Typical markets in overseas territories
The islands of Guadeloupe: the spice market in Pointe-à-Pitre
A visit to the Saint-Antoine market in Pointe-à-Pitre, a listed historic monument, offers an evocative journey into the world of Creole flavours and aromas.
Also known as the spice market, it is housed in an open market hall renovated in 2006 which bears witness to the vogue for metallic architecture at the end of the 19th century.
Dressed in their ample dresses and madras headscarves, the welcoming “doudous” will call out to you as soon as you arrive to make you stop and enjoy the scent of cinnamon and vanilla and to extol the virtues of “bois bandé” (potency wood), a tree reputed to be an effective aphrodisiac. While you’re tasting a home-made rum punch, why not chat with one of the market’s vivacious and eloquent stallholders – you never know, they might even agree to give you a recipe for a typical Creole dish!
Alongside the myriad sweet and savoury spices on display, flowers, Creole dolls, baskets and other local crafts will fight for your attention in this bustling scene.
Open Monday to Saturday, 6am to 3pm. Between Rue Peynier and Rue Frebault, 97110 Pointe-à-Pitre.
Martinique: the Grand Marché in Fort-de-France
Officially opened with great pomp in 1885, the Grand Marché in Fort-de-France, or simply the Marché aux Epices (Spice Market), is the largest market on the island. Beneath its vast metal and glass canopy, you’ll be welcomed by an explosion of colours and scents: fruit and vegetables from farms around the island, plus an array of sacks and a variety of recipients teeming with the flavours of Martinique: vanilla, spices of every description, peppers, “bois bandé”, “rhum arrangé”, energising concoctions etc.
Here, you’ll also find local arts and crafts as well as restaurants open at lunchtime serving typical Creole dishes such as grilled fish, accras (fritters), lambis (large sea snails), crayfish, octopus, chicken colombo etc.
Don’t leave without buying a bakoua, a traditional Martinique hat that will protect you from the sun’s strong rays!
Open from 6am to 3pm. Rue Antoine Isambert, 97200 Fort-de-France.
Saint-Martin: Marigot market
With over a hundred stalls, the market in Marigot, the capital of the French part of Saint-Martin island, is the largest open-air market of its kind in the Caribbean, selling freshly caught fish, tropical fruits and vegetables, spices, meat, “rhum arrangé” and numerous other local products.
Standing at the foot of the Saint-Louis fort along the seafront, the small open-air stalls are run by female stallholders who will welcome you warmly and with good humour, contributing to the market’s family atmosphere. A remarkable stone statue by the sculptor Martin Lynn pays homage to these market traders dressed in their traditional madras headscarves.
Just a few steps away, the craft market located around the bandstand is the perfect place in which to stroll around in search of typical gifts to take home as souvenirs, before taking a break in one of the market’s typical restaurants or “lolos”, where you will discover the flavours and subtleties of Saint-Martin’s cuisine in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Open from 7am to 3pm. Seafront, 97150 Marigot.
French Guiana: Cayenne market
Located close to the Place des Palmistes, Cayenne’s symbolic square planted with giant palm trees, the city’s central market is one place that you shouldn’t miss in French Guiana’s capital.
The market is popular with local Cayennais as well as with inhabitants of the surrounding area who come here to buy and sell their products and produce.
Inside the large metal-framed market hall built in the early 20C, as well as in adjacent streets, a multitude of stalls tempt visitors with a whole host of fruit and vegetables grown by the Hmong in the south-east and west of the country, creating an explosion of colours, aromas and flavours!
With their characteristic gift of the gab, the female stallholders encourage visitors to buy their exotic fruits, spices and different varieties of punch among the myriad options on offer.
If a visit here gives you an appetite, make sure you head to the end of the hall to satisfy your tastebuds in one of the small restaurants selling soups and fresh fruit juices.
After enjoying a welcome food break, continue your exploration by hunting down local arts and crafts, such as objects made from exotic woods or braided necklaces.
Open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 4am to 2pm. Place du Marché, 97300 Cayenne.
Réunion: the Saint-Paul market
On the west coast of the island of Réunion, the town of Saint-Paul is the weekly setting for one of the island’s most beautiful markets.
