Low-key and unassuming, Brazzaville was founded in 1880 by a Franco-Italian explorer named Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, and the city still retains much of its French heritage. There, tree-lined boulevards give way to intimate cafes serving strong coffee and fresh croissants, and pastel-colored colonial buildings sit next to grand Catholic churches. Brazzaville may lack a large amount of traditional tourist attractions, but it makes up for it in charm.
One of the most striking sights in Brazzaville is the Basilique St. Anne. Built in 1949 by French architect Roger Erell, the most notable feature is the church’s pointed arch inspired by the country’s tradition of spearheading. The church is topped with a green tile roof that invokes the equatorial environment, and the snakeskin-like tiles take the place of gargoyles to keep evil outside the church. The interior’s wrought-iron balustrade was inspired by pre-colonial weapons, and the ceiling shines thanks to a number of tinted glass blades.
The nearby Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is another must-see for tourists in Brazzaville. Construction on the church began in 1892, making it the capital’s oldest religious institution. Although renovations altered the church’s interior in 1952 and 1993, the exterior remains well-preserved in the traditional colonial style. The site of the celebrated cathedral also offers amazing views of Brazzaville and Kinshasa, the capital of the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Another interesting sight in the city is the Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza memorial, located next to the former United States Embassy. A French-Italian explorer, de Brazza was the first Westerner to discover the area of the Congo. His work would later lead to the establishment of French colonies in Central Africa. De Brazza died of fever and dysentery in 1905 on a return trip from Dakar, and his body was repatriated to Paris. Later, his body was exhumed and reburied in Algiers, then was once again exhumed and reinterred in Brazzaville in 2006 in a marble mausoleum. His wife and four children are also buried there. The memorial was designed to be a commemoration of de Brazza’s humanitarian work against slavery, but it was not without controversy. Many locals protested the choice to honor the explorer as one of the Republic of the Congo’s founding fathers, believing that the Congolese who fought for independence should instead be honored.
Other notable places to explore in Brazzaville include the Palace of the Congresses, the Palace of the People and the Poto Poto Painting School. There are also many opportunities for outdoor recreation within the city. Visitors can play tennis, golf at a nine-hole course and play squash at clubs near the National Stadium.
There are several great restaurants in the capital, including some that cater to expatriates and serve up Lebanese, Moroccan, French and Italian food in addition to Congolese favorites. At night, head to the Bakongo district to enjoy some delicious and inexpensive street food, then spend the evening at one of the many bars, nightclubs or lounges in the area. Many of the bars have terraces, courtyards and excellent views of the river.
Brazzaville Geographical Location
Brazzaville is located in the southeast of the Republic of the Congo on the Congo River.
The estimated population of Brazzaville is 1.5 million.
French is the official language of the republic of the Congo but an estimated 200 languages are spoken throughout the country.
Brazzaville Predominant Religion
- 50% Roman Catholic
- 20% Protestant
- 10% Kimbanguist
- 10% Muslim
- 10% Other
The percentage of “other” religions encompasses the wide variety of indigenous beliefs still practiced.
The Congolese Franc is the official currency of the Republic of the Congo.
Brazzaville is usually hot throughout the year with little fluctuation. The rainy season lasts the majority of the year while the dry season, lasting from June until August, sees virtually no rain.
Brazzaville Main Attractions
- Basilique Saint Anne
- Congo River Rapids
- Lefini Faunal Reserve
Other Attractions in Brazzaville
- Cathedral Sacre-Coeur
- The Palace of the People
- The Marketplace