Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, nestles between the port and the forested mountain ranges that run down the centre of Mahe. "L’Establissement" was founded as a French military base in 1778, but became known as Victoria to honour the new queen when the English took control in 1841. Now it is a cultural melting pot of French, British, African, Chinese, and Indian influences. It is a tiny place and can easily be looked around in one day.
The main sights include:
Clock Tower- The country’s most famous monument is an ornate silver clock erected in 1903 to celebrate Seychelles’ new status as a crown colony. It stands proudly in the central crossroads, surrounded by the colonial style courthouse and Queen Victoria fountain, with the verdant mountains in the background.
Botanical Gardens (Mont Fleuri Rd., US$5)- These peaceful small gardens, designed in 1901, contain Mahe’s only coco de mer - the symbol of Seychelles, along with other endemic palms, flowers and fruit trees. There is a small giant tortoise park, a limited café and a rainforest walk.
Victoria Market- The Sir Selwyn Clarke Market is the morning hub of Victoria. Upstairs, the brightly painted boutiques are aimed at tourists. The best locally crafted items include coconut products, jewellery, hand-dyed pareos and silk paintings. Downstairs in the concrete courtyard, stalls sell local foods including Hellfire chilli sauce, whole spices and citronella tea, as well as fruit and vegetables. There is a large fresh fish market, including many colourful species which aren’t normally associated with eating. However, self-catering visitors better cross their fingers, because whatever is present depends on if the supply boat has come in. Sometimes there will be a bountiful variety of shockingly expensive produce (e.g. a box of 40 oranges costs $120), other times the stalls will be empty apart from a few piles of tiny green mangoes.
Kaz Zanana- The "Pineapple House" on Revolution Ave. is a wooden gallery of local art, including work by my favourite, George Camille, who uses a wide variety of media, including silk painting, watercolour, and collage to produce wonderful scenes depicting everyday Kreol life.
Fiennes Esplanade- The stalls on this shady avenue stock the worst of tacky souvenirs, including dyed-pink coral, shells and shark jaws and should be avoided at all costs by anyone with an environmental conscience.
Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception- The centre of religious life for most Seychellois is a huge 1874 French colonial style church, which peers down on the capital from atop a flight of stone steps. Outside is a lovely small garden with a graceful statue of the Virgin Mary, in front of the ornately sinister Capuchin seminary built in 1933.
St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral - This modern cathedral was built in 2003, incorporating its 150 year old predecessor. Inside the feel is fresh and contemporary, with plain whitewashed walls, and lovely stained-glass windows depicting dolphins and local fish.