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Dakar is a regular point of stopovers for the South African flights from Johannesburg to Washington D.C. and seasonally to New York JFK and it has a fair share of Star Alliance carriers and SkyTeam carriers flying in. The geographical position and relative stability as the most westernmost real estate of Africa have given it more options than most African countries in the region.
Dakar, Senegal is THE HAVEN for pushy salesmen. When you arrive at the airport, dozens of aggressive taxi drivers will descend on you. When you step out of your downtown hotel, you are approached by sellers of everything you never wanted and by beggars in wheelchairs. If that’s not enough, then there is usually a group of aggressive children begging for money plus the regular taxi mafia drama.
The Senegalese don’t tend to believe in violence and all the scams and aggressive sales are in place just to separate you from your money. I would be very surprised by acts of violence against tourists or foreigners – it’s much less likely than in Johannesburg or Nairobi. I felt safe during the day all over Dakar (and at night only in downtown Dakar), even without any real police presence.
The locals are after your money but they want you to give it to them – they aren’t likely to steal it from you.
Table of Contents
Things to do in Dakar (Downtown Area)
This is where Dakar comes to life during weekday lunch times. The countless luxury cars parked there and the hustle and bustle make you believe you are in a government district of Paris. Nevertheless, the many hustlers and street sellers will make sure you don’t forget where you are. It’s still fun to walk around downtown in the afternoon, though.
Palace of the Republic / Palais de la République (Palais Presidentiel)
The palace of the Prime Minister (kinda odd that a Prime Minster gets a palace) is right on the edge of downtown. Unfortunately, you can only work around it and peek through the fences as it’s not open to the public.
Things to do in Dakar (Daytrips)
Goree Island got a little famous when President Obama visited in 2013. It’s just a quick ferry ride away from Dakar. It’s a wonderful half-day trip and should be on every Dakar itinerary.
African Renaissance Monument (Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine)
About 20 minutes outside Dakar downtown is the African Renaissance Monument which was built by North Korea (!) and is a monument for the slavery ships that sailed westwards and northwards from Dakar. The monument is controversial not just because it was built by North Korea but also because of its location on a hillside outside of Dakar near the Plage Les Almadies. It might have been better located downtown?
Plage Les Almadies and Senegal’s US Consulate
The plage (French for beach) isn’t what I was hoping for – you won’t want to go swimming there. That being said, the area around it is worth a quick visit if you are in the area. Most notably is the huge US Consulate which looks like a modern palace in its own right. US security concerns are very valid in Africa, but this building looks more like high security prison from the outside. OMG!
Radisson Blu Dakar
The Radisson Blu Dakar has been built into a steep cliff on the western Corniche (coastal road). It’s an architectural masterpiece and a great place to spend some time by the pool in Dakar. I posted a photo review of the Radisson Blu Dakar here.
Things to do in Dakar (Foodie Options)
La Galette is a bakery in downtown Dakar. It’s a bit more stylish than Eric Kayser (see below), but also has no real seating options except a dark salon upstairs.
I loved the savory bakery items here, especially the bruschetta – a piece of baguette toasted with cheese, tomatoes and heavenly olives.
Eric Kayser is a chain of artisan bakeries all over Europe and Africa. In Dakar, it is an oasis of calm with fantastic pastries and other bakery goods. I liked the outlet right next to the Palais Presidentiel the most. It’s spacious, has a cooled-down indoor area as well as an outdoors space and has (somewhat) working WiFi as well. Great place any time of the day.
The Presse Cafe is a stylish affair – I was really impressed by its interior design. However, the quality of items is mediocre at best. It’s a great place to hide from the strong afternoon sun and get some work done, though (even though the WiFi is slow).
Dakar Grand Mosque
This is supposedly Dakar’s biggest mosque. When I tried to visit, a self -appointed security guard asked me for 5,000 CFA francs ($8) as an entrance fee. My counter offer was $1 and the guard sent me packing. I’m not sure what the correct entry fee is meant to be here and it might be different when you visit. The building looks very interesting from the outside so I would have loved to explore it from the inside.
The area around the mosque isn’t the best, so apply a bit more caution here (though Dakar is NOT dangerous in general).
The cathedral is right in downtown Dakar. It’s not a grand affair but is worth stopping by and taking a quick look.
IFAN Museum of African Arts
There is a museum for African art in downtown Dakar. I only discovered it on my last day and got there just after they had closed. The ‘non-African’ entrance fee was CFA 5,000 ($8).
La Parilla Restaurant
This wannabe Argentine-styled restaurant is not what I’d love it to be. The meats are expensive and of low quality. Avoid this place for food. Instead, grab a good wine (starting at $6 per glass) and sit on the patio in the evening.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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