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Things to do in Accra, Ghana – Understand
Accra is the capital of Ghana and located right at the water’s edge. While home to 3 million people, it feels spacious and never crowded. Ghanaians are extremely friendly and the city has a relaxed vibe that will surprise you (especially in contrast with, say, Nigeria).
Accra does not have too many sights but will entertain you with the easy beach life. The sights it does have will keep you interested for a week or less. The white, sandy beaches and warm (though murky) water are fantastic sights.
Ghana uses the Cedi and the exchange rate of 4:1 to the US Dollar makes things fairly expensive – especially food and hotels.
Pollution, including air pollution, is not a major issue off the main roads thanks to the strong onshore winds.
Things to do in Accra, Ghana – Safety
Most neighborhoods in Accra are perfectly safe to walk during day and night. At night, I’d avoid the areas in Jamestown and the poorly lit areas of the main roads. I felt like something was amiss – that’s how surprised I was about public safety. Foreigners are not usually targeted and not more likely to be victims of crime.
Things to do in Accra, Ghana – Get Around
Uber recently started in Accra and was my preferred way to get around. There are just a few hundred drivers but thousands of ride requests every day, so you’ll see ‘no cars available’ way too often. Short rides are almost always under $5 and it’s usually less than $10 for a trip of an hour or more.
Taxis are an alternative here and are usually cheaper than Uber. Negotiating a fare was less hassle than I feared it would be and most drivers seemed safe. They usually don’t have AC, though, and you can often sit in traffic forever.
Things to do in Accra, Ghana – Sights
Jamestown is the oldest part of Accra (the British made the city their Gold Coast settlement) but it is now a shantytown. This is likely the most dangerous area of Accra and the only place where you may get hassled constantly.
It’s perfectly safe to drive through and take pictures from a car. We had issues at the lighthouse with aggressive touts and guides, so we simply drove around the block instead and took photos that way.
Independence Square is where Ghana celebrates its independence every year and it’s just enormous. It looks more Soviet or from a North Korean movie than African, but it is a great photo op.
This stretch of white sandy beach is just east of Independence Square. The beach is beautiful and usually allows for surfing and bodyboarding. There are a number of upscale hotels along the beach that each feature their own private beach area.
You may not think it is a big deal, but these private beaches are the only respite from aggressive beach sellers. They won’t leave you alone for a second unless you are in one of these areas, so for a whole day at the beach it might be well worth paying the ‘day use fee’.
Airport Area / Accra Mall
Unique to Accra, the airport area has the best and most modern options in Accra. It has the upscale Accra Mall as well as the Marina Mall and plenty of offices, banks and nightlife options.
The National Museum of Ghana illustrates – you guessed it – Ghana’s nation building. It’s closed right now for renovations, though.
Its moniker does not give it away, but this building also sometimes houses a huge contemporary art installation featuring local artists. When we visited, there might have been 200 different pieces of art from Ghanaian artists. It was a wonderfully refreshing look into the Ghanaian culture.
If you plan on taking home some art from Ghana then this is likely the best place to shop. The massive 3-storey building along the water’s edge is chock-full of local art work. It’s not cheap, but the shop owners don’t hassle you and you are free to explore it as long as you wish. No pictures allowed though!
About three hours outside of the city is Cape Coast Castle. Like Dakar’s Gorée Island, the area was a major staging ground for the slave trade. It can be an exhausting drive along the coast with its varying degrees of road infrastructure. Uber charges about $120 for the round-trip. I did not get to go, but instead saved this for another time.
Things to do in Accra, Ghana – Eat & Drink
Osu is the area around Oxford Street that comes alive at night and has a number of good food and nightlife options.
Mamma Mia is an Italian restaurant in a pretty setting, tucked away in a small alley. The outdoor area is especially scenic and the clientele is a mix of locals and foreigners. The pizza is decent, though not cheap and too bland for my taste. However, the atmosphere and friendly service make up for the food.
Republic is an outdoor bar (think plastic chairs) in a small alley. Nevertheless, the bar has a real vibe and good DJs. Plus alcohol is cheap at just about $1 per drink.
Bistro 22 hands down has Accra’s best food. The Lebanese owners have created a French-inspired eatery with many delicious creations like Mediterranean flatbread and apple crumble. If that sounds expensive, it is, but atmosphere, service and the lack of competition make it a good deal.
This coffee chain is all over the city. The espresso (at around $2) is decent and some of the pastries and wraps are rather edible too. Some locations, like in Labone, excel at design and space (incl. a rooftop terrace).
This little cafe/wine bar has a great setting and a wine list that will inspire you. $5 will get you a glass of good wine here, so it is also surprisingly affordable.
Surprisingly for an ‘airport hotel’, Accra’s Holiday Inn has a very well-designed pool area. It’s open to the public and the daily specials are priced at $15. I got a superb tilapia fish the last night we stayed there.
The Coco Lounge cocktail bar and Urban Grill restaurant share a building and owners. It’s a superbly designed space with an array of food and drink options. The food isn’t expensive at Urban Grill (downstairs, which is separate from the upstairs dining area), but the options we tried were not very good.
Sky Bar 25 is the top-level bar for the Villagio apartments development. It offers incredible views and even a swimming pool for a quick dip. It’s usually very windy though and the drink prices are steep.
Second Cup is a competing coffee chain. Some of the outlets (like at Accra Mall) can be decent, but I did not like the coffee at all.
Both properties are just about a 10-minute walk from each other and both provide a classy atmosphere. However, the immediate area is pretty nice as well, so they do not have that ‘fortress’ or ‘oasis’ character that would make you linger longer.
Things to do in Accra, Ghana – Where to Stay
Hotels with an international standard are plentiful in the city, but room rates are usually between $250 and $350. That is a lot and mainly driven by lack of competition and the current flawed exchange rate. I redeemed points at the Holiday Inn Accra, which I found to be good value at 20,000 points (instead of $270) per night.