Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana’s Charming Creative Capital
Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - A City Rich in History and Culture
As Ghana's capital and largest city, Accra is a melting pot of diverse cultures and a city with a long, storied history. For travelers interested in learning about Ghana's past and experiencing its rich cultural heritage, Accra offers countless opportunities.
Founded in the 15th century, Accra was originally just a small fishing village. Over the centuries, as it grew into a prominent center of government and trade, the city attracted settlers from across the region. Today, Accra is home to the largest open-air market in West Africa, bustling commercial districts, and several museums and historical sites that chronicle Ghana's history from its earliest days right up through independence in 1957.
A must-see for history buffs is the National Museum, which contains cultural artifacts and displays recounting Ghana's fight for sovereignty. The museum provides an excellent overview of the country's tumultuous past, from its earlier kingdoms like the Ashanti through colonization to its emergence as a modern African nation.
Equally compelling is the W.E.B. Dubois Centre, which documents the life of the American civil rights activist who spent time living and working in Accra after choosing self-imposed exile from the United States. Exhibits and photographs housed in Dubois' former residence provide insight into an influential figure in Ghana's journey.
In Accra's oldest quarter, Jamestown, visitors can explore the past by touring the historic James Fort and Ussher Fort. These 17th century landmarks were once colonial outposts and today represent the city's deeply multicultural roots. The forts also frequently host concerts and cultural events.
No trip to Accra would be complete without experiencing the vibrant fabric of everyday life in one of its sprawling outdoor markets. At huge marketplaces like Makola Market and Kaneshie Market, visitors can shop for traditional kente cloth, sample an array of exotic fruits and street foods, and immerse themselves in the chaotic energy of commerce that keeps Accra's heart beating.
Beyond the markets, Accra's local neighborhoods have their own unique flair. Teshie and Nungua, coastal communities east of the city center, reveal Accra's fishing village past. The Labadi neighborhood offers a trendy beachside scene, while Osu maintains its reputation as the city's Greenwich Village with art galleries, shops, and nightlife.
What else is in this post?
- Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - A City Rich in History and Culture
- Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Tasting Traditional Cocoa Treats
- Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Experiencing Local Music and Dance
- Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Touring Colorful Neighborhoods
- Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Shopping the Vibrant Markets
- Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Learning Traditional Crafts
- Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Enjoying the Coastal Scenery
- Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Immersing Yourself in the Local Lifestyle
Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Tasting Traditional Cocoa Treats
No trip to Ghana would be complete without indulging in the country's world-famous cocoa treats. As one of the world's largest cocoa producers, Ghana takes chocolate seriously, and Accra offers plenty of sweet opportunities to taste traditional cocoa delights.
Start your cocoa journey at one of Accra's chocolate factories for a behind-the-scenes look at production. The Cocoa Processing Company offers fascinating tours of their large-scale operations, while smaller factories like Chocolate Clusters give you a hands-on chance to make chocolate from scratch. Get your first taste by sampling freshly-made chocolate bars at the end of the tour.
Next, head to the markets to try beloved local confections. At Makola Market, keep an eye out for owo, a uniquely Ghanaian fudge-like candy prepared with sugar and peanut butter then topped with peanuts. The soft, fudgy owo is the perfect treat to enjoy while wandering the stalls.
Another Accra specialty is refreshing cold cocoa juice, essentially chocolate milk but with a richer, smoother taste. Vendors at roadside stands stir up this sweet treat by mixing shaved chocolate blocks and milk - be sure to try some to quench your thirst in Accra's heat.
No discussion of Accran cocoa is complete without mention of the legendary chocolatiers at Cocoa L'Aube. Their artisanal creations rival the best of Europe. Do not miss their sea salt dark chocolate bars made from Ghanaian cocoa beans. The complex flavors and velvety texture will leave you longing for more.
Once your appetite has been whetted, consider a chocolate-tasting walking tour for an in-depth education on Ghana's cocoa heritage. Knowledgeable local guides like those from Chocolate Walk Tours Accra take visitors through the city while sharing stories of how cocoa became integral to Ghana's economy and culture. Tours combine history with tastings of drinks like rich cocoa tea alongside chocolates infused with unique local flavors.
To immerse yourself in chocolate decadence, book one of Accra's new "cocoa experience" hotel packages, like those offered by the African Regent Hotel. You'll be treated to chocolate-inspired spa treatments, entire menus of chocolate-infused cuisine, and chocolate amenities from the in-room cocoa menu. It's a chocoholic's dream!
Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Experiencing Local Music and Dance
No exploration of Ghanaian culture is complete without experiencing the rhythmic, lively traditional music and dance that imbues daily life. In Accra, visitors can discover local art forms from market performers to choreographed shows that capture the soul of Ghana.
At the top of any music lover's Accra itinerary should be an evening at +233 Jazz Bar & Grill, widely considered the city's premier live music venue. Every night of the week,starting at 9pm, the cozy bar comes alive with piano jazz and the smooth vocals of Ghanaian singers putting their own spin on soul, funk, and reggae classics. The vibe is intimate and upbeat, culminating in patrons spilling onto the dance floor, unable to resist moving to the irresistible beats.
For drumming and dance performances that exhibit Ghana's cultural richness, National Theater of Ghana offers 70-minute shows every Friday and Sunday evenings. These vibrant productions feature traditional drum orchestras, stilt dancers, and troupes performing routines from Ghana's many ethnic groups. Standouts include the Kpanlogo, a captivating call-and-response number from the Ga people, and Bamaya, an energetic dance hailing from northern Ghana. Visitors leave feeling the pulsating rhythms reverberate in their souls.
At Artist Alliance Gallery, Saturday nights mean an entirely different but equally rousing experience: hip life party nights. Hip life fuses African rhythms with hip hop and reggae, and these events are Ghana's ultimate music celebration. As live bands belt out popular hip life hits, the few unfilled chairs are soon pushed aside when the infectious beats launch partygoers to their feet to dance the night away.
Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Touring Colorful Neighborhoods
Beyond Accra's museums, markets, and beaches, the most memorable way to experience the city's exuberant spirit is to explore its diverse neighborhoods. Each enclave has its own vibe and flavor that reveals another facet of Ghana's culture.
In residential East Legon, the houses are the main attraction. Stroll the leafy streets to admire contemporary homes designed by Ghana's avant-garde architects. Structures feature bold shapes, colorful facades, and artistic flourishes drawing inspiration from traditional African aesthetics. Highlights include architectural gems like the green-accented Paloma House with its eye-catching curves and the striking vertical ribs of Orange House. Don't miss Infinix House clad in purple wood planking.
For upscale shops and eateries with Mediterranean flare, head to Airport Residential Area. The neighborhood's breezy streets lined with sleek cafés and designer boutiques cater to Accra's expat community. Stop for a cappuccino at Olives before browsing international brands at the Shoprite center. Hit Tribes for its rotating exhibitions spotlighting Ghana's creative talent. And don't bypass the area's exceptional sushi bars and Shawarma joints.
Gear up for Accra's legendary nightlife in Osu, particularly on Oxford Street. This popular tourist area comes alive when the sun goes down. The neighborhood transforms into a hub of open-air bars, nightclubs pumping out tunes from reggae to highlife, and lively outdoor spots perfect for people-watching over a Star beer. For chill vibes and cultural immersion, choose an open mic night at Republic Bar & Grill.
Teshie offers a glimpse at a more traditional side of Accra life. Walking the streets of this coastal enclave, you'll see canoes bringing in the daily catch and vibrant scenes of community life. The past lives on through storytelling traditions and in the local Ewe dialect still spoken here today. Teshie is also a wonderful spot to purchase authentic kente cloth - just follow the sound of weavers' bamboo looms behind family houses.
Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Shopping the Vibrant Markets
No trip to Accra is complete without delving into the city’s vibrant outdoor markets. These chaotic hubs of commerce give visitors a taste of authentic Ghanaian culture while offering endless opportunities to practice the art of bartering for unique souvenirs.
Of Accra’s sprawling markets, Makola is the largest and most famous. Within this labyrinth of stalls under tin roofs, traders hawk everything from exotic fruits, vegetables, and spices to traditional handicrafts, second-hand clothes, and electronics. The dizzying selection makes Makola a must-visit, but navigating the crowded aisles requires patience. Moving slowly, you’ll brush shoulders with female porters called kayayei gracefully balancing immense bundles on their heads. Soak up the sights, sounds, and smells—smoked fish, fresh baked goods, incense—as you browse shirts tailored from bold African prints and sample unusual fruits plucked from the interior.
