Port Louis Mauritius
If you're looking for a vibrant mix of cultures from around the world, visit Port Louis, the heart and capital of the island of Mauritius. You'll notice the French influence is everywhere, from the street and place names, and the fact the capital is named after King Louis XV, to the shuttered colonial buildings. You'll soon have exotic-sounding phrases rolling off your tongue like Jardin de Pamplemousse, which means grapefruit garden. Head there for a tropical botanical park, peaceful with shady trees. You'll find that other nations jostle for attention, too. Walk through the large friendship gate into lively Chinatown to see its pagoda. Admire the Indian Tamil Temple, the Jummah Mosque and the very English St James Cathedral. Make sure you stop by the bustling Central Market for a true taste of Mauritian life. Treat all your senses as you watch and listen to the colourful traders tout their wares, which you can touch, smell and savour. Try a piece of mouth-watering, freshly carved pineapple, spiced up with chilli. Or, drink the juice from a newly pressed sugar cane. Among the souvenirs, like dodo T-shirts and brightly-coloured shawls, you'll find Chinese medicines for sale. And marvel at the exotic fruit and vegetables, some of which you might never have seen before. Head to the harbour for busy maritime life, as it's been one of the most important ports in the Indian Ocean for almost 400 years. Sit back and watch the ships sail in and out by relaxing in one of the many bars and restaurants at Le Caudan Waterfront. You'll find this is also the place to shop, from the fashion outlets in the island's first mall to local jewellery, crafts and Indian clothes. If museums are your thing, make sure you put a couple of quirky ones on your things to do in Port Louis list. You should visit Blue Penny Museum, named after a rare stamp, and its fascinating exhibits on the island's history. Make sure you're at the case with the priceless red penny and blue two pence 1847 stamps at 25 minutes past the hour, where they are lit up for just 10 minutes in a bid to stop the colours fading. And don't miss the Natural History Museum, with its famous dodo exhibit. Wonder at a reconstruction of the island's iconic extinct bird, made using the only surviving skeleton. At the Victorian Fort Adelaide, you'll experience the spectacular view over Port Louis and the lush green mountains beyond. It's also a great spot for viewing the annual Porlwi by Light festival in December, the biggest event in Mauritius, when the city is ablaze with colour, special effects, performances and music. Fancy a flutter? Then head to Champs de Mars Racecourse, founded in 1812 and the second oldest in the world. Catch a horse race on weekends from April to November. Dress up for grandstand seating or, if you don't mind standing, you can enter for free. You'll truly experience the full atmosphere among excited locals who are passionate about racing. These warm and friendly locals are among the best things about Port Louis and you'll remember them long after your holiday.