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St. Maarten

Marigot Walking Tour: French, Pretty and Relaxing

French Capital of the Island is Quaint and, Yes, Very French
Fort St. Louis overlooks the Marigot harbor.
Fort St. Louis overlooks the Marigot harbor. © 2018 Scott S. Bateman

A walking tour of Marigot St. Martin creates immediate first impressions -- a beautiful harbor, a small town feeling and signs of French influence everywhere.

Marigot is the capital of the French half of St. Martin, while Philipsburg is capital of the Dutch or St. Maarten half of the island.

The island is more widely known as St. Maarten because the Dutch half receives far more tourists than the French half. St. Maarten's popularity is partly the result of the cruise port at Philipsburg, the dominance of resorts on the Dutch side and the dominance of exclusive villas on the French side.

The island is so small -- the smallest in the world shared by two countries -- that an excursion to Marigot is fast and simple. Cruise visitors, who usually disembark in Philipsburg, will find that a tour bus or taxi is probably more convenient than renting a car.

No matter how tourists get there, Marigot is a quaint town on the northwest coast of the island. It has a modest shopping district, a handful of interesting attractions and of course a number of French bistros, cafes and restaurants.

Shopping and Marigot Flea Market

Marigot St. Martin
View of Marigot flea market. © 2018 Scott S. Bateman
Shopping and restaurants are mainly concentrated in two areas -- stretched out on Boulevard de France along the waterfront of Marigot Bay and packed on the nearby lagoon at Marina Port Royale.

Anyone interested in local crafts and other goods should see the Marigot flea market beside the Marigot Bay every Wednesday and Saturday. They are the two busy days, although many of the stalls are available most days of the week.

We found the flea market to be somewhat small compared to other destinations. But the stalls were quite colorful, the crafts had a strong local flavor and the atmosphere fun and relaxing.

Anyone who is visiting the island by cruise should consider the Marigot flea market as one of several reasons to visit the town and not the primary or only reason.

In fact, people who plan a visit to Marigot should expect several smaller benefits to going and not expect a single major reason to visit.

Visitors with shopping tastes beyond the local crafts should consider Marina Port Royale, a group of shops at the southern end of town with quality jewelry and European designer fashions.

It is located on the lagoon between Rue de Sandy Town and Rue Low Ground. Another option is the new shopping center, West Indies Mall, near the base of Fort St. Louis.

Fort St. Louis

Once a little shopping is out of the way, a site worth a visit is the ruins of Fort St. Louis. It overlooks the bay atop a large hill at the northern end of town. It's hard to miss from the area about the flea market.

Parking is available at the foot of the hill, and a steep walk up is required to reach the top.

The few remaining ruins aren't worth the moderately strenuous trek to the top. But the views of the bay and the surrounding countryside of St. Martin are splendid.

The vantage point offers great photo opportunities.


Marigot St Martin restaurants
Marigot cafe
After so much walking, it may be time to consider where to eat.

Again, many of the restaurants are located on Boulevard de France and at Marina Port Royal. French cuisine dominates the menus, although some Italian and International cuisine can be found.

Marigot harbor front restaurants include La Vie en Rose, O Plongeoir, Le Bar de la Mer, Durreche and Claude Mini-Club.

A much bigger concentration of restaurants can be found at Marina Port Royal. They include Bali Bar, La Belle Epoque, Brasserie de la Gare, David's Bar, Le France, La Main à la Pâte, La Petite Auberge des Iles, Le Village, Le Tropicana, Le Saint Germain, Le Galion, Don Camillo, La Croissanterie and Le Chanteclaire.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

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February 17, 2020
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