In 1638, Jacques Dyel du Parquet (1606–1658), nephew of Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc and first governor of Martinique, decided to have Fort Saint Louis built to protect the city against enemy attacks. The fort was soon destroyed, and rebuilt in 1669, when Louis XIV appointed the Marquis of Baas as governor general. Under his orders and those of his successors, particularly the Count of Blénac, the fort was built with a Vauban design.
Originally named Fort-Royal, the administrative capital of Martinique was over-shadowed by Saint-Pierre, the oldest city in the island, which was renowned for its commercial and cultural vibrancy as "The Paris of the Caribbean".
The name of Fort-Royal was changed to a short-lived "Fort-La-Republique" during the French Revolution, and finally settled as Fort-de-France sometime in the 19th century. The old name of Fort-Royal is still used today familiarly in its Creole language form of "Foyal", with the inhabitants of the city being "Foyalais".
The city had its share of disasters, being captured by a British expedition in 1762, partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1839 and devastated by fire in 1890. At the turn of the 20th century, however, Fort-de-France became economically important after the volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée destroyed the town of Saint-Pierre in 1902.
Until 1918, when its commercial growth began, Fort-de-France had an inadequate water supply, was partly surrounded by swamps, and was notorious for yellow fever. Now the swamps are drained to make room for extensive suburbs.
Fort-de-France, also known as the Fort of France, lies on Martinique's west coast at the northern entrance to the large Fort-de-France Bay, at the mouth of the Madame River. The city occupies a narrow plain between the hills and the sea but is accessible by road from all parts of the island.
Fort-de-France has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen Af), characterised by very warm to hot and humid weather year round. The wettest months are from July to November when hurricanes are a frequent threat, although substantial rainfall occurs in all months.
Fort Saint Louis in Fort-de-France is a French naval base, as is Degrad des Cannes (French Guiana).
In addition to Fort Saint Louis, there are three other forts:
Other sites of interest include:
A statue commemorating Martinique-born Empress Josephine, the wife of Napoleon, is in the gardens of La Savane. It was vandalized in the 1990s, presumably by individuals who blamed her for supporting the reestablishment of slavery on the island.
Martinique Aimé Césaire International Airport is located in a suburb outside Fort-de-France and is accessible via the A1 autoroute.