Dakar City Guide: Things to Do, See and Eat traveling in Dakar, Senegal

Dakar Travel Guide

Introduction to Dakar

Sitting on a spit of land that constitutes Africa’s westernmost point, Dakar is one of the most important cities in the region. Its geographic position put it in the centre of the slave trade, but today, it is better known for its culture, surfing, and an unusually pink lake.

More than just a transit point for those looking to explore the Senegalese countryside, Dakar is worth at least a couple days of solid exploration.

Cultural Attractions in Dakar

After arriving in Dakar, take a boat trip to Gorée Island to visit the ominously-named House of Slaves. As you might expect, this facility was where captured Africans were held before being shipped off across the Atlantic to colonies run by the major European powers during the Age of Exploration.

When one takes the guided tour on site, you will be led into dark dungeon-like chambers where countless hundreds of prisoners were sandwiched together before being led through the Door of No Return, where ships waited to carry them off to a life of forced servitude.

The iron shackles used to restrain these poor human beings will have an enormous impact on anyone with a soul, just as it did with Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela, the latter of whom excused himself to process what he had seen in silence.

After this heavy visit, lighten things up a bit by making the IFAN Museum of African Arts your next stop. Ranking as one of the oldest art museums in Western Africa, it was founded by French colonial authorities in 1936, and was transferred to the care of Cheikh Anta Diop University in 1960.

Today, it features the best creative works produced by artists in Senegal and West Africa, as well as a wide variety of cultural artifacts sourced from across French colonial Africa (places that are now nations like Guinea Bissau, Cote D’ Ivoire, etc).

While the best works in Senegal usually find their way into the halls of IFAN, Village des Arts is the best place to go in Dakar if you want to see them being made. Here, you’ll find creatives crafting their latest pieces, and selling items they have made recently.

As such, this is the best place to go if you wish to converse with these talented individuals, and if you want to take an authentic piece home, they will be more than willing to make a deal with you.

Other Attractions in Dakar

As a nation, Senegal is little more than a half century old. In 2010, the African Renaissance Monument was unveiled to mark the occasion, and despite the controversy, it has attracted for its exorbitant price tag and the fact that a North Korean company was used for the project, it is still a sight to behold.

Standing more than 49 metres or 160 feet above its podium, and more imposing that it would otherwise be due to its position on a prominent hill, it can be seen through much of Dakar. However, the best pics can be had up close, so make the effort to travel out to its location if you can.

Those looking to take a cool day trip from Dakar should check out Lago Rosa. A lake that boasts a perfect pink hue thanks to its abundant population of algae, you might think that taking a dip would be ill-advised.

However, not only is it safe to do so, but its excessive salinity gives it a buoyancy comparable to the Dead Sea. So long as you don’t expose your eyes to the water, a swim here will prove to be one of the better things you’ll do during your visit to the Dakar area.

Consider yourself to be an accomplished surfer? Head to Ngor Island, which sits just off the coast of Dakar. The side that faces the open Atlantic sees continual swells, many of which are epic in size.

For the less adventurous, the beaches on the sheltered side of Ngor are great for swimming and relaxing, and the nightlife that happens here will only make it that much harder to leave if you are on an extended journey through Africa.

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