Why Is Cayenne The Capital of French Guiana?

Why Is Cayenne The Capital of French Guiana?
Why Is Cayenne The Capital of French Guiana?

French Guiana, located in South America, is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Its unique architecture (with South American and French influences) blends seamlessly in with the natural landscape. But, what is the capital of French Guiana?

The capital of French Guiana is Cayenne. On this page, we are going to tell you a little bit more about Cayenne. This includes a bit of information about how it became the capital of French Guiana. 

Where Is The Capital of French Guiana Located?

Where Is The Capital of French Guiana Located?
Where Is The Capital of French Guiana Located?

Cayenne is located at the mouth of the Cayenne River. This means that it overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. A good amount of Cayenne is located on Cayenne Island, although the island is now connected to French Guiana.

Brief History of Cayenne

Aerial view of Cayenne, capital of French Guiana
Aerial view of Cayenne, capital of French Guiana

It is worth noting at this point that French Guiana is part of France. It is an overseas administrative region of France, and this is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. The French maintain a good number of their overseas territories, while other colonies from other colonists are now independent. This means that you are not going to have a history of independence wars and the like with Cayenne. For the most part, the history hasn’t been anywhere near as violent as some of the other regions in the area, but a lot still has happened here.

Spain was the first country to find French Guiana. It would have staked a claim for itself, but it decided that the area where Cayenne lies was just too hot for their tastes. It didn’t really have much in the way of natural resources either.

The first time Cayenne really existed was in 1604. Although, it didn’t hang around for long. The French held it, but they were eventually driven out by the Portuguese,

In 1643, the French returned and named the area La Ravardière. By 1664, the area was renamed Cayenne.

The area hasn’t been constantly in French hands since then. It switched between various Empires since then (British, Spanish, Portuguese, etc.). In some cases, it was administered by a combination of them.

By 1817, Cayenne had fallen permanently into French hands, and it has remained that way ever since.

Cayenne is one of the fastest-growing cities in the region, mostly due to a lot of immigration from the West Indies. This has allowed Cayenne to go from strength to strength.

When Did Cayenne Become The Capital of French Guiana?

Rue de Remire street in the center of Cayenne, capital of French Guiana.
Rue de Remire street in the center of Cayenne, capital of French Guiana.

Cayenne has been the capital of French Guiana since 1981, although it was essentially a de facto capital way before that. Not only was it the largest place in French Guiana, but it also played host to the vast majority of the government’s administrative buildings. 

Why Is Cayenne The Capital of French Guiana?

Because France had to name a capital of the area.

French Guiana has had several capitals over the years. A lot of those capitals have been convenient. Something had to be named i.e. when French Guiana was used as a French penal colony, it needed some administrative buildings to run the whole system.

When French territories started to gain a bit more autonomy, France had to name capitals in each of them. This is where the big decisions would be made (even if those decisions were only given power by the French government).

Cayenne made the perfect place for a capital. It was where the government was doing the bulk of their business anyway. In addition to this, the population in Cayenne is vast. In almost all cases, when a capital city is chosen much later down the line, it is selected where the people are because this tends to be the biggest economy. Yes. We know that there are exceptions to this rule.

It is important to note that Cayenne doesn’t have quite the same power that a capital city in another country would have. This is because it is not fully autonomous from France. Essentially, it is like a capital city of a state more than anything else.

Best Places To Visit in Cayenne

Cayenne in itself is a beautiful sight. The area is dominated by French architecture. In fact, walking around, it is like you are walking through a slice of old France. Of course, there are still a few other places to enjoy in the capital. Let’s go through them.

Devil’s Island

Devil’s Island can no longer be landed on. It is said to be one of the most dangerous places around Cayenne, likely due to crumbling buildings. Devil’s Island was the home of a former French penal colony right up until the 20th Century (it even housed suspected Nazi spies). Boats sail past the island. You can land on other penal colony islands in the area, though.

Devil’s Island is unique. The landscape is stunning, but you can shake the feeling of the unimaginable horrors that happened on the island.

Ilet la Mere

This is another ex-penal island. Some buildings still stand, but it is very much famed for its natural beauty now. The area, for instance, is completely inhabited by very sociable monkeys. Make sure that you snap a couple of pictures of them if you are ever in the area!

St. Sauveur Cathedral

Cayenne isn’t really a tourist destination, which means that many of the must-see attractions tend to be old French colonial buildings. St. Sauveur Cathedral is nowhere near the grandest cathedral you have ever seen. Chances are churches in your local area may be grander. However, it is one of the grander buildings in Cayenne and a showcase of the history of the region.

Fort Cépérou

This is an old French fort that overlooks Cayenne. While the fort in itself is good to explore, the real highlight is the fact that it sits upon the highest hill in Cayenne. This means that you get to enjoy great views over the whole region. It is a pretty easy climb too, so you don’t need to bring your hiking boots!

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!