Dakar: 7 Day Travel Guide & Itinerary

A thorough guide on the bustling capital of West-Africa. What to eat, where to visit, hidden gems and much more…

  • SOME QUICK FACTS
    • Dakar & Senegal
    • People
    • Language
    • Safety
    • From Airport To The City
    • How To Get Around in Dakar
  • DAKAR ITINERARY
    • Day 1: Downtown, Markets, Restaurant de Lagon
    • Day 2: Dakar-Plateu, Park Hann
    • Day 3: Les Almadies, Africa Renaissance Monument, Village des Artes
    • Day 4: Mosque of Divinity, Corniche Boulevard
    • Day 5: Pink Lake (Lake Retba), Ngor Island
    • Day 6: GOREE ISLAND– IFAN Museum, Canon de Navaronnes, French Colonial Ruins, Mosque of Goree
    • Day 7: GOREE ISLAND – House of Slaves, Church of Saint Eglise, Statue of Liberation

Some Quick Facts

Dakar & Senegal

Dakar is perhaps the most bustling city of Western Africa. It is spread over Cap-Verte peninsula, the westernmost point of Africa. Population of Dakar is estimated 2.4 million. Once you visit Dakar, you will vividly taste the unique blend of modern Francophone African culture and traditional Senegalese vibes.

People

Senegalese are a Muslim majority folk by %93. The rest are Christians consisting of expats and a small percentage still practices tribal religions. They are known for their “teranga” meaning hospitality in the local Wolof language. In Senegal, one might see woman and men sunbathing in resorts and on the other side, staunch Muslims with traditional clothes praying on street corners a couple of meters away from each other. Quite a blend isn’t it?

Overall, Senegalese are one of the friendliest folks I have ever seen. During my visit, many people randomly came to meet me and take selfies with me. They are always very intrigued to see a foreigner. I do not even remember the number of people took selfies with me. I felt welcome and safe in any place I have been to!

Language

The official language is French so as you might as well surmise, it is useful to get around if you speak fluent French. Wolof is the most common local language alongside some tribal languages like Pulaar, Jola and Mandika. Some people still speak basic English so it wouldn’t be very struggling if you are a non-French speaker. However, still make sure offline Google Translator to French is ready on your phone!

Safety

Dakar is one of the safest cities in Africa. Many visitors leave safely without facing any crimes. As you might guess, like many other countries, Senegal also has a few spots to avoid at all cost and a couple of spots to leave before sunset, however Senegal will indeed give you a pretty good sense of safety. Minor crimes against foreigners like pickpocketing, scamming occur rarely as one might expect. It is always good to take necessary precautions to decrease challenging possibilities.


According to British and American Foreign Travel Advisory, Senegal is in “Category 1” which means as safe as Europe!


From Airport To The City

Blaise Diagne International Airport is the airport you will be arriving at. It is located in the Thies region which is an hour away from Dakar by car. To be honest, the airport might not give a perfect first impression to you, because it is definitely not a pleasant area. It is perfectly safe but the officers are corrupt and clingy.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE ADRESS READY EITHER ON YOUR PHONE OR WRITTEN ON A PAPER BEFORE YOU GO TO THE PASSPORT CONTROL. People who didn’t have their address of accommodation (like me) were scolded by the guards and put in a different line until they showed them the address. Moreover, each of us were asked for bribe which was an exorbitant amount like 50 Euros. Some people directly handed the money to evade any problems but having been a Turk, I used my bargaining skills and convinced the border police to pay 15 Euros. This is just a small warning, do not be bothered by that. Overall Senegal is an amazing place to visit!

An average taxi ride to central Dakar should be around 25.000-30.000 CFA’s (40-45 Euros). MAKE SURE YOU BARGAIN WITH THE DRIVERS PROPERLY! Unfortunately, if you are a non-African you will be attempted to charged double or triple the price so make sure you are not badly ripped off. The infrastructure is surprisingly very good, roads are in good shape. Along the ride you will be accompanied with picturesque view of tall trees growing on red soil.

