When the first Dutch colonists arrived in 1631, they immediately chose to settle on the strip of sand between Great Bay and Great Salt Pond. The village was first built in the western part near Fort Amsterdam, before gradually extending eastwards. Agricultural commodities and salt were exported to Europe from the sheltered bay located just opposite the town. Nowadays, the town occupies the entire sandy strip, has a population of 7,000, and is a port of call for over a million cruise passengers every year.
Philipsburg, a Pleasure Seeker’s Paradise
As you drive on the road along the seafront, you’ll marvel in the sights of Philipsburg from the moment you enter the town. You turn a corner to see the turquoise waters of Great Bay unfold in an outstanding panorama. You then enter the small shopping streets that run parallel to the seafront. No worries, there’s plenty of parking nearby. You can then stroll along Front Street, Philipsburg’s main street, for a truly memorable shopping experience.
The window displays feature the biggest names in fashion, all competing to catch your eye. Many boutiques propose all the big names in fine jewelry and watches and offer faultless service. There are also lots of audiovisual retailers and phone shops. The choice is very wide in the perfumeries too, with cosmetics and scents from top international brands. You’ll find everything from typical souvenir shops to all the big chains. It is easy to find some original gifts to take home as souvenirs of the island. These shops also sell cartons of cigarettes and bottles of spirits at unbeatable prices. On Sint Maarten, any purchases you make in Philipsburg will be duty-free. The very attractive prices are due to low taxation in the absence of customs duty and VAT.
The town features a promenade along the seafront. It is lined with a succession of bars and restaurants.You can enjoy a stroll, sip at a drink outside a bar on this boardwalk, or wander around in your swimwear on the beach right in the town center.
Beach attendants can provide beach chairs. Plop down on one and gaze out at sea or watch the enormous liners moored in the deepwater port. From this unique viewpoint, you can contemplate these floating villages as tall as buildings. There are always four or five of these giants of the sea berthed at Philipsburg. They are part of the boardwalk’s appeal. Sint Maarten is a port of call for the most iconic cruise liners. You can enjoy spotting some of the famous ones like Harmony of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, MSC Meraviglia, Royal Princess, and Queen Mary 2.
There are surprises and amazement in store when you visit Philipsburg!
In Philipsburg, casinos and other places to gamble are also features of the landscape of Sint Maarten. You’ll have no trouble entering, in casual dress, even in the middle of the day. The casinos are open from morning to evening. You’ll be able to use the slot machines or try your hand at blackjack, poker, roulette, or bingo. To visit Philipsburg without trying your luck at a casino would be an insult to your own zest for life. The excitement of the game is heightened by a succession of concerts and shows. You need to know when to stop because, in these festive places, your only limit is the one you set for yourself.
Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit
On Front Street there’s an amazing place with a wealth of great art that you absolutely must visit. Movie buffs and Star Wars fans will love it. The Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit is a museum created by Nick Maley, the creator of Yoda. This American special effects expert has put on a unique exhibition featuring every movie character he ever created. They are unique pieces that were actually used in the movies. You’ll find casts, costumes, and objects that belonged to the greatest intergalactic heroes such as Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Alien, Terminator, Superman, and Highlander. This museum is deemed to be one of the three best in the Caribbean. Don’t miss this chance! It opens daily except Sundays.
Visit Historical Philipsburg
Few traces of history remain in Sint Maarten, and Philipsburg is no exception. The town is made up of recent buildings, vestiges of the past are few and far between and most only date back to the 18th century. All of those buildings that remain are thus national treasures!
The Courthouse on Front Street stands near a small square shaded by palm trees and is still in use today. It is one of the most famous sights in Philipsburg. Its elegant architecture dates from 1793 and harks back to colonial times. It has been devastated by hurricanes and restored several times. The government of St. Maarten had it listed as a major historical monument. It can be visited from Monday to Friday.
Sint Maarten National Heritage Foundation & Museum
You can also learn about history on a visit to Philipsburg. At the eastern end of Front Street, the Sint Maarten museum lets you plunge into the past and retrace the island’s major periods, from the time of the Arawaks to the present day. It opens daily except Sundays.