Saint-Denis is the main town of Reunion island. With more than 150 000 inhabitants, it is the most populated town of overseas french territories.
Etienne Regnault founded the city in 1669 and named it after the boat anchored in its bay. He found it more attractive than St-Paul, where the first camps had been settled, thanks to its fertile soil and its rather good anchorage. He built his house next to the river and soon a small village was born with a wooden chapel. But the few families of St-Denis soon discovered that the river area was exposed the violent floods and to the swell. By the beginning of the 18th century, the main part of the village was moved upward - the lower part of the city being mainly taken up by the West Indies Company warehouses near to the pier of the Barachois. Due to the strong winds, people from St-Denis got used to stay away from the coast, which explains that nowadays the waterfront is poorly developped.
From the 1720s, the population of the island grows thanks to the introduction of coffee production and a grid plan of the city is drawn, similar to the plan of Port-Louis or New Orleans.