Dakar Travel Guide: Top 22 Things to Do in Dakar, Senegal

Welcome to Dakar! A city where the Atlantic Ocean meets a tapestry of cultures, vibrant street art, and a history as rich and complex as its diverse neighborhoods. This bustling capital of Senegal is a symphony of sounds, from the bustling markets to the rhythm of Mbalax music echoing through the streets. Embark on a journey to Dakar, and you’re signing up for an adventure that will tantalize your senses, challenge your perceptions, and immerse you in an energy that’s uniquely West African.

Mosque of divinity in Dakar

The Heartbeat of Senegal

Dakar stands as a beacon of African vibrancy and resilience, a city that pulsates with life at every corner. From the historic Île de Gorée, whispering stories of the past, to the bustling markets like Sandaga, where every stall tells a tale. It’s a city of contrasts, where traditional meets contemporary and the sea breezes blend with urban hustle.

A Culinary Melting Pot

Prepare your taste buds for a journey through Dakar’s culinary landscape, a flavorful fusion of French, North African, and local Senegalese cuisine. Whether it’s sampling Thieboudienne at a local ‘dibiterie’ or savoring fresh seafood by the coast, Dakar offers a feast for the senses. The city’s food is a testament to its multicultural heartbeat, inviting you to taste its history and diversity in every bite.

An Artistic and Musical Odyssey

Dakar’s soul shines brightly through its art and music. Wander through neighborhoods adorned with street art, visit galleries showcasing contemporary African artists, and end your day swaying to the rhythms of live music in the city’s lively clubs. This is a place where creativity is the currency, and the city’s artistic scene is as dynamic and varied as its people.

Natural Wonders and Outdoor Adventures

Beyond the city’s lively streets lies a world of natural beauty waiting to be explored. Take a trip to the serene Lac Rose, float in its pink waters, or explore the rugged beauty of the Senegalese coastline, offering surfers and sun-seekers alike a perfect escape. Dakar is a gateway to outdoor adventures that highlight the stunning landscapes of West Africa.

So pack your bags, bring an open heart, and get ready to be swept up in the rhythm of Dakar.

Dakar Travel Guide: Things to do in Dakar, Senegal

Dakar City Guide: A Brief History Of Dakar, Senegal

Dakar carries with it a history as colorful and diverse as the fabrics sold in its bustling markets. This city, now pulsating with the beat of Mbalax music and adorned with graffiti art, has a story that stretches back through centuries of change, resilience, and cultural fusion. Let’s peel back the layers of this dynamic city to uncover the roots that ground Dakar’s spirited presence.

From Lebou Fishermen to French Colonial Hub

The story of Dakar begins with the Lebou, an ethnic group primarily known for their fishing prowess, who originally settled the Cap-Vert Peninsula. Fast forward to the mid-15th century, and Portuguese explorers set their sights on this strategic point, marking the start of European interest. However, it was the French who left an indelible mark, establishing Dakar as a major port and the capital of French West Africa. This colonial chapter layered Dakar’s history with European influences, visible in its architecture and urban planning.

The Gateway to Africa

Dakar’s strategic location on the westernmost tip of Africa made it a pivotal gateway between Africa and Europe. It flourished as a center for trade, cultural exchange, and later, as a crucial point in the transatlantic slave trade. The infamous House of Slaves on Gorée Island, a poignant reminder of this dark era, stands as a testament to resilience and the fight for freedom. Today, Gorée Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, drawing visitors from around the world to reflect on history’s shadows and the light of human endurance.

Independence and Growth

The mid-20th century brought winds of change across Africa, with Dakar at the forefront of Senegal’s quest for independence. Achieved in 1960, with Léopold Sédar Senghor, one of Africa’s most revered poets and thinkers, becoming the country’s first president, Dakar began shaping its identity as a modern African metropolis. The city burgeoned as a center for African politics, culture, and intellect, hosting the influential First World Festival of Negro Arts in 1966, which showcased the richness of African culture to the world.

Dakar Today: A Cosmopolitan Beacon

Dakar’s narrative continues to evolve, with the city now standing as a symbol of Africa’s dynamism, creativity, and future potential. It’s a place where traditional wrestling matches captivate local audiences, contemporary art galleries thrive, and music fills the air, from hip-hop to traditional Sabar drums. The city’s universities and institutions are nurturing the next generation of African leaders, thinkers, and artists.

Dakar statue silhouette

Dakar Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Senegal

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.

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.

More Attractions

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.

Dakar downtown lit up at night

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Dakar, Senegal

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.

Other Attractions

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.

source: Sky Travel on YouTube

Top 22 Things To Do in Dakar, Senegal For Visitors

Here’s a guide to the top 22 things to do in Dakar:

Dakar city views from high vantage points

1. Visit the African Renaissance Monument

Standing taller than the Statue of Liberty, the African Renaissance Monument is a colossal bronze statue symbolizing Africa’s emergence from oppression and poverty. It offers panoramic views of Dakar and the ocean from its base. The monument has sparked much debate but remains a must-visit for its impressive scale and the views it offers. It’s also surrounded by well-maintained gardens, perfect for a leisurely stroll.

