For many visitors, Freetown feels more welcoming than other large cities in West Africa, perhaps due to its beautiful setting and welcoming population. The heart of the town is filled with historical sights and vibrant markets, the atmosphere is frenzied but friendly, and reminders of the recent violence are quickly fading, replaced by beach bars, innovative museums and bustling marketplaces.
The principal landmark in Freetown is a 500-year old tree known to locals simply as “The Cotton Tree.” Visit at dusk to watch thousands of bats scramble out of the branches, then come again in the morning to see them return as the sun rises.
The Sierra Leone National Museum sits in the shadow of the tree. Small but thought-provoking, the collection includes the clothing, drum and sword of Temne Guerilla leader Bai Bureh among other artifacts.
The National Rail Museum in the Cline Town district displays several authentic diesel and steam locomotives. Many carriages are also available for viewing, including the one used by Queen Elizabeth II during her first visit to Sierra Leone.
About two blocks southwest of the Cotton Tree lies St. John’s Maroon Church. Built in 1820, the small white building is known for its large windows and simple architecture.
To catch a glimpse of Sierra Leone’s history outside of a museum setting, take a walk through the area west of Tower Hill. A stroll down Pademba Road reveals many well-preserved wooden Krio houses that date from the 19th century. The view of the city from the neighborhood’s highest hills is worth the somewhat strenuous walk.
The beaches of Freetown are unspoilt and beautiful. Lumley Beach is the most popular, facing the Atlantic and surrounded by hotels, shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. The white sand is usually packed with both tourists and locals, but the crowds give it a festive feel. Other beaches worth visiting include the rocky Lakka Beach, former mining area Hamilton Beach, peaceful Sussex Beach, the No. 2 River Beach and Kent Beach. The historical sights at Kent Beach are worth an afternoon of exploration, including the offices where slaves were registered before being shipped to the West. Other sights in the area include the walls of the colonial settlement and Siaka Stevens, a colonial residence that has been transformed into a museum.
Just off the coast of Freetown lies Bunce Island, where countless captured slaves began their forced journeys to Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida. The ruins are large but overrun with vegetation, and there is little guidance for tourists upon arrival. Still, the sight is worth a visit thanks to its historical richness.
Decades later, slaves started a new life in Sierra Leone. Many of them were brought by the British to the Old Wharf Steps that lead up from Government Wharf. The first stones were laid in 1818, and visitors can walk their path today.
Other sights in Freetown popular with visitors include the Parliament Building, the lovely Aberdeen neighborhood, Fourah Bay College, the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Charlotte Falls, the Cape Sierra Leone Lighthouse and the Hill Station Club.
Freetown Geographical Location
Freetown is located in the western area of Sierra Leone facing the Atlantic Ocean.
It is a major port city and is the largest city in Serra Leone with an estimated population of 775,000.
English is the official language of Sierra Leone and an English-based Creole is most common within Freetown. Mende is the principal language spoken in the south while Temne is the principal vernacular in the north.
Freetown Predominant Religion
- 60% Muslim
- 30% Indigenous Beliefs
- 10% Christian
The constitution of Sierra Leone provides religious freedom and many who consider themselves Muslim or Christian practice indigenous beliefs additionally.
The Leone is the official currency of Sierra Leone.
Freetown has a tropical climate with hot weather throughout the year. The rainy season occurs from May until October with frequent and strong thunderstorms.
Freetown Main Attractions
- Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary
- The Cotton Tree
- The National Museum
Other Attraction in Freetown
- The Railway Museum
- Bunce Island