Fort-de-France: Martinique’s spice- and fruit-scented capital city
The capital of the island that marries Gallic culture with Caribbean customs, Fort-de-France is quaint, feisty and charmingly French. Tropical white sands and waterfront dining make Martinique’s largest city a great point of departure for any holiday here.
Often called Fort-de-France’s Central Park, La Savane is 12½ acres of tropical greenery, fountains and shaded benches. A highlight is the statue of Empress Josephine holding a locket with a portrait of Napoleon inside. Headless for years, she was vandalized as retribution for the Martiniquais’ belief that she was directly responsible for slavery being brought back to the island to benefit her family’s plantation.
Tourists and locals alike love visiting the Marché aux Épices, the Fort-de-France spice market designed by Henri Pick in the late 19th century. Stallholders wearing traditional island garb preside over mountains of colourful spices, herbs and local flowers.
Fort-de-France’s most visible landmark, the Bibliothèque Schoelcher is the city’s wildly elaborate Romanesque public library. Named for Victor Schoelcher, who led the fight to free slaves in the West Indies in the 19th century, it was built in France for the 1889 World Expo in Paris, dismantled, shipped to Martinique and reassembled.
Tools, jewels and displays tell the story of the Carib way of life on the island before the arrival of the French (and Columbus before them) at the Musée Départemental de la Martinique.
Food in Fort-de-France
Friendly and elegant, La Baie is run by a native of Brittany who inventively prepares everything from seafood to galettes, deliciously savoury crèpes. Guests dining on the terrace get great views of the park and sea.
Foodies looking for a modern take on the island’s past head to La Plantation, chef Frederic Apiou’s contemporary French restaurant housed in a charming colonial home in Le Lamentin, a Fort-de-France suburb.