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23rd December 2022
With its effervescent culture, flavourful food and locals that embrace travellers with a warm welcome, Ghana is a place you won’t regret visiting. But as you step off the plane and look out into Accra, the capital, you’ll perhaps ask yourself; ‘Should I stick around here?’
Though most visitors only use the capital as an entry gate to the rest of Ghana, Accra has a charming energy that gradually reveals itself with a bit of exploration. The sprawling metropolis is architecturally centred around old colonial fortresses and historic districts – yet with its climbing skyscrapers, big shopping centres and the best nightlife in the country, it is fast becoming one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Africa. Stay a while, and Accra’s cheeky personality may just win you over. Here are some reasons to get to know this overlooked capital.
Though rapidly modernising, Accra presents a fascinating past. Named capital of the British Gold Coast during the 19th century, and a colonial stronghold for hundreds of years before that, the centre is scattered with British, Dutch and Danish remnants which stand poignantly alongside monuments of independence. Historic districts such as Jamestown and Usshertown, communities derived from colonial forts, are still the oldest places in Accra and are fascinating to explore. For balance, try to catch sight of Independence Square, a large stone arch adorned with the striking black stars that signify Ghana’s 1957 independence. In this same vein, the Kwame Kkrumah Park and Mausoleum pays homage to Ghana’s lauded first president and is scattered with fountains, bronze statues and wandering peacocks.
Ghanaian food is rich and sumptuous, and the rest of the world is catching on. The scent of barbecue lingers on the streets, while street vendors ladle stews flavoured with tomatoes, chillies and groundnuts. Accra definitely offers the widest culinary variety in Ghana, with most restaurants condensed onto Osu, the entertainment district. Authentic food can be found at local ‘chop bars’ all over the city (try aptly named The Chop Bar, hidden in Achimota Retail Center); as well as in famed restaurants such as Buka or The Republic, which both serve great African food with a side of live Highlife music. Don’t know what to order? Read our Taste of Ghana blog post to figure out your kelewele from your fufu.
Africa’s markets are renowned for their assault on the senses, and with its chaotic, unstructured hubbub, Accra’s famous Makola Market is no different. Imagine throngs of makeshift stalls, loud bartering, hundreds of people squeezed into tiny spaces, and anything you could need – from mangoes to snails to handmade headwraps – all displayed in a vast maze which spreads into the neighbouring streets. Sure it can be intimidating, but it’s authentic – the perfect place to pick up a few hidden gems and truly immerse yourself in the life of a local. In fact, bear in mind that having a companion who speaks the language is guaranteed to get you better deals.
Ghana’s coastline is well loved, with Labadi Beach, otherwise known as La Pleasure Beach, luring flocks of beach-goers who want to tan it up to the tune of Ghanaian Highlife music. Though it won’t win any awards for tropical idylls, Labadi has plenty to keep you busy. On sunny weekends and holidays expect live reggae and Highlife musicians, traditional drumming and dancing, pony rides, barbecues and throngs of street sellers. It is busy, but full of personality and charm, just like Accra itself. For a much more chilled affair, heading just a few miles out of town takes you to Bojo Beach – a clean, idyllic stretch of coastline where you can relax in relative peace for a small entrance fee.
Make it Happen
To make the most of Accra, get in touch with our tour operators in Ghana, or take a look at the destination pages. To talk to someone in the TravelLocal office, call 0117 342 7898.