The Capital City:
Fort-de-France is the capital and main city of Martinique with a population of over one hundred thousand people. A modern urban metropolis and the main port of entrance into the Island, Fort-de-France is said to be the most cosmopolitan city in the Caribbean. One of the biggest tourist attractions in Fort-de-France is said to be the Bibliotheque Schoelcher, which is a colorful building with a Byzantine dome named after Victor Schoelcher who led the fight to free the slaves in the French West Indies in the nineteenth century. Built in Paris for the 1889 Paris Exposition, this building was dismantled, returned to Martinique via sea; and reassembled piece by piece. Today it houses many antique books and also functions as a public library. Located just outside Fort-de-France is the Musée Gen Lontan with displays of the traditional Martinique clothing. There is the village of Bellefontaine, where one can find vibrantly painted wooden fishing boats, and the pretty town of Carbet and the Paul Gauguin Museum, which contains several interesting pieces of memorabilia from the post impressionist artist.
Fort St. Lois is a tourist hotspot in the city that is one of Fort-de-France’s most distinguishing landmarks. While in town, a visit is a must to the archeological museum- seaside fortress that has evolved from earlier strongholds that were erected on the site as early as 1638, and has been known in previous incarnations as Fort Royal and Fort de la Republique. The modern-day Fort St. Louis is both an active naval base and a listed historic site of France. To catch some fresh air, a visit the La Savane Park is where one will spot a statue of the Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon I, and thus the first Empress of the French. A trip to the various markets in the city including the spice market, farmers market and the produce market will get one some great local buys and a mingle with the people of Martinique.
“…the capital’s narrow balconied streets lined with shops and restaurants, lead to pleasant discoveries…”
The capital’s narrow balconied streets lined with shops and restaurants, lead to pleasant discoveries such as the Cathedral of Saint-Louis, built and rebuilt seven times over the centuries, topped with a two hundred foot steeple, is admired for its iron framework, decorated transepts and magnificent organ. Inaugurated in 1907, the Palais de Justice, whose four neoclassical buildings surround a 1904 statue of Victor Schoelcher, is of the main architectural highlights for many sightseers. Other must see places to visit include Le Théatre Municipal, the former city hall used now for theatrical productions and art shows; the Musée Départemental with archeological finds from prehistoric times; and the Regional Museum of History and Ethnography which retraces the history and the ethnography of Martinique which includes Creole furnishings, clothing, jewelry and musical instruments. As rich as the island's history is the island's soil Rum distilleries abound throughout Martinique and all of them welcome visitors for a sampling of their product. An example is St. James Distillery at Sainte-Marie in the North that operates the Musée du Rhum.
In the South of the Island, visit the town of Trois Ilets, which is where Empress Josephine was born. Here you will find a museum, the Musee de la Pagerie, which contains many of the Empress’s childhood memorabilia. Also in the South of Martinique is Pointe du Bout, - the most well developed area in the Island after Fort-de-France. Home to a yachting marina, there are three large resorts located out there which is said to look a lot like a mini Las Vegas. Other sightseeing attractions in the south of Martinique include the historic offshore landmark, H.M.S. Diamond Rock, a sort of Caribbean Gibraltar rising six hundred feet above the sea. The coves, peninsulas and white sand beaches around Salnte-Anne, most notably the Plage des Salines and Cap Chevalier, are considered among the most beautiful in the Caribbean and the finest Martinique has to offer. In addition, sightseeing the island's underwater world is thrilling by semi-submersible craft; and with one based at Le Marin and another at the Marina Pointe du Bout, tours make for unusual water excursions and take approximately one hour.
Festivals and Events:
There are so many festivals and events in Martinique all year round that no matter when you choose to visit, one will find many fun things to do. From the northern edges of the Island to the southern tip dotted with beaches and resorts and everywhere in between, Martinique events emanate a Caribbean flavor spiced with Creole and French influences, offering a unique vibe and island feel; and further more the festivals pay tribute to the island's diverse past and history drawing thousands from all over the island and the world. Carnival is one of the most popular and revered Martinique festivals on the island, as well as a favorite celebrated around the globe in colorful cities like New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro and Trinidad. Celebrating with passion and fervor in Fort de France, the people of Martinique show off their ability to throw an event every year in the first week of February where for weeks leading up to the event costumes, floats, and other decorations are seen being made throughout the city. In Martinique events like this one, music is an integral part of the festivities. Beguine and Calypso can be heard reverberating from avenues and buildings throughout the island. From Fat Sunday through Ash Wednesday Martinique, hotels are booked solid so one must get accommodation well ahead of time.
“…both festivals exude a truly international flavor with the welcoming atmosphere of the island where the culture, cuisine and heritage are proudly showcased…”
Sailing events such as the famous Tour de Yoles Rondes ranks high up on the list of things to do in Martinique because it is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. The yawls, sailing crafts resembling wooden canoes, participate in the exciting regatta that includes seven stops around the island. As the sailors near each stop, thundering shouts and applause of support and encouragement are heard from the communities along the way. The colorful sails are a fantastic sight to see as the yawls race for the finish line. While the teams sail for the title, spectators cook up delicious Creole dishes and barbeque all kinds of sumptuous fare with plenty of music and revelry to soak in. This free event takes place each year in August. Other events include the International Guitar Festival and the Martinique Jazz music Festival where musicians from different countries such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guadalupe, St. Lucia, and Brazil, are invited to participate. Both festivals exude a truly international flavor with the welcoming atmosphere of the island where the culture, cuisine and heritage are proudly showcased.
So if you wish to understand more of this Caribbean Island and its history, plan a trip to Martinique with family or friends. Contact a professional tour operator or the Department of Tourism to know more about the country and the best time to travel for the tours, festival and events. Enjoy your Trip To Martinique!!