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by Orient-Express

History & Culture

 Villas Roland
Oleander bushes lines the roadway to a St. Martin farm

St. Martin

St. Martin is the name of the French-governed portion of the island, while St. Maarten designates the Dutch side. The total land area of the island is 38 square miles (21 French, 17 Dutch). The population of St. Martin is approximately 25,000, while St. Maarten boasts 30,000.

The French and Dutch have co-existed peacefully for three centuries. According to legend, the boundaries of the two governments were set in 1648 when, instead of dueling, a Frenchman and a Dutchman decided to walk in opposite directions along the coast until they met each other again. The Frenchman gave the Dutchman a bottle of "water" which, in reality, was gin thereby explaining the greater French land mass today.

Colorful houses in Marigot

Architecture and Historic Sites 

Much of the architecture in Philipsburg, the capital of St Maarten, has a strong Dutch influence. Its main streets are lined with pastel colored houses adorned with elaborate carvings and wrought iron balconies. 

Historic sites on the island include a number of ruined forts. The best known of these is Fort Amsterdam in Philipsburg's Great Bay. 

Local artist, Roland Richardson

Art and Culture in St Martin / St Maarten

Although St Martin and St Maarten have one of the most developed tourism infrastructures in the Caribbean, their cultural life remains rich. Attractions include historic sites, art galleries and an annual carnival. There are significant cultural differences between the French and Dutch sides of the island. Carnival in St Maarten is larger and more grandiose than it is in St Martin, and the restaurants on the French side of the island are among the best in the Caribbean.

Detailed information about cultural events can be found in a weekly newspaper called Today and in free brochures available from tourist centers.

 Villas Bar Loterie
The cafe at Loterie Farm

Food and Drink

St Martin has a number of top quality restaurants serving predominantly French and Creole cuisine, and restaurants in St Maarten serve a wide variety of international cuisine.

The national liqueur is guavaberry, made from rum and the local berries.

Collections of Art in St. Martin

Museums and Galleries

There are a large number of art galleries on the island. Many of these are in Marigot, the French capital, with Camaïeu and Galerie Valentin among the best known. The Poisson d'Or restaurant in Marigot also displays and sells work by local artists.

The island has two museums, the Simart'n Museum in Philipsburg and Museum "On the Trail of the Arawaks" in Marigot. Both house a number of impressive cultural exhibits, including rare collections of Arawak pottery. The Arawaks were the first settlers of the island, most of whom died during the first years of colonial rule.

Local Music


Traditional Caribbean music, including reggae and calypso, is performed during carnival. Carnival starts in mid-April and lasts for three weeks in St Maarten and takes place before Ash Wednesday in St Martin. Live music can be heard at a number of bars throughout the year and concerts are held on national holidays.


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