Home to half its 95,000-strong population, Nosy Be’s little capital may officially be called Andoany, but it’s still known universally as HELL-VILLE, after its nineteenth-century governor, the oddly named Admiral Anne Chrétien Louis de Hell. For those visiting for the day from one of the beach hotels, it makes for a fascinating excursion into the real life of Madagascar. If you’ve flown in or arrived by ferry, it’s a happily low-key and welcoming introduction to the island.
The gently buzzing Boulevard Général Charles de Gaulle, with its stone benches sponsored by THB beer, is Hell-Ville’s main artery and shopping street, and an enjoyable avenue to stroll. Hustle and aggravation are rare, so you can wander here at ease. Hell-Ville has three markets: the bazary be or grand marché by the old Théâtre Municipal that now houses the Alliance Française; the small market known as the marché d’Andavakotoko, towards the sea from the grand marché; and the marché d’Ambonara, on the way out of town towards the beaches.