At the heart of town is La Savane, a broad garden with many palms and mangos; playing fields, walks, and benches; plus shops and cafes lining its sides. In the middle of this grand square stands a statue of Joséphine, "Napoleon's little Creole," made of white marble by Vital Debray. Joséphine poses in a Regency gown and looks toward Les Trois-Ilets, where she was born. The statue was decapitated in 1991, probably because islanders felt she championed slavery. Near the harbor, at the edge of the park, you'll find vendors' stalls with handmade crafts, including baskets, beads, bangles, woodcarvings, and straw hats.
Your next stop could be the 1875 Cathédrale St-Louis, on rue Victor-Schoelcher. The religious centerpiece of the island, it's an extraordinary iron building, which has been likened to "a sort of Catholic railway station." A number of the island's former governors are buried beneath the choir loft.
A statue in front of the Palais de Justice is of the island's second main historical figure, Victor Schoelcher, who worked to free the slaves in the late 19th century. Bibliothèque Schoelcher, 1 rue de la Liberté (tel. 596/70-26-67), also honors this popular hero. Functioning today as the island's central government-funded library, the elaborate structure was first displayed at the Paris Exposition of 1889. The Romanesque portal, the Egyptian lotus-petal columns, even the turquoise tiles were imported piece by piece from Paris and reassembled here. It's open Monday 1 to 5:30pm, Tuesday to Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm, and Saturday 8:30am to noon.
Fort St-Louis, built in the Vauban style on a rocky promontory, guards the port. Fort Tartenson and Fort Desaix also stand on hills overlooking the port.
Musée Departemental d'Archeologie et de Prehistoire de la Martinique, 9 rue de la Liberté (tel. 596/71-57-05), has preserved Martinique's pre-Columbian past and has relics from the early settlers, the Arawaks and the Caribs. The museum has exhibits from the years from 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1635, but stops shortly after the arrival of the first French colonials in the early 1600s. In other words, it's mostly an ethnological museum. The museum faces La Savane and is open Monday 1 to 5pm, Tuesday to Friday 8am to 5pm, and on Saturday 9am to noon. Admission is 3.05€ for adults, 1.52€ for children 3 to 11 and 2.29€ students.
Le Musée Régional d'Histoire et d'Ethnographie, 10 bd. de Général-de-Gaulle, in Fort-de-France (tel. 596/72-81-87), is devoted to an illumination of the island's agrarian past (and the slave culture that made it possible). Expositions showcase the early-20th-century volcanic eruption that leveled St-Pierre, slavery and its effects on the island's society, and explorations of the sugar-cane industry. It's open Tuesday from 2 to 5pm; Saturday from 8:30am to noon; and Monday and Wednesday to Friday from 8:30am to 5pm. Entrance costs 3€ for adults and .75€ for children 11 and under. Entrance is free for anyone with a valid student ID.
Sacré-Coeur de Balata Cathedral, at Balata, overlooking Fort-de-France, is a copy of the one looking down from Montmartre upon Paris -- and this one is just as incongruous, maybe more so. It's reached by going along route de la Trace (Rte. N3). Balata is 10km (6 1/4 miles) northwest of Fort-de-France.
A few minutes away on Route N3, Jardin de Balata (tel. 596/64-48-73) is a tropical botanical park created by Jean-Philippe Thoze on land that the jungle was rapidly reclaiming around a Creole house that belonged to his grandmother. He restored the house, furnishing it with antiques and engravings. The garden contains a profusion of flowers, shrubs, and trees. It's open daily from 9am to 6pm. Admission is 12.50€ for adults, 7€ for children 3 to 12, and free for children 6 and under.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.