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Capital, prefecture and commune
2012 aerial view of Cayenne
2012 aerial view of Cayenne
Location of the commune (in red) within French Guiana
Location of the commune (in red) within French Guiana
Coordinates: 4°56′14″N 52°19′34″W / 4.9372°N 52.3260°W / 4.9372; -52.3260Coordinates: 4°56′14″N 52°19′34″W / 4.9372°N 52.3260°W / 4.9372; -52.3260
Overseas region and departmentFrench Guiana
IntercommunalityCentre Littoral
 • Mayor (2014-2020) Marie-Laure Phinéra-Horth
Area123.60 km2 (9.11 sq mi)
 • Urban (2010)206.9 km2 (79.9 sq mi)
 • Metro (2010)5,087 km2 (1,964 sq mi)
Population (Jan. 2015[1])257,614
 • Density2,400/km2 (6,300/sq mi)
 • Urban (Jan. 2015[1][2])114,017
 • Urban density550/km2 (1,400/sq mi)
 • Metro (Jan. 2015[1][3])131,922
 • Metro density26/km2 (67/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code97302 /97300
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries. 2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Cantons de Cayenne.png

Cayenne (/kˈɛn/;[4] French pronunciation: ​[kajɛn]) is the capital city of French Guiana, an overseas region and department of France located in South America. The city stands on a former island at the mouth of the Cayenne River on the Atlantic coast. The city's motto is "fert aurum industria", which means "work brings wealth".[5]

At the 2015 census, there were 131,922 inhabitants in the metropolitan area of Cayenne (as defined by INSEE),[3] 57,614 of whom lived in the city (commune) of Cayenne proper.[1]


Cayenne is located on the banks of the estuary of the Cayenne River on the Atlantic Ocean. The city occupies part of the Cayenne Island. It is located 268 kilometres (167 mi) from Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni and 64 kilometres (40 mi) from Kourou.[6]

Distances to some cities:


Historical Affiliations
Kingdom of France French colonial empire 1643–1658
Flag of the Dutch West India Company.svg Dutch Empire 1658–1664
Kingdom of France French colonial empire 1664–1676
Kingdom of England English Empire 1667
Flag of the Dutch West India Company.svg Dutch Empire 1676
Kingdom of France French colonial empire 1676–1809
Portugal Portuguese Empire 1809–1815
Portugal United Kingdom of PBA 1815-1817
 France 1817–present

Ignored by Spanish explorers, who found the region too hot and poor to be claimed, the region was not colonized until 1604, when a French settlement was founded. However, it was soon destroyed by the Portuguese, who were determined to enforce the provisions of the Treaty of Tordesillas. French colonists returned in 1643 and founded Cayenne, but they were forced to leave once more following Amerindian attacks. In 1664, France finally succeeded at establishing a permanent settlement at Cayenne. Over the next decade the colony changed hands between the French, Dutch, and English, before being restored to France. It was captured by an Anglo-Portuguese force at the invasion of Cayenne in 1809 and administered from Brazil until 1814, when it was returned to French control. It was used as a French penal colony from 1854 to 1938.

Cayenne's coat of arms on a municipal sign.

The city's population has recently grown dramatically, owing to high levels of immigration (chiefly from the West Indies and Brazil) as well as a high birthrate.


1961 1967 1974 1982 1990 1999 2010 2015
Cayenne (commune) 18,615 24,518 30,461 38,091 41,067 50,594 55,753 57,614
Cayenne (metropolitan area) 21,505 28,257 35,812 49,118 66,803 92,059 117,600 131,922
Cayenne (metropolitan area) % p.a. n/a 4.66% 3.44% 4.03% 3.92% 3.63% 2.25% 2.33%
Official figures from population censuses.[1][3]

Health conditions in Cayenne and French Guiana are generally good. The principal illnesses that cause mortality are circulatory, infectious and parasitic diseases, as well as cancer. A branch of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, located in Cayenne, conducts research on tropical and endemic local diseases and is renowned throughout Latin America. Life expectancy averages about 76 years for men and 83 years for women.[8]


Cayenne is an important seaport in South America. The major port of Dégrad des Cannes, is on the estuary of the river Mahury, replacing Larivot and the Îles du Salut. Timber, rosewood essence, rum, and gold are exported in small quantities. In the mid-1960s sugarcane and pineapple were planted around the city, and a pineapple cannery and a shrimp-processing plant were later built. A seafront avenue links Cayenne with the suburbs of Chaton and Montabo, where the French Institute of Tropical America and the Pasteur Institute are located. Historic landmarks include the Church of the Holy Saviour and a prefecture on the Place d’Armes. The Félix Eboué International Airport is the only International airport serving Cayenne.[9]


Cayenne is very ethnically diverse, with populations of Creole, Haitian, Brazilian, European, and Hmong and other Asian origins. It is famous for its annual carnival which starts with the arrival of Vaval (the Carnival King) on the first Sunday after New Year's Day and continues with very popular all-night costume balls and Sunday afternoon parades every weekend until Mardi Gras. Carnaval dances include mazurka, biguine and piké djouk. It is the role of the Touloulou (disguised women) to invite men to dance; the men do not have the right to refuse her. Only Touloulou have the right to dance, non-disguised women may not dance.

