Named after France's Louis XV and colloquially known as "the key of the Indian Ocean", Port Louis is not only the capital of Mauritius but also its largest city.

Port Louis lies on the island's north-western coastline, and although it's quite a distance from the island's only international airport, it is a populous and picturesque city and it's well worth a visit. Few visitors choose to make Port Louis, which dates back to at least the mid-17th century, their base from which they explore the Mauritian isle, however there are quite enough family attractions, shopping malls and restaurant districts within the city itself to keep tourists happy for at least several days.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, both the English and the French had their sights on Port Louis, and this dual occupation has left its mark on the city's architecture as well as its cuisine.

The French-themed Champ de Mars Racecourse, for instance, is the second oldest such facility in the southern hemisphere while the British-built Fort Adelaide, which dates back to 1835, is one of the district's most well known landmarks. All of the island's diverse cultures merge in the Caudan Waterfront, however, and this sprawling entertainment complex with its cosmopolitan eateries, scintillating shops and marvelous marina is a Port Louis must-see.

Port Louis is also home to the Aapravasi Ghat UNESCO World Heritage Site, and this derelict Immigration Depot - where once hundreds of thousands of indentured Indian laborers were processed - represents a hidden and hitherto unsuspectedly sinister side of pleasant Port Louis.

Those who prefer the great outdoors to the insides of stuffy monuments should forego Aapravasi Ghat - not to mention the Blue Penny Philatelic Museum with its rare and expensive stamps and the Mauritius Natural History Museum with its impressive dodo display - and head for the nearby Moka Mountains.

The Moka range encircles Port Louis, and the individual peaks making up the range provide superb platforms from which to view the city. Tours of the Moka Mountains on horseback, by 4-wheel drive and by quad-bike come highly recommended, and these mountain trails represent an oasis of peace and tranquility after the hustle and bustle of the city.

Port Louis, with its bazaars, its open-air fish stalls and its fascinating Chinese pharmacies is a mixture of modern multi-storied skyscrapers and colonial curiosities that both intrigue and attract all who visit.

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