48 Hours in Fort-de-France, Martinique’s Colorful Caribbean Capital

48 Hours in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Did you know that you can fly from Boston, New York and Baltimore to the island of Martinique for as low as $69 each way? Yes, you read that correctly. I was already super pumped when WOW Air started offering $99 from these destinations to Iceland, but when I heard that another European budget airline, Norwegian, was expanding in the U.S. I couldn’t hesitate to jump on their website and book a flight ASAP.

48 Hours in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Here’s a geography lesson: Martinique is a French-owned Caribbean island located between Dominica and Saint Lucia. Guadeloupe is another, less developed nearby French island that you can also now fly to on Norwegian. How are these cheap flights allowed? Well, technically, Martinique and Guadeloupe are part of the European Union so Norwegian can fly there. It’s pretty fantastic.

I didn’t really think before booking my flight to the city, but after I began researching things to do in Forte-de-France, I quickly realized that the island of Martinique is not one frequented by Americans. Few hotels’ websites are in English, and most of the reviews on TripAdvisor are in French. This hindered a lot of my pre-planning, but hey – it’s all part of the adventure!

Let me begin this post by saying that you shouldn’t fly all the way to Martinique just to spend 48 hours in Fort-de-France. In fact, you really don’t need to spend much time in the city at all – there are so many beautiful sights to take in throughout the island and Fort-de-France is definitely not the main attraction. That being said, it is a cruise port and apparently many people find themselves there on business as well (umm, can I have your job? But actually). So if you’re spending a couple days, it’s a good home base where you’ll be able to learn a lot about Martinique’s history and be centrally located for a day trip or two on the island.

How to Spend 48 Hours in Fort-de-France, Martinique

Where to Stay

48 Hours in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Fort-de-France is colorful and mostly colonial, with a few more modern buildings popping up along its waterfront. But its streets are a little dilapidated and much of the city looks run down. It’s definitely not as charming as some of the smaller towns on Martinique. But if you are planning to stay, the best area to book your accommodations would be near La Savane, Fort-de-France’s spacious public park. While the park is still under some development, it’s located just steps from some of the city’s top attractions, including the beautiful bay, cruise ship terminal, and Fort Saint-Louis. The park also has a number of food kiosks where you can grab a drink or a snack and sit outside on a nice night.

Hotel Savane in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Hotel Savane in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

I stayed at the Fort Savane hotel, which is located directly across the street from the park. While the rooms were minimal in design, they were spotlessly clean and offered everything one could want: free WiFi, air conditioning, an espresso machine and a nice spacious bathroom. They even had a dehumidifier in case we needed it. And it was so relaxing in there, that I decided to buy dehumidifier once I got home. There was even a public computer in the courtyard area for guests to use – great for doing some research mid-trip! For the price (around $130 per night) it was a great choice. {Disclosure: this paragraph contains an affiliate link to Booking.com; I earn a small commission on bookings}

Things to do in Fort-de-France

48 Hours in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

In La Savane, don’t miss the beheaded statue of Josephine de Beauharnais, former wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and empress of France. Possibly Martinique’s most famous resident, Josephine isn’t exactly a popular figure around town – hence, her statue’s beheading by “vandals” in 1991. As the story goes, Empress Josephine was the one who convinced Napoleon to reinstate slavery in French colonies in 1804. Seeing as the majority of Martinicans are descended from slaves, it’s not hard to see why they might not be Josephine’s biggest fans. It looks like the authorities in Martinique aren’t too concerned about her, either, since the beheaded statue hasn’t been repaired in 20+ years.

48 Hours in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Right across the street from the statue is the Schoelcher Library, one of the most unique architectural gems of Martinique. The library was actually built in France back in 1889, then shipped piece by piece to the island as a monument to Victor Schoelcher. Schoecher, a writer and politician who was key to the abolition of slavery in 1848, donated his private library of about 9,000 books and 250 musical scores to Martinique on the condition that a public library be built there.

48 Hours in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com 48 Hours in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

The largest and most prominent attraction in Fort-de-France is located right across the park from Schoelcher Library: Fort Saint-Louis. Both an active naval base and a listed historic site in France, the fort offers daily tours, if you’re interested, and is rumored to be the home of several Green Iguanas that aren’t indigenous to the island and must have escaped from a ship one day.

Fort Saint-Louis is located right on the beautiful Bay of Fort-de-France and has a stunning view of the city, as well as the cruise ships coming in and out. There’s also a small beach next to it, but I wouldn’t recommend spending much time there as the beaches outside the city are much more impressive.

