Martinique is a charming eastern Caribbean island located in the Lesser Antilles Islands in between St. Lucia to the south and Dominica to the south. It is a French overseas territory, but has its own capital. What is the capital of Martinique?
The Capital of Martinique is Fort-de-France, on the west side of the island. Fort-de-France is known for its colonial architecture including its decorative iron balconies. Fort-de-France is the largest town on the island, and its main commercial center.
Martinique has a fascinating history, and Fort-de-France has figured prominently in the development of the island. Read on for everything you need to know about this historic and beautiful capital of Martinique, Fort-de-France.
Where is the Capital of Martinique Located?
Fort-de-France is located on the west side of the island, on the Fort-de-France Bay. It also sits at the place where the Madame River empties into the bay. Much of Martinique is hilly and includes active volcanoes, but Fort-de-France sits between the Caribbean sea and the hills.
This means it enjoys an important strategic and commercial location and has since the 1600s.
Brief History of Fort-de-France
Fort-de-France was originally known as “Fort Royal” and is still referred to as “Foyal” in the Creole language. The town was developed as an administrative capital in the 1600s, when a fort was erected on the site by the French.
The city was captured by the British in 1762, but was returned to French control in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris.
No stranger to natural disasters, Fort-de-France has known earthquakes and fires, having to rebuild itself after each. In addition, its low location means it is surrounded by swamps, which have contributed to the spread of diseases such as yellow fever.
Fort-de-France is and was an important port for commerce and trade. It was key to the French fleet in the sugarcane, rum, and cacao trades.
Martinique became a modern French Department on March 19, 1946.
When did Fort-de-France become the Capital of Martinique?
For many years, however, the nearby town of Saint-Pierre, known as the “Paris of Caribbean,” “Little Paris,” or “Paris of the West Indies,” was known as the social, economic, and cultural capital of the island, overshadowing Fort Royal.
Saint-Pierre was the oldest city on the island, and was settled by the French around 1635. The city was known as “the most beautiful city in the Caribbean” and became a symbol of French power and success.
It became a religious center and also a fort, from which the French could protect the island. It was known for its beautiful public fountains. It was also an economic and banking capital of the island.
And then, on May 8, 1902, it was all destroyed by the eruption of nearby Mount Pelee. This left Fort-de-France as the largest city, and all capital functions were moved there.
Why is Fort-de-France the capital of Martinique?
Fort-de-France was originally sited as a strategic location to protect the island from enemy attacks. The town was originally used as a fort in 1638, and at that time became the administrative capital.
Fort-de-France was a large town and had close ties to Saint-Pierre, so it became the capital when Saint-Pierre was completely destroyed by lava during the eruption of Mount Pelee.
Best Places to visit in Fort-de-France.
If you are into historic forts and gardens, Fort-de-France is your place to be! Here are some suggestions if you are visiting this historic town.
Jardin de Balata
A beautiful botanic garden with stunning views of the bay. You can see all kinds of native plants and learn all about the tropical climate of the island. You can do a tree top walk and eat at the restaurant attached. Not a bad place to experience the beauty of Martinique in the mountains and learn about stunning tropical flowers.
A great place to learn all about the history of Fort-de-France. You can do a guided walk through the fort and then see the beautiful view of the bay. The naval base at Fort Saint-Louis is still active and houses the National Marine high command for the West Indies-Guyana.
If you can’t get enough of military history, other forts in the area include Fort Desaix, Fort Tartenson, and Fort Gerbault
Distillerie la Favorite
If you are heading to the Caribbean, you may want to try some rum! Distillerie la Favorite offers free self guided tours showing you how rum is made, and most days you can sample some of the rums as well!
Saint Louis Cathedral
Saint Louis Cathedral is an unusual architectural find, and is still in use as a cathedral today. If you are looking to rest and perhaps cool off, check out the stained-glass windows and get a taste of the religious life on the island.
Parc Naturel Régional de la Martinique
A nature reserve with old growth trees and beaches. It’s a very large park, so you can do a hike if that is your thing. You can see mangroves and beautiful beaches.
Musée Départemental de la Martinique
If you love museums, check out the small Musee Departemental de la Martinique to learn about the history of the island in the pre-colonial period. You can see artifacts and art from Native Americans and Amerindians and learn about the earliest inhabitants of the island.
Exhibits are in English, Spanish, and French.
This is a somewhat challenging rainforest hike to waterfalls. Along the way you will see an array of rainforest plants–some native and some not–but all are beautiful. You can swim at the base of the falls
It will be slippery at times dark, so visitors suggest bringing a flashlight and some rain gear.
Martinique is a beautiful island with French history, Caribbean flair, and incredible natural beauty. You can fill a day just walking around Fort-de-France looking at flowers and architecture, or venture inland into mountainous terrain.
If you are a history buff, check out the forts and learn about the native people. Or just hang out at the beach! There is really something to do for everyone.