Originally founded in 1670 as Charles Town, Nassau is now the capital and commercial center of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas (which retains the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, as its head of state), containing just over 70% of the country’s population. The city is located on the island of New Providence, considered historically to be a stronghold of pirates. It is said that there were over 1,000 pirates in Nassau, outnumbering the mere hundred or so inhabitants of the town! The most infamous of the bunch, Edward Teach, is better known today as “Blackbeard”. After being burned to the ground by the Spanish in 1684, it was rebuilt and renamed in honour of William III, the King of England, Scotland and Ireland, who belonged to a branch of the House of Nassau in Germany.
In 1776, during the American War of Independence, the Battle of Nassau resulted in a brief occupation by the American Continental Marines. After 1807, which is when the British abolished the international slave trade, thousands of Africans liberated from British (and later, American) slave ships were allowed to settle on New Providence, as well as several other islands. During the American Civil War, in the mid-1800s, Nassau served as a port for blockade runners making their way to and from ports along the southern Atlantic Coast for continued trade with the Confederacy. Later, during the 1920s and 30s, the city profited from Prohibition in the U.S.
Today, due to its tropical climate, attractive harbor, colorful blend of old world and colonial architecture, natural beauty, and proximity to the U.S. (situated only about 180 miles east-southeast of Miami), Nassau has become a popular tourist destination and holiday resort, especially after 1963, when the U.S. imposed its ban on travel to Cuba. The nearby Atlantis Resort, on the adjacent Paradise Island, accounts for more tourist arrivals than any other hotel property in the city and employs over 6,000 Bahamians, making it the largest employer outside of government.
- Visited: Jan 2011, Mar 2014