2. Explore Île de Gorée

A short ferry ride from Dakar, Île de Gorée is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its role in the Atlantic slave trade. The island is a place of contemplation and historical significance, with well-preserved colonial architecture and the haunting House of Slaves. It’s a car-free zone, allowing visitors to wander its tranquil, colorful streets and enjoy its beaches. Art galleries, cafes, and museums add to the island’s serene yet poignant atmosphere.

3. Shop at Marché Kermel

Marché Kermel, located in the heart of Dakar, is a vibrant market housed in a circular colonial building. It’s famous for its fresh produce, spices, and Senegalese crafts. The market is a sensory overload, with vendors selling everything from fresh seafood to handmade jewelry. It’s a great place to interact with locals and experience the lively atmosphere that defines Dakar’s markets.

4. Relax at Plage de N’Gor

N’Gor Beach, located on the small island of N’Gor, is a short boat ride away from Dakar and offers a tranquil escape from the city. The island has several beaches, some ideal for surfing, while others offer calmer waters perfect for swimming. Beachside cafes and restaurants serve fresh seafood and cold drinks. It’s a popular weekend spot for both locals and tourists looking to unwind.

5. Visit the Museum of Black Civilizations

The Museum of Black Civilizations is a world-class institution that celebrates African art, culture, and history. Its exhibits range from prehistoric artifacts to contemporary African art, offering a comprehensive overview of the continent’s rich heritage. The museum aims to foster a greater understanding of African civilizations and their global impact. It’s an enlightening experience for anyone interested in the roots and expressions of black culture.

6. Wander Around the Medina

The Medina of Dakar is a bustling, historic neighborhood known for its narrow streets, vibrant markets, and lively atmosphere. It’s home to artisans, street vendors, and the Grand Mosque of Dakar. Walking through the Medina offers a glimpse into the everyday life of Dakar’s residents. It’s a place where you can find unique souvenirs and experience the city’s dynamic pulse.

7. Discover the IFAN Museum of African Arts

The IFAN Museum of African Arts is one of the oldest art museums in West Africa, showcasing a wide array of traditional African art. Its collection includes masks, statues, and musical instruments from across the continent. The museum is also a research center for African art and culture. It’s a must-visit for art lovers and those interested in learning more about Africa’s diverse cultural expressions.

8. Enjoy the View from Les Mamelles Lighthouse

Perched atop one of the twin hills known as Les Mamelles, outside Dakar, the lighthouse offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the city. It’s one of Dakar’s iconic landmarks and provides a peaceful setting to watch the sunset. The surrounding area is also home to a variety of wildlife, including hyraxes. It’s a bit off the beaten path but well worth the visit for the views alone.

9. Experience Dakar’s Nightlife

Dakar is renowned for its vibrant nightlife, with numerous clubs, bars, and live music venues offering everything from traditional Senegalese music to international beats. The city comes alive at night, offering a lively scene where you can dance until dawn. Venues like Just 4 U and Club Thiossane are popular spots to catch live performances by local and international artists. It’s a perfect way to experience the energetic and diverse cultural tapestry of Dakar.

10. Surf at Ouakam Beach

Ouakam Beach, located near the Mosque of Divinity, is a popular spot for surfing, offering waves for both beginners and experienced surfers. Surf schools and rentals are available, making it easy to hit the waves. The beach itself is a tranquil spot to relax after a surfing session. The impressive Mosque of Divinity, perched on the edge of the cliffs, provides a picturesque backdrop.

11. Visit Dakar’s Grand Mosque

The Grand Mosque of Dakar, built in 1964, is a spiritual and architectural landmark. It’s known for its beautiful exterior and serene interior, adorned with Moroccan tile work. Non-Muslim visitors are welcome outside of prayer times, offering a chance to appreciate its architecture and the peaceful atmosphere. The mosque plays a central role in the religious life of the city.

12. Stroll Along the Corniche

The Corniche is a scenic coastal road that offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and Dakar’s coastline. It’s lined with beaches, cafes, and parks, making it a perfect spot for a leisurely walk, jog, or bike ride. The route passes by several of the city’s landmarks, including the African Renaissance Monument. Watching the waves crash against the cliffs and feeling the ocean breeze makes for a refreshing experience.

13. Explore the Village des Arts

Village des Arts is a creative hub where over 50 Senegalese artists work and exhibit their art. It encompasses a wide range of disciplines, including painting, sculpture, and photography. Visitors can meet the artists, learn about their processes, and purchase original works. It’s a vibrant space that showcases the talent and creativity of Senegal’s art community.

