Garden and Frederick Lutheran Church.

FUN FACT: If you count the stairs as you go up, you’ll discover that there are a few more steps than the name implies. There are really 103 steps at the site, but who’s counting?

Written by Anquanette Gaspard