Heading for Papeete, a historic and cultural city

Heading for Papeete, a historic and cultural city - upaupatahiti

Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia and a commune 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 tell you a little more about its history and some nice places to see!

Let's start with the beginning

The city takes its name from the source of the Bassin-de-la-Reine, former property of the royal Pomare family, which is located in the gardens of the assembly in Papeete. In Tahitian, “pope” means water and “summer” means trash. The 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 the capital around 1827 when the future Queen Pomare IV settled 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 by the way had the longest reign for 50 years, stayed in Raiatea to protest against the 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, son and heir 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 gave it its charm and which has had different uses over the years. The Queen had her house there for a time, then it became a quarantine island for travelers from regions with health risks, and a prison during the Second World War, until its disappearance in 1962 with the construction of the dyke. 

Papeete today, between culture and colors

At the entrance to Papeete 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 there that the international ukulele festival takes place every year to promote its practice and its 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. Playgrounds for children, picnic tables, ponds for watching fish, snacks with typical Polynesian dishes and large expanses of green grass await you there. Inaugurated in 2010, the park gives access to the beach but you cannot swim there. However, va'a (dugout canoes) are moored along the shore for all lovers of this sport who come to practice it. We continue our walk to arrive on the Esplanade Jacques Chirac, fitted out very recently. 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 for local food, all in a friendly atmosphere. The port ends at the Quai des Ferries from where shuttles depart throughout the day for Moorea.

Since its creation in 2014, the ONO'U international street art festival 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 XNUMXth century where you can go and stock up on souvenirs made with care by Polynesian artisans, as well as taste local fruits, vegetables or fish from fishing families. from the island. 

You can even find local ukulele players who will share their beautiful tropical melodies with you. To get one and play music that will make you travel, Upa Upa Tahiti ukuleles are right next door in the Quartier du Commerce 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 Tuamotu, which began in the 60s. Indeed, it was in 1962 that the Pacific Experimentation Center arrived at the same time as the construction of the airport in Faa'a.

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