Port Louis is the vibrant capital of Mauritius, a colourful and intoxicating little city that overlooks a large, sheltered harbour and has a handsome, mountain backdrop. It’s a fascinating blend of cultures, with temples, mosques and churches, its own Chinatown, and the enticing Central Market features a wealth of produce reflecting the city’s multiculturalism. The waterfront district is always lively, the shopping excellent (don’t forget that Mauritius is duty free), and there are scores of historic and cultural sights to explore, including the oldest racecourse in the southern hemisphere. There are wonderful beaches stretching north and south of the city, whether you want the rustic charm of Albion beach or the bright lights of the popular resort town of Grand Baie.
Beautifully situated between mountains and a vast, sheltered harbour, Port Louis is a colourful and enticing little city. Top attractions include the remarkable 19th-century fortress that dominates a hilltop and offers panoramic views, the intoxicating Central Market, which is a feast for all the senses, and the lively waterfront, home to countless shops, bars and restaurants. You can take a breather in the lovely gardens of the Jardins des Compagnies, or visit one of the fascinating museums, such as the famous Blue Penny Museum, or the Aapravasi Ghat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was the landing point for labourers after the abolition of slavery in 1834. Head up the coast to the wonderful beaches at Trou aux Biches and Grand Baie, or take a day trip to the magnificent botanical gardens in Pamplemousses or the remote wilderness of the Black River Gorges National Park.
Port Louis is a vibrant city that offers a fantastic array of eating options. You can go high-end and eat at one of the glamorous hotel restaurants, or enjoy some delicious home-cooking at a family-run grill, or tuck into some of the fabulous street food on offer. The cuisine of Mauritius is amazing, a wonderful fusion of tastes and cultures that reflects the island’s many ethnicities. Creole, Indian, Chinese, African, European and Asian flavours are all found in Mauritian cuisine. The spectacularly fresh seafood is a highlight, or you could go for classic dishes such rougaille (meat or seafood in a spicy Creole tomato sauce) or daube (a succulent stew made with beef or chicken).
The colourful little city of Port Louis offers a host of unforgettable experiences for families. The Central Market, with its myriad stalls full of exotic produce, and Chinatown, packed with restaurants and shops, are always a hit with kids. They can run around and let off steam in the Jardins des Compagnies gardens, shaded with enormous banyan trees, or take a boat excursion out to sea in search of dolphins and sea turtles. They will certainly enjoy a visit to the fabulous beach at Trou aux Biches, about a 30-minute drive away, which is fantastic for kids of all ages. Other top family attractions include the La Vanille Nature Reserve (about 50 minutes' drive away) where you can watch the crocodiles being fed and pet the giant tortoises.
Action & Adventure
There are lots of boat excursions that depart from Port Louis and include all kinds of activities, from dolphin-watching to snorkelling and diving. There are some incredible diving sites along this coast, and several companies offer excursions to the best wrecks and reefs. Many of the larger resorts, such as Grand Baie and Flic-en-Flac (both within easy reach of Port Louis), offer water sports with an adrenaline rush, such as parasailing and water-skiing. You could also head south to the spectacular wilderness of the Black River Gorges National Park, which preserves one of the largest swathes of forest on the island. There are more than 50 kilometres of hiking paths, which pass natural swimming pools and waterfalls.
There are no beaches in Port Louis itself, although it does have a very popular waterfront area that is where people come to stroll, shop, eat and drink. The nearest sandy beach is Albion Beach, located about 8 miles south of the city centre, which is relaxed and mainly patronised by locals. Most holiday-makers head up the coast to Trou aux Biches, about a 30-minute drive away, which is regularly voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Beyond it is Mont Choisy, another stunning beach, and then comes Grand Baie, which is a very popular resort with a great beach. The snorkelling and scuba diving along this stretch of coast is excellent and there are lots of local suppliers that rent out equipment and offer excursions to the best diving sites.
Mauritius is an island known for its utter tranquillity and chilled out island vibe, so you won’t find much in the way of serious nightlife. What there is in Port Louis is mainly concentrated around the lively waterfront: the rest of the city is quiet and tranquil after nightfall. Sit out on the terrace and enjoy a glass of the famous island rum or an ice-cold beer and watch the boats in the harbour. The main nightlife hub in Mauritius is the buzzing resort of Grand Baie, which has a whole string of bars and clubs which get going late and then keep on going until dawn. Grand Baie is about a 30-minute drive from Port Louis.
Port Louis is a great destination for a romantic holiday that offers something a little different from the usual sun, sea and sand (although you can enjoy that too!). It’s an attractive, colourful city, scattered with elegant colonial buildings and dominated by a fortress, which is worth visiting for the tremendous views. You could also spend a day at the races at the oldest racecourse in the southern hemisphere, or stroll among the shops and restaurants of the waterfront development. Out of town, there is a host of things to do, from exploring the Maison Eureka, a beautifully preserved plantation house set in exquisite gardens, to ambling through the romantic botanic garden in Pamplemousses. If you fancy a day at the beach, Trou aux Biches is only half an hour away by car and boasts one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
Port Louis is full of fascinating cultural sights, from the elegant colonial architecture to a slew of temples, mosques and churches including the splendid Jummah Mosque and St James’ Cathedral. It is crowned by a 19th-century fortress, which has little to see, but does offer panoramic views. There are several interesting museums, including the Blue Penny Museum, which displays the rare postage stamp along with excellent exhibitions on the island’s history. The Aapravasi Ghat, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the landing point for labourers (mainly from China) who were brought here after the abolition of slavery in 1834.