Serving as the capital of French Guiana, Cayenne occupies a former island where the Cayenne River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It was settled by the French in 1604 and had a tumultuous history under Dutch, English and Portuguese control before becoming a penal colony of France between 1854 and 1938.
Things to do in Cayenne
Wander through Cayenne’s 17th-century old town, which is clustered with pastel-coloured buildings that reflect architectural influences from France, Brazil and the Caribbean. At the centre of social life is the Place des Palmistes, a palm-lined green space featuring a statue of Félix Éboué, a prominent local who became the Governor of Guadeloupe in 1936.
Occupying a blue-and-yellow house in the Centre-Ville is the Musée des Cultures Guyanaises, which showcases the diversity of ethnic groups that have left their mark on French Guiana. Get up close to artefacts, textiles and earthenware from the indigenous Amerindians, Creoles and Maroons, then hear about the immigration of Haitians, Brazilians and Hmong people from Southeast Asia.
Built on a hill overlooking the mouth of the Cayenne River is Fort Cépérou, which is named after a tribal chief who occupied the area before French arrival. Learn about the fort’s encounters with the Dutch and the Portuguese since the 17th century while enjoying the sweeping panoramas across Cayenne. Also not to miss is the Jardin Botanique, which is planted with species from across South America and the Caribbean.
Getting around Cayenne
Cayenne-Felix Eboué Airport is a 20-minute drive from the centre of Cayenne, which has flights to Paris and destinations across the Caribbean. Minivans travel from St Georges near French Guiana’s border with Brazil and buses connect most of Cayenne’s attractions. The Centre-Ville is ideally explored on foot.