– DAY 1 –

Cathedral of Dakar, Place de l’Independance, Marche Sandaga, Marche Kermel, Hotel de Ville, Gare du Dakar, Restaurant Le Lagoon

Click To Access The Walking Route

5 KM – 1 Hour

Cathedral Of Dakar & Eric Kayser Bakery

I started my first day by visiting the Cathedral of Dakar. An enormous structure with unique chapels and artisanal sculptures. Especially on Sundays during the mass time, this cathedral is exceptionally vivid and beautiful.Upon visiting the cathedral, I stopped by the only branch of the famous French bakery chain Eric Kayser in Dakar for a quick breakfast.

Place de I’independence

Place de l’independence (Square of Independence), is considered the center of Dakar. The square is surrounded with French Colonial style buildings.

As I was walking around, a local approached me and asked where am I from. The moment I told him that I come from Turkey, he got super stoked and offered me to give a small tour around. I accepted with so much alacrity for it was a great chance to get to know Dakar’s daily life. The enthusiastic man who guided me along was Muhammed who worked as a teacher of Arabic language and he also spoke fluent English.

Marche Sandaga & A Friendly Local

Muhammed took me to Marche Sandaga, one of the busiest market places. Vendors were battling against each other to sell me their goods, however having a local guide gave me so much comfort. If you decide to go there alone as a foreigner, be ready for extreme attention. Here, at this market place, prices for souvenirs and other cultural artifacts might seem exorbitantly expensive, however as I have mentioned previously that prices go up thrice as much for foreigners. This means you have to hassle! The beautiful traditional Senegalese shirt (dashiki) I got was offered to me for 30.000 CFAs, however I got it for 10.000 CFAs. Bluffing and bargaining strictly always works!

After shopping for some souvenirs, my friend Muhammed took me a to a small outdoors tea stall and treated me with “attaya”, traditional Senegalese sweet tea served with mint leaves. After this nice gesture, he told me he had to head back home and we parted ways.

Galerie le Manege & Marche Kermel

Galerie le Manege, is a small exhibition center with some cool artworks done by independent African artists. The entrance is free so it’s a nice place for a quick stop to catch up with local African art.

A couple of minutes away by walk from Galerie le Manege, located Marche Kermel, A unique 19th century open-air building which attracts both locals and foreigners due to its extraordinary ambience. Inside the building, there are food stalls only where one might find variety of food from fish to vegetables. The outdoor stalls surrounding the market building sell souvenirs and traditional Senegalese goods.

Since the moment I entered Marche Kermel, I felt all attention was on me. Upon entering the area, Marche Kermel might seem a bit shady due to disorganization however I was not bothered or scammed by anyone. I was greeted by people who wanted to introduce their stalls to me and sell me a few of their products.

Hotel de Ville

After Marche Kermel, I headed to Hotel de Ville by walking through beautiful narrow streets. Hotel de Ville is an old colonial building designed in Victorian style which now serves as a governmental building. Visiting inside the building is not allowed however the beautiful big yard of it is open to visitors.

Railway Station Of Dakar

Upon visiting Hotel de Ville, I started walking towards my last stop of my first day: Dakar Railway Station (Gare de Dakar). This structure is one of the most unique buildings of Dakar with its elegant and beautiful architecture. The façade is covered with artistic ornaments and vivid embellishments.

!

Here, I was approached by a scammer. He told me that he works at the airport passport control and he recognized me. Also when he learned that I am Turkish, he said that there is a Turkish company in the back streets and he offered to take me there. In case you are approached by the man in the photo below (yes I took a selfie with him to show it to you!), just brush him off.


