Stroll down the magnificent Rue de Paris for a glimpse of 19th century Creole houses such as Carrere House, the Deramond-Barre villa which is the birthplace of local poet Leon Dierx, and the resplendent Noor-e-Islam mosque that towers into the skies. Another remarkable gem that will appeal to culture enthusiasts is the Musee Leon Dierx where you can ogle at works by French masters Renoir, Gauguin and Cezanne, as well as a sculpture by Picasso. Bang in the town centre lies the Jardin de l'Etat, an oasis teeming with water fountains, over 1950 plant species and tranquil paths. The curious thing about this botanical garden is that none of the plant life flowers naturally on the island. At the back of the garden is the Natural History Museum which holds extinct and current fauna from the Indian Ocean Islands.
There're many things to do in Saint-Denis Réunion. The capital boasts a Christian cathedral, a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist pagoda all on one main avenue. How's that for harmony? When the sun shines bright, plan a trip to Maison Brasserie de Bourbon, Réunion's only beer brewery. A guided tour lets you in on the secrets of the iconic Dodo lager! Sundowners are best experienced at Le Barachois, an esplanade marked by its military canons pointing out to sea. Once you're done exploring the capital, drive down to the active Piton de la Fournaise volcano which can be seen from designated viewpoints. It is also the island's highest point at 2632 metres. Cool down with a scuba dive at any of the schools in Saint Paul or Saint Pierre, both west coast towns are easily accessible by car.
Located on the northern tip of the island, Saint Denis enjoys its location between the Indian Ocean and a mountain that towers behind it. Known locally as prefecture de Saint Denis Réunion, this financial and administrative capital city was founded in 1669 by Etienne Regnault. Today, the capital is a short drive from the Roland Garros International Airport which welcomes holiday guests disembarking from the Paris to Saint Denis Réunion flights. The city reports a tropical monsoon climate with humidity and rains between December to April, and a relatively dry season for the rest of the year. Local Creole dishes are drenched in ginger, garlic, onions and chillies, and can be sampled in meat, seafood and vegetable preparations. For the less adventurous palates, Western-style food is available aplenty. Rent a car to best savour this French overseas city.
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The island which is a French overseas department requires that drivers possess an international driving permit, or a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) driving licence. A minimum age of 23 is required (needs to be checked). Just like in France, you'll need to drive on the right side of the road. Seat belts have to be worn at all times, and headsets and phone usage while driving is strictly forbidden. There aren't too many restrictions on parking, and signage is in French and English. Roads are relatively safe but you'll need to watch out for warnings of volcanic lava overflows. As some roads are sometimes mountainous with sudden curves, it's best to drive cautiously. Speed limits vary but are clearly marked. Hiring a car in Saint Denis will let you access the rest of the island quickly.