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The 10 Best Things To Do In Fort De France, Martinique


by Jaime Weakley


Fort Saint Louis

Fort Saint Louis, situated in the heart of Fort-de-France, is a historic fortress that dates back to the 17th century. This impressive military stronghold offers a glimpse into Martinique’s rich colonial past and is a must-visit attraction for history buffs and architectural enthusiasts.


The fort was originally built by the French in 1638 to defend the island against potential invaders. Over the years, it underwent several renovations and expansions, becoming a formidable complex with a strategic location overlooking the city and the harbor.


Visitors to Fort Saint Louis can explore the well-preserved remains of the fortress and learn about its significant role in Martinique’s history. The site offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the Caribbean Sea, the city of Fort-de-France, and the nearby mountains.


Inside the fort, you’ll find a small museum that showcases artifacts, exhibits, and information about the fort’s history and its importance to Martinique. Guided tours are also available, providing fascinating insights into the architecture, defense systems, and historical events associated with the fort.


One of the highlights of a visit to Fort Saint Louis is the chance to witness the changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place every first Sunday of the month. This tradition, reminiscent of French military customs, adds to the overall experience and allows visitors to immerse themselves in the fort’s historical ambiance.


In addition to its historical significance, Fort Saint Louis is also home to several government offices and serves as the headquarters of the French Navy in the Caribbean. This blend of historical and contemporary functions further adds to the uniqueness and allure of the site.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or simply seeking stunning views of Martinique’s capital city, a visit to Fort Saint Louis is a must. Immerse yourself in the island’s past, explore the fortress’s intriguing features, and appreciate the panoramic vistas from this magnificent and significant historical landmark.


Schoelcher Library

The Schoelcher Library, located in Fort-de-France, Martinique, is a captivating architectural gem and an important cultural institution. Named after the French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher, this library is not only a historical monument but also a treasure trove of knowledge and a symbol of freedom.


Designed by the renowned architect Pierre-Henri Picq, the Schoelcher Library was originally built in Paris to be displayed at the International Exhibition of 1889. After the exhibition, the library was disassembled, shipped to Martinique, and reassembled in its current location.


The library displays an extraordinary blend of architectural styles, including Gothic, Renaissance, and Romanesque influences, making it a captivating sight to behold. Its grandeur is further enhanced by intricate carvings, ornate columns, and a stunning stained glass ceiling.


Inside the library, visitors are treated to a vast collection of over 130,000 books, manuscripts, and historical documents, covering various subjects such as literature, history, philosophy, and art. The collection includes rare editions and valuable works, making it a haven for scholars and book enthusiasts.


More than just a library, Schoelcher Library also serves as an important cultural center. It regularly hosts exhibitions, conferences, workshops, and literary events that promote Martinican culture and heritage. Visitors can engage in intriguing discussions, attend book readings, or explore temporary exhibitions that showcase local artists and writers.


Aside from its cultural significance, the Schoelcher Library holds a historical importance as a symbol of resistance against slavery. Victor Schoelcher, the library’s namesake, was a prominent figure in the abolitionist movement and played a pivotal role in outlawing slavery in the French colonies in 1848. The library stands as a testament to his legacy and the fight for freedom.


Visiting the Schoelcher Library offers a unique opportunity to delve into the world of literature, delve into Martinique’s rich history, and admire the exquisite architecture of the building. Take a stroll through its aisles, browse through its extensive collection, or simply marvel at the beauty of this cultural and historical masterpiece.


La Savane Park

La Savane Park, located in the heart of Fort-de-France, is a charming public park that offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city. With its lush greenery, picturesque views, and vibrant atmosphere, it is a favorite spot among locals and visitors alike.


The park spans over 12 acres and is a perfect place to relax, unwind, and enjoy the natural beauty of Martinique. Its well-manicured lawns, towering palm trees, and colorful flowers create a serene setting for picnics, leisurely walks, or simply lounging on one of the park benches.


One of the notable features of La Savane Park is its iconic statue of Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and native of Martinique. The statue pays tribute to her historical significance and her contribution to the island’s heritage.


As you stroll through the park, you’ll come across various amenities such as playgrounds, fitness equipment, and sports fields. These facilities make La Savane Park a popular spot for families, athletes, and those seeking outdoor activities.


The park also hosts several events throughout the year, including concerts, plays, and art exhibitions. These cultural activities add to the vibrancy of the park and provide opportunities to experience Martinique’s rich artistic scene.


