's capital, is a lively, safe and extremely vibrant city. With good beaches, excellent nightlife, colorful markets, and inspirational art galleries there is plenty to see and do to suit everyone's tastes. My personal list of Accra's best attractions follows below.
It's easy to get around Accra by tro tro
or private taxi. Most of the areas are quite walkable, but it is hot and humid, so stay hydrated with the readily available coconut stands and water baggies. You don't really need a private guide, but I was traveling alone at the time and would not have seen and done nearly as much without one. Check out Jolinaiko Eco-Tours
for exceptional rates and service.
My first Accra experience was at Labadi beach. I'd just come off a long haul flight from the US and wanted to get a late lunch. I navigated the a tro tro
system with some local help, and headed to Accra's most popular beach. I settled down to an ice cold Star lager, followed by delicious fried fish and spicy jollof. What a start to a vacation. I spent the next three hours watching little boys perform acrobatic tricks, beautiful trendy young people dancing to hip-life, men on horseback offering rides to shy ladies, and rasta groups playing for money. The public beach can get a little rowdy late on a weekend night, but it's lively enough during the day to enjoy. The waves are strong here, so a dip to cool down is more advisable than a long swim. If you can't take the hubbub but still want to enjoy the beach, you can always head to one of the luxury resorts close by on the same Accra-Tema Beach Road: Labadi Beach Hotel
or the La Palm Royal Beach
. For great live music during the weekends, you can also check out the Next Door Beach Resort
If you are at all interested in contemporary art
or fine art, you will be blown away by the Artists Alliance Gallery. I spent half a day here, and could not got enough. Huge metal sculptures mix with antique Asafo flags, kente cloth, furniture, and fantastic masks. One of Ghana's most respected artists, Ablade Glover
is responsible for this three story treasure-trove. Every Ghanaian artist
worth their salt is represented in the gallery. You can buy most of the art you see here direct from the artist. They ship all over the world and accept credit cards - dangerously tempting, you've been warned! I almost walked away with a giant metal door by Kola Joseph and still regret not going through with it. The gift shop does have smaller items and is well stocked. Admission is free and the gallery is open daily. It's located near Labadi beach, on the Accra-Tema Beach Road.
Oxford Street, Osu
It's hip and happening on Oxford Street (Cantonments Road) in the upmarket area of Osu. Some of Accra's best restaurants, bars and shops are on this drag. Stalls selling fake rolex watches, pirated CD's and football shirts line the street, traffic is bumper to bumper, all adding to the general exuberant atmosphere. If you get too hot and overwhelmed, cool yourself down with one of the many flavors at Arlecchino Gelateria Italiana
. Restaurants I've enjoyed here include: Frankie's for a quick, delicious lunch and the Country Kitchen for some delicious fufu. I loved Woodin
for their fabrics and Global Mamas
is fantastic for souvenir shopping. Bella Roma
is a very fun place to grab a snack and have a dance after 10pm. For a raucous evening on the dance floor and some great people watching, you can't go wrong at Citizen Kofi
Bring along a sense of humor, and leave your camera and valuables behind, Makola market is fantastically hectic. Everything you ever thought could possibly be bought or sold can be found here. Unlike some of the bars in Accra, this is a place teeming with women. Strong, independent ladies with marvelous head dresses and a no-nonsense business sense. No one likes their photo taken which is such a shame because everywhere you glance is a great photo op. This is where the locals shop, so you tend to get ignored as a tourist. Do bring some money to spend, I enjoyed the bead section, and of course the abundant fresh fruit to eat. You'll see vegetables and mushrooms, fish and meats that are undefinable to the tourist eye. Every taxi driver can take you to the maze of stalls, and many tro-tros stop here as well (heading to/from central Accra or Usher Town).
