Fort-de-FranceCopyright: Crobard / Shutterstock.com
Fort-de-FranceWith its unique mix of Creole culture and European cosmopolitanism, the French overseas territory of Martinique, and in particular its capital Fort-de-France, has just the right blend of tradition and sophistication. A fast-developing city boasting first-class shopping and dining as well as a bustling urban life. But the main draw to this Caribbean island remains its surrounding natural beauty made up of lush tropical rain forests, an active volcanic mountain, and picture-perfect beaches, which have captivated visitors for centuries.
The CityFort-de-France is finally living up to its potential and becoming the up-and-coming city many knew it could be. There has always been plenty there to exploit, from the 'One of the World's Most Beautiful Bays' (an honor recently bestowed upon the Fort-de-France Bay) to the historical landmarks dating back to the early days of colonisation, to the eclectic and sophisticated Creole cuisine, to the incomparable natural beauty of the surrounding area. The city has been called 'the Paris of the Caribbean', and though this may be a bit of an exaggeration, there are solid reasons for the comparison. Recent development projects are finally coming to fruition, renewing the central park of La Savane and the wonderful beachside promenade, and more projects are planned for the future which will surely make Fort-de-France one of the most appealing, walkable, beautiful and cosmopolitan cities in the Caribbean. Also take the chance to explore the surrounding areas, climb Mount Pelée, visit natural reserves and revel at some of the island's dream-like beaches.
Do & See
The picturesque seaside city of Fort-de-France offers plenty in the way of sights and attractions, including beautiful historical buildings, an imposing fort and ample walkability, but it is best used as a home-base for exploring the natural surroundings of the island of Martinique. Laze at idyllic beaches from coast to coast, hike up the commanding Mount Pelée, and marvel at the lush, tropical beauty of the island. The more historically-minded can check out the Musée de la Pagerie or contemplate the solemn Anse Cafard Slave Memorial, a sobering reminder or the country's and region's tumultuous past.
Martinique owes its eclectic culinary tradition to a mix of cultures and influences, creating Creole specialties that combine French sophistication with African spice and flavour, drawing also on Asian ideas. Seafood features prominently on any menu, including shellfish, smoked fish, crab, stewed conch and curry dishes. Start your meal with a mixed rum drink and finish with a fine vintage, and indulge in the flavours and aromas of the rich Martinican cuisine.
Coffee has been produced on Martinique since the 1700's, when a naval officer stole a seed and brought it to the Caribbean. For about half a century after that, Martinique was the most important coffee producer in the world, and the inheritance from that time is still palpable today. Exquisite cafes can be found throughout the island striving to brew that perfect cup of coffee. Try some of the boutique cafes or pop into a chain boulangerie in Fort-de-France for a quick snack and caffeine boost.
Bars & Nightlife
There is plenty to do in Martinique once the sun sets and the cool evening breeze starts to blow. Excellent dining and drinking can be found in and around Fort-de-France, at fancy beachfront locations or grittier downtown joints. The best evening entertainment, however, is to be found in the island's cultural arena, at theatres and performance venues where local troupes put on fantastic performances of Martinique's traditional music and dances.
Martinique is one of the better shopping destinations in the Caribbean, with a wide variety of shops and boutiques showcasing everything from local crafts and jewelry in the best Creole tradition to stunning artwork and the latest in French fashion, fresh off of Parisian catwalks. The numerous markets can also be a fascinating visit, offering the chance to wander through colourful stalls browsing fresh produce, spices and local rum, for a memorable and authentic Martinican experience.