Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch Sint Maarten. It has two main streets, Front Street (Voorstraat) and Back Street (Achterstraat), connected by several bustling thoroughfares and filled mainly with duty-free shops, cafes, hotels and courtyards overflowing with flowers.
The town enjoys an unusual setting, located on a narrow stretch of land between Great Bay, on the south coast of the island, and the Great Salt Pond (a huge marsh). It is the port of call for hundreds of cruise ships, their daytripping passengers coming ashore to sample everything from Italian leather goods and Japanese cameras to local crafts and Philipsburg's nightlife, regarded as among the liveliest in the Caribbean.
Architecturally, the town, founded in 1763 by John Philips (a Scottish captain in the Dutch navy), is quaint, with characteristic pastel-coloured West Indian houses lining the streets, and a few Dutch colonial landmarks, including Fort Willem, built in 1801, and Fort Amsterdam, constructed nearly 200 years earlier in 1631.