14. Indulge in Senegalese Cuisine

Dakar offers an incredible array of Senegalese and international cuisine, with dishes like thieboudienne (fish and rice), yassa (marinated meat), and mafe (peanut stew). Local restaurants and street food stalls provide an authentic taste of Senegalese flavors. Seafood is particularly fresh and abundant here. Eating with your hands is part of the traditional experience, offering a deeper connection to the local culture.

15. Take a Boat Trip to Les Madeleines

Les Madeleines, also known as the Madeleine Islands, are an uninhabited group of islands off the coast of Dakar, known for their dramatic cliffs and abundant birdlife. They’re a popular spot for picnics, fishing, and snorkeling. The islands are a protected nature reserve, offering pristine natural landscapes. Boat trips from Dakar provide a peaceful escape and a chance to explore the islands’ untouched beauty.

16. Attend the Dak’Art Biennale

The Dak’Art Biennale is one of the leading contemporary art events in Africa, showcasing the work of African artists and the African diaspora. It transforms the city into an art gallery, with exhibitions, installations, and performances throughout Dakar. The event fosters dialogue about contemporary issues and promotes cultural exchange. It’s a thrilling time to visit Dakar and experience its cutting-edge art scene.

17. Visit the Sandaga Market

Sandaga Market is one of the largest and most chaotic markets in Dakar, where you can find almost anything, from fresh produce and meat to clothes and crafts. It’s a bustling hub of activity where bargaining is part of the experience. The market’s vibrant atmosphere and colorful displays provide a deep dive into local life. It’s an ideal place to shop for souvenirs, spices, and traditional textiles.

18. Relax at Saly Portudal

Though not in Dakar itself, Saly Portudal is a popular beach resort area located south of the city, known for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, and luxury resorts. It’s a favorite getaway for both locals and tourists looking to enjoy water sports, sunbathing, and relaxation. The area also offers golf courses and spa facilities. It’s a slice of paradise within easy reach of Dakar’s hustle and bustle.

19. Explore the Bandia Nature Reserve

A short drive from Dakar, the Bandia Nature Reserve offers a safari experience where you can see African wildlife, including giraffes, rhinos, zebras, and monkeys, in their natural habitat. Guided tours are available, providing insights into the conservation efforts and the species that inhabit the reserve. The reserve also features a restaurant overlooking a watering hole, where animals come to drink. It’s a great day trip for families and nature lovers.

20. Visit the House of Slaves on Gorée Island

While Île de Gorée has already been mentioned, the House of Slaves deserves its own recognition. This museum and memorial dedicated to the Atlantic slave trade is a poignant reminder of the island’s history. The “Door of No Return” symbolizes the final exit point for slaves being shipped to the Americas. It’s a powerful and moving site that offers historical context and a place for reflection on human rights and freedom.

21. Enjoy Senegalese Music and Dance

Dakar’s music scene is electrifying, with mbalax (a fusion of traditional Senegalese drumbeats and international genres) being the most popular sound. Live music venues and nightclubs offer performances by local and international artists. Traditional dance is also an integral part of Senegalese culture, often accompanying musical performances. Experiencing a live performance is a must-do for visitors, offering insight into the country’s vibrant cultural expression.

22. Participate in a Senegalese Cooking Class

Joining a Senegalese cooking class is an interactive way to learn about the country’s cuisine and culinary traditions. Classes often include a visit to a local market to buy ingredients, followed by hands-on instruction in preparing dishes. It’s a fun and delicious way to connect with Senegalese culture. Plus, you get to enjoy the meal you’ve prepared, making it a rewarding experience.

Yassa is a must try dish in Dakar, Senegal

What To Eat and Drink in Dakar, Senegal

The Senegalese capital is a paradise for food lovers, where the richness of African cuisine meets Arab, French, and Portuguese influences. Here’s a guide to the must-try dishes and drinks that embody the soul of Dakar’s culinary landscape.

Signature Senegalese Dishes

  1. Thieboudienne (Cheb-u-jen) The national dish of Senegal, Thieboudienne, is a flavorful combination of fish, rice, and vegetables. It’s seasoned with a rich tomato sauce and a mix of aromatic herbs, showcasing the depth of Senegalese flavors.
  2. Yassa Poulet This popular dish consists of marinated chicken cooked in a tangy onion and lemon sauce. Served over a bed of rice, Yassa Poulet is both hearty and bursting with citrusy flavors, a testament to the Senegalese knack for balancing taste profiles.
  3. Mafe A rich and hearty peanut stew, Mafe features meat (commonly beef or chicken) simmered in a peanut butter sauce with vegetables. It’s a comforting dish that perfectly represents West African cuisine’s robust and earthy flavors.

Seafood Delights

  1. Grilled Fish Dakar’s location along the Atlantic coast means seafood is a staple. Grilled fish, seasoned with local spices and served with lime, is a simple yet delicious way to enjoy the city’s fresh catch.
  2. Calamari à la Plancha Fresh calamari grilled with a sprinkle of lemon juice and herbs offers a taste of Dakar’s fusion of local and Mediterranean flavors.

