Head to Papeete, a historic and cultural city

Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia and a municipality on the island of Tahiti. It is the most urbanized because it brings together the main institutions such as the High Commission or the Assembly, as well as schools, banks, clinics, restaurants, shops and other businesses. Today we’ll tell you a bit more about its history and some cool places to see!

Let's start with the beginning

The town takes its name from the source of the Bassin-de-la-Reine, former property of the Pomare royal family, which is located in the Assembly Gardens in Papeete. In Tahitian "pope" means water and "summer" the basket. English pastor William Crook moved to Papeete in 1818 with his family and is considered its founder according to historians. He built a temple, a school and a hospital there. The city became capital around 1827 when the future Queen Pomare IV moved there with her family, thus being the capital of the kingdom. Then it quickly became the center of the economic, political and religious life of Tahiti and its islands.

Queen Pomare IV, who reigned the longest for 50 years, stayed in Raiatea to protest against French intervention. She returned to Papeete in 1847 after the end of the Franco-Tahitian war to establish her official residence there until her death 30 years later. It was in 1880 that Tahiti and its dependencies were annexed to France, during the reign of the last king of Tahiti, Pomare V, heir son of Queen Pomare IV. Papeete becomes a municipality 10 years later.

Before being enlarged, the port of Papeete hosted the Motu Uta, a small motu erected in the bay of Papeete which made it its charm and which has had different uses over the ages. The Queen had her home there for a time, then it became a quarantine island for travelers from regions at risk of health, and a prison during World War II, until its demise in 1962 with the construction of the dike.

Papeete today, between culture and colors

At the entrance to Papeete there is the Maison de la Culture, a cultural and festive place that seeks to preserve Polynesian traditions, in particular by welcoming dancers from Ori Tahiti during magnificent shows. It is also here that the annual international ukulele festival is held to promote its practice and traditional strikes. If you continue your walk along the sea, you arrive at the Paofai Gardens, a great park for taking a breath of fresh air in the city center. Play areas for children, picnic tables, pools for observing fish, snacks with typical Polynesian dishes and large expanses of green grass await you. Opened in 2010, the park provides access to the beach but you cannot swim there. Va'a (canoes) are however moored along the shore for all fans of this sport who come to practice it. We continue our walk to arrive on the Esplanade Jacques Chirac, which was recently built. There are two beautiful restaurants facing the sea, the Moana which means "ocean" and the Meherio, which means "mermaid". Then along the port and all these boats we arrive on the seafront promenade, which leads us to the unmissable trailers of Place Vaiete, an emblematic place of local food, all in a friendly atmosphere. The port ends at the Quai des Ferries from where shuttles leave throughout the day to Moorea.

Since its creation in 2014, the international street art festival ONO’U gives way every year to artists from all over the world who can express themselves through frescoes that color the whole city! As for the city center, it hosts the Papeete market, an authentic place dating from the 19th century where you can go stock up on souvenirs made with care by Polynesian artisans, as well as taste the local fruits, vegetables or fish from fishing families. from the island.

You may even find nearby ukulele players who will share their beautiful tropical melodies with you. To get one and in turn play music that will make you travel, the ukuleles of Upa Upa Tahiti are right next door in the Commerce District at the Natural Shop Tahiti store, in a pedestrian street with easily recognizable red tiles.

In the heart of Papeete there is also its yellow cathedral called the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. This place of worship is emblematic of the history of Papeete because it witnessed a cyclone in 1906, bombardments by German cruisers in 1914, tidal waves in 1983, riots in 1987 and then in 1995 , the latter to demonstrate against the resumption of nuclear tests in the Tuamotus, which began in the 1960s. Indeed, it was in 1962 that the Pacific Experiments Center arrived at the same time as the construction of the airport. in Faa'a.