Short Coffee Break & La Galerie Antenna

As I was walking around to decide for a place to have dinner, I saw a small kiosk and decided to check it out. Turns out many of these small kiosks in Dakar have a couple of small stools where you can get coffee and rest. I asked for whatever local stuff I can try out and subsequently I was given very bitter and sugary coffee. Actually it was quite nice to catch my breath and have something what you would call a local experience. Highly recommended fellas! 🙂

La Galerie Antenna is an antique shop close to Place d’Independence which has amazing tribal&traditional artworks and artefacts from various countries in Africa. The owner lady whom I assume to be French was very welcoming towards me and she allowed me to roam in the shop freely. Everything is exorbitantly expensive so I could not afford to buy anything. Taking photos were not allowed however, I took plenty. Sorry nice lady! 🙂 Definitely make sure you pay a visit to this unusual place!

Restaurant Le Lagon

After a long and a tiring day, I wanted to treat myself properly and decided have a lavish dinner at Restaurant Le Lagon without knowing that this place is actually one of the most high-end restaurants in Dakar. Built on a pier, Restaurant Le Lagon left me speechless, marveled me… It was one of the most memorable dinners of my life. Atlantic Ocean reaching till the horizon and Goree Island on your left, the view was astonishing.

-DAY 2-

Place Soweto, Dakar-Plateu, Abandoned Bunker, Hann Park, Zoo of Dakar

Click To Access The Walking Route

11.4 KMs – 2.5 Hours

Place Soweto & IFAN Museum

Started the day by attending the colorful Sunday mass at the Cathedral of Dakar. Senegalese locals and expats chanting and praying together… Do make sure you attend the Sunday mass here for it is a quite memorable scene to witness.

I walked down to Place Soweto where the beautiful residencial area of Dakar-Plateu starts. Worldwide famous IFAN Museum is in this region as well, however,  sadly, it was under restoration and I could not visit there which was the only disappointment during my trip.

IFAN Museum exhibits traditional & seminal art works and artefacts from chiefly West African countries like Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Burkina Faso. The museum holds the vastest collection of the artefacts from Francophone Africa. IFAN Museum is a hub for African artists and West African studies. Moreover, Dakar Biennale is held here annually.

Dakar-Plateu & Abandoned Bunker

Dakar-Plateu is the central district and the southern-most part of Dakar with many embassies, astonishingly designed streets and beautiful housings. It is a great spot to discover on foot.

From Place Soweto, take a walk along the coast of Dakar-Plateu. Take a quick stop at Plage de l’Anse to appreciate the beautiful view and take a couple of photos. I actually named this place Coast of Eagles myself because there are thousands of eagles flying around along the coast. WHAT A SCENE! WHAT A SCENE! I fell in love with this neighborhood. So vivid, so beautiful and so peaceful… Along the way, you will see many picturesque houses, natural scenes and street settings.

At Cap Manuel, the southern-most part of Dakar-Plateu region, there is an abandoned bunker on a very steep cliff. It is located inside an unused military area so you can enter freely. When you reach the curve on the road, jump over the pavement and walk towards the cliff. No worries, that ain’t illegal! 🙂 You will be seeing the remains of the old abandoned bunker. This is the point where Dakar ends and the ocean starts. The cliff is almost 30 meters steep so I recommend you to be careful while walking.

When I was standing on the bunker and watching over the ocean, I saw that there were some people living inside the structure. I looked down to the small balcony and saw that a bunch of fishermen were staring at me. They told me that I am not allowed to enter there so I left. Despite the short experience, witnessing the beautiful view of the Atlantic was a life time memory.

Park Hann & Zoo Of Dakar

Park Hann is the Central Park of Dakar, a huge green oasis in the middle of the city. This vast park includes a lake, a big zoo and a botanical park. Park Hann was designed to be an open-air museum where a mini version of Senegal’s flora and fauna is displayed to public. Every corner of the park has different plants and animals from various parts of the country.

Upon following the road starting from the main entrance, you will see a big lion statue. This is where the botanical park starts. Various trees and plants found in Senegal can be seen here. You might as well walk and explore the park through beautiful narrow paths or rest on the benches under tall trees.