© Anouk Zijlma
Jamestown is an intense section of Accra, loaded with history and riddled with poverty. I had a guide with me when I wandered around here, probably not necessary, but it made exploring more fun since I had company. It also helped to have someone explain exactly what I was looking at. There's a lot of history here, the Portuguese and the British left behind some interesting buildings. Given the rather ramshackle nature of this neighborhood, it's helpful to get a little background from a local guide and spot the historical buildings in between the painted storefronts and shacks. It's basically a lively, very community-oriented section of the city. Chickens and children everywhere and lots of laughter. The neighborhood is famous for producing good boxers, and you can see homemade gyms dotted around.
© Anouk Zijlma
You must try and visit a fantasy coffin workshop
, there are a couple in Accra. I went to one on the Accra-Tema beach road in the Labadi area. It's just opposite the Artists Alliance Gallery (see above). The carpenter was busy working out of a simple double story building. At the ground level we watched him working on a huge bible. A giant wooden calabash was ready to get a coat of paint. Chickens and children wandered in and out, finding things to peck at and play with on the dirt floor. The latest hip-life hits were playing on a radio. The top floor of the workshop was used as the gallery, easily visible from the road below. The gallery was stocked with coffins ranging from vegetables (for farmers), tuna (for the fishermen) and beer bottles (for those who enjoyed their brew). You can buy a coffin (they do ship), or just pay the carpenter a tip for getting a look around. Check out my photos of the Fantasy Coffin Workshop...
Watch a Soccer Match
© Anouk Zijlma
Soccer is a national obsession in Ghana. While most of the best Ghanaian players have been snapped up by European teams, you may still catch Michael Essien or André Ayew play during a World Cup or Africa Cup of Nations
play-off game. The local Accra soccer team are the Hearts of Oak
. If you want to see an intensely fierce game, find out when they play their arch rivals Kumasi's Asante Kotoko
(or Porcupine Warriors) and grab yourself a ticket at the gate. Be prepared for some pushing and shoving getting through the gates at game time, but once inside the stadium, things are more festive than scary. Lots of drumming, excellent head gear, colorful face paint, lots of dancing and a liberal sprinkling of snack vendors in the stadium. I got to see the legendary Didier Drogba play here during an international match against Benin, it was a wonderful experience.
The National Museum is quite informative, especially about the history of the Atlantic slave-trade. The cultural exhibits are also interesting and give a good insight into the ethnographic diversity that makes up modern day Ghana. You can see how Kente cloth is woven, and learn about the all important royal Ashanti stools. There are musical instruments on display as well as some modern paintings. The exhibits are a little bizarre in some cases, quite a few giggle inducing statues of traditional dancers. Opening hours are between 9.00am and 4.30pm daily and it's about $5 per adult tourist to get in.
I really enjoyed my visit to the old residence, now museum, of W.E.B Du Bois
. I did not know too much about the American civil rights leader and Pan-Africanist before going to the museum. Du Bois was invited to live in Ghana by Ghana's first President, Nkrumah in 1961. Du Bois was invited to work on an African Encyclopedia. So at the ripe old age of 93, Du Bois and his wife traveled to Ghana to take up residence and commence work on the encyclopedia. In early 1963, the United States refused to renew his passport, so he made the symbolic gesture of becoming a citizen of Ghana. His health declined during the two years he was in Ghana, and he died on August 27, 1963. His tomb shares the same grounds as the museum. His wife stayed on in their home until 1967. The museum is quite small, but very interesting and filled with personal artifacts. I enjoyed looking at the gifts he received while on his international visits. The library is well kept too. It doesn't take much more than an hour to pass through the center, and it's a modest building, but worth a look. The Center is open every day.
The University of Ghana is actually a little outside of Accra center, in an area called Legon. It's easy to get a tro-tro
out there, and worth it in my opinion. In just a short visit, I got to see the small but fascinating archaeology museum, lots of students practicing drumming and dancing, as well as the lecture halls, dining room etc. The University was founded in 1948 and has attracted many future leaders as well as foreign students since its inception. It's a great place to mingle and chat with Ghana's young, bright students.