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Saint-Denis is the capital of Réunion Island, and the city with the most inhabitants on the island. It hosts all the important administrative offices, and is also a cultural center with numerous museums. Saint-Denis is also the largest city in all of the French Overseas Departments.
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Points of Interest in Saint-Denis
The important sights all lie along the axis of Avenue de La Victoire and Rue de Paris and are very compact to one another, so it is recommend to go on foot. In the city center, brand new buildings are often interspersed with decaying ones. Along side the many properly well-appointed and the most representative buildings of the colonial style, there those with little more to interest the tourist than their "historical patina", often immediately next door.
Churches, mosques, and temples
- Cathedral of Saint-Denis Saint-Sauveur, On Rue de la Victoire, at the corner of Rue Alexis de Villeneuve. Catholic. Built between 1829 and 1832 as designed by Jean-Baptiste Dumas. Became the cathedral in 1850. Expanded between 1856 and 1860.
- Chapelle de l'Immaculée Conception (Chapel of the Immaculate Conception), 10 Rue Sainte-Anne. Catholic. Consecrated February 6, 1869.
- Église Notre Dame de La Délivrance (Church of Our Lady of Deliverance), Place de La Deliverance (Slightly west of the city center and the Saint-Denis River.). Catholic. Built between 1893 and 1898 in neo-gothic style.
- Église Notre Dame de l'Assomption (Church of Our Lady of the Assumption), On the corner of Général de Gaulle and Rue Jean Chatel..
- Grand Mosque Noor al Islam, Rue du Marechal Leclerc. Built in 1990. Open to both men and women, outside of prayer hours, from 9am to 12pm, and 2pm to 4pm. No shoes permitted.
- Pagoda Lisi Tong, Rue Sainte-Anne ((somewhat east of the city center)). Built in 1896
- Pagoda Guan Di, Near the corner of Rue du Marechal Leclerc and Rue Sainte-Anne ((somewhat east of the city center)).
- L'ancien Hôtel de Ville (Old City Hall, Mayoral Residence), 2 Avenue de la Victoire. Built between 1846 and 1860 (with interruptions due to lack of funds)
- Hôtel de la Préfecture (Governor's Palace), 4 Avenue de la Victoire. Originated as the warehouses of the French East India Company, and is the both one of the first large public buildings built on the island, and its oldest extant structure.
- University of Réunion, 9 Avenue de la Victoire.
- Banque de La Réunion (Bank of Réunion), 27 Rue Jean Chatel. The oldest operating enterprise on the island. The bank itself is a prestigious villa in the colonial vernacular style, completed in 1858.
- Palais Rontaunay, 5 Rue Rontaunay. This prestigious villa was built in the early 19th century in the créole vernacular style, and was the residence of Julien Rontaunay Gaultier, which later became the location of the government and Consul General of the island.
- Villa du Général, 49 Rue du Paris. An excellent example of villa in the créole vernacular style.
- Villa Mas, 18 Rue de Paris. A colonial style villa with an exemplary portico. built from 1973 to 1804 for Baptiste Lestrac, the first mayor of Saint-Denis. Now serves as the home of the Ministry of Culture.
- Villa Déramond-Barre, 15 Rue de Paris. Another outstanding example of the colonial vernacular style. This villa has been home to several important locals, such as painter and poet Leon Dierx.
- Monument aux Morts (World War I Memorial), At the intersection of Avenue de la Victoire and Rue de la Compangie.
- Léon Dierx Museum (Modern Art Museum), 28 rue de Paris, ☎ +262 (0)262 20 24 82. 9AM-5:30PM Tuesday-Sunday, Closed Monday. The museum was founded in 1911 and occupies the colonial-style Villa Manès, formerly the official bishop's residence. One can see works from local artists together with those of Picasso, Renoir, Gauguin, Vlaminck, Bourdelle, and Jean Le Gac. The museum's namesake, Léon Dierx, was a local painter and poet who died in the year 1912. €2.00, Free on the first Sunday each month..
