The administrative and economic capital of Réunion, Saint-Denis is also a Town of Art and History with a rich heritage, not only popular with lovers of culture and architecture but also with people who enjoy city walks. Enriched by a harmonious blend of cultures and religions, Réunion's administrative centre enjoys a pleasant location on the shores of the Indian Ocean, with its many attractions spread along the north coast of the island. Within the municipality's territory there are sixty or so listed or registered historic monuments!
In the historic centre, which runs from the famous Barachois to the superb Jardin de l'État park, there are a number of Creole houses built in the 19th century that provide a wonderful reminder of the island's prosperity during that time. A historic road in the city, the elegant Rue de Paris has some beautiful old buildings, like the Carrère house, headquarters of the Saint-Denis Tourist Office, which offers guided tours of the house; the Déramond-Barre villa, where the poet Léon Dierx was born; the Artothèque, established in a 19th-century wooden villa, which hosts contemporary art exhibitions; and the former bishops' palace, which is now home to the Léon Dierx museum of modern art. This built heritage is not only exceptional but also wonderfully restored, which is sure to win over lovers of old houses full of historical charm…
Near Rue de Paris lies the magnificent Jardin de l'État park, a listed Historic Monument which you can enjoy on a walk through the charming gardens. Founded in the second half of the 18th century by the French East India Company to use as an acclimatisation garden, this verdant place is ideal for relaxing or taking a break between two tours, with its quiet paths, shaded areas, peaceful ponds and many exotic trees. At the back of the garden stands the old legislative palace, which now houses the Natural History Museum and its rich collection dedicated to the fauna of the West Indian Ocean islands, both current and extinct.
After relaxing, the tour of Réunion's capital continues on the Avenue de la Victoire, where you can admire the neoclassical façade of the city hall, the Victory column, in memory of those who fell in the First World War, the 19th-century cathedral, a listed Historic Monument, or the charming town square named Place Leconte de Lisle, where a magnificent flamboyant tree stands. From there, you can head to the seafront for a stroll along the Barachois, a place for walking and relaxing that is very popular with the people of Réunion. Known for its cannon battery facing the Indian Ocean, this historic quarter of the city not only has a lovely sea view but also shaded gardens, a bowling pitch and a children's park. Many concerts and other events take place there all year round, like the Bazarachois, a big street market held every two months - the third Saturday of the month from 7 pm to midnight - or the night market, a sociable event with stands selling local products and other fun activities, taking place on the first Saturday of every month.
Another thing that makes Saint-Denis special is its unique blend of ethnicities and traditions, which has resulted not just in cultural and culinary diversity but also a varied religious heritage, as evidenced by the Noor-e-Islam mosque overlooking the shopping street of Rue du Maréchal Leclerc, the Chinese pagoda on Rue Sainte-Anne and the Tamil temple Shri Kali Kampal Kôvil, not far from the local market named Le Petit Marché. Offering an abundance of colours and flavours, the "small market" is open every day with its stalls full of local vegetables, exotic fruit, flavoursome spices and colourful flowers. The "big market", Le Grand Marché, is open from Monday to Saturday and is held at the corner of Rue du Maréchal Leclerc and Boulevard Lucien Gasparin. It sells crafts, mainly from Madagascar, ranging from embroidered tablecloths to inlaid wooden boxes through wicker goods.