For those interested in history, La Savane Park is home to the Fort-de-France Historic Museum. Housed in a charming Creole house, the museum showcases the history and culture of the city through exhibits, photographs, and artifacts.


Whether you’re looking to relax, enjoy a picnic, engage in outdoor activities, or immerse yourself in Martinique’s history and culture, La Savane Park offers something for everyone. Take a leisurely stroll, breathe in the fresh air, and soak in the beauty of this urban oasis in the heart of Fort-de-France.


Fort-de-France Cathedral

Fort-de-France Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of Saint-Louis, is a stunning architectural masterpiece in the heart of Martinique’s capital city. This majestic edifice, with its intricately carved facade and magnificent interior, has become an iconic landmark and an important religious center on the island.


The construction of Fort-de-France Cathedral began in 1895, replacing the original church that was destroyed by a fire in 1890. The cathedral is a blend of architectural styles, predominantly Gothic and Romanesque, with some elements of Byzantine influence. Its striking bell tower, soaring spires, and intricate stained glass windows make it a sight to behold.


Inside the cathedral, visitors are greeted by a sense of awe and reverence. The high vaulted ceilings, elegant marble columns, and ornate altar create a serene and spiritual ambiance. The stained glass windows, depicting religious scenes and biblical figures, bathe the cathedral in a gentle and colorful glow.


The cathedral is also home to the tomb of Josephine, Empress of France and native of Martinique. Her final resting place adds a historical and symbolic significance to the cathedral, making it a pilgrimage site for those interested in her story and the history of the island.


Fort-de-France Cathedral is not only a place of worship but also a cultural hub. It regularly hosts concerts, choirs, and other musical events, filling the sacred space with heavenly melodies. The cathedral’s magnificent pipe organ, one of the largest in the Caribbean, adds to the grandeur of these performances.


Visiting Fort-de-France Cathedral offers a unique opportunity to admire the architectural beauty, experience a sense of spiritual tranquility, and appreciate the rich history and culture of Martinique. Take a moment to step inside this magnificent sanctuary and let the timeless beauty of the cathedral captivate your senses.


Regional Museum of History and Ethnography

The Regional Museum of History and Ethnography, located in Fort-de-France, is a fascinating institution that offers a deep dive into the rich history, culture, and heritage of Martinique. It is a must-visit destination for those seeking to understand the island’s past and gain insights into its vibrant present.


The museum is housed in a beautifully restored 19th-century building, which was originally a colonial-style mansion. Its architecture alone is worth admiring, with its unique blend of Creole and French influences.


Inside the museum, visitors are greeted by a wide range of exhibits that cover the island’s history from pre-Columbian times to the present day. The collections include artifacts, documents, photographs, and multimedia displays that offer a comprehensive look at the island’s diverse heritage.


One of the notable exhibits focuses on the indigenous people of Martinique, highlighting their way of life, rituals, and artifacts. Another section delves into the colonial era, shedding light on the impacts of slavery, the plantation system, and the fight for freedom.


The museum also showcases the island’s cultural traditions and artistic expressions, including its vibrant Carnival celebrations, local crafts, and traditional music. The displays provide a glimpse into the lives, traditions, and creativity of the Martinican people.


The Regional Museum of History and Ethnography also hosts temporary exhibitions that explore various aspects of Martinique’s culture, history, and current affairs. These exhibits offer a fresh perspective and keep the museum’s offerings dynamic and engaging.


In addition to the exhibits, the museum offers educational programs, workshops, and guided tours for visitors of all ages. These activities provide a more interactive and immersive experience, allowing visitors to engage with the exhibits and deepen their understanding of Martinique’s heritage.


Whether you are a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply curious about Martinique’s cultural tapestry, a visit to the Regional Museum of History and Ethnography is a must. Immerse yourself in the island’s past, appreciate its vibrant present, and gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse and rich heritage of Martinique.


Bellefontaine Cemetery

Bellefontaine Cemetery, located near Fort-de-France, is a serene and picturesque final resting place that holds a significant place in Martinique’s history. This tranquil cemetery offers visitors a chance to explore the island’s diverse cultural heritage and pay homage to prominent figures who have shaped Martinique’s past.


The cemetery spans over 20 acres and is beautifully landscaped with tall trees, colorful flowers, and well-manicured paths. It provides a peaceful and reflective atmosphere, inviting visitors to take a leisurely stroll and embrace the serenity of the surroundings.