For shoppers seeking traditional handicrafts, Kaneshie Market has the best selection of handmade kente cloth, woodcarvings, leather goods, and more. Stall after stall overflows with brilliantly hued bolts of woven kente, Ghana’s iconic striped cloth, just waiting to be transformed into anything from pillows to apparel. Kente weaving is a time-honored tradition passed down through generations, and the handmade pieces you find here make excellent gifts and souvenirs.
Elsewhere in the market, artisans patiently carve ornamental stools, fertility dolls, drums, and statuettes from wood and ivory. And savvy negotiators can get excellent deals on leather bags and sandals tooled in fantastic designs. Be sure to practice your bartering skills for the full cultural experience. The good-natured haggling is all part of the fun!
No discussion of Accra's markets would be complete without mentioning The Arts Center, a warren of stalls dedicated wholly to artistry and crafts. Here you'll find the country's largest collection of antiques, Asafo flags, masks, painting, and more. Musicians sit among the stalls playing traditional instruments, and you can watch woodcarvers andtextile workers practice their trades. It's an incredible peek into Ghana's creative culture.
Beyond these sprawling markets, Accra also boasts intriguing boutique shops selling unique products. At the shiny 42 x 36 Gallery, art patrons browse contemporary works by up-and-coming painters, sculptors, and multimedia Ghanaian artists. The tiny storefront Blue Skies showcases sought-after fair trade bead jewelry. And at Global Mamas, the shelves brim with women's cooperative-made batik apparel and shea butter holistic skincare sourced sustainably from female producers across the country.
Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Learning Traditional Crafts
Ghana's rich artistic traditions live on in Accra, where visitors can learn time-honored crafts hands-on from expert artisans carrying on age-old practices. Participating in classes gives travelers insight into the cultural significance of skills passed down over generations while granting an opportunity to bring home meaningful, handmade souvenirs.
At Artist Alliance Gallery's open studio, creativity flows as instructors guide visitors in crafting traditional African masks from clay, painting vibrant landscapes in watercolor, or composing upbeat highlife tunes. Budding artists even can join free Saturday morning portrait painting sessions. At the end, students leave with their own remarkable renderings of Ghanaian models' faces, having learned improved brush techniques while channeling their inner Picasso. Artwork created in the Artist Alliance workshops serves as the perfect personalized memento of your culturally immersive Accra journey.
For a hands-on lesson in kente cloth weaving, head to Tamale Road in the Nima neighborhood to visit the studio of Gilbert "Bobbo" Ahiagble. The internationally renowned kente master shares the tricks of his trade during small group classes. You'll learn the meanings behind the intricate patterns before sitting at looms to try weaving the rainbow-colored cloth strips yourself. It takes serious skill and concentration to interlace the threads into gorgeous geometric designs. But before you know it, you'll have your own authentic kente swatch to frame or fashion into a bracelet.
At Global Mamas, the nonprofit fair trade organization empowers local women artisans by selling their wares internationally. During workshops at their Cantonments location, visitors can learn traditional African techniques like batik, beadmaking, and natural soap production. Work side by side with the Mamas as you hand-dye and wax-stamp colorful patterns onto fabric to create your own custom batik clothing or pendants.
Alternatively, master the intricacies of glass bead jewelry creation, twisting and melting Vitreous glass into vibrant beads worthy of any gallery. Budding entrepreneurs even can take workshops in designing products and developing a brand. Visitors return home both wearing stunning African creations and knowing their purchases supported meaningful social causes.
Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Enjoying the Coastal Scenery
With palm-fringed beaches stretching along the entirety of the city’s southern border, Accra offers nature lovers ample opportunities to revel in the tranquil beauty of the Atlantic coastline. Miles of uninterrupted shores invite one to sink toes into soft white sand while gazing out at the blue horizon, making Accra’s beaches prime spots to experience the peaceful serenity of the sea.
Of Accra’s idyllic beaches, Labadi Beach ranks as one of the most popular. Just steps from the neighborhood’s hotels, bars, and restaurants, this family-friendly beach attracts locals and tourists alike. Visitors spread beach towels to sunbathe along the wide sandy coast then cool off with refreshing dips in the calm shallows. At sunset, join the crowds strolling the boardwalk while vendors hawk cold beverages and snacks. As the golden light fades, find a seaside table at one of Labadi’s excellent fish eateries and dine on the day’s catch prepared over a wood fire.
