The city of Saint-Pierre is located in the South of Réunion Island. It might be the first big city that you may see upon your arrival in the country as it is located near the second international airport of the island: Pierrefonds.
The foundation of the city of Saint-Pierre goes back to the construction of a small church on the left bank of Ravine Blanche in 1732 but the development of the city really began under the supervision of Mahé de Labourdonnais starting from 1735.
Nowadays the city of Saint-Pierre is spread over an area covering 95.99 square kilometers and has a population of 79 228 people called the Saint-Pierrois.
During your holidays in Reunion Island, you’ll be able to visit several monuments and historical sites of the City of Saint-Pierre such as: Le Domaine du Café Grillé, La Saga du Rhum, the Wash-house of Casabona, the Covered Market, the Raphaël Barquissau media library, the Exotica Park, the Pierrefonds Sugar Estate and the Port and Beach of Saint Pierre.
Le Domaine du Café Grillé:
Located in Pierrefonds, Le Domaine du Café Grillé is an ethno botanic garden, which means that it is dedicated to the study of the relationships between men and plants. Its covers an area of four hectares that harbors over 800 different species of plants which are related to the history of the island. Among those, you will find endemic and indigenous plants such as colored ornamental shrubs, aromatic plants, lianas, a palm plantation, orchids, bamboos and several fruit trees.
On another course, you will discover the plants that were cultivated over the years in Réunion Island, like sugar cane, vanilla, vetiver and coffee. You will also be able to see a hut made with lataniers leaves, a still which was once used to make geranium essential oils, a coffee bar and a shop selling artisanal products.
La Saga du Rhum:
La Saga du Rhum is a museum that’s dedicated to rum, an alcoholic drink made from sugarcane juice. This museum was set up in the oldest family distillery that’s still in operation in Réunion Island: the Isautier distillery which was created in 1845. There, you will discover everything about the production of rum in Réunion Island: its history, its production methods, the varieties that are sold by the distilleries and the several ways it is consumed.
The wash-house of Casabona:
The wash-house of Casabona was once a key part of the city of Saint-Pierre. It was also the biggest public wash-house of the island, measuring 250 meters in length and having 125 basins. Nowadays , a few washerwomen still continue to use the wash-house, mostly Mahoran women.
The Saint-Pierre covered Market:
The covered market, also called the Bazar, was built between 1856 and 1863. Nowadays, it’s a touristic attraction where you will be able to purchase fruits and vegetables as well as handicrafts imported from Madagascar, Indonesia or made in Réunion. The market is also surrounded by four fountains decorated with cherubs.
The Media Library:
The building that is now occupied by the media library was erected between 1758 and 1773. It was used as a warehouse until 1825 and then became the Government House of the island. In 1863 it was converted into a school run by monks. More than a century later in 1988, the building was converted into the Raphaël Barquissau Media Library, honoring a great teacher, writer and historian from the area who owned a great number of books. Nowadays the Media Library has more than 530 works which the public can view on appointment.
The Exotica Park:
The Peirrefonds Exotica Park is a tropical garden of more than 5 hectares which harbors more than 300 plant species. There, you will find anthuriums, orchids, palm trees, flowering lianas, bonsai trees, a landscaped farm, a children’s playground, a pool with a slide and a geological museum containing a model of the island made from the minerals that can be found in the country with semi-precious stone insets.
The Pierrefonds Sugar Estate:
The Pierrefonds Sugar Estate ceased operating in 1969. However it was converted into a cultural space by the Saint-Pierre municipality. Guided tours are organized regularly to showcase an important industrial and cultural site of the island. The factory was built in the 1830’s and has thus been through several important periods in the history of Réunion Island such as slavery and indentured labor.
The port and beach of Saint-Pierre:
The construction of the first port of Saint-Pierre goes back to 1854. It was once a port where sailboats would cast anchor but nowadays only small fishing ships and yachts can only be found there. One can often see the city’s inhabitants fishing on the piers. Nearby, you can find fish markets where you can purchase fresh fish.
The beach of Saint Pierre is a white sandy beach that’s protected by coral reefs which harbor several species of fish. Nearby, you can find the Beach Gardens, a family area where several plant species like Vacoas, casuarina trees, succulent plants, tropical almonds, palm trees and laurelwood have been planted.
Credit top picture Hotel de Ville, Saint-Pierre, Réunion Island. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.