As you wander through Bellefontaine Cemetery, you’ll come across a variety of tombs and monuments that showcase different architectural styles. From grand mausoleums to simple headstones, the cemetery is a testament to the island’s multicultural influences, representing various religious beliefs and traditions.


One of the highlights of Bellefontaine Cemetery is the presence of notable individuals who are interred here. Among them are influential politicians, writers, artists, and community leaders who have made significant contributions to the development of Martinique.


Visiting the cemetery allows you to pay respects to these influential figures and gain a deeper understanding of the island’s cultural and historical fabric. It provides an opportunity to reflect on their legacies and the impact they have had on the community.


Bellefontaine Cemetery is also a place of remembrance for those who lost their lives during significant events in Martinique’s history, such as natural disasters or tragic incidents. It serves as a solemn reminder of the island’s resilience and the strength of its people.


Beyond its historical and cultural significance, the cemetery offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. From certain vantage points within the grounds, visitors can enjoy sweeping vistas of the Caribbean Sea and the rugged coastline, adding to the tranquil ambiance of the place.


Whether you’re interested in exploring Martinique’s history, contemplating life’s mysteries, or simply seeking a serene and tranquil setting, a visit to Bellefontaine Cemetery is a meaningful and enriching experience. It is a place where the past meets the present, and where the beauty of nature enhances the atmosphere of reflection and reverence.


La Francaise Beach

La Francaise Beach, located on the southwestern coast of Martinique, is a pristine and picturesque stretch of sand and turquoise waters. With its serene atmosphere, palm-fringed shores, and breathtaking views, this beach is a true tropical paradise for beach lovers and nature enthusiasts.


La Francaise Beach offers crystal-clear waters that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. The calm and shallow waters make it an ideal spot for families with children or those who are new to water sports.


The beach is also a popular destination for sunbathing and relaxation. With its soft golden sands and gentle breezes, visitors can find a tranquil spot to unwind and soak up the sun’s rays. The lush foliage and natural beauty surrounding the beach add to its charm and create a serene backdrop for a day of relaxation.


For those seeking a bit more adventure, La Francaise Beach is a great starting point for exploring the underwater wonders of Martinique. Snorkelers can discover vibrant coral reefs and a myriad of colorful tropical fish, while scuba divers can delve deeper into the marine ecosystem and encounter exotic marine life.


Aside from its natural beauty, La Francaise Beach provides convenient amenities such as restrooms, showers, and picnic areas. There are also several beachside bars and restaurants where visitors can enjoy a refreshing drink or indulge in delicious seafood delicacies.


Adjacent to the beach is Pointe du Bout, a lively area with shops, boutiques, and restaurants offering a variety of local specialties and international cuisine. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the promenade, browse for souvenirs, or enjoy a delicious meal with stunning ocean views.


Whether you’re looking for a day of relaxation, snorkeling adventures, or simply basking in the beauty of a tropical paradise, La Francaise Beach offers it all. Immerse yourself in the natural splendor of turquoise waters, golden sands, and gentle breezes, and create unforgettable memories amidst the beauty of Martinique’s coastline.


Fort-de-France Market

Fort-de-France Market, also known as the Grand Marché, is a vibrant and bustling hub of activity that offers a sensory feast for locals and visitors alike. This lively market, located in the heart of Martinique’s capital city, is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the island’s vibrant culture, indulge in delicious local cuisine, and discover unique souvenirs.


The market is a kaleidoscope of colors, aromas, and flavors. As you stroll through its vibrant aisles, you’ll encounter a plethora of stalls offering an array of fresh produce, spices, exotic fruits, and local delicacies. This is the place to sample authentic Martinican cuisine, such as accras (fried codfish fritters), boudin (blood sausage), or refreshing coconut water straight from the fruit.


But the market is not just about food. It’s also a treasure trove for those seeking unique and handcrafted souvenirs. From locally made crafts, such as colorful baskets and handmade pottery, to traditional clothing and jewelry, the market offers a wide range of items that reflect the island’s vibrant culture and craftsmanship.


Besides food and souvenirs, the Fort-de-France Market is an incredible opportunity to engage with the friendly locals and experience the island’s warm hospitality. The vendors, often with a smile on their faces, are happy to share their knowledge, recommend their favorite products, and engage in friendly banter.


Visiting the market is not just about shopping; it’s an immersive cultural experience. The lively atmosphere with its vibrant music, energetic chatter, and the aroma of local spices fills the air, creating an unforgettable sensory experience. It’s a chance to witness the vibrant spirit and the diverse influences that shape Martinique’s culture.