On weekends, the sound of drumbeats accompanies the crashing waves at Kokrobite Beach, an erstwhile fishing village transformed into a hip tourist destination. Revelers sway and dance to live reggae as makeshift beach bars serve up cold Club beers and spicy kebabs. Along the shore, energetic local boys perform daredevil flips off fishing canoes in exchange for tips. Adventurous souls can even learn to surf—Kokrobite’s swells attract boarders year-round.
For more isolation, escape to the beaches east of Accra near Prampram. Far from the city bustle, these virtually deserted shores allow one to experience the raw natural splendor free from crowds. Take meditative barefoot strolls surrounded only by breezy palm groves and the calls of seabirds circling overhead. Wade into the sea for a revitalizing swim. Then find a seaside perch to sit in peaceful contemplation as cottony waves break along the serene horizon.
In Accra’s far eastern reaches, where the city gives way to the Volta River delta,DIpkpa Beach offers nature immersion and cultural interaction. Local Anlo-Ewe fishermen shove off into the lake waters in long wooden canoes, returning loaded with the morning catch. Visitors can even ride along to glimpse traditional fishing methods passed down generations. Back on shore, extended families gather to grill trout over open fires while recounting oral tales in the Ewe language. All are welcomed to listen and share meals together under soaring thatched-roof shelters thatched with palm fronds.
On Accra’s western outskirts, Atomic Beach’s laidback vibe provides a soothing retreat from the traffic and noise of downtown. Order a chilled Star beer at the Atomic Rush Bar as kids splash about in the tranquil tidal pools. At the Atomic Planet restaurant, savor a fresh tilapia dish while watching the sun sink below the sea from your patio table. Then stroll the powdery sand as locals pack up picnics and beach umbrellas at dusk, their little ones worn out from a day of castle building and frolicking in the foamy surf.
Cocoa Dreams: Exploring Ghana's Charming Creative Capital - Immersing Yourself in the Local Lifestyle
For travelers seeking authentic cultural connections, few experiences compare to diving headfirst into the day-to-day lifestyle of the locals. In Ghana’s bustling capital, opportunities abound to temporarily trade your role of tourist for one of honorary Accran. By participating in the routines and traditions intrinsic to daily life here, you’ll gain profound insight into what truly makes the city tick.
Start your morning right by stopping at one of the city’s innumerable roadside food stands for a true local breakfast. Order waakye, a hearty porridge of rice and beans studded with vegetables and served with spicy shito sauce. Or try koose, delicious deep fried bean cakes perfect with a cup of rich cocoa tea. As you chat with hungry locals and office workers also fueling up for the day, you’ll be taking your first bite of authentic Ghanaian culture.
For a prime dose of people watching, grab a chilled FanIce and post up on a bench near bustling Makola Market. Observe porters deftly navigate crowded aisles while shoppers haggle for deals under colorful umbrellas shielding wares from the hot African sun. Notice the seamless organized chaos as another day of commerce unfolds.
Gain perspective into Ghanaian home life by spending an afternoon in a compound house, where extended families live communally in adjacent structures sharing a common space. Bond with your temporary family over a traditional fufu lunch before learning how to wrap vibrant Kente cloth into a stylish hair wrap. Let the kids teach you their favorite hand clapping games as a feeling of belonging washes over you.
Attend church on Sunday decked out in your finest traditional attire. Even if you don't understand Twi, you'll feel the joyful spirit as the congregation sways and sings soulful gospel hymns accompanied by spirited drum beats. Nothing connects you more to the community than raising your voice in communal worship.
For an authentic night out, become a regular at an unassuming but lively local spot like Tante Marie. Squeeze into a plastic chair at one of the outdoor tables and order a plate of red-red with plantains and fish fresh from the day's catch. Sip a cold Club beer while bantering with the owner about soccer, politics, and weather until the buzz of conversation and laughter feels natural. On your way out, try your hand at the ancient ayo game—you’ll pick it up quicker than you think!
On weekends, head to the beaches east of Accra, where drumbeats and sea breezes fill the air as extended families gather for a day of relaxation. Offer to lend a hand prepping the jollof rice and tuna kebabs then dig into the feast along with the locals. Afterwards, challenge the exuberant neighborhood kids to a soccer match and they'll undoubtedly take it easy on you.