If you are wondering what’s the best place to learn about Mauritian history and culture, it has to be Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius. Located in the north west region of the island Port Louis is the smallest of the island’s 9 districts and certainly the warmest town of Mauritius. Tourists are encouraged to dress light or wear shorts to visit the capital’s intensely heated streets as the average highest and lowest average temperature are 28° / 21° Celsius over the year.
The city has plenty of attractions that can keep you entertained for days, but generally speaking, one day should be enough to see the most beautiful locations of Port Louis, especially if you opted for car rental in Mauritius. Forget beaches, visit the heart of history and culture of Mauritius, here are the places to visit in Port Louis:
Caudan – Port Louis Waterfront
Most visitors find it best to start the city trip in Caudan Waterfront. In addition of having one of the most secured parking of the city, Caudan opens up on the ocean on one side and is perfectly located for the next attractions of the city.
Caudan is an interesting starting point to discover Port Louis, but one could easily spend a whole day there with the numerous facilities, luxurious boutiques, cinemas and gambling den. Shops of all kinds, cafes and restaurants, games rooms, cinemas, musical entertainment, there is a little of everything to have fun.
The Caudan Waterfront is also home to a very special museum, the famous Blue Penny Museum that will delight history buffs. A visit to the best Mauritian handicrafts is just few metres away: the Caudan Craft Market!
La Place d’Armes
The city of Port Louis was founded in 1735 by François Mahé de Labourdonnais. Today still the statue of the French governor sits on Place d’Armes located right in front of the port. Historic place but also very busy because the road that runs through it connects south and north of the city center.
Place d’Armes is also a vast esplanade where one can admire royal palm trees and gunners standing as a rich colonial heritage. In perspective between the comings and goings of city dwellers, the Government House stands proudly north of the square. Proclaimed a national monument, this building was built by Nicolas de Maupin, another governor who took care of the island between 1729 and 1935.
Place d’Armes is also the banking district of the capital. You’ll find pretty much all the banks in Mauritius and some exchange points and other shops. Also, if you are looking for a taxi, you will find a taxi stand there.
The central market
Welcome to the hottest and liveliest place in Port Louis. You can get there from the Place d’Armes or through the Caudan Waterfront subway, follow the crowd and you will be there. It is the rallying point of Mauritians. Over the stalls, it is a rainbow of colors that scrolls in front of the eye.
The temptation is real between tropical fruits and vegetables, but especially in the food court where you can taste a nice palette of Mauritian street food. The famous dhall purri, the Gato-Piment, and the local drink much appreciated by all: Alouda. Some of the foods can be quite spicy and spicy, ask the vendors if you don’t want chili sauces added.
The market also has a “tourist” section where you’ll find local crafts, souvenirs and clothes. You can get great products for low prices, if you haggle. On the first floor of the market, you will find traditional spices, sugars and postcards etc.
For a visit through time discover Fort Adelaide, which is also known as Citadel. Built during British colonization in 1834, the fort served as an instrument of defense against all approaches of enemies, in particular the previous French colonizers.
Fort Adelaide rising more than 100 meters above sea level, offers a panoramic view of the mountain ranges of Moka, the streets of the capital and especially the racecourse of Champ de Mars, known to be the oldest racetrack of the southern hemisphere.
The Citadel was recently renovated to accommodate tourists looking for a peaceful place to admire the city. Since then, we find some nice shops to have fun and keep a memory of this place. There is no entrance fee and you can spend an hour or two at most.
Le Champ de Mars
It’s true that the Champ de Mars racecourse is not a very touristy or attractive place. But anyone who is really interested in unique experiences or mingling with Mauritians or those looking for authenticity will not miss visiting Le Champ de Mars open on Saturdays and Sundays.
The racetrack was founded in 1812 by Colonel Draper and is the second oldest in the world. The games are backed by the Mauritius Turf Club, and bets start from Rs 100 (around 3 euros). The VIP area has an elegant atmosphere where betting tips are exchanged by word of mouth. In the stands, the atmosphere is rather lively and spontaneous. You can bet at the same place and have the best view on the track.
The museum of Aapravasi Ghat
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006, this place was used between the nineteenth and twentieth century to accommodate indigenous migrant workers. Between 1849 and 1923, nearly half a million laborers from India went through this immigration depot to be sent to work in sugar cane plantations in Mauritius, Reunion, Australia and even much further, in the Caribbean.
Located on the quay of Port Louis, this open-air museum covers an area of 1640 m². During the tour, you will discover this historic place, at least what has stood the test of time. Today, only a few remains can be visited safely. Once inside, you will also discover ancient hospital, kitchens and common rooms.
This very particular and characteristic site of the island is of great value to the residents and there is a reason. More than half of the current Mauritian population is of Indian origin, therefore descendants of engaged workers who formerly occupied the Aapravasi Ghat.