Street Food and Snacks

  1. Bissap (Hibiscus Tea) A refreshing drink made from hibiscus flowers, Bissap is sweet, tart, and often served chilled. It’s not just a beverage; it’s a vital part of Senegalese hospitality.
  2. Dibi Street food at its best, Dibi consists of grilled lamb or mutton chopped into pieces, seasoned with mustard and onions, and served on paper with bread. It’s a must-try for meat lovers.
  3. Accara These black-eyed pea fritters are a popular snack or breakfast item in Dakar. Served with spicy sauce or a side of bread, Accara is both nutritious and flavorful.
  4. Fataya Influenced by the city’s French and Portuguese culinary heritage, Fataya are fried pastry pockets filled with fish or meat, reminiscent of empanadas, and perfect for on-the-go eating.

Sweet Treats

  1. Thiakry A dessert made from millet or couscous mixed with yogurt, sweetened with sugar, and flavored with vanilla or nutmeg. It’s a refreshing end to any Senegalese meal.

Drinks to Savor

  1. Café Touba This spiced coffee, flavored with Guinea pepper and sometimes cloves, offers a unique taste. It’s a warming drink that tells the story of Senegal’s Muslim Mouride brotherhood.
  2. Gingembre A potent ginger drink, often sweetened and served chilled. It’s known for its refreshing qualities and a spicy kick that can invigorate the senses.

Mafe is a must try dish in Dakar

Top Restaurants In Dakar, Senegal

Here’s a broad look at the variety of dining experiences Dakar has to offer, reflecting its vibrant food culture.

1. La Fourchette

Ambiance and Specialty: A fusion of French cuisine with Senegalese ingredients, La Fourchette is renowned for its elegant setting and innovative dishes. It’s a favorite for both locals and tourists seeking a fine dining experience.

2. Chez Loutcha

Ambiance and Specialty: Offering a more traditional dining experience, Chez Loutcha is beloved for its authentic Senegalese and Cape Verdean dishes. The restaurant is a go-to place for trying national dishes like Thieboudienne and Yassa in a cozy, welcoming environment.

3. Le Ngor

Ambiance and Specialty: Situated right by the sea, Le Ngor offers stunning views and specializes in seafood. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxed meal enjoying the ocean breeze and sampling fresh catches of the day, grilled to perfection.

4. Alkimia Restaurant & Bar

Ambiance and Specialty: A modern eatery offering a mix of Mediterranean and Senegalese cuisines, Alkimia is known for its stylish décor and creative cocktails. The menu is a testament to Dakar’s cosmopolitan flair, featuring everything from tapas to gourmet burgers.

5. Lagon 1

Ambiance and Specialty: With a terrace overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Lagon 1 serves a variety of French-inspired seafood dishes in an unforgettable setting. The restaurant is ideal for romantic dinners or special occasions, where the ambiance is as important as the cuisine.

6. Dakar’s Street Food Stalls

Ambiance and Specialty: For an authentic taste of Dakar’s vibrant street food scene, visit the stalls around Marché Kermel and Plateau. Here, you can enjoy dishes like Dibi (grilled meat) and Accara (black-eyed pea fritters), showcasing the heart and soul of Senegalese cuisine.

7. Terrou-Bi

Ambiance and Specialty: This upscale beach resort and casino also boasts several restaurants with a range of dining options, from buffet-style to à la carte menus featuring international and local cuisines. Dining with panoramic sea views adds to the experience.

8. Le Djoloff

Ambiance and Specialty: A boutique hotel’s restaurant, Le Djoloff offers a menu that creatively combines French techniques with Senegalese flavors. The rooftop setting provides a great ambiance for enjoying Dakar’s evenings.

9. Sunugal Village-Auberge

Ambiance and Specialty: Nestled on the Ngor Island’s edge, Sunugal offers a tranquil escape with its lush garden setting and specializes in traditional Senegalese dishes. It’s a great spot for those looking to enjoy local flavors in a peaceful, scenic environment.

10. Café de Rome

Ambiance and Specialty: Located in the heart of Dakar, Café de Rome is known for its bustling atmosphere and diverse menu, offering everything from Italian pasta to Senegalese specialties. It’s a popular meeting spot for both business lunches and casual dining.

Visiting Goree Island in Dakar, Senegal

Tours For Visitors To Dakar, Senegal

From historical tours to culinary adventures, here’s a comprehensive list of tours that promise to enrich your visit to Dakar.

1. Historical Tour of Gorée Island

Discover the poignant history of Gorée Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its role in the transatlantic slave trade. This tour offers insights into the island’s past, including visits to the House of Slaves and the Gorée Island Museum, providing a deeper understanding of Senegal’s history and the resilience of its people.

