Cayenne is the capital of French Guiana, the city of variegated cultures is home to vibrant markets, Creole, Brazilian, Chinese and French restaurants and streets lined with colonial homes painted in topical shades of turquoise, pinks and yellows. Pleasing to all the senses, the capital of French Guiana is wonderfully quaint, welcoming and truly enticing.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit French Guiana is from August to December.
Top Places to Visit in Cayenne
1. The main market
The main market is a lively jumble of African-style paintings, Hmong handicrafts, exotic fruits and spices galore. The air is thick with the scent of saffron, and the giant piles of colorful cardamom, annatto seeds, kalonji and fenugreek are positively tantalizing. Inside, you can find the best Vietnamese pho in all of the Guianas and feast on bouillon d’aoura, a local specialty that combines delectable prawns, smoked fish, vegetables, crab and chicken with sweet aurora fruit plucked from the savanna trees found throughout the island.
An hour’s drive from Cayenne will take you to another one of the country’s best markets. In the village of Cacao, the Sunday market springs up as the sun rises, offering a smorgasbord of treats made by the Hmong people. The refugees fled Laos in the 1970s and created a peaceful, safe haven in Cacao, now a favorite day trip from Cayenne for locals. Marked by sparkling clear rivers, stilted wooden houses and sprawling vegetable plantations, the village is a quiet escape from the more lively atmosphere in the capital.
3. Musée des Cultures
There are a handful of museums in the city, and the Musée des Cultures Guyanaises is one of the best. Devoted to the islands’ early history, the museum’s large collection details its geologic formation before delving into the Amerindian, pre-colonial era. The air-conditioned galleries offer respite from the humid heat, and the exhibits give visitors a solid foundation for better understanding the Musée Départemental. The centrally-located museum includes a small collection of Amerindian handicrafts, and the upper gallery recaptures colonial life, but the exhibits are less well-marked than those at the Musée des Cultures Guyanaises. The Musée Départemental also includes a fascinating ethnobotanical display, a colorful butterfly room and a large collection of other preserved local critters.
Established in 1879, the gardens are lush with many of the 151 plants that are endemic to French Guiana, including leafy mahot trees, lemon-yellow orchids and spiky bromeliads.