A Day in Philipsburg St. Maarten
Philipsburg is as eclectic and international as you could ask for a small town. Philipsburg is the capital Sint Maarten the Dutch side of the island. The narrow streets hold a mixture of history and modern trends notably on Front street and Backstreet.
Visitors to St Maarten arrive in majority by cruise ship. The first thing these tourists see is the Philipsburg Boardwalk, which is a sunny strip of sidewalk that borders Great Bay beach.
Philipsburg was founded by a Dutch Navy captain named John Philips in 1763. Until the 1950’s, this area was relatively quiet, as far as tourism goes. At one time, it had Sint Maarten’s only port, and saw just a handful of large boats each year. Later, as the island’s tourist industry expanded after World War II, bigger piers were built to accommodate cruise ships. It became one of the Caribbean’s busiest ports, and today more than 1 million of tourist visit St Maarten from the cruise ships.
The Catholic Church Saint Martin of Tours is located on the Boardwalk just after the Sea view hotel and Holland house Beach Hotel. The church was named after the island’s own namesake, a 4th-century bishop whose feast day is November 11. When Christopher Columbus “discovered” Saint Martin on November 11, 1493, he named the island in honor of Saint Martin’s feat day. Naturally, the island’s first Catholic church was also named after this saint.
For many, the St Maarten experience stops here, on the edge of the aquamarine bay with a beach chair and a bottle of Heineken. But there’s so much more to downtown than just the boardwalk!
Take a quick stroll down any one of the alleys leading to Front Street, and you’ll enter a whole new layer of the tourism district.
Front Street is a wonderful place to shop especially jewelry and electronic and clothes if you love duty free shopping !!
The Courthouse located in Philipsburg is the most recognizable building on the island. It’s even featured on the country’s flag. It was built in 1793 and still serves as the courthouse.
Front street is also home to a beautiful Methodist church. This building was the first Methodist church on Sint Maarten. It was built in 1851, about century after the Methodist denomination was introduced to the West Indies by Nathaniel Green.
Beyond Front Street is BackStreet. There are many paths to Back Street, but he most original one is Old Street.
Old Street isn’t really that much different from the rest of downtown, but it does have a certain charm about it. Maybe it’s the 50’s-era car permanently parked in the middle of the walkway, maybe it’s the big blue castle at the end of the street.
Backstreet is more for the locals. The prices here are significantly lower than those on Front Street, and you can find anything from Nike shoes to a washing machine in the stores. The look of Back Street is unique– huge stores sell appliances, old Dutch homes buzz with modern life, and local art covers the walls.
Cannegieter Street, or Third Street, as some people call it, comes next. Every day that a cruise ship docks at the port, Philipsburg Market is open. Dozens of vendors sell their goods along both sides of the road. Shoppers can buy all kinds of things here.
Pondfill Road comes last. This street is part of the main road that travels the perimeter of the island. Pondfill also runs along the Salt Pond, where it used to be a salt harvest field.
As you can see, Philipsburg St. Maarten is more than a place to tan or shop. It is the center of St Maarten’s history. There is so much to do and see here, but you have to go beyond the tourist district to see it all!