2. Dakar City Tour

Explore the vibrant streets of Dakar on a city tour that takes you through its bustling markets, colonial-era buildings, and notable landmarks like the African Renaissance Monument. Learn about Dakar’s history, culture, and modern-day life from a local guide who brings the city’s stories to life.

3. Culinary and Market Tour

Immerse yourself in Senegal’s rich culinary traditions with a tour of Dakar’s markets followed by a cooking class. Discover local ingredients, spices, and cooking techniques, and then enjoy the fruits of your labor with a meal you’ve helped prepare, offering a taste of authentic Senegalese cuisine.

4. Lac Rose (Pink Lake) Tour

Venture just outside Dakar to witness the natural wonder of Lac Rose, known for its striking pink hues caused by high salt content and algae. This tour allows for swimming in the lake’s therapeutic waters, exploring the nearby salt mounds, and learning about the local salt harvesting industry.

5. Art and Culture Walk

Dakar is a hub for African art and culture, and this walking tour showcases the city’s vibrant art scene, including street art, galleries, and artisan workshops. Meet local artists, learn about Senegalese art forms, and discover the creative spirit that permeates Dakar.

6. Ngor Island Excursion

Escape to the tranquil Ngor Island, a short pirogue (traditional canoe) ride from Dakar. This tour offers relaxation on pristine beaches, opportunities for surfing and snorkeling, and a chance to explore the small yet vibrant island community.

7. Bird Watching in the Technopole

The Technopole area, a wetland near Dakar, is a haven for bird enthusiasts. Guided tours provide opportunities to spot various bird species, including flamingos and pelicans, making for a peaceful day spent in nature’s embrace.

8. Fishing Village Tour

Visit traditional Senegalese fishing villages along the coast to learn about local fishing techniques, the importance of fishing to Senegal’s economy, and daily life in these close-knit communities. Tours may include Kayar, Yoff, or Soumbédioune, offering insights into a vital aspect of Senegalese culture.

9. Sandaga Market Shopping Experience

Dive into the heart of Dakar’s commerce with a guided tour of the Sandaga Market, where you can haggle over goods ranging from textiles to artisan crafts. A local guide will help you navigate the bustling market and share tips on finding the best souvenirs.

10. Dakar Nightlife and Music Tour

Experience Dakar’s legendary nightlife and music scene with a tour that takes you to live music venues and nightclubs. Discover Mbalax, Senegal’s popular music genre, and enjoy performances that showcase the country’s musical diversity and talent.

Colorful architecture in Dakar

Dakar Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

From luxurious hotels with stunning ocean views to cozy guesthouses brimming with local charm, here’s a comprehensive guide to help you find the perfect place to stay in Dakar.

Luxurious Retreats

1. Terrou-Bi Beach & Casino Resort

Offering panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, Terrou-Bi is a haven of luxury. Guests can enjoy a private beach, an outdoor pool, several on-site restaurants serving international cuisine, and a vibrant casino for evening entertainment.

2. Radisson Blu Hotel, Dakar Sea Plaza

Situated on the Cape Verde Peninsula, this hotel boasts stylish rooms with breathtaking sea views, a world-class spa, and an infinity pool. The Radisson Blu is ideal for those seeking a blend of modern luxury and serenity.

Mid-Range Comfort

3. Hotel Le Djoloff

A boutique hotel that combines comfort with culture, Le Djoloff offers rooms decorated with African art and textiles. With a rooftop terrace that provides stunning city views and a restaurant serving delicious Senegalese cuisine, it’s a gem in the Fann Hock neighborhood.

4. La Demeure

Nestled in the residential area of Les Almadies, La Demeure is a charming guesthouse known for its warm hospitality and tranquil garden. It’s an excellent choice for travelers looking for a quiet retreat with easy access to Dakar’s attractions.

Budget-Friendly Stays

5. Ker Jahkarlo

A favorite among backpackers, Ker Jahkarlo offers a friendly, communal atmosphere with both private rooms and dormitories. It’s not only a place to sleep but also a cultural exchange, offering cooking classes, live music nights, and language lessons.

6. Via Via Dakar

This hostel is part of a global network that emphasizes cultural experiences and sustainable travel. Located in the bustling Yoff neighborhood, Via Via provides budget accommodations, a vibrant café, and a cultural event space.

Unique and Boutique

7. Casa Mara Dakar

A boutique guesthouse located in the Dakar-Plateau district, Casa Mara charms with its eclectic decor, outdoor swimming pool, and lush garden. It offers a peaceful oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.

8. The Djiby’s

Situated in the Mermoz district, The Djiby’s is a boutique hotel that stands out for its contemporary design inspired by Senegalese traditions. Guests can enjoy a rooftop terrace and an art gallery, making it a stylish choice for art lovers.

