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Monday, February 29, 2016

Fort de France, Martinique Walking City Tour


Martinique was a French colony in the West Indies. Its capital city was St.Pierre, but in 1902, it was virtually destroyed and more than 30,000 people were killed due to a volcanic eruption by Mt. Pelee.
Fort de France became the city of Martinique which is now the primary entryway on the island.

This one hour, 15 minutes tour is not to be missed when visiting the city of Fort de France. There are several highlights as you visit historical monuments such as the War memorial, the Schoelcher Library, La Savane Park, St. Louis Cathedral, Le Marche' Couvert, Aime' Cesaire Theater, Maison Bougenot, Fort St. Louis, and many more.
If you signed up with a group tour, itineraries would be a bit limited since tour guides usually follow the time length of the tour as exactly as it is.
A walking city tour on your own will probably be a bit longer since you can take time as you wish, but you have to have your guide map with you.

Among the tour highlights with noted historical pasts: (Not in order)

  • La Savane Park (Place de la Savane) - This is a 12-acre plaza and park which was built as early as 18th century. It was originally used as a training place by French military stationed at Fort St. Louis.
This photo is not mine (Courtesy of azmartinique.com)


At the southwest corner of the park is the Statue of Belain D'Esnambuc, while at the northwest corner is the Statue of Empress Josephine. Each of the two statue found in the park has its own long story to tell.


Statue of Empress Josephine (headless) and there's a story behind that.


  • Fort St. Louis - located east of La Savane Park, just across the Blvd. Chevalier Sainte-Marthe. The fort was built to protect the harbor and its town from enemies. The fort was reopened in July 2014 when it was reinstated as an active military installation.

  • St. Louis Cathedral - this church is built of iron with a Gothic architectural style and considered to be the most prominent structure that you see when you are in downtown Fort de France. Because it was constructed of iron, it can withstand earthquakes, hurricanes and fires. It was built in 1895, but in those early days, it was destoyed by natural disasters including other previous churches. This is designed by Henri Picq, prompting him to construct its entire frame with steel, - the reason why the church is now called "The Iron Cathedral". The cathedral has extremely interesting huge pipe organs and Byzantine architectural elements.


  • Court of Justice Building - infront of the building is the Statue of Victor Schoelcher, who had an important role in the emancipation of the island's slaves in 1848.

  • Schoelcher Library - this building was initially constructed in 1889 serving as a tribute to French abolotionist Victor Schoelcher. As a contemporary of Gustave Eiffel, designed by Henri Picq, the library was dismantled piece by piece and shipped to Martinique, then reassembled in Fort de france along Rue de la Liberte', just across La Savane Park.

  • Le Marche Couvert - this is the covered market, also designed by Henri Picq which was originally built in 1901, but it was later restored in 1989. Currently, it's now a busy place to go where you can buy local spices, herbs, fruits, veggies, arts and crafts, all local products of Martinique. There are also restaurants within the market that offer local cuisines.
  • Aime' Cesaire Theater - the theater used to be the City Hall of Fort de France where Aime' Cesaire held his office for more than 50 years, - a civil rights leader statesman and a playwright. It was constructed between 1884 and 1901 with a Neoclassical architecture in the Caribbean. At present, it now houses a museum upstairs in honor of Cesaire.


If you are touring on your own, you can also add more landmarks to visit such as the Martiniques Pre-Columbian Museum, Place Jose Marti, etc...

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