Marigot is the charming capital of French St. Martin. It’s about 15 minutes by car from Philipsburg, but the quiet village seems worlds away from its bustling Dutch sibling. The streets are lined with restored French-colonial buildings with colorful facades and rust-colored roofs that have retained much of their architectural authenticity. The town, founded around 1769, owes its name to the many swamps, or marigots, that once covered the area. The town grew rapidly throughout the 18th century thanks to the island’s thriving sugarcane industry.
Throughout Marigot, restored traditional Creole houses have been transformed into luxury boutiques. French designer shops line the town’s main street, Rue de la République, while the Marigot Market offers a variety of produce, spices, and crafts. Marigot also has many outdoor cafés that serve classic French dishes.
The town’s top attraction is the historic St. Martin Museum. The exhibitions showcase a journey through 5,000 years of the island’s history, highlighting the geography, marine life, and colonization. It all culminates with the collection of historic scenes from the early 20th century. Overlooking the Marigot Bay harbor sits Fort St. Louis, which was constructed in 1750 by the French as a defense against the plundering of Marigot’s warehouses for sugarcane, rum, and salt before the goods were exported. Though little remains of the original fortress, the views from the top are breathtaking.
To get a taste of the small island’s gastronomical highlights, visit the French-side town of Grand Case. It’s about 10 minutes by car from Marigot. Known as the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean, Grand Case presents a veritable buffet of authentic French cafés and brasseries.
From casual lolos (small barbecue shacks along the beach where locals grill lobster, chicken, spareribs, and other meats) to five-star establishments, Grand Case’s restaurants serve fine French fare infused with island flavors.