Seaside Escapes

9. Les Alizés Beach Resort

Located in the scenic Cap Skirring area, though a bit of a journey from Dakar, Les Alizés offers beachfront accommodations with thatched-roof bungalows, an outdoor pool, and a restaurant that specializes in seafood caught directly from the Atlantic.

10. Ocean & Savana Hotel

Overlooking the tranquil waters of the Dakar Peninsula, this hotel offers comfortable rooms, a seaside restaurant, and easy access to water sports and beach activities. It’s perfect for travelers seeking a beach getaway within reach of Dakar’s city life.

Bandia wildlife reserve in Senegal day trip

Day Trips From Dakar, Senegal

Whether you’re drawn to the allure of natural wonders or the echoes of history that shape the region, there’s a day trip awaiting every traveler’s curiosity.

1. Gorée Island

A short ferry ride from Dakar, Gorée Island stands as a poignant reminder of the Atlantic slave trade. Its colorful colonial buildings and calm streets contrast sharply with its somber history, highlighted by the House of Slaves. The island also offers art galleries, cafes, and stunning ocean views, making it a complex but essential visit. Gorée is not just a trip through history; it’s a journey through collective memory and resilience.

2. Pink Lake (Lac Rose)

Lac Rose, famed for its striking pink hue due to its high salt content and algae, is a marvel just an hour away from Dakar. Visitors can tour the lake, visit the salt harvesters, and even float effortlessly in its waters. The surrounding area offers quad biking and camel riding for adventure enthusiasts. The contrast of the pink waters against the white salt and blue sky makes for unforgettable sights and photos.

3. Bandia Wildlife Reserve

Bandia Reserve brings you face-to-face with Africa’s majestic wildlife just an hour from Dakar. On a safari drive, you can spot giraffes, rhinos, zebras, and a variety of antelopes in their natural habitat. The reserve also features a baobab burial site, adding a cultural dimension to the natural experience. It’s a perfect escape into the wild for families and nature lovers.

4. Joal-Fadiouth

This unique excursion leads to Joal-Fadiouth, where Joal lies on the mainland and Fadiouth, an island made entirely of shells, is connected by a wooden bridge. Fadiouth, with its shell-covered streets, granaries on stilts, and mixed Christian-Muslim heritage, offers a fascinating insight into Senegal’s religious coexistence. The island’s serene cemetery, also made of shells, overlooks the mangroves. This trip is a testament to the country’s cultural diversity and unity.

5. Saint-Louis

A bit further afield, the historic city of Saint-Louis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a journey back in time with its preserved colonial architecture and vibrant arts scene. Once the capital of French West Africa, its charm lies in its faded grandeur and bustling fishing community. The city is also the gateway to the Senegal River delta, rich in birdlife. Saint-Louis combines natural beauty, history, and culture, making it worth the longer trip.

6. Somone Lagoon Reserve

The tranquil Somone Lagoon Reserve is an avian paradise, offering serene landscapes and a rich ecosystem of mangroves. A canoe trip through the lagoon reveals a diverse array of bird species, including flamingos and pelicans. The reserve is also home to small, secluded beaches where visitors can relax. It’s an ideal spot for those seeking peace and natural beauty.

7. Niokolo-Koba National Park

For the ultimate adventure, a trip to Niokolo-Koba National Park, though requiring an overnight stay, showcases Senegal’s diverse ecosystems, including savannahs, forests, and rivers, and is home to elephants, lions, and leopards. The Gambia River running through it offers spectacular landscapes and wildlife viewing opportunities. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a testament to West Africa’s untouched wilderness. It’s a must-visit for avid nature and wildlife enthusiasts.

8. Thies

An hour’s drive takes you to Thies, known for its tapestry and textile factories. The city’s craft markets offer a glimpse into Senegal’s artistic traditions, making it a great place for picking up souvenirs. Thies also serves as a cultural center with its railway museum reflecting the colonial era. It’s a journey into the heart of Senegal’s craftsmanship and industrial heritage.

9. Saloum Delta National Park

A day trip to Saloum Delta National Park immerses visitors in a landscape where water and land intertwine, creating a haven for birds, fish, and shellfish. Traditional pirogue tours guide you through the delta’s islands and mangroves. The park’s biodiversity and the traditional Serer culture make it a profound experience. It’s an exploration of the delicate balance between nature and human life.

10. Mbour

The bustling fishing town of Mbour offers an authentic look into Senegal’s fishing industry with its lively fish market. Just south of Dakar, Mbour also boasts beautiful beaches that are less crowded than those in the capital. The town is known for its craftsmanship, especially woodwork and basket weaving. Mbour provides a taste of Senegalese daily life, from the thrum of its markets to the serene beach sunsets.

Dakar traffic motion blur

Dakar Transportation Guide

Here’s your complete travel guide to getting around Dakar, from public transport to more personalized travel methods.