From Friday morning to Saturday morning, dozens of stalls are set up on the seafront esplanade, creating a multi-coloured spectacle.
Stallholders selling vegetables and exotic fruits stand side-by-side with smallholders selling peppers, traders selling vanilla grown on Réunion, as well as beekeepers enticing customers with their “péi” honey.
Continue exploring through the section of the market reserved for arts and crafts, where you will be delighted to find items such as sarongs, t-shirts, basketwork and hats on sale.
Afterwards, it’s time to devote yourself to more practical pursuits, which means discovering local “péi” cuisine! If you prefer to eat on the hoof, you can choose from a whole array of Creole specialities which you can buy at the market and take away, such as “pains bouchons gratinés” (a typical Réunion sandwich), samosas, “gâteaux patates” (sweet potato cakes) and punnets of Victoria pineapple.
For a typical lunchtime experience, the small restaurants dotted around the market serve a range of typical dishes such as chicken curry and “saucisse rougail”.
Open all day on Friday (6am to 5.30pm) and Saturday morning (6am to noon). Boulevard du Front de Mer, 97460 Saint-Paul.
Tahiti and its islands: Papeete municipal market
“Mapuru a Paraita”: the name of Papeete’s market stands proudly at the entrance to the Polynesian capital’s most popular tourist attraction, located in the heart of the historic quarter and just a stone’s throw from the seafront.
In this vast renovated market hall extending across 7,000m² of space on two floors, the atmosphere is teeming with life from the very early hours of the morning.
On the ground floor, fruit and vegetable sellers stand in front of their multi-coloured stalls where breadfruit, yams, taro and sweet potatoes vie for space alongside guavas, mangoes, soursops, barbadines and sweetsops. From here, a whole array of new aromas attack the senses as you head towards stalls selling fresh fish and teeming with the treasures of Polynesia’s underwater world, such as tuna, bonito, mahi mahi, parrot fish, mullet etc – it’s impossible to list them all!
To complete your gastronomic tour, Tahiti’s meat-producers will be delighted if you try the island’s traditional suckling pig with its characteristic caramelised skin – an absolute must for those keen to experience typical Polynesian cuisine.
You can then continue to the flower section and watch “mamas” (grandmothers) create garlands and necklaces from typical flowers such as the Tahitian tiaré, tipanier, pitate (local jasmine) and taina. These floral perfumes will follow you as you head upstairs to the floor dedicated to Polynesian arts and crafts: it’s difficult to choose between the woven hats from the Austral islands, necklaces and sculptures from the Marquesas islands, sarongs and floral shirts, baskets and “tifaifais” – the extraordinary patchwork bedspreads which inspired the painters Matisse and Gauguin.
Before heading back downstairs, enjoy the view of the entire market with its colourful stalls and busy traders.
Open Monday 5am to 5.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday 4am to 5.30pm, and Sunday 3am to 9am. Rue Edouard Ahnne, 98714 Papeete.
New Caledonia: Nouméa municipal market
Formerly situated in a cramped location on a square in the town centre, Nouméa market moved to the Baie de la Moselle district near the town’s port in 1991.
Covered with blue tiles, the market comprises five hexagonal halls which are easily recognisable from afar, and houses dozens of stalls, each one more colourful than the last.
Here you’ll find local fruit and vegetables, as well as bouquets of flamboyant flowers and stalls selling cakes and pastries.
If you get here early in the morning, you can watch the fishermen unloading their fresh fish and shellfish directly on to the quay and admire the local women in their beautiful, brightly coloured mission dresses doing their shopping.
At the weekend, groups of musicians add to the atmosphere and you can enjoy the sound of Oceanic music as you stroll around the market. This lively, colourful scene is also a meeting-place for artisans who set up their stalls in the market hall or on the square nearby, selling a selection of sarongs, basketwork items, and little statues made from wood or soapstone.
Quench your thirst with a Number One beer, a local speciality made in New Caledonia, then sample a bougna in one of the snack bars or brasseries in the nearby Quartier Latin. Many of the fresh ingredients used to make this famous Melanesian dish, such as meat, sweet potatoes, bananas and yams, are sold at the market.
Open daily 5am to noon (closed the 3rd Monday of the month). 50 bis, rue Georges Clémenceau, 98800 Nouméa.