- Artothèque (Museum of Contemporary Art), 26 Rue de Paris, ☎ +262 (0)262 41 75 00, fax: +262 (0)262 21 05 03. Exhibitions change bimonthly.
- Muséum Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum), 1 Rue Poivre (Located within the Jardin de L´Etat).
- Brewery Museum, 60 Quay Ouest (within La Maison de la Bière Dodo). 9:30AM, 11AM, 2PM, 3:30PM, Tuesday-Thursday. A museum to the islands omnipresent Bière Dodo (which is owned by Heineken), that opened in 2005. 1 hour guided tours by appointment only. €6.00.
- La Barachois. This waterfront promenade with its distinctive cannons is located where Avenue de La Victoire meets the sea. The name can roughly be translated as "little harbor", and the cannon date from the early 19th century when the the island was threatened with British invasion during the Napoleonic wars. Also at La Barachois are monuments to aviation pioneer and native Réunionnais Roland Garros (after whom the city's airport is also named), to prominent Governor of the French East India Company Mahé de la Bourdonnais, and to General Charles de Gaulle.
- Jardin de l'Etat (State Garden). historic botanical garden built from 1767 to 1773 and containing roughly 5 hectares of open space, located at the southern terminus of the Rue de Paris. The Natural History Museum is also within the grounds of the park.
Saint-Denis is the prefecture (administrative seat) of the French island of Réunion. The island lies between Mauritius and Madagascar and has the status of a French Overseas Department and is officially an administrative division of France. The General Council and Regional Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Chamber of Trades and Craft Industry, the rectorate, the state university, the employment office, and the customs authority are all located in the commune of Saint-Denis.
Saint-Denis was named in 1669 by Étienne Régnault, who later became governor of Réunion from 1665 to 1671. The settlement was named after the ship "Saint-Denis", which in 1664, as part of a fleet sailing under the flag of the French India Company, was sent to Réunion Island and then on to India. The aforementioned Governor Régnault arrived with the fleet from France, and established a resupply outpost on the coast at Saint-Paul, the first capital of the island.
The small 60-ton ship "Saint-Denis", previously separated from the fleet at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, still managed to find its own way to the island, arriving in 1667. The captain of the ship, named Chanlette, was a good friend of Régnault, so the bay, the harbor, and later the city, were all subsequently named "Saint-Denis" in honor of return of the lost ship. The ship was, in turn, named after Saint Denis, a third century bishop and missionary to Gaul, who was martyred with his companions Rusticus and Elentère in what would become modern-day France.
Under Mahé de Labourdonnais, then Governor of the East India Company and an important figure in the history of the island, the town of Saint-Denis replaced the former capital of Saint-Paul due to the general quality and favorable location of its harbor. Though the small settlement had just 2166 inhabitants, it had become the capital of the island and seat of the colonial government of the whole of the Mascarene islands.
In the year 1743, the first church and the new governor's palace (the modern Prefecture) were built. In 1771, a formal plan for the city was instituted. This followed the typical colonial grid pattern, with 12 streets in the east-west direction and 7 running north-south.
The administrative headquarters and warehouse of the French East India Company was established in 1773. It was built in the typical French colonial vernacular style and was later the official residence of the Governor and Prefect. In 1790, Saint Denis was formally incorporated as a commune, and Jean Baptiste Delestrac became its first mayor.
Saint-Denis still remained only a small town, trailing behind Saint-Paul in population and Saint-Pierre in economic power. At the turn the 19th century, the city was little more than a boring bureaucratic backwater, where the most exciting activity was still taking a walk. By mid-century, however, sugar barons had begun pouring money into the local economy, and Saint-Denis blossomed into an important cultural and commercial center. In 1852, both the colonial bank and the natural history museum were founded in the city.
By the 20th century, political and economic life on the island had become directly tied to the fortunes of the capital: Two world wars, malaria epidemics, and increasing cultivation of the sugar beet in Europe all lead to an economic recession in the city and on the island in general, from which it has only recently emerged, thanks to the establishment of subsidies from Paris and the European Union.
