Back St and Front St.
Philisburg is the largest city on the Dutch side of the island. This is where the cruise ships come to visit the island. It is a port of call for a few ships each day. The beach is very beautiful and it is one of my favorite beaches on the island. The two main streets are Back St and Front St. They run parallel to each other with Front St. being closest to the ocean. Back st is where the locals shop, and is also where you can get a city bus/van to Marigot/ french side, or to Mullet Bay (passes by the airport in Simpson's bay and Maho resort area). Front St. is full of jewlry shops and little else. I did not find the linen shops to have anything worth purchasing.
The Caribean shopping mall
Philipsburg was our fourth destination in a seven days cruise aboard the Adventure of the Seas. After some research about the place I arrived with low expectations, and after leaving this was the place I liked the least of all We visited.
I don't have much information about the history of the place, it is the biggest, and maybe only, town in the dutch part of the Sint Maarten island, the other part as You probably already know belongs to France. The city was founded in 1763 by John Philips, a scotchman working with the dutch navy, He must had not been a modest fellow as he called the new village Philipsburg after his name. Due to it's small size and the imposibility to grow much more the city has always have a small population, even today it only has a few thousands of inhabitants.
Today Sint Maarten depends almost completely on tourism, and the city is devoted to selling all kind of products to the many visitors arriving each week in cruise ships and to the few independent travelers on the island. Everywhere on the "Front Street", Philipsburg main avenue, you'll see hundreds of stores and little else. I suppose this is great for some kind of people traveling in search of shopping opportunities and souvenirs, but for me, traveling in search of different cultures and experiences, this place has little to offer. There is nothing unique or special about this place, it is a city built for visitors and You can find similar artificial places in other places of our planet.
There is a big handicap about traveling in cruises, You only get eight hours to know each place and so I couldn't visit Sint Maarten outside this city, being so I'll stick to my travel motto "everywhere there is something to see" maybe the two almost abandoned forts I read about in VT or the salt lagoons recomended by lonely planet may do a visit to this place worthy.