Saint-Denis (créole: Sin-Dni) 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.

52 things to do

All Places Réunion

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 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.

SEE   —  Map

Léon Dierx Museum

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.

Musée Bouilhet-Christofle

Examples of naturalism, Orientalism, Japonism, Art Nouveau, items produced for the universal expositions, Art Deco, etc., and documents a wide range of techniques including electroplating, enameling, and so forth. It also contains displays on the history of silver production, table settings, and table manners.

SEE   —  Map

Palais 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.

SEE   —  5 Rue Rontaunay

Jardin de l'Etat

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.

SEE   —  Map

Grand Marché

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.

Villa Mas

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.

SEE   —  18 Rue de Paris

Hôtel de la Préfecture

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.

Villa Déramond-Barre

Another outstanding example of the colonial vernacular style. This villa has been home to several important locals, such as painter and poet Leon Dierx.

SEE   —  15 Rue de Paris

Brewery Museum

A museum to the islands omnipresent Bière Dodo (which is owned by Heineken), that opened in 2005. 1 hour guided tours by appointment only.

SEE   —  60 Quay Ouest

Banque de La Réunion

The oldest operating enterprise on the island. The bank itself is a prestigious villa in the colonial vernacular style, completed in 1858.

SEE   —  27 Rue Jean Chatel

Cathedral of Saint-Denis Saint-Sauveur

Catholic. Built between 1829 and 1832 as designed by Jean-Baptiste Dumas. Became the cathedral in 1850. Expanded between 1856 and 1860.

Théâtre Vollard

Theater group that performs both on the island and internationally. Named after Reunionais publisher and art dealer Ambrosius Vollard.

Grand Mosque Noor al Islam

Built in 1990. Open to both men and women, outside of prayer hours, from 9am to 12pm, and 2pm to 4pm. No shoes permitted.

Marché des Camélias

Artisanal crafts, vegetables, meat and fish. (currently relocated to nearby Boulevard Sud due to construction)

BUY   —  Avenue des Cocotiers

Marché du Chaudron

An annual fair in the Chaudron District with over 400 stalls, featuring seafood, fish, meat, and vegetables.

BUY   —  Place Nelson Mandela

Guan Di Festival

A colorful festival held each August celebrating the birthday of the Chinese god of war.

DO   —  Map

L'ancien Hôtel de Ville

Built between 1846 and 1860 (with interruptions due to lack of funds)

Stade de France

Watch a soccer or rugby game at the sixth largest stadium in Europe

DO   —  Map

Casino Saint-Denis

Gaming casino, hotel, bar, and restaurant adjacent to La Barachois

PMU Barachois

Newspapers and periodicals, with some international selection.

Villa du Général

An excellent example of villa in the créole vernacular style.

SEE   —  49 Rue du Paris

La Récré

Créole cuisine, salads, fish and meat dishes from the grill

Église Notre Dame de La Délivrance

Catholic. Built between 1893 and 1898 in neo-gothic style.

Golf Club du Colorado

9-hole golf course located in the La Montagne district.

Chapelle de l'Immaculée Conception

Catholic. Consecrated February 6, 1869.

SEE   —  10 Rue Sainte-Anne

Maison de la Montagne

Reservation agency for mountain cabins.

OTHER   —  +262 90 78 78 —  5 rue Rontaunay

Petit Marche

Primarily offering food and flowers.

Le Mahal

Artisanal handcrafts and souveniers.


The largest bookstore in the city.


Exhibitions change bimonthly.

Pagoda Lisi Tong

Built in 1896

SEE   —  Rue Sainte-Anne

Cinéma Plaza

Movie Theater

About Saint-Denis

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-).

Source: wikivoyage