Walk This Way: 99 Steps, St. Thomas USVI

Rise above the crowds when you ascend this historic island landmark


Charlotte Amalie is one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean. But if you walk a few blocks beyond the waterfront taverns of Veterans Drive, and the duty-free offerings of Dronningens Gade, you can discover a city with a rich history, where cobblestone streets and colonial-era buildings serve as reminders of Danish rule and pirate occupations.

One of the more picturesque remnants of this era is the walkway known as 99 steps, which climbs the hillside from Kongens Gade toward the landmark tower of Blackbeard’s Castle. This thoroughfare, listed on old maps as Greater Tower Street, is one of the best surviving examples of the old town’s numerous stair-stepped streets known as frigangs that connected the waterfront to hillside dwellings.

The Danish-made bricks used to build these stairways date from the 1700s, and were originally used as ship’s ballast before being repurposed as a building material. Today, the stairway is primarily used by sightseers, often as part of a walking tour that takes in other historic landmarks such as Fort Christian, Emancipation Park and the St. Thomas Synagogue, which is the second oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Those who delight in details might note that, despite the name, the stairway actually includes a total of 103 steps. But who’s counting; just enjoy the view.