There is a large dance scene including both lessons and social dancing. Cafe de la Gare and Domino offer a variety of opportunities including bachata, salsa, merengue, kizomba, zouk, and forro. There are occasionally outdoor socials nears the Place de Chaînes Brisées. Capoeira is also popular and is offered in multiple styles by groups such as ENERGIA PURA.

Main sights[edit]

Cayenne centres on its main commercial street, the Avenue Général de Gaulle. At the east end of the avenue near the coast is the Place des Palmistes and the Place de Grenoble (also known as the Place Léopold Héder). Most of the official buildings are located in this area: the Hôtel de Ville (the town hall) built by Jesuits in the 1890s, the Post Office, the Préfecture, residence of French Guiana's Préfect, and the Musée Départmental Franconie. To the west of this area lies Fort Cépérou, built in the 17th century, though now mostly in ruins. To the south lie the Place du Coq and Place Victor Schoelcher (named in honour of the anti-slavery activist) and a market.

To the south of this compact region is the Village Chinois (known as Chicago), separated from the rest of Cayenne by the Canal Laussat. It has a reputation for being a dangerous area.

Other buildings in the city include Cayenne Cathedral, municipal library, the municipal museum and a museum of French Guianese Culture (Musée des Cultures Guyanaise) and a scientific research institute (IRD or Institut de recherche pour le développement, formerly Orstom). The Jardin botanique de Cayenne is the city's botanical garden.


Cayenne is served by the Cayenne – Félix Eboué Airport, which is located in the neighbouring commune of Matoury.


Under the Köppen climate classification, Cayenne has a tropical monsoon climate (Am). Average high and low temperatures are nearly identical throughout the course of the year averaging about 30 °C (86 °F) and 23 °C (73 °F) respectively. Cayenne sees copious precipitation during the year. The city features a very lengthy wet season and a very short dry season. The dry season only covers two months of the year (September and October) while the wet season covers the remainder of the year. Precipitation is seen even during the dry season, a trait commonly seen in places featuring tropical monsoon climates. Cayenne averages roughly 3,750 millimetres (150 in) of rain each year.

Climate data for Cayenne – Félix Eboué Airport (in Matoury)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 32.5
Average high °C (°F) 29.1
Average low °C (°F) 23.3
Record low °C (°F) 17.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 451.2
Average precipitation days 23.63 20.00 20.67 22.20 26.43 25.17 20.57 14.20 7.13 7.60 11.93 21.57 221.10
Mean monthly sunshine hours 94.3 89.9 119.0 118.1 118.8 148.6 196.5 229.8 255.2 251.1 217.3 137.5 1,976
Source: Meteo France[10][11]


Victor-Schoelcher square

Cayenne is the chief town of six cantons:

  • The first canton (North West) has 3,935 inhabitants;
  • The second canton (North East) has 5,730 inhabitants;
  • The third canton (South West) has 8,017 inhabitants;
  • The fourth canton (Centre) has 5,955 inhabitants;
  • The fifth canton (South) has 9,750 inhabitants;
  • The sixth canton (South East) has 17,207 inhabitants

Cayenne in popular culture[edit]

The French folk song "Cayenne", tells the story of a pimp who shoots a well-to-do client who grossly disrespected a prostitute, and is then convicted and transferred to the infamous penitentiary.[citation needed]

In The Hardy Boys #12: Footprints Under the Window, the Hardys' investigations take them to Cayenne.

The 1955 film We're No Angels involves three prisoners who escape from Devil's Island and settle incognito into a family store in Cayenne.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e INSEE. "Historique des populations légales". Retrieved 2017-12-31.
  2. ^ INSEE. "Base des unités urbaines". Retrieved 2017-12-31.
  3. ^ a b c INSEE. "Base des aires urbaines". Retrieved 2017-12-31.
  4. ^ Cayenne, Oxford Dictionaries
  5. ^ "page concernant le blason de la ville sur le site page de Redris". Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  6. ^ Distances and duration of bonds in the dugout
  7. ^ Situation Géographique Préfecture de Guyane, archived September 15, 2008 from the original
  8. ^ "French Guiana | history - geography - territorial collectivity, France". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  9. ^ "Cayenne | French Guiana". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  10. ^ "Données climatiques de la station de Matoury" (in French). Meteo France. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  11. ^ "Climat Guyane". Meteo France. Retrieved December 9, 2014.


External links[edit]