São Tomé

Presidential Palace

Travel to São Tomé – The Capital City of São Tomé and Príncipe

São Tomé (population 56,166 in 2005) is the capital city of São Tomé and Príncipe and is by far that nation’s largest town. Its name is Portuguese for “Saint Thomas”. The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, situated in the equatorial Atlantic about 300 and 250 kilometers (200 mi. and 150 mi.), respectively, off the northwest coast of Gabon, constitute Africa’s smallest country. Both are part of an extinct volcanic mountain range, which also includes the island of Bioko in Equatorial Guinea to the north and Mount Cameroon on the African west coast. Sao Tome is 50 kilometers (31 mi.) long and 32 kilometers (20 mi.) wide and the more mountainous of the two islands. Its peaks reach 2,024 meters (6,640 ft.). Principe is about 30 kilometers (19 mi.) long and 6 kilometers (4 mi.) wide. Swift streams radiating down the mountains through lush forest and cropland to the sea cross both islands.

São Tomé was founded by Portugal in 1485. The Portuguese came to São Tomé in search of land to grow sugar. The island was uninhabited before the arrival of the Portuguese sometime around 1470. São Tomé was right on the equator and wet enough to grow sugar in wild abundance. Its proximity to the African Kingdom of Kongo provided an eventual source of slave laborers to work the sugar plantations. São Tomé is centred on a sixteenth century cathedral. Another early building is Fort São Sebastião, built in 1575 and now the São Tomé National Museum. In 1599, the city as well as the islands were taken by the Dutch for two days and again in 1641 for a year. It was the then colony’s capital until 1753 and has been the national capital continuously since 1852.

Features of the town include the Presidential Palace, the Fisherman’s Church, and a cinema. The city is also home to schools, middle schools, high schools, two markets, a radio station, a television station RFI, a hospital, São Tomé International Airport, and many squares (praças). São Tomé also serves as the center of the island’s road and bus networks. The town is well known for the Tchiloli play.

The island is a good place to enjoy snorkelling, diving, boating, swimming and relaxing on the beautiful sandy beaches. Or head to the colourful local markets where you can shop for beautiful local crafts and products.

  • Dive and swim in pristine waters off gorgeous beaches.
  • Meet the locals at colourful traditional markets.
  • See the stunning presidential palace.

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Africa Travel Information