Dakar is brimming with life, from its exuberant markets to its bustling streets and festive cultural scene. The Senegalese capital is home to some of the best museums, nightclubs and arts festivals in West Africa, and there is never a boring day in the city.
Start your visit at the African Renaissance Monument. Erected in December 2010 in honor of the end of slavery and the continent’s emergence from oppressive colonial regimes, the monument is a display of African pride. Taller than the Statue of Liberty, the monument was built by North Korea, evoking criticism from some locals.
The Hann Park Zoo is a favorite place of both locals and travelers. Open Tuesday through Sunday, the zoo is home to a huge variety of Senegalese animals and plant life. Most of the 130 animals are housed in small pens, allowing onlookers to get so close they can see nearly every whisker on the faces of the lions. The zookeepers have a reputation for turning a blind eye when visitors reach out to shake hands with the friendly chimps.
Yoff beach, on the city’s northern coast, is one of the best in Senegal. The crystal blue waters are perfect for surfing and boogie-boarding, the sands are clean and the cabanas are cheap to rent.
The Corniche, the wide boulevard that runs along the Atlantic coast, is the perfect place to take a stroll. The scenic area offers respite from the sometimes stifling heat of the inner city thanks to sea breezes, and the sweeping views of the ocean can’t be beat. Do like the locals and go for an early morning jog to catch the incredible sunrise.
The IFAN Museum of African Arts is one of the continent’s oldest and best galleries. Established by Leopold Senghor, Senegal’s first president, the museum is one of the most prestigious research centers in the world. The impressive collection features artifacts and art from across Francophone Africa, and temporary exhibits often showcase contemporary African art.
The Dakar Grand Mosque is one of the most important religious centers in Senegal. Designed by Moroccan and French architects, the mosque was unveiled in 1964 and is heavily influenced by the style of Casablanca’s Mosquée Mohammed V. Open to the public outside of community prayer times, the mosque is a truly stunning sight.
The Dakar Cathedral is also worth a visit. The 1920s building is simple, but the adjacent garden is quite lovely. The children’s playground is a favorite of local families.
Escape from the chaos of the city at Lake Retba, known as the “Pink Lake” because of its high concentration of cyanobacteria. The color is particularly spectacular on sunny days during the dry season. While admiring the scenic beauty of the lake, be on the lookout for salt harvesters who still collect the mineral using traditional techniques.
Dakar is one of West Africa’s greatest shopping centers, and visitors can find all kinds of souvenirs and goods at the Marché Sandaga. The market’s dilapidated exterior is a bit intimidating, but it hides three levels of stalls selling everything from couture embroidered fabrics and Manchester United jerseys to bootleg CD, Islamic books, electronic gadgets and vegetables. The Marche HLM specializes in Senegalese wear, and the Soumbedioune market is known for its fresh fish and handmade jewelry.
Dakar Geographical Location
Dakar is located on the west coast of Senegal on the Cap-Vert Peninsula facing the Atlantic Ocean.
The population of Dakar is approximately 2,460,000 and is Senegal’s largest city.
French is the official language of Senegal and is used for administrative purposes but is not widely spoken. Wolof and Fula, which are closely related, are the two most commonly spoken languages.
Dakar Predominant Religion
- 94% Muslim
- 5% Christian
- 1% Indigenous Beliefs
There are also small numbers of Jews and Buddhists within Senegal and the majority of the Christian population is comprised of Roman Catholics.
The West African Communauté Financiere d’Afrique Franc, usually abbreviated to CFA Franc, is the official currency of Senegal.
Dakar receives virtually all of its rain during a four-month period between July and October with August being the rainiest month by far. It is hot throughout the year but the rainy summer season can reach unbearable temperatures.
Dakar Main Attractions
- Goree Island
- Saint Louis
- La Reserve de Bandia
Other Attractions in Dakar
- Pink Lake