Public Buses

Dakar’s public bus system, operated by Dakar Dem Dikk, serves the city and its suburbs with a network of routes covering major areas and attractions. Buses are an affordable way to travel, though they can be crowded during peak hours. Look for bus stops marked with the Dakar Dem Dikk sign, and be prepared for an authentic Dakar experience.

Car Rapides

Iconic to Dakar, Car Rapides are brightly painted minibuses that operate on fixed routes throughout the city. They’re fast, frequent, and offer a cheap way to get around, though they might not be the most comfortable option for everyone. Signal the driver to stop, and pay the fare to the apprentice (usually found hanging from the bus’s rear).


Taxis are plentiful in Dakar and can be hailed on the street. They’re metered, but it’s common practice to negotiate the fare before starting your journey. Yellow and black in color, taxis offer a more comfortable and private way to navigate the city. For late-night travel or longer distances, taxis are a reliable option.

Motorcycle Taxis

For shorter distances or when traffic is heavy, motorcycle taxis are a quick and efficient way to move around. They’re especially useful for navigating narrow streets or areas where larger vehicles might struggle. Always agree on a fare before starting your trip, and be aware that this mode of transport might not be suitable for everyone.

Dakar Ter (Commuter Train)

The Dakar Ter, a relatively new addition to the city’s transport network, offers a modern and efficient way to travel between Dakar and Diamniadio. With air-conditioned carriages and regular service schedules, it’s a comfortable option for avoiding traffic congestion. The train stations are well-equipped and provide an alternative view of Dakar’s surroundings.


To visit places like Gorée Island, ferries depart regularly from the Port of Dakar. The ferry service is reliable and provides a scenic journey across Dakar’s bay. Tickets can be purchased at the port, and it’s advisable to check the schedule in advance, especially during tourist season.

Car Rental

For those preferring to explore at their own pace, car rental agencies are available in Dakar, offering various vehicles to suit different needs. Driving in Dakar can be challenging due to traffic congestion and different driving norms, so this option is best suited for confident drivers. Ensure you have a valid international driver’s license.

Bicycles and Scooters

Renting a bicycle or a scooter can be an enjoyable way to explore Dakar’s neighborhoods, particularly in less congested areas or along the Corniche. Some hotels and rental shops offer bikes and electric scooters, though it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings and traffic rules.


In areas like Plateau (the city center) or along the Corniche, walking can be a pleasant way to take in the sights and sounds of Dakar. Many of Dakar’s attractions are within walking distance of each other in these areas, making walking a viable option for short distances.

Saint-Louis Senegal boats is a place to visit next

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Dakar?

Here’s a list of places to visit after Dakar, promising a continuation of your West African journey.

1. Saint-Louis, Senegal

Once the capital of French West Africa, Saint-Louis charms with its colonial architecture and vibrant arts scene. Nestled at the mouth of the Senegal River, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its annual jazz festival. Visitors can explore the bustling fish market, navigate the river’s mangroves, and enjoy the serene beaches. Saint-Louis serves as a cultural bridge between the past and present.

2. Lompoul Desert, Senegal

Experience the Sahara in miniature at the Lompoul Desert with its golden dunes and vast open skies. Visitors can enjoy camel rides, spend the night in traditional Mauritanian tents, and savor the tranquility of the desert under a canopy of stars. The desert’s unexpected presence in Senegal’s diverse landscape offers a memorable adventure. It’s a striking contrast to Dakar’s coastal vibrancy.

3. Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Sine-Saloum Delta is a maze of mangroves, islands, and waterways teeming with birdlife. This area is perfect for eco-tourists and those looking to explore Senegal’s natural beauty through boating, fishing, and bird watching. The delta also offers insight into Serer culture and traditional shellfish harvesting methods. Its peaceful atmosphere is a soothing retreat from city life.

4. Bandia Wildlife Reserve, Senegal

Just a short drive from Dakar, Bandia Wildlife Reserve offers the chance to see Africa’s majestic wildlife up close, including giraffes, rhinos, and various antelope species. Safari tours provide educational insights into Senegal’s efforts to conserve its wildlife and habitats. The reserve is an accessible slice of the savannah, ideal for families and nature enthusiasts. It’s a reminder of the continent’s rich biodiversity.

5. Casamance Region, Senegal

Known for its lush landscapes and distinct Jola culture, the Casamance region offers a different pace of life compared to northern Senegal. Visitors can explore vibrant local markets, serene beaches, and the sacred forests scattered throughout the area. The region’s rich cultural tapestry and welcoming communities provide a deep dive into Senegal’s diverse cultural heritage. It’s a journey into the heart of Senegal’s soul.

6. Fathala Wildlife Reserve, Senegal

Near the Gambian border, Fathala Wildlife Reserve allows visitors to walk with lions, a unique experience in West Africa. The reserve also shelters indigenous and reintroduced species, such as rhinos and giant eland. Guided safaris and luxury tent accommodations offer an immersive nature experience. It’s a conservation-led adventure that brings you face-to-face with Africa’s majestic beasts.

