Saint Martin is an island shared between France (St-Martin) and Netherlands (Sint Maarten) with an unpoliced border dividing its southern portion. This makes it possible for you to sunbathe in the French St. Martin at day and to dine in the Dutch St. Martin at night. Both the Dutch and French have lived happily here for more than 350 years.
The Dutch half is to the south of St. Martin with its duty free shopping city, Philipsburg drawing thousands of tourists everyday. You find the best beach resorts along the southwest coast of the island while the French St. Martin is less scenic and developed. However, it is still a popular holiday destination.
St. Martin is famous as the gourmet capital of the Caribbean that provides exciting and lively nightlife. It has 35 enticing white beaches while the main attractions of the island are shopping, dipping in clear waters and relaxing on the beaches.
Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch St. Martin filled with duty free shops, hotels and courtyards. The city is the port call for hundreds of cruise ships, and the source for the hundreds of day trippers who visit the island everyday to shop for everything ranging from Italian leather goods to Japanese cameras. The nightlife here is the liveliest in the Caribbean.
Front Street is where tourists head for when in Philipsburg. There is an impressive building on its north, a charming, built around 1851, Methodist church off the street and a group of colonial houses further along Front Street. There is a tiny century old museum called Smartin Museum where you can learn all you want about the island’s history.
To the north of Philipsburg is the island’s zoo and botanical gardens with more than 20 animals of 60 different and endangered species. The cosmopolitan Caribbean city Marigot is only four streets wide; however, the emphasis of the city is its harbor where you find ferries departing to surrounding islands and fishing boats coming and going.
The southern end of the town is the main shopping area of St. Martin where you find elegant stores with the latest designer tax free fashions and jewelry. Most of the buildings in Marigot are colonial; you will find a sprinkling of smart cafés, boutiques, bistros and pastry shops.
The island’s largest historical monument, Fort St.Louis is overlooking the city of Marigot and was built according to Louis XVI plans with the intention of guarding the settlement from invaders. You can still find its ruins atop a hill and it is worth climbing the steep climb to get a view of the hill’s panoramic view of the surroundings and Marigot.
There is an open air public market in Marigot every Wednesday and Saturday that attracts tourists not for its wares, but for its elegance. You can buy tropical fruits, homemade goods, fresh fish, woodcarvings, souvenirs and lots more.
Besides these many sites and markets to visit while in St. Martin, you can also enjoy the many water sports and other activities the island has to offer.