Sheltered from the trade winds, on the North-West Coast, Port Louis, the Mauritian capital, is without question the liveliest town on the island. The administrative and financial capital, this Mauritian city, brimming with office blocks and Creole houses is an enormous cultural melting pot. Far from Western capitals, Port Louis bears the scars of its colonial past. Mauritius’ capital city transports you on an ocean of culture and authenticity where art and history are omnipresent.
In the Mauritian capital, you should make a visit to the city’s Central Market your top priority, it’s an experience for all the senses that you should not miss ! No matter which way you go in Port Louis, the chances are that you will find the bustling Central Market.
It’s nice to meander your way through the piles of exotic fruit and the spice vendors and lose yourself in the maze of shops and stalls selling artisanal and natural products ; an authentic Mauritian shopping excursion. When you feel the need for some light refreshment, go to one of the little watering holes on the edges of the Port Louis Market to try an Alouda. An Alouda is a local drink made with Indian basil, milk and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. If you don’t like the sound of this concoction, fear not, the Central Market also has innumerable herb sellers which are said to cure all ills !
A real town within a town, the Mauritian capital has its own Chinatown. Its structure, architecture, population, restaurants, shops and smells transport you to China ! Upon arrival in Port-Louis’ Chinatown, you are bathed in the atmosphere of East Asia.
The Food and Culture Festival has been a mainstay event in Chinatown since 2004. Every April Mauritians and tourists alike are wowed by Martial Arts displays, culinary demonstrations from well-known chefs, puppet shows and the election of “Little Miss Chinatown”. The Chinese New Year is also an opportunity to experience Chinese art and Culture in this lively quarter of the Mauritian capital.
From May to November, part of the Mauritian capital lives and breathes horse racing. The only racecourse in Mauritius is in Port Louis. Tourists and Mauritians flock to the Champs de Mars on winter weekends and delight in the spectacle that is horse racing in Mauritius.
The best way to get your bearings or to see where you have been in Port Louis is at Fort Adelaide, otherwise known as ‘La Citadelle’. One of four forts built by the British in the 1830s, Fort Adélaïde harbours numerous relics of the colonial period. At the end of the day, you will not only be able to enjoy the wonderful views of the city below but also see the superb sunset. Historians have different views on the reason why the fort was built : to keep the colonists in or to keep potential invaders out ?
The Mauritian capital is relatively calm in the evenings, you can take an after dinner stroll quite easily. If you are looking for a bit of excitement, the Caudan Waterfront Shopping Centre in a trendy part of town will certainly appeal. For shopping, dancing and even a spot of gambling, Caudan Waterfront is a great place to have fun. The shopping centre includes exclusive boutiques, quality artisanal wares, a cinema ; a museum, restaurants and even one of the few casinos in Mauritius ! This part of town is really lively in the evenings and is popular with Mauritius’ well-to-do youngsters who come for cultural exhibitions and music.
Port Louis is the biggest town in Mauritius with a population of more than 150,000. The city’s numerous bus stations enable you to catch buses for different parts of the country very cheaply. Taxis are as numerous as they are inexpensive ; it is possible to hire one for the day to visit the island without worrying about driving yourself. Taxi drivers are happy to share their often extensive knowledge of their country and its history. The experience will be less of a challenge than in public transport and the price can be negotiated.