Not only is it the biggest and most populated city in Nigeria, but in the whole of Africa, Lagos is both an economic powerhouse and a cultural hub for the entire continent. This modern city boasts a skyline of high rises along its beach-lined coast as well as numerous cultural venues. It is fast becoming a popular place to holiday both for regional and intercontinental visitors thanks to its world class amenities and harbour. The city also enjoys a unique geographical situation, built around a lagoon, across a stretch of mainland and an archipelago of small, medium and larger islands.
For a long time this city was a relatively small fishing town on the coast of Nigeria, but after becoming a British colony in the 1860's, the city grew and over time became the vast metropolis it is today. Returning slaves from Brazil brought their skills with them, and, along with the British influence, which means many of the city's older buildings have a blend of both Victorian and Brazilian design. From the Royal Beach of Elegushi to the harbours of Lagos Island, these well-heeled districts of the city are popular with visitors, whilst shoppers can get their fills at the Jankara Market or the Mega Plaza Mall.
The city plays host to numerous events that tend to be the biggest not only in Nigeria, but in all West Africa, including the fabulous Lagos Carnival.
Things to do
Like any major global city, the number of things to do here is exhaustive, but whether you're a culture vulture, beach bum or shopaholic, read our compact guide to the best things to do during your time in the city.
Most of the major landmarks and museums are located on Lagos Island where the oldest parts of city are. The first port of call for those looking to find out more about the city's history is a visit to Freedom Park. This memorial park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built on the grounds of the Old Broad Street Prison which dates from the time of British colonial rule. Just next door to Freedom Park is the National Museum which is full of cultural and historical artefacts spanning thousands of years.
Top Lagos landmarks
One of the most beautiful buildings in the city is the Cathedral Church of Christ. Despite being under a hundred years old, as buildings in the city go, it is still pretty old and is in fact the oldest Anglican church in Nigeria. Constructed in a neo-Gothic Norman style, today it holds many services throughout the week. Tafawa Balewa Square is another popular landmark; it's vast ceremonial square pays tribute to soldiers who fought in the First and Second World Wars as well as the victims of the Nigerian Civil War. The most striking element is the entrance which is guarded by four white horse statues and seven red eagles.
Lagos for culture vultures
This is a city with an ever growing reputation for creating some of the edgiest and newest sounds in music. The city is said to the birthplace of a many a musical genre including afrobeat, juju, highlife and fuji as well as more modern offerings such as Nigerian hip hop and Nigerian reggae. As a result there are countless places to experience live music, notably the New Afrika Shrine, Motherlan' and in Freedom Park itself. Nigeria also has a strong artistic vibe and a reputation for harnessing some of the most famous artists from West Africa such as Peju Alatise and Dilomprizulike. Top galleries include the Nike Art Gallery run by another renowned artist, Nike Okundaye, which features a large collection of traditional and modern Nigerian Art as well as the African Artists Foundation, a gallery that supports unknown and emerging artists.
Outdoor activities in Lagos
Hitting the beach is a popular pastime in this city, and luckily there are plenty to frequent. Popular beaches include the Royal Elegushi Beach, a private fee-paying beach located on the Lekki Peninsula. For a quieter more relaxing experience head out west to Coconut Beach. Close by is the Lekki Conservation area, a wonderful place to see the wildlife of the area, especially from its canopy walkways. Home to crocodiles, monkeys and countless species of birds living in the protected wetland, this is a must with animal lovers.
Shopping is a popular pastime in the city, both for locals and tourists. If you like to pick up a bargain head to the Lekki flea market, a great place to find cheap fabrics, clothes, arts and crafts. If you haven't got long in the city try the vast and bustling Jankara Market, which is located close to the major landmarks. This is the city's biggest market and a place where anything can be bought from pottery to beads, herbs to clothes. High-end fashion can be sought out at the Mega Plaza Century 21 Mall, a hyper-modern shopping centre on Victoria Island.
Calendar of Events
As a major cultural capital, not only for Nigeria but the whole of West Africa, the city is home to many of the region's biggest and most well-known festivals.
Lagos Carnival: This carnival occurs during the Lagos Black Heritage Festival in April and dates from a 19th-century celebration when slaves were returned from Brazil. Much dancing, music and parades of abundant colour can be experienced.
Lagos Black Heritage Festival: Taking place in mid-late April, this cultural festival celebrates the rich diversity of African heritage through art, dance, music and theatre. This week-long 'culture feast' is the biggest of its kind in the whole country.
Festac Food Fair: Serving up delicacies both local and international, this two-day annual food fair is a popular with tourists and often includes celebrity performances. This event takes place in late October.
Lagos Jazz Series: Despite its name, this festival plays host to more than just jazz, it's also a chance to see some funk, soul, afrobeat and many more musical genres played live across the city at a number of venues in November.