The city has a diverse, vibrant culture that that is reflected in its architecture, arts, and festivals.
The city is full of numerous buildings and monuments that reflect its rich and diverse colonial history. Near the city center, there are several French colonial buildings that date to the 18th century, including Government House. Other prominent traditional elements include the Jummah Mosque, the majestic English Saint James Cathedral, the Indian Tamil Temple, the elegant five-tier colonial Port Louis Theatre (Théâtre de Port-Louis), the Champ de Mars Racecourse, and the nearby Chinese Pagoda.
Also present are some typical houses from past eras, which are mostly wooden structures with shuttered windows and large porches. However, most homes and commercial structures are now constructed from more durable materials such as concrete, and the city now includes many glass/concrete high-rises.
The Pagoda is a central feature of the Port Louis Chinatown, which is one of several Chinatowns in Africa. Its entrance is marked by a large "friendship" gate, just east of the Central Market.
The site was the traditional location of homes and shops of the Chinese community, which was dominated by descendants of the Hakka Chinese, who first came to Mauritius in 1826. Chinatown is now home to a more diverse community, but preserves its original appearance and contains many small shops and restaurants. Its old buildings and Chinese pagodas face the modern buildings of the city's business center.
The Chinese Chamber of Commerce (founded in 1908 and second only to Singapore as the world's oldest) hosts a popular food and cultural festival each April or May. The Chamber also runs a funeral parlour for the Chinese Community called ‘Kit Lok’, to provide vigil facilities for bereaved families.
Port Louis has been an active cultural city attracting painters, poets, sculptors and writers for centuries. Marie-Thérèse Humbert wrote her famous novel, La Montagne des Signaux, with Port-Louis in mind. Malcolm de Chazal was a common Mauritian visionary writer and painter who was often seen in the capital, mostly at the central market, Champ de Mars and l'hôtel National.
Robert Edouard-Hart, a great poet found in this very active city a source of inspiration. Port-Louis born poet and semiologist Khal Torabully, the foremost poet of indenture and coolitude, recently designed Travellers' Lane at the Jardin de la Compagnie, inaugurated by Navin Ramgoolam, the Mauritian Prime Minister and the Parcours Culturel with aphorisms of Malcolm de Chazal, just facing the famous Port Louis Theatre.
That theater, still in use and catering mostly to presentations of classical music, jazz, and local drama, has a distinguished history that includes the first presentation of opera on the island in the 19th century by traveling European troupes.
More modern entertainment facilities in Port Louis include several cinemas, in which most films are presented in French and English. Recently opened in Paille, a suburb of Port Louis, is the ultra-modern Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre. It is the first such facility in Mauritius and is used to house conventions, concerts, trade shows, and exhibitions.
The Blue Penny Museum is located at the Caudan Waterfront, and is dedicated to the history and art of the island. Its collection includes antique marine maps, paintings, sculptures, engravings, and stamps, including examples of the famous orange-red one penny and deep blue two pence stamps.
The Natural History Museum of Port Louis houses exhibits of the impressive fauna of Mauritius, with a gallery devoted to birds and terrestrial animals, a second focusing on marine species, and a third focused on the dodo, the famous Mauritian bird which went extinct during the Dutch occupation.
The Mauritius Postal Museum is housed in an old stone building that dates to the 18th century, and houses displays of stamps and postal paraphernalia from Mauritius and around the world.
The Mauritius Photography Museum, located in a small 18th century white-washed French colonial building, is a private museum that displays artifacts and documents about Mauritian photography and the early days of cinematography. The China Heritage Museum, located in Chinatown, displays historical items representing the daily life of the Chinese community.
Currently closed for renovation (2014) is Aapravasi Ghat, which is the remains of the immigration depot that was built by the British Government to import laborers from India, Eastern Africa, Madagascar, China and Southeast Asia to work on the island’s sugar estates.
Although not a museum in a traditional sense, the National Library of Mauritius houses a rich and comprehensive collection of material related to Mauritius history, including manuscripts, books, newspapers, periodicals, music scores, photographs, maps, drawings and other graphic art forms and audiovisual materials, in addition to providing the traditional services of a library to residents of the city and nation.