Things To Do In Port-au-prince
Port-au-Prince is the capital and biggest city of Haiti a mountainous country in North America that occupies the western part of the island of Hispaniola. The word Haiti means “high landscape” in the language of the Arawak people, the region’s first inhabitants. Most of the locals are farmers. Many are descended from the African slaves who were brought there by the French in the 1700s. African traditions have had a lasting influence. Voodoo, a blend of Christianity and traditional African beliefs was first developed in Haiti and is still widely practiced today.
When To Go:
With regards to temperature, Port-au-Prince stays the same all year round with normal low temperature being just beneath 70° and normal high temperature and over 80° degrees. Notwithstanding, this does not imply that vacationers can head there whenever they please. Constant rainfall at anytime of the year, joined with occasional danger of destruction by typhoons, makes it critical to be mindful of the yearly atmosphere when planning a trip to this city.
Winter is the time of the slightest rain (December - January) and this is the best time to go there. February until March exhibits a huge amount of rainfall that goes all the way until June. These months are regarded risky when going to Port-au-Prince because of serious threat of hurricane, monsoon and strong sea surges. The rest of the months show downpour anytime of the day until the months of winter resumes again with less rainfall during the day and towards the evening.
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Enumerated below is the variety of things to do and see in the city of Port-au-Prince…
Musee du Pantheon National Haitien
The Musee du Pantheon National Haitien tells the history of Haiti and the prominent personalities who defended and fought for its freedom. Upon entrance you can see a small collection of paintings and objects from pre-Columbian times to the present. Among the objects there is an anchor, which according to the information, is the anchor of the caravel Santa Maria – the ship used by Christopher Columbus. Considering the lack of structure of the city, the museum is very well preserved!
The exhibit starts from the time Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1492and claimed the island for Spain. The French took control of the western part in 1697and made it a rich colony before a revolution, led by Toussaint L’ Overture, resulted in Haiti becoming the first republic in 1804. It gives a good idea of the formation of Haiti.
It is a small museum and it takes about an hour to absorb everything, but remembering the earthquake that ravaged the country recently, it is a privilege that this building can still maintain access to the local culture and most of the artifacts are also well preserved. It is a nice museum with beautiful outdoor art pieces made of recycled material. The guides are great and have a ready answer for every question about the exhibits.
This museum makes you better know the history of Haiti starting from the period of the first inhabitants called the Cyboneys, the Spanish era, the period of slavery, revolution and the contemporary period. It also contains the evolution of the flag and the grave of the remains of the founders of the nation of Haiti. It has an additional gallery showing the reconstruction, planning, and completion of the rehabilitated parts of the museum. Taking pictures is not allowed and English speaking guides are available at the lobby.
Petionville is a part of the city that is suspended between the downtown and the mountains. It is located in the direction of the mountains to the south. This part of town is the one with the most nightclubs, supermarkets, shops, museums, galleries etc. It is built within the typical colonial square that is dotted with the vibrant colors that also paint the background of the city from that of the rancitos on the ridges of the mountains. All the colorful houses otherwise make the unique panorama. In the city there are also many art galleries large and small ones where you can have the chance to meet the artist directly.
It is one of the best neighborhoods in Port au Prince with the best places to stay in town. The streets here are a little more organized there are more sidewalks to walk and where most of the shops and restaurants are concentrated. It is a cool city with lots of options to dine with French cuisine. Petionville is still largely spared from the great earthquake and has steadily improved its status as the most busy and progressive part of the city although the contrasts between the very rich and the poor are but a burden in the long run because of the presence of slums beside the huge mansions and grand cultural institutions. A visit here is a definite must when in Port-au-Prince.
Marche de Fer
The Marche de Fer or the Iron Market is one of the interesting places to see in Port au Prince. The Iron Market has been the first sites to be rebuilt after the 2010 earthquake. The red building with minaret towers on both sides is beautiful and the atmosphere of the market is lively. Once here, immerse yourself in the crowd, soak up the smells, enterprising corners, haggle for a bargain, talk to vendors and you will not regret the time. Being accompanied by a Haitian is a plus and a big help when negotiating a bargain and you will not get lost in the maze of the winding street that is filled with shops. Trading begins at an early time here. Most of the stalls are packed with a wide range of vegetables and spices.
You will find lots of handicrafts and pushy salesmen inviting you to buy and check their goods, they will do everything to sell their products but not to the point of being aggressive. Just keep in mind to always bargain and not to act like a tourist (keep the camera and guide maps away from your hand) and just blend in like the locals looking for something to buy and bring back home. The market is really interesting and very safe for everyone (this place is covered under the government’s Tourist Police Area). The downside of the place is that too many kiosks offer the same products. Nonetheless, it is still worth a visit and to experience the market scene and ambience of Port-au-Prince in the local setting.
Champ de Mars
The Champ de Mars was where the old presidential palace use to stand which no longer exists due to the 2010 earthquake. The place is now surrounded by railings and covered the former spot of the palace that no longer exists. Despite numerous debris of the earthquake nearby, you can see that the city is rebuilding slowly. Around the vicinity there is still so much rubble of the worst tragedy that hit this country. This place should be part of your visit to the city. It is always teeming with people.
See it after the museum visit to the Pantheon (MAPANAH) which is very near. Schedule a visit on a Saturday afternoon and just do some walking and observe the affected places. See the face of poverty and that even in the face of a crisis suffering nation the people remain smiling, friendly, and standing up with their country again. If the place get developed more, Haiti has a tourist potential in the near future. Don’t be disturbed in any way by the vendors; there are many families with children in the nearby parks looking for ways to survive in a decent manner by offering anything they can sell.