The primary ethnic groups of the city are European immigrants, former slaves, Chinese and Muslim Indian immigrants and their descendants, and créoles. The demographics are highly mixed, and ghettos of any particular ethnicity do not exist.
Well-known people from Saint-Denis include French aviation pioneer Roland Garros (1886 – 1918), the writer Marius Leblond (1877 – 1953), French politician Raymond Barre (1924 – 2007), and handballer Daniel Narcisse (1979-).
- Casino Saint-Denis, Barachois Place Sarda Garriga, ☎ +262 (0)262 41 33 33, fax: +262 (0)262 41 11 94. Gaming casino, hotel, bar, and restaurant adjacent to La Barachois
- Cinéma Plaza, 79 rue Pasteur, ☎ +262 (0)262 21 04 36. Movie Theater
- Cinéma Ritz, 53 rue Juliette Dodu, ☎ +262 (0)262 20 09 52. Movie Theater
- Golf Club du Colorado, Parc de Loisirs du Colorado, La Montange, ☎ +0262 23 79 50. 9-hole golf course located in the La Montagne district.
- Guan Di Festival. A colorful festival held each August celebrating the birthday of the Chinese god of war.
- TCF (Théatre de Champ Fleuri), 2 rue du Théâtre, ☎ +262 (0)262 41 93 00, fax: +262 (0)262 41 55 71.
- Théâtre Le Grand Marché, 2 rue du Maréchal Leclerc (Near the Grand Marché), ☎ +262 (0)262 20 33 99, fax: +262 (0)262 20 01 66.
- Théâtre Vollard, 2 Avenue Andre Malraux, ☎ +262 (0)262 41 93 00, fax: +262 (0)262 41 55. Theater group that performs both on the island and internationally. Named after Reunionais publisher and art dealer Ambrosius Vollard.
For a quick bite, there are a number of snack shacks located at La Barschois, with a variety flavors represented (including McDonalds)
- La Récré, 21 Avenue de la Victoire. Créole cuisine, salads, fish and meat dishes from the grill mid-range.
- La Renaissance, 2 rue Doret (in Hotel le Saint Denis). splurge.
- Club 138, 7 Rue Amiral Lacaze, ☎ +262 (0)262 21 07 45.
- Jazzy Bar, 20 Rue Labourdonnais, ☎ +262 (0)262 21 85 01.
- Le First, 8 Avenue de la Victoire, ☎ +262 (0)262 41 68 25.
The main shopping district of Saint-Denis is in the pedestrian zone around Rue Marechal Leclerc, with plenty of small shops, as well as the large public market. The wide range of goods exhibited in the shops reflects the diverse cultural heritage of the island.
- PMU Barachois, 3 avenue de la Victoire, ☎ +262 (0)262 20 34 66. Newspapers and periodicals, with some international selection.
- Entrepot, 82-88 rue Juliette Dodu, ☎ +262 (0)262 20 94 94. The largest bookstore in the city.
- Le Mahal, 50 rue Maréchal Leclerc, ☎ +262 (0)262 41 63 98. Artisanal handcrafts and souveniers.
- Arts et Lumière, 11 rue de Paris, ☎ +262 (0)262 53 46 22. Art gallery.
- Grand Marché (Big Market), 3 Rue Maréchal Leclerc. May-Oct, 6AM-7PM; Nov-Apr 7AM-7PM; closed Mondays. A covered open market hall. Goods available in this location include fruits and vegetables, spices, textiles and wood carvings from Madagascar, and other various souvenirs from the Indian Ocean region.
- Petit Marche (Little Market), corner of rue Maréchal Leclerc and rue Sainte-Anne. Weekday mornings. Primarily offering food and flowers.
- Marché des Camélias, Avenue des Cocotiers. Fridays from 6am-12pm. Artisanal crafts, vegetables, meat and fish. (currently relocated to nearby Boulevard Sud due to construction)
- Marché du Chaudron, Place Nelson Mandela. An annual fair in the Chaudron District with over 400 stalls, featuring seafood, fish, meat, and vegetables.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Saint-Denis on Wikivoyage.