Sacré-Coeur de la Balata, Martinique

A final tourist stop to make during 48 hours in Fort-de-France is the Sacré-Coeur de la Balata. If you’ve been to Paris, you’ll recognize it as a miniature version of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmarte. Just like the original, which sits atop Paris’s highest point, the Sacré-Coeur de la Balata is located high in the hills above Fort-de-France. Definitely worth the trip, even if it’s just for the view!

Day Trips from Fort-de-France

While Fort-de-France has a lot of historical attractions, the real beauty of Martinique is outside the city. If you’re spending 48 hours in Fort-de-France, I’d recommend one day exploring the city and one day venturing out in a rental car because the scenery is just gorgeous. Here are two ideas.

Mont Pelee, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Road trip to Mount Pelée, Martinique’s volcano located on the northern side of the island. To get there, you’ll drive along the coast past the beautiful volcanic black sand beach of Le Carbet and through the picturesque town of Saint-Pierre.

Le Carbet, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Saint-Pierre was once the capital of Martinique and known as the “Paris of the Caribbean” until a volcanic eruption completely destroyed the city and killed all of its residents in 1902. There are still some remains of the original city there, and a volcano museum. Follow the signs to Morne-Rouge and then you’ll see additional signs pointing you to a scenic overlook of Mount Pelée that is reachable via car. If you’re feeling active, you can park here and hike for some pretty cool tropical scenery and a bit of cardio!

48 Hours in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Alternatively, you could drive south from Fort-de-France to the Diamond Rock, one of the most beautiful natural sights in Martinique. An uninhabitable diamond-shaped islet, the rock was once used by the British as a stronghold as they fought the French over control of the island.

48 Hours in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

On the way, stop in the beach town of Les Anses-d’Arlet for lunch with your feet in the sand and some sun.

Where to Dine Out in Fort-de-France

Should you find yourself hungry during your 48 hours in Fort-de-France, there are a couple good restaurants in town to check out.

Black Pearl, Martinique

The flight from Boston arrived on a Sunday night, which meant practically everything in Martinique was closed. Fortunately, our hotel, Fort Savane, was just a five minute walk from the Black Pearl. The Black Pearl specializes in Sunday night dinners, and the place was hopping.

The Yellow, Martinique

A quieter but more delicious meal can be found at The Yellow, the #1-rated restaurant in Fort-de-France on Tripadvisor that was surprisingly pretty empty when we arrived. While Fort-de-France is hectic and crowded during the day, it turns into a ghost town at night and this hidden-upstairs gem of a restaurant was no different. Regardless of the lack of patrons, the food was delicious and it was nice that the restaurant was only a few blocks from Fort Savane! Additionally, they have works from local artists displayed throughout the restaurant.

The Yellow, Martinique

An affordable and tasty breakfast can be found by the pedestrian street on the plaza across from the shopping mall. There’s a kiosk serving crepes and egg sandwiches that are just delish.

Forte-de-France, Martinique

During the day, make sure you head to Le Grand Marché Couvert, or Covered Market, a bustling bazaar where locals and tourists alike shop for fruit, spices, tropical flowers and handicrafts. But the real draw is the food: the restaurants in the back of the market, where you can sample some of the local creole cuisine right in the middle of the action.

48 Hours in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Grab a table at Chez Carole, where the friendly (this is a rarity in Martinique) owner speaks English (also a rarity!!) and will start you off with typical cod fritters and a rum cocktail (she even leaves the bottle on the table, in case you need something a little stronger). For the entree, definitely go with the chicken “colombo,” or Martinique’s version of curry.

Lunch at Chez Carole in Forte-de-France, Martinique | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Since I spent a whole week in Martinique thanks to my company’s closure over the holidays, I have lots more to share with you including a luxurious break in the resort town of Trois-Ilets, island hopping on Martinique’s Atlantic coast with a local fisherman and adventuring through gorges and waterfalls in the north. Stay tuned!

2 Comments on "48 Hours in Fort-de-France, Martinique’s Colorful Caribbean Capital"

  1. I am still learning how to find cheaper flights for myself. I’ve read your free e-book for help, but I’m still in awe how you scored such cheap flights to Martinique, Iceland and the Philippines!!
    Amanda – Lesson Plans & Layovers recently posted…I’m Going to England!My Profile

  2. Where did you find out that Guadeloupe is less developed than Martinique? It’s a curious information..

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