Standing sentinel in the palm-lined Watney Square on Front Street, Philipsburg Courthouse is the centerpiece of the island’s Dutch capital. Built in 1793, the white wooden structure with crisp green trim has a bell tower topped by a pineapple—a classic Caribbean symbol for “welcome.” Once used as a jail, a post office, and a fire station, the building is currently a working courthouse.
As the Philipsburg Courthouse is a working courthouse, it may not always be open to visitors. To learn more about the courthouse, book a guided sightseeing tour of the area. Such tours might start in Philipsburg and stop at a former plantation and perhaps Fort Amsterdam in Philipsburg and Fort Louis in the French-sde capital of Marigot. Guides often speak of the island’s history both before and after France and Holland divided the land in half.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Philipsburg Courthouse appeals to travelers interested in the history of the island.
- Tours may include pickup and drop-off for cruise ship passengers, and some food and drink. Check tours for specific details.
- Listen for the sound of the tower’s 25 bells.
- Remember sun protection and water for hydration.
How to Get There
The courthouse sits right at the center of downtown Philipsburg on Front Street. From the cruise ship dock, it’s a 10-minute walk. If you drive, there's a parking lot about a block from the courthouse.
When to Get There
The best time to visit St. Martin/St. Maarten is in the shoulder seasons of spring or fall when cheaper rates are offered and rain is less likely. With pleasant year-round weather, there’s no bad time to visit, but summer is the warmest.
For History Buffs
Travelers curious about the history of both the town and the island should make a visit to the St. Maarten Museum, about a 5-minute walk east down Front Street from the Courthouse. On display are Arawak pottery shards, artifacts and photos from the plantation era, and items from the excavated HMS Proselyte, a frigate that sank off Fort Amsterdam in 1801.