Barbancourt Rum Distillery
The Barbancourt Rum Distillery produces the best rum in the Caribbean! The Barbancourt distillery is located in the suburb of Petionville, buy directly from there because it is much more affordable and the variety of rum that you will find is definitely higher than the ones you see from the shops. This place can be found in the outskirts of the Port-au-Prince and it hard to miss because after the row of sugar cane fields you will see along the highway the marker that leads to this famous rum factory in Haiti. Package tours are offered and designated guide for a group of at least six people conducts the tour of the plant where the rum is processed, manufactured and aged to perfection (at least 12 years).
You will enjoy the rum tasting activity and have your rum mixed with fruits (the Rum Pango, a mix of pineapple and mango), cola, and their famous concoction the Cuba Libre. The staff is great and they will lead you to the exact place where the warehouses filled with oak barrels all around and preparing the rum for the tedious process of aging. Be sure to check out their gift shop and to buy not just the famous rum here in Haiti but some tokens of the visit to this distillery.
Plaine du Cul de Sac
The Plaine du Cul de Sac is a beautiful place to visit, located 15 minutes from the city center of Port-au-Prince and the people are very welcoming. There are many fertile plains and natural landscapes to see on the site as well as plantations of sugarcane and many others to discover. The marsh range known as Plaine du Cul de Sac is situated 12 miles from Port-au-Prince and offers an impressive landscape loaded with mountainous regions and awesome blue lakes. The Etang Saumatre Lake is the natural habitat of crocodiles and is best viewed from afar but not advisable to swim or even linger around. On one side, there are more chances of seeing a group of wild pink flamingoes especially towards the afternoon when they come to rest and eat along the side of the lake.
Avoid travelling around the months of June- November because the road is not accessible and too foggy due to heavy rains that usually pound this city during the rainy months.
However the Haitians that you will meet here are very amiable and polite. The place has so much future for becoming a top tourist center, but the presence of the camp sites for the survivors of the recent earthquake (located along the Arcadin coast) creates an impression of poor public service. A decent housing must be provided to the affected victims and to uphold their dignity as a human being. A great number of family’s reside along the coast and it looks that a lot of things need to be carried out to help secure their situation.
St. Trinity Cathedral
The St. Trinity Cathedral was once renowned for its 14 realistic murals, each one delineating a scene from the Bible's New Testament. In 2011, after quake harm to the paintings got to be evident, the Smithsonian's Haiti Cultural Recovery Project started painstakingly uprooting each mural to strengthen out the still existing wall beside it.
Guests can see the congregation and see the advancement of the steady work of the reclamation groups. Guests can likewise see the remaining parts of the Cathedral of Port-au-Prince. As of late, the plans to rehabilitate the basilica are already in the process of deliberation.
The Presse Café is one of the best dining places you can find along the Petionville area; it is nice but always crowded. It is not at all a "coffee" but a bar where people dance and more. It is also the most visited nightlife place because there is a great atmosphere and often live music. In most cases, there is no table, and you must stand or agree to dance the night away! Drinks are at a slightly higher price, but the service is acceptable.
You can spend a good evening here meeting new friends and listening to good Caribbean music aside from enjoying the local cuisine and the perfect and relaxing ambience that will make you just get up and dance and go with the flow. It is the best treat after a day of touring around the important points of the city. Be sure to visit every Friday night, a rocking house party happens coupled with an array of good Haitian club singers that will surely rock your night away.
The Citadelle Laferrere is one of the collections of 8 strongholds and 9 royal residences established and built by King Henri Christophe. After his death this became his final resting place and his tomb can be visited when in the castle of Port-au Prince. This huge castle was even once recognized as the eighth marvel of the world. And indeed, this stunning beauty stands truly imposing at its maximum height of 3,000 feet. What is more intriguing is there is only one entry way to go up and down this majestic looking castle.
It is said the during the old times, the huge castle was enormous enough to allow more than 15,000 warriors and be able to bring in their armory and infantry supplies that are sufficient enough to make them last more than a year in battle with their enemies while staying inside the castle. Until now the ruins of that horrible war remains, and you can still see a huge number of the canyon and on display along its courtyard and designated ramparts. Aside from enjoying long walks along the patio you can also have a panoramic view from the top of the encompassing high mountain ranges of Haiti and a great perspective of the entire Port-au-Prince.
Port-au-Prince Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption)
With its towers that fell off during the 2010 earthquake, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) has been declared as a condemned building and currently the Holy Mass and other religious celebrations are being done outside the former top tourist attraction of Port –au-Prince. Efforts to rebuild the sacred church still remains to be seen and the rubbles are kept just along its side and serve as a grim reminder of the saddest day in Haiti.
It was constructed and developed in 1884 and was initially dedicated in honor of the people and the religious Roman Catholics in Haiti. Before it was ruined by the tremors of 2010 ,the basilica and its high towers use to serve as the official lighthouse to guide all the marine vehicles and cruise ships that pass along the waters and harbor of the Port-au-Prince City. Despite being surrounded by huge boulder of rocks and dusts all around the faithful continue to observe the days of obligation and attend the service every Sunday, symbolizing their unwavering love and devotion for the faith.
After the disastrous Magnitude 7 earthquake in 2010, Port-au-Prince became a city of contrast; one with sadness, and one full of grit and determination to pursue great things for their country. It is a city that is constantly looking forward to a brighter future ahead. Even if they are still reeling from the hardship and effect of the natural calamity in their lives, it is quite surprising to find hope and a smile amidst this painful experience on the faces of anyone you will meet. Although it does not have so much tourist attractions to explore, the real inspiring part of a visit to the city of Port –au –Prince is to see the resilient and courageous nature of its people who are willing to stand by their country and work together on helping it get up on its feet again.