Make sure to explore the adjacent spice market, where you can find an array of aromatic spices, tropical fruits, and medicinal herbs. Learn about the traditional uses of these ingredients and maybe even try your hand at some local recipes.


Fort-de-France Market is open daily, but the energy and vibrancy are enhanced on Saturdays, when the town comes alive with even more stalls and local vendors. It’s an experience that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture.


Whether you’re a food enthusiast, a souvenir hunter, or simply someone who appreciates the vibrant ambiance of a bustling market, a visit to Fort-de-France Market is a must. Embrace the sounds, scents, and flavors that embody the spirit of Martinique while creating lasting memories of your time on the island.


Balata Garden

Balata Garden, located just outside of Fort-de-France, is a botanical masterpiece that showcases the natural beauty and biodiversity of Martinique. This enchanting garden is a haven for nature lovers, offering a peaceful escape into lush greenery, vibrant flowers, and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.


The garden is nestled in the hills of Balata and is known for its meticulously manicured landscapes, winding pathways, and stunning collection of tropical plants and flowers. As you explore the garden, you’ll encounter a wide variety of species, including exotic palms, colorful orchids, fragrant frangipani, and countless other tropical plants.


One of the highlights of Balata Garden is its treetop pathway, known as the “Canopy Walkway,” that allows visitors to walk amid the towering treetops and enjoy breathtaking views. This elevated walkway provides a unique perspective of the garden and offers a sense of tranquility and serenity.


In addition to its botanical wonders, Balata Garden boasts stunning views of the Caribbean Sea and the lush Martinican countryside. This natural backdrop enhances the charm and beauty of the garden, creating a truly immersive experience for visitors.


The garden also features a charming Creole house, which has been converted into a museum. Visitors can explore the rich history and culture of Martinique through exhibits and displays that highlight the island’s heritage and traditions.


For those seeking a moment of relaxation, Balata Garden offers several peaceful seating areas where visitors can take a break, breathe in the fresh air, and soak in the tranquil atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to unwind, read a book, or simply enjoy the beauty of nature.


Guided tours are available to provide insightful information about the different plant species and the history of the garden. Knowledgeable guides share interesting anecdotes and facts, allowing visitors to gain a deeper appreciation for the botanical wonders surrounding them.


For nature enthusiasts, photography enthusiasts, or those simply seeking a peaceful retreat, a visit to Balata Garden is a must. Immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of this tropical oasis, and discover the incredible array of flora that makes Martinique truly special.


Diamond Rock

Diamond Rock, located off the southern coast of Martinique, is a remarkable and iconic landmark that rises majestically from the sparkling Caribbean Sea. This unique rock formation, resembling a massive diamond, holds historical and natural significance, making it a must-see attraction for visitors to Martinique.


Standing at a height of 175 meters (574 feet), Diamond Rock is an uninhabited island formed from an ancient volcano. Its distinctive shape and prominent position have earned it a place in maritime history.


During the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, Diamond Rock became a strategic stronghold. The British Navy cleverly transformed the rock into a floating fort, complete with cannons and living quarters. They successfully held the fort for several months, disrupting French trade routes and causing significant frustration to the French Navy.


To this day, the remnants of the fort can still be seen on the rock’s surface, adding to its allure and historical intrigue. While visitors cannot disembark on the rock itself, it is possible to sail or take a boat tour around Diamond Rock to appreciate its imposing presence and learn about its fascinating history.


Aside from its historical significance, Diamond Rock is also a haven for marine life. The surrounding waters are part of a protected marine reserve, offering excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities. As you explore underwater, you’ll encounter colorful coral reefs, tropical fish, and other mesmerizing marine creatures.


For those who prefer to enjoy Diamond Rock from a comfortable distance, several viewpoints along the coastline provide stunning panoramic views of the rock. These vantage points allow visitors to capture breathtaking photographs and soak in the beauty of this natural wonder.


Visiting Diamond Rock is a unique experience that combines elements of history, natural beauty, and adventure. Whether you choose to sail around it, dive below its surface, or simply admire it from the coast, this iconic landmark offers a glimpse into Martinique’s past and showcases the captivating natural wonders of the Caribbean.


Plan a trip to Diamond Rock and discover the stories, the beauty, and the rich marine world that make it a true gem of Martinique.