Cap-Haïtien often referred to as Le Cap or Au Cap, is a commune of about 190,000 people on the north coast of Haiti and capital of the department of Nord. Previously named Cap‑Français and Cap‑Henri during the rule of Henri I, it was historically nicknamed the Paris of the Antilles, because of its wealth and sophistication, expressed through its architecture and artistic life. It was an important city during the colonial period, serving as the capital of the French Colony of Saint-Domingue from the city's formal foundation in 1711 until 1770 when the capital was moved to Port-au-Prince. After the Haitian Revolution, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Haiti under King Henri I until 1820.
Cap-Haïtien's long history of independent thought was formed in part by its relative distance from Port-au-Prince, the barrier of mountains between it and the southern part of the country, and a history of large African populations. These contributed to making it a legendary incubator of independent movements since slavery times. For instance, from February 5–29, 2004, the city was taken over by militants who opposed the rule of the Haïtian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.