7. Kafountine and Abéné, Senegal

For a taste of Senegal’s Atlantic Coast, head to the laid-back villages of Kafountine and Abéné, famous for their music festivals and pristine beaches. These communities are a haven for drumming, dance, and cultural exchange. The area’s relaxed vibe, combined with the rhythmic beat of traditional music, creates a perfect setting for cultural immersion. It’s where the spirit of Senegal’s music scene comes alive.

8. The Gambia

Crossing into The Gambia offers a different perspective on West Africa, centered around the Gambia River. The country is famed for its birdwatching opportunities, friendly villages, and Kunta Kinteh Island, a critical site in the history of the slave trade. Banjul, the capital, provides a mix of markets, museums, and beaches. It’s a seamless blend of natural beauty and cultural depth.

9. Mbour and the Petite Côte, Senegal

Mbour and the surrounding Petite Côte area are known for their fishing communities, vibrant markets, and peaceful beaches. A visit here offers insights into Senegal’s fishing industry and the opportunity to relax by the sea or engage in water sports. The area is also a gateway to the Bandia and Fathala reserves, making it a hub for exploring Senegal’s natural wonders. It’s where tradition meets the tranquility of coastal life.

10. Saloum Delta National Park, Senegal

Further exploration of the Sine-Saloum Delta can lead you to the National Park, where the biodiversity intensifies. Guided canoe trips through the mangroves reveal hidden lagoons, bird colonies, and ancient shell mounds. The park’s eco-lodges offer sustainable accommodations that immerse visitors in the delta’s serene beauty. It’s an eco-adventure that showcases the delicate balance between humans and nature.

Dakar bay views with boats and Senegal

Dakar Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

As our journey through Dakar comes to a close, it’s hard not to feel a bit wistful. This city, with its pulsating heart and soulful rhythm, has a way of leaving an indelible mark on those who wander its vibrant streets. Let’s take a moment to wrap up our adventure and reflect on why Dakar deserves a special place on every traveler’s map.

The Soul of Senegal

Dakar is more than Senegal’s capital; it’s the soul of the country. A place where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with the push towards the future. From the haunting beauty of Gorée Island to the bustling markets filled with Senegalese crafts and fabrics, Dakar offers a journey through time that’s both enriching and humbling.

A Feast for the Senses

The culinary adventures in Dakar are a delight to the senses. Each dish tells a story of the land, the sea, and the people who call this place home. Whether it’s the fiery bite of a freshly prepared Yassa or the comforting embrace of a bowl of Thieboudienne, Dakar’s cuisine is a direct route to understanding the heart of Senegalese culture.

An Artistic Haven

Dakar’s streets are alive with art, from the vibrant murals that adorn city walls to the rhythmic beats of Mbalax that soundtrack the night. The city’s galleries and music venues offer a glimpse into the soul of Dakar, showcasing the creativity and resilience of its people. It’s a place where art isn’t just observed; it’s felt, lived, and breathed.

Embracing the Adventure

For the intrepid traveler, Dakar is a gateway to adventure. The pink waters of Lac Rose, the wildlife of Bandia, and the serene beauty of the Sine-Saloum Delta are just a day trip away, offering a taste of Senegal’s stunning natural diversity. Dakar is a launchpad for explorations that can transform the way you see the world.

Dakar Senegal pinned on a map

Ode To Dakar

In Dakar’s vibrant streets, a traveler roams, Where culture and history find their homes. From bustling markets to shores of the sea, A city alive with rhythm and glee.

Goree Island whispers tales of the past, Where echoes of slavery still forever last. But amidst the pain, hope rises high, Through art, music, and the people’s cry.

Plateau’s grandeur in colonial grace, Preserves the stories time can’t erase. The Presidential Palace stands tall and proud, As history weaves its intricate shroud.

The African Renaissance Monument so grand, Symbolizes strength across the land. With outstretched arms embracing the sky, It speaks of unity, reaching ever high.

Lac Rose’s pink hues mesmerize the eye, A natural wonder, a spectacle nearby. And on N’Gor Island’s sandy shore, Relax and let the ocean’s rhythm restore.

Senegalese flavors dance on the tongue, Thieboudienne, yassa, songs yet unsung. Indulge in the spice, the richness and zest, Savor the feast, an epicurean quest.

Music fills the air, beats pulse through the night, From mbalax rhythms to djembe’s delight. Let your feet move to the joyful sound, As Dakar’s soul makes your spirit unbound.

In Dakar, a tapestry of cultures weaves, From Wolof traditions to tales it conceives. With warmth and smiles, the people embrace, Inviting you to their vibrant embrace.

So wander through Dakar, let your spirit roam, Discover its treasures, make this city your home. For in its heart, a traveler finds delight, In Dakar’s embrace, an unforgettable flight.

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