Port Louis - The Capital of Mauritius
Port Louis - The Capital of Mauritius
Port Louis, capital and main port of Mauritius was founded in 1735 by French governor, Mahé de Labourdonnais. Its residential population of above 150,000 is an intense intermix of races and cultures.
Being a vibrant spot, it receives as many visitors during daytime - commuters, locals, businessmen and tourists. Shopping and a visit to the city museums can be very interesting and informative.
The Central Market
The 'bazaar' (or central market) is located near the harbour on Farquhar Street. It opens every day from 6am. In the colourful and bustling central market everything can be found: from food to garments. In summer, it is advisable to visit the market early, before the heat of the day.
The market is divided into the vegetable and fruit section, the meat section and the craft section. A variety of local food, crafted objects and tropical fruits are sold at affordable prices. The level of hustling there can be tiresome sometimes. Yelling their lungs out, the vendors offer almost unlimited products and services. You have to bargain hard as prices may vary from one stall to another. There is also an area where local snacks and drinks such as dholl puri and alouda are sold.
Beware of eating food sold from street stalls if your stomach cannot stand unhealthy and spicy food. Pirated versions of movies, programs and games are cheap on the street but they are of poor quality and their sale is illegal. Like in all crowded areas, be wary of your surroundings and belongings at all times.
Caudan, built on the old docks on the sea front, is one of the biggest shopping malls in Mauritius. It comprises of more than 170 shops, restaurants, a casino, cinemas and a 5-star business hotel. You may find a collection of local souvenir shops and other foreign brands there. You will also find the Blue Penny Museum which hosts two of the rarest and most expensive stamps in the world.
Blue Penny Museum
The Blue Penny Museum hosts a selection of maps, photographs and engravings from different periods in history. It has also a gallery for temporary exhibitions and a souvenir boutique. The pride of the museum's collection lies in two of the world's rarest stamps: the red one-penny and blue two-pence 'Post Office' stamps.
They stamps were engraved and printed locally by Joseph Osmond Barnard. In September 1847, Mauritius was the first British colony and fifth country in the world to issue postage stamps. The stamps were incorrectly printed with the words 'Post Office' rather than 'Post Paid'. These stamps now rank among the most valuable in the world. The Blue Penny Museum, which conveys the history of the island's exploration, settlement and colonial period, provides an enriching experience.
Chinatown is a small village within Port Louis made of Chinese restaurants, shops and other small businesses. Its cramped shops sell practically everything. Many hawkers sell Chinese foods as well. The elders of Chinatown still wear traditional dress and speak with a strong Chinese accent.
La Place D'Armes
Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais
At the entrance of Place D'Armes, the statue of the French governor, Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais, one of the founding fathers of Mauritius, dominates the view.
Theatre of Port Louis
Built in the 19th Century, this timeless municipal theatre is one of the oldest in the Indian Ocean. It is decorated in a classic London theatre style and seats around 600 people.
Government House is one of the oldest and the most important building in Port Louis. The striking French colonial structures of this building were constructed in 1740 by Mahé de Labourdonnais. It was his official residence as governor.
Port Louis' most imposing boulevard, Sookdeo Bissoondoyal, lined with royal palm trees leads up to Government House. Outside stands a typically solemn statue of the British Queen Victoria representative of Mauritian history. Some huge flame trees give shade to the entrance. Mauritius is one of the Commonwealth countries with the oldest democratic tradition.
Fort Adelaide, or La Citadelle, named after Queen Adelaide, is situated on a hill overlooking the city and the harbour. It is at 240 ft. above sea level. The fort was built by the British around 1835 for the strategic purpose of guarding the harbour against enemy attacks and fires that broke in the city.
The British are thought to have built this fort in fear of a civil war from remaining French settlers on the island. There is an underground tunnel that links it with the harbour. The Fort is the only one, out of the four forts built in Port Louis not have ended up in ruins.
Its black stone walls conceal the interior renovation work in progress since the early 1990s. It is now being transformed into a site of recreation and tourism.
Fort Adelaide was a fitting symbol of British strength, but the great building slowly decayed over the following one and a half centuries.
Champ de Mars
Champ de Mars, founded in 1812, is another interesting place to visit especially during the racing season. Situated in Port Louis, it is the sole race-track on the island. It is the oldest race course in the Indian Ocean and the second oldest in the southern Hemisphere.
As the most popular sport in Mauritius, a high level of professionalism has been reached in the organization of races over the last decades. Thus, boosting competition levels, and creating a unique electrifying atmosphere on each race day. This is a great tourist attraction as well. You can expect around 30 000 visitors per race.
The first race-meeting usually starts in mid-May and ends normally in late November, with an average of nine horses per race. On average, some 60 horses participate on each racing day. Since the early 1990's, the Totalising System has been introduced and various betting combinations are now available. The standard of horses in Mauritius may not be as high as in Europe or U.S., but the atmosphere during a race-meeting is definitely as exciting as anywhere else in the world.
Museum of Photography
The small Photography Museum is the labour of love of local photographer Tristan Bréville. He's amassed a treasure trove of old cameras and prints, including several daguerreotypes (the forerunner of photographs) produced in Mauritius in 1840.
The museum also contains a vast archive of historical photos of the island, only a tiny fraction of which are on display.
This fascinating museum has one of the island's oldest display of cameras prints and photographs of colonial Mauritius. Exhibits include an impressive glass-plate camera from 1880 and some wonderful archived photos, copies of which can be bought as souvenirs.
You can discover more than 1000 photo apparatus, ancient photos, albums, photo frames, and if you are lucky, a Daguerréotype. This museum full of memories is definitely a place not to be missed.
The Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum, the oldest museum in Mauritius, is found at the centre of Port Louis. The Museum collection dates from early 1800. It contains unique, rare and even extinct specimens of the fauna of Mauritius and surrounding islets.
The natural history museum is free for everyone. The only downside is that you need to have a very good memory as visitors are not allowed to take pictures. Besides, it does not have air conditioning, so it is advised to visit on a cool day. The most popular exhibition is that of the Dodo its skeletons are on display. The museum is also a nice day out from the bustle of the capital one can also learn about nature and marine life.