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Papeete ("water from a basket", see footnote for variant spelling) ( ) is the capital of French Polynesiamarker, an overseas territory of Francemarker in the Pacific Oceanmarker. The commune (municipality) of Papeete is located on the island of Tahitimarker, in the administrative subdivision of the Windward Islandsmarker, of which Papeete is the administrative capital. The French High Commissioner also resides in Papeete. It is the primary center of Tahitian and French Polynesian public and private governmental, commercial, industrial and financial services, the hub of French Polynesian tourism and a commonly used Port of call. The Windward Islands are themselves part of the Society Islandsmarker.

The urban area of Papeete had a total population of 131,695 inhabitants at the August 2007 census, 26,017 of whom lived in the commune of Papeete proper.


Papeete Waterfront

The area that now constitutes Papeete was first settled by the British missionary William Crook of the London Missionary Society in 1818. Queen Pōmare IV moved her court to Papeete and made it her capital in the late 1820s, and the town grew into a major regional shipping and transportation center. Papeete was retained as Tahiti's capital after Francemarker took control of the Tahitian Islands and made them a protectorate in 1842. Herman Melville was imprisoned in Papeete in 1842; his experiences there became the basis for the novel Omoo. Paul Gauguin journeyed to and toured Papeete in 1891 and, except for a two-year period in 1893–1895, never returned to France. Robert Louis Stevenson also spent time in Papeete in 1888. Half of Papeete was destroyed by a major fire in 1884, which then prohibited the use of native building materials. A major cyclone caused extensive damage to the city in 1906, and a French naval vessel was sunk in the harbor in October 1914 by two German men-of war, which then bombarded Papeete. [56173]

The growth of the city was boosted by the decision to move the nuclear weapon test range from Algeriamarker to the atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufamarker, some at the east of Tahiti; this originated in particular in the construction of the Faa'a airportmarker next to Pape'ete, the only international airport in French Polynesia. In 1983, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built the Papeete Tahiti Temple here because of the large number of members in the region. On 5 September 1995 the government of Jacques Chirac conducted the first of the last series of nuclear test detonations off the shores of Moruroa. A resulting riot in Papeete lasted for two days and damaged the international airport, injured 40 people, and scared away tourism for some time.(Similar rioting occurred after another French nuclear test in the same area in 1987).


The urban area of Papeete had a total population of 131,695 inhabitants at the August 2007 census, 26,017 of whom lived in the commune of Papeete proper. The urban area of Papeete is made up of 7 communes:
  • Faaa (which became in 1988 the most populous commune in the urban area)
  • Papeete (historically the most populous commune in the urban area, and still the administrative capital)
  • Punaauiamarker
  • Piraemarker
  • Mahinamarker
  • Paeamarker
  • Aruemarker
Construction has boomed since the 1960s due to an influx of 35,000 immigrants (20,000 from France and 15,000 from French Polynesia's outer islands) in response to an improved infrastructure and France's nuclear testing program.

Travel and tourism

Presidency of Papeete

Arrival and departure

Traveling tourists arrive and depart Papeete via cruise ship at Papeete Harbor or domestic airline at Faa'a International Airportmarker, which was completed and opened in 1962.


Primary roads consist of the 3-lane "Boulevard Pomare" along the city's harbor front which extends into a 4-lane highway.



  • Heiva festival (proposed)
  • Tahiti Manava Visitors Bureau
  • The waterfront esplanade
  • Bougainville Park (once named Albert Park, in honor of a former Belgian king and World War One hero, is now named for Louis Antoine de Bougainville, the first French explorer to circumnavigate the globe.
  • Cathedral of Notre Dame of Papeete
  • Temple de Paofai
  • The Territorial Assembly is the heart of the Polynesian government and contains the Territorial Assembly building, the High Commissioner's residence and also a once popular clubhouse of Paul Gauguin. It was also once the site of the royal residence and palace of Queen Pomare IV of Tahiti, who ruled from 1827 to 1877.
  • Gaston Flosse's presidential palace
  • The Monument to Pouvanaa a Oopa (a decorated World War I hero, Tahitian nationalist, and deputy to Paris for the Tahitian Territorial Assembly)
  • The Mairie (town hall)

Famous Shopping Market

  • Marché Papeete ("municipal market") is a primarily famous Tahitian landmark. The market sells oils, handicrafts, and various souvenir items.

Papeete in popular culture


The name Papeete is sometimes spelled Pape‘ete in Tahitian, using the okina to represent the glottal stop, as promoted by the Académie Tahitienne and accepted by the territorial government [56174]. Most often, however, this is omitted.

See also



  • Kay, Robert F. Hidden Tahiti, Ulysses Press, Berkeley, California, 2001. ISBN 1-56975-222-2.

External links

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