São Tomé, São Tomé and Príncipe

Reference work entry


São Tomé, on the northeast coast of São Tomé Island, is the national capital and its most important port.


The Portuguese colonized São Tomé Island in the 1470s and established the town 30 years later. It became a bishopric in 1534. At first the sugar trade was the major revenue earner for the city but by the eighteenth century coffee and cocoa were more important. The labour-intensive work of the plantations meant that the city was at the centre of a thriving slave trade, which was not outlawed until 1875.

When independence seemed likely for the country there was a mass exodus of the city’s Portuguese population. Many of these were the plantation owners and their absence seriously undermined the coffee and, more importantly, the cocoa industries. In 1975 São Tomé became capital of the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Principé.

Modern City

The local economy relies on the port and its related activities. Major exports include cocoa, palm products, coffee and coconuts. Also important are fishing and tourism. A railway connects the city to the island interior and there is an international airport.

Places of Interest

The national museum is housed in the Fort São Sebastião. Other popular sites include the sixteenth century cathedral, the Augustinho Neto Manor House. The San Antonio Quarter is one of the city’s best preserved districts.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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