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Visit Cayenne, in french Guyana

Visit Cayenne

© Photo credit: Par Ville de Cayenne - Cayenne, capital of French Guiana's territorial collectivity

Welcome to Cayenne, the ideal starting point for discovering French Guiana !

Before we share our 10 must-do activities, let's take a moment to introduce Cayenne itself.

The town of Cayenne

Cayenne is in French Guiana, South America, between Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) and Brazil. It is the capital of the territorial collectivity of French Guiana, a French commune, and also an overseas department.

Situated on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Cayenne offers a rich cultural experience, reflecting a veritable melting pot of Amerindian, Creole, Haitian, Surinamese, Brazilian, Chinese, Indian, European and other influences. With a population of around 63,000 in 2021, it remains the smallest commune in the department.

Legend

The legend of King Cépérou and his son Caïenne gives the town its name. Caïenne, in love with Princess Bélem, overcame magical challenges to win her heart. In gratitude, King Cépérou named the village after his son, making Cayenne a town with a romantic past.

History

Cayenne's history dates back to the 3rd century, when Amazonian Amerindians settled on the coast. The 16th century marked the beginning of an eventful history of colonization, and it was in 1657 that French Guiana definitively became a French colony.

In 1848, the abolition of slavery led to the economic collapse of French Guiana. Napoleon III set up the penal colony in French Guiana. Cayenne became the headquarters of the penitentiary administration.

In 1855, the gold rush drew thousands of gold miners to the Guianese forest, boosting commercial activity.

In 1946, French Guiana became a département. Administration and public services moved into the town.

In 1965, the creation of the Centre Spatial Guyanais in Kourou changed the face of Cayenne, which acquired modern infrastructures, the international port of Dégrad-Des-Cannes in Rémire-Montjoly and the modernization of the Félix-Éboué International Airport in Matoury.

Cayenne, Rémire-Montjoly and Matoury together form the island of Cayenne, where the main shops, activities, bars, nightlife and museums are concentrated.

Cayenne is still dominated by administrative and commercial activities.

Things to do in Cayenne

© Photo credit: The Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana published

What to do in Cayenne, French Guiana

Visit Cayenne, discover its history, take part in activities and enjoy the local flavors.

What to do in Cayenne

© Photo credit: Bar des Palmistes in Cayenne, French Guiana

1. Place des Palmistes in downtown Cayenne, French Guiana

The site has undergone several metamorphoses, reflecting its past :

  • The square was originally designed as an open space to air out the city after the demolition of the city walls. At the turn of events, royal palms from Guisanbourg were planted in the square, transforming it into the famous "Place des Palmistes".

  • In 1880, a column bearing a bust of the Republic was erected to commemorate the storming of the Bastille.

  • Under the governorship of Gerville-Reache, the square underwent another transformation, this time into an English garden, but the vagaries of the weather often led to flooding. To remedy this problem, in 1925 Governor Chanel undertook the creation of a network of cemented canals, which still exist today.

  • The history of the square doesn't end there. It proudly houses a statue of Félix Éboué, an emblematic figure of French Guyana, taking the place of the Merlet fountain.

Today, it's much more than just an esplanade. The Place des Palmistes has become one of the emblematic places where Guyanese gather to socialize, relax, drink a glass and celebrate. In the evening, it transforms into a bustling market, attracting locals with its trailers of vendors offering delicious food. Take advantage of your visit to discover nearby Place Léopold Héder, a historic Guyanese monument opposite the Hôtel de Préfecture. In the center is the Fontaine de Montravel, crucial to the inhabitants until 1867, solving water supply problems.

What to see in Cayenne

© Photo credit: Botanical garden in Cayenne, French Guiana

2. The botanical garden in Cayenne, French Guiana

In the 18th century, King Louis XVI had a special garden, both a repository and a nursery, to house a variety of plants and trees. Under the direction of Louis Claude Richard, this garden housed specimens.

In 1821, a house for the botanist was built. The site became a sanctuary for botany.

In 1879, the garden changed its name to "Jardin Botanique", evolving from a simple depot to a floral park in the heart of the city. With a surface area of three hectares, this haven of greenery offers a soothing escape, making the botanical garden one of the locals' favorite spots.

Activities in Cayenne

© Photo credit: Cayenne market

3. The Cayenne market in downtown Cayenne, French Guiana

In 1888, a covered market and public garden were built, becoming an essential part of Cayenne's city life. However, in 1907, the town council decided to do away with the garden and build a new covered market, the one we know today.

In 1920, on the site of the old market, the monument to the dead of the First World War was erected, crowned by a rooster. This is how the square got its current name, "Place du Coq".

Place du Coq is close to the famous Place des Palmistes. The Cayenne market, which stretches between the outside and a covered market hall, is one of the liveliest spots on the island.

For lovers of flavors: head inside the market, where the experience diversifies with spices and food stalls.

Visit Cayenne

© Photo credit: Saint Sauveur Cathedral

4. Saint Sauveur Cathedral, Cayenne, French Guiana

The cathedral was inaugurated in 1861. In recognition of its historical and architectural importance, it was classified as a historic monument.

In 1952, the cathedral underwent an expansion phase.

Between 1952 and 1954, renovation work was carried out to the east.

Today, the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur de Cayenne, with its characteristic pale yellow color, stands in the center of the city, remaining one of the most important historical and spiritual landmarks, bearing witness to Cayenne's rich history.

