Nearly every corner of Antananarivo seems to bustle with activity. Motorcycles whiz down the crowded streets, slicing through a sea of bodies and cars, stalls sell fruit, flowers, bamboo, cell phones and even live animals on the sides of thoroughfares and locals gather in green spaces to share the day’s gossip and host impromptu music sessions. The Madagascan capital is one of the most lively in all of Africa, and visitors are treated with rich historical, architectural and cultural sites all over the hillside city.
Manjakamiadana Palace is the city’s crowning glory. From its perch on top of Antananarivo hill, the palace provides some of the best panoramic views of the capital and is definitely worth the hike. The complex once housed Madagascar’s ruling families, but the interior was largely destroyed by a fire in 1995, shortly after becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site. Reconstruction is underway, but in the meantime, visitors can still view the exteriors of the stone buildings.
The palace tops the city’s upper boroughs, known for their historic buildings and luxury residences. The Andohalo neighborhood is especially delightful for exploring on foot. Wander along the narrow streets boarded by lush flower-beds and leafy trees until you reach the square, dominated by the country’s oldest school and largest Catholic church. The House of Jean Laborde, the once-exiled Prime Minister, also borders the square. Built in 1862, the building is a stunning example of French colonial architecture and today houses the radio studios of the Alliance Francaise.
The Prime Minister’s Palace is just a short walk away. Built in 1872, the palace has since served as a court, military housing, the Academy of the Arts and the offices of both the president and prime minister. Today, it showcases a handful of artifacts that were rescued from the fire that destroyed the Manjakamiadana Palace.
The nearby hilly district of Rova contains more of the capital’s gems, including the Temple of Ampahamarinana, a memorial to the Christian martyrs killed there in 1849, the mid-19th century Temple of Ambohipotsy and the Ambohimanga Anglican Church.
The downtown district is the heart of Antananarivo, and the Avenue de l’IndÈpendance is its main artery. The shopping mile is framed by charming 1930’s buildings that now house a variety of eclectic boutiques and shops. The new City Hall stands in the middle, flanked by gardens, fountains and sculptures dedicated to Madagascar’s leaders and heroes.
Madagascar is known for its pristine nature, and visitors to the capital can get a taste of it at Tsimbazaza Park. Located on the hilly southwest corner of the city, the park is home to some of the country’s greatest cultural and natural treasures. The Museum of Paleontology has an extraordinary collection of Malagasy butterflies, dinosaur fossils and skeletons that date back to the quaternary period, and the Museum of Ethnology introduces visitors to local life and history through everyday objects like traditional amulets, stone mortars, protective spell beads, tools and other artifacts. The park also contains an arboretum and a zoo that houses a variety of reptiles, birds and lemurs.
Antananarivo Geographical Location
Antananarivo is the largest city of the island Madagascar. It is located slightly east of Madagascar’s center.
The population of Antananarivo is approximately 1,404,000.
The official languages of Madagascar are Malagasy and French. English is still not widely spoken across the population.
Antananarivo Predominant Religion
- 52% Traditional Beliefs
- 41% Christian
- 7% Muslim
The population is mainly divided between those who practice the traditional religion of ancestor worship and those who practice Christianity.
The Malagasy Ariary is the official currency of Madagascar.
Due to Antananarivo’s high altitude it enjoys a comparatively mild climate although the average temperature still falls between 27-35C (81-95F) throughout the year and is considered a temperate climate. The rainiest months are between November and March with the rest of the year receiving very little rain.
Antananarivo Main Attractions
- Lemurs’ Park
- Tsimbazaza Zoo
Other Attraction in Antananarivo
- The Sacred Hills
- Special Reserve of Ambohitantely