Fort-de-France is the capital of France’s Caribbean overseas department of Martinique. It is also one of the major cities in the Caribbean. Fort-de-France has rejuvenated its central park, given a coat of paint to many of its buildings and enhanced itself with several pieces of modern architecture. All this has served to breathe fresh life into the largest city in the French West Indies, and cruisers and travelers alike now flock to the place. Less obvious is the rich and engaging street life, the ubiquitous music and some excellent eating options. Even if you’ve come to Martinique for the beaches, you’ll be very glad to spend a day in Fort-de-France.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is between December and April. Fort de France is a vivacious town given a certain calm with its park, La Savanne, and the gardens of the Parc Floral.
Top Places to Visit in Fort-de-FranceTop Places to Visit in Fort-de-France
1. La Savane
A broad garden with many palms and mangos; playing fields, walks, and benches; plus shops and cafes lining its sides. In the middle of this grand square stands a statue of Joséphine, “Napoleon’s little Creole,” made of white marble by Vital Debray. Joséphine poses in a Regency gown and looks toward Les Trois-Ilets, where she was born. The statue was decapitated in 1991, probably because islanders felt she championed slavery. Near the harbor, at the edge of the park, you’ll find vendors’ stalls with handmade crafts, including baskets, beads, bangles, woodcarvings, and straw hats.
2. Cathédrale St-Louis
Built in 1875, the religious centerpiece of the island, it’s an extraordinary iron building, which has been likened to “a sort of Catholic railway station.” A number of the island’s former governors are buried beneath the choir loft.
3. Fort Saint Louis
Fort Saint Louis is a seaside fortress. The present-day fort 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 Saint Louis is both an active naval base and a listed historic site of France. There are daily tours of the fort, though the portion that is still a naval base is off-limits.Fort Saint Louis has a commanding view of the anchorage of Fort-de-France, the island’s capital city. It stands on a rocky peninsula at the edge of Fort-de-France Bay.
4. Jardin de Balata
A tropical botanical park created by Jean-Philippe Thoze on land that the jungle was rapidly reclaiming around a Creole house that belonged to his grandmother. He restored the house, furnishing it with antiques and engravings. The garden contains a profusion of flowers, shrubs, and trees. It’s open daily from 9am to 6pm.