Visit to Cayenne

© Photo credit: The Departmental Museum in Cayenne, French Guiana

5. The Musée Alexandre-Franconie in Cayenne, French Guiana

The building adjacent to Place des Palmistes, built between 1824 and 1842, was donated to the government in 1884 by Gustave Franconie, a former member of parliament for French Guiana from a prosperous merchant family.

Today, the building houses the Alexandre Franconie Library, inaugurated in 1885 in honor of Gustave's father. The Musée Alexandre Franconie, established in 1901, is a treasure trove of objects collected over the years and has been listed as a Historic Monument since 1986.

The Musée Territorial features a natural history collection, offering a glimpse into the richness of the region.

In addition to these natural history collections, the museum explores various aspects of Guyanese history, from the penal colony to local arts and crafts. Models, minerals and historical paintings complete this immersive experience.

Visit Cayenne French Guiana

© Photo credit: Creole architecture in Cayenne, French Guiana

6. Creole houses in Cayenne, French Guiana

Cayenne boasts traditional architecture in the heart of its city center, and these houses make every street a unique place to explore. Original hues and more contemporary bright colors, wrought-iron balconies, transoms - each seemingly similar detail reveals its own rich history.

Lose yourself in the narrow streets and soak up the atmosphere of the Cayenne of yesteryear!

For an even more immersive experience, visit the birthplace of Guyanese politician Félix Eboué.

Cayenne to see

© Photo credit: Carnival in Cayenne, French Guiana

Carnival in Cayenne occupies a central place among the capital's events, running from Epiphany in January to Ash Wednesday in February or March.

The event takes its inspiration from the carnival practiced in Europe. During the colonial period, colonists took part in the carnival, while slaves were excluded. Despite this ban, slaves held secret celebrations, seeing carnival as a way of regaining a hint of freedom, celebrating fertility and harvests in African style, and mocking the colonists at the same time.

Today, the Cayenne carnival is characterized by parades of costumed groups around floats. The streets are lined with spectators.

Visit Cayenne French Guiana

© Photo credit: Fort de Céperou, Cayenne, French Guiana

8. Fort Cépérou, panoramic view of Cayenne, French Guiana

Overlooking Cayenne, the Fort Cépérou mound, a listed historic monument, offers a panoramic view of the city. Accessible by a short walk from Place des Palmistes, this hillock was the birthplace of Cayenne. A must-see for an immersion in the city's past.

Cayenne visit

© Photo credit: Musée des cultures guyanaises, Cayenne, French Guiana

9. The Museum of Guianese Cultures in Cayenne, French Guiana

The Musée des Cultures Guyanaises is divided into two sites, two renovated houses that are emblematic of Cayenne. Both feature collections of objects from Amerindian, Bushinenge, Creole, Hmong, Brazilian and Haitian peoples.

Tour of Cayenne

© Photo credit: Montabo beach in Cayenne, French Guiana

10. Montabo beach in Cayenne, French Guiana

Montabo beach is one of the most popular spots in Cayenne. It offers a pleasant place to relax and enjoy nature.

Situated close to the town center, this 2 km-long sandy beach attracts locals and travelers alike.

It is also popular with sports enthusiasts in the early morning and late afternoon for its two trails: the Montabo trail and the Mont Bourda trail.

Visit Cayenne French Guiana

© Photo credit: Île Royale des ïles du salut in Kourou, French Guiana

We also invite you to explore the Îles du Salut archipelago. Although the Îles du Salut are located in Kourou, they are part of the Cayenne territory. This archipelago comprises the Îles Royales, Saint-Joseph and the Îles du Diable. During your visit, you'll discover the remains of the penal colony, have a bite to eat at the inn and enjoy a swim. What's more, it's possible to stay on site, offering a complete experience.

There are also the following points to visit:

  • pointe des Amandiers

  • Pointe Buzaré

  • Pointe Saint-Joseph

For a more relaxing stay, we recommend renting a car in Cayenne to make it easier to get around.

Cayenne: good to know

  • Cayenne to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni: 268km

  • Cayenne to Kourou: 64km

  • Cayenne to Saint-Gerges: 189km

The best time to visit Cayenne is from July to November, during the dry season. Carnival in February and March is also exciting, despite the occasional rain. Plan ahead according to your climatic preferences and your interest in local events.

  • Central Hotel Cayenne

  • Grand Hotel Montabo

  • Mercure Cayenne Royal Amazonia

  • Ker Alberte Hotel

  • Palmistes Hotel

  • Amandiers Hotels

  • Le Guyane hotel

You'll find restaurants downtown and in the Hibiscus district.

Favourites: La Villa and Boeuf au jardin

  • Cocktail bars: Spot Rooftop, 1922

  • Atmospheric bars: Cocosoda, Cayenne Café, Hitbox

  • Bar open on Mondays: Bar des Palmistes

There are also several bars in the Hibiscus district

There are two concert halls on the route de Montabo, l'Encre and le Zephir.

Yes, Cayenne has a cinema on Place des Palmistes : l'Agora.

The Mayor of Cayenne is Sandra Trochimara.

Previous mayors were :

  • April 8, 2010: Marie Laure Phinera Horth

  • March 15, 2008 : Rodolphe alexandre

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