The dynamic city of Accra is one of the safest and most peaceful cities in West Africa. With a flourishing cultural calendar and a growing economy along with access to a string of excellent beaches, there's a lot to be said for Ghana's cosmopolitan and proud capital. With a smattering of historical sites, museums and galleries and many opportunities for shopping, dining out, relaxing on the beach and partying, this city is a popular destination for travel-lovers looking to go somewhere a bit different. Be sure to visit the National Museum to learn about the region's past and also pay tribute at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park before visiting Osu Castle, a place that has a controversial story but represents the many faces of Ghana's past. Visitors should also take the time to venture out of the capital to enjoy the beats at Kokrobite Beach and perhaps further to walk the jungle canopy at Kakum National Park.
Direct flights to Accra make it easy for holidaymakers to reach this destination. Lying so close to the equator, the city enjoys hot weather all year round, making it an ideal getaway destination at any time of the year.
The city hosts many festivities and events, such as Homowo which focuses on traditional culture, whilst newer events such as the Chale Wote Street Art Festival and the Accra Food Festival are testament to its position as a progressive world city.
Things to do in Accra
The city is moderately sized in terms of global capitals, making it easy to cover all the main landmarks in one trip. There's certainly enough to do during a week's holiday whilst those staying for two weeks should also head out to the nearby national parks and beaches.
History and heritage in Accra
The first port of call for visitors should be the National Museum which explores Ghanaian regional history from prehistoric times to the present day, with an emphasis on culture and the arts. Another major attraction is Osu Castle, which was built by European opportunists in the 17th century and has in its time been significant in the ivory, gold and slave trades. Today it is the seat of the government, but visitors are still allowed to visit. The Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park celebrates the man who brought independence to Ghana and the park features not only a mausoleum on his burial site, but also a museum celebrating his work.
For the shopaholics
Makola is the city's most bustling market, comprising of one large avenue and multiple alleyways and is the best place to head for batik printed and wax-printed fabrics as well as beads and other crafts. The city is also home to a numerous shopping centres, notably the Accra Mall where shoppers will find the latest African fashions and high-end jewellery, as well as the country's only multiplex cinema.
Eating out in Accra
With a plethora of restaurants offering some of the best places to eat on the West African Coast, Accra is a foodies' happy place. Fine dining experiences tend to focus more on European or Asian cuisine such as the fabulous Bread&Wine, a French bistro that is becoming popular with the city's growing middle class. Fashionable Ghanaians also head to Santaku, a Japanese gourmet restaurant that serves amazing seafoods and cocktails on its terrace. Those looking to try something more authentic can head to Boku, for arguably the best for West African cuisine in the city; highlights include grilled guinea fowl and jollof rice.
Hitting the beaches
The city sprawl means that its southern edge lies along a generous coastline, where there are some excellent beaches. Labadi Beach to the western edge is one of the most popular leisure beaches in the city; it's busy but it's also home to great facilities, restaurants, and even street performers and entertainers. It's stretch of three kilometres means you should be able to find a patch of your own. If you want a bit calmer and serene then take the short trip out of the city to Bojo Beach, another fee-paying but much quieter beach that's well worth the drive. If you're looking for a laidback party vibe then it's worth taking the 20-mile trip out of the city to Kokrobite Beach, where you'll find a never-ending stream of drum playing, reggae music and friendly parties.
Day trips from Accra
There's plenty of things to do and see outside of the city, which are worth looking into if you're there for more than a few days. This includes a trip to Cape Coast and Elmina both home to fortresses built by Europeans during the slave trade and act as poignant reminders and tributes to the millions that suffered. Those looking to discover the wilder side of the country should take a tour to Kakum National park, a 3.5-hour drive to the very west of the country. This rainforest is home to a famous canopy walkway that gives a tremendous view of the rainforest in every direction.
Events and festivals in Accra
Events in the city range from the customary to the modern, with an emphasis on vibrancy, fun and art as well as food and traditional dance.
Homowo Festival: Held annually in May, Homowo is a traditional harvest festival celebrated by the Ga people of Ghana. It takes place during the planting of crops at the beginning of the rainy season. Locals perform a Kpanlogo dance to encourage rain and give thanks.
PANAFEST: Also known as the Pan African Historical Theatre Project, this poignant bi-annual event addresses the trauma of African people as a result of the slave trade and uses theatre among other mediums to lay to rest the nightmares of the past. The festival takes place in late July/early August across many sites on the coast, notably at the castles/forts first built by Europeans as slave centres.
Chale Wote Street Art Festival: This unique and fairly young festival takes place on the streets of Jamestown, one of Accra's poorest but most vibrant neighbourhoods, in mid-August every year. During the week-long festival a range of mini festivals, performances and workshops take place.
Accra Food Festival: A newcomer to the local calendar but one that demonstrates the city's growing reputation as a foodie destination. This two day festival in late September happens in Independence Square and features more than just street food and stalls; it also hosts live music and games for all the family as well as fashion and craft stalls.