Kinshasa Travel Guide
Introduction in Kinshasa
As African cities go, Kinshasa is one of the more chaotic places to explore as an independent traveler. Recovering from the aftermath of one of the deadliest conflicts since World War II (The Great War of Africa, 1998-2003) has taken up much of its energy over the past decade, yet in the true spirit of this special place, life goes on.
Kinshasa has more cultural assets than you might suspect on the surface: from museums to art galleries, there is much to love about this place, despite its day-to-day difficulties.
Cultural Attractions in Kinshasa
Get a background into the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by visiting the Musee National de Kinshasa. Throughout this institution, you will find Congolese art, historical artifacts, and a large bronze bust of Leopold II, the Belgian king who spearheaded the European colonization of the Congo back in the 19th century.
Also of note are a variety of prehistoric artifacts that date back to a time before homo sapiens was the dominant species of hominid on this planet. Admission is only $5 USD per person, but non-French speakers are advised to bring an interpreter, as displays are in French only.
Those looking to deep dive into the local arts and culture scene will want to drop by the Symphonie des Arts. Here you will find a variety of handicrafts made by skilled artisans, musical performers often play concerts, and sometimes, a ballet school performs in the common space.
Additionally, there is a lush garden out back where patrons can buy coffee, but be sure to coat yourself in insect repellent beforehand, as it is reported that the mosquitoes are quite bad.
Culture lovers will also want to take time out of their schedule to discover the Academie des Beaux-Arts. A fine arts school founded in 1943 by Catholic missionary Marc Wallenda, this place focuses on teaching cultural skills to eager students.
Throughout this facility, you will find many sculptures and paintings in varying stages of completion, and depending on their knowledge of English (or your knowledge of French), you might be able to ask them questions about their work and life in the Congo.
Other Attractions in Kinshasa
Aside from the horrible toll that the Great War of Africa wrought on the region, one of the Congo’s most tragic stories over the past century has been the precipitous decline of the bonobo. This primate used to populate the jungles of the DRC in great numbers, but during the difficulties that the Congolese people dealt with in the past century, bonobos began being hunted for their meat in much higher numbers, driving them to the brink of extinction.
In 1994, Belgian conservationist Claudine Andre founded Lola ya Bonobo, an orphanage for young bonobos that had lost their parents to hunters and poachers. Spread out over 30 hectares, this park’s sixty bonobos are able to carry on with their lives as if they were in the wild, yet they also have access to any medical help they might need.
Additionally, conservation activities are being carried out that volunteers hope will put a big dent in the amount of animals that will be required to take the bonobo off the endangered species list.
Want to have a wonderful meal in a park setting outside Kinshasa? If so, making the trip out to Ma Vallee will allow you to have a wonderful lunch or dinner while being surrounded by nature. The food offered here is standard African fare, and in keeping with this fact, it will take quite a while to prepare.
Fortunately, there is a five-kilometre trail around the lake that will allow you to kill time until your meal is ready. After you have finished eating, there are paddle boats that will allow you to go out in the lake if you so choose.
Looking for a place to purchase some traditional African crafts, clothing, or other memorabilia? One of the better places to do this is at Mercato delle Stoffe Africane. Even if you don’t purchase anything here, the colors from the vibrant fabrics and handicrafts will be enough to make avid photographers happy.