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Fort-de-France Walking Tour Tips

Schoelcher library
Schoelcher library. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

A Fort-de-France walking tour offers visitors a chance to see and photograph five interesting tourist attractions in the city. The city also has plenty of cultural charm.

Too much commercialism can ruin the ambience of a Caribbean city. Martinique still has a natural and casual atmosphere that other Caribbean cities have lost to heavy tourism.

Maybe it’s because Fort-de-France, the capitol of Martinique, isn’t a major cruise port. The island attracts three times as many resort visitors as cruise visitors, and most of the resort visitors are French, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. It also means many of the shop owners and other locals who cater to tourists don’t speak English.

So having someone on the tour who speaks French is helpful. A two-hour walking tour with a French-speaking guide will cost about $40 per person. Still, cruise visitors who don’t speak French can get around on foot without too much trouble.

Walking Tour Highlights

We found five sites during our Fort-de-France walking tour that we thought were especially interesting and photographic for any visitors to Martinique.

  1. La Savane Park
  2. Fort St. Louis
  3. Schoelcher Library
  4. St. Louis Cathedral
  5. Palais de Justice

Tour Starts at Waterfront

A successful walking tour of Fort-de-France conveniently begins along the waterfront by the cruise port. Cruise visitors can walk right off the ship, onto the docks and into the city. Most of the best attractions are not far on foot.

From the viewpoint of the docks, visitors to the city will find a nice shopping district to the left. On the right, they will see the domineering Fort St. Louis and the La Savane park, two of the best-known attractions.

Fort-de-France waterfront
Fort-de-France waterfront is the starting point for a walking tour. © 2021 Scott S. Bateman

The waterfront shops have the normal range of tourist-oriented things to buy. Shopping is adequate, but it doesn’t compare to larger cruise ports such as Nassau, Philipsburg, Willemstad or Charlotte Amalie. Tourists also will find a handful of cafes for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Fort St. Louis on the far right of the waterfront evolved from strongholds that began in 1638. It still serves as a naval base today. Parts of the fort and base are open to tours, although hours are limited.

La Savane park sits just to the left of Fort St. Louis. The park is mostly green space with a series of small shops and cafes in a line to the left of it. The most noteworthy point of interest in the park is the statue of the first wife of Napoleon, the emperor of France. The statue was decapitated and splattered with red paint by protesters.

Next to the park is the striking architecture of the Schoelcher Library. This photographic library, built in the late 1800s, is still active today. The inside is not as interesting as the outside, but the inside was nicely cool on a hot day.

Note the small beach in front of La Savane park and Fort St. Louis. No one swam there during our visit.

The St. Louis Cathedral is three blocks from the waterfront on Rue de la Liberte. The towering spire is easy to see from several blocks away. It is worth seeing just for the exterior and interior architecture alone.

The Palais de Justice, 35 Boulevard Général de Gaulle, is only viewable from the outside. The neoclassical courthouse is two blocks northeast of the cathedral. The photographic square in front of it has a statue of Victor Schoelcher, the French abolitionist who was especially known for his opposition to slavery in the Caribbean. The Schoelcher Library above also is named after him.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the America.

 > Category: Excursions   Tours   

January 16, 2021