Do not forget to pay a short visit to the Reptile House where you can see many lizards and reptile predators. However, I should warn you that the building is extremely dirty and dilapidated. For me it was a very fun experience so just for a small ticket fee, cover this spot.

Okay, I will be honest, Park Hann Zoo was one of the most heart-breaking places I have ever seen due to horrific conditions in which animals live. Two hyenas and crammed into one small cage, 7 lions are put in a small and narrow room, chimpanzees have no proper shade etc. It is definitely saddening to see such scenes.  If you are a staunch animal lover, do not visit here. One thing I could suggest is that you can buy some food in advance to feed the animals, if you plan on visiting here. I myself bought some bananas and Pringles in advance and fed the monkeys. Subsequently, I managed to catch a great smile from one of my chimpanzee buddies. The entrance fee of the zoo is 5000 CFA’S for foreigners.

The final spot in Park Hann is the Lake. As you leave the zoo, go straight for a couple of hundred meters and you will reach the beautiful lake. There is also Restaurant Pelican near the lake, with a great terrace to sip some drinks and watch over the beautiful lake. For me, this spot was one of the most picturesque ones in Dakar. What makes this lake unique is that it is a home to many different species and thousands of birds live in the bushes and trees nearby. Storks, seagulls, pelicans, geese, ducks.. I suggest you to sit on the terrace of Restaurant Pelican and witness this small bird heaven while sipping your drink or perhaps snacking upon.

Covering all spots of Park Hann took me around 3 hours, from all aspects it was worth visiting here and I really felt like I had been taken away from the hustle of Dakar. As I left Park Hann, I took a cab and again headed to Restaurant Lagoon for dinner. Yummy yummy!

-DAY 3-

Chez Fatou, Les Almadies, African Renaissance Monument, Mamelles Lighthouse, Village des Artes, Huitres De Sokone Restaurant

Click To Access The Walking Route

24 KMs – 5.4 Hours

Breakfast at Chez Fatou & Les Almadies

My third day started at the northern-most point of Dakar, Les Almadies vicinity where the American and many other embassies are located. This neighborhood is also the western-most point of the African continent. Chez Fatou is a great café right near the Atlantic and they serve very yummy food. When I say near the Atlantic, it is so close to the ocean that the small water bubbles come to you when waves hit the rocky coast.

I had American breakfast (free re-fill coffee of course <3) for 8000 CFAs. Oh gosh it was worth every dime! Having been accompanied by the alluring view of the Atlantic I had my morning serenity till noon then started my day!

African Renaissance Monument

From Chez Fatou, I took a 55 minute walk towards perhaps the most iconic spot of Dakar: African Renaissance Monument. This 49 meter long bronze statue depicts an African man holding his child on his shoulder and a woman embracing the man.

This monument represents the achievements of African people and rise of the nation after independence. Story behind the Africa’s biggest monument is intriguing: African Renaissance Monument is constructed by a North Korean company and caused much controversies for 27 million USD was invested despite Senegal’s economical-crisis back then. Some see this as a glorious icon, some see this as the symbol of corruption.

Since there are hundreds of stairs, climbing all the way up to the statue is a bit tiring. Up from the statue the view is just amazing, Memalles Lighthouse on one side and the western-most point of Africa is on the other. You might as well get yourself a cup of coffee from the small coffee van which is behind the statue. Even if you visit here in summertime, the cool breeze coming from the ocean will cool you down.

Many visitors leave here without visiting the small museum inside the statue and going up to the observation point which is the man’s head in the monument. Upon visiting the museum, you will be given a tour guide who will show you the museum and other exhibition in upper floors. You can learn about the history and the construction process of the monument.

The view up from the observation point is simply amazing. In addition, there are also a few exhibition rooms where you can see the artworks of some independent African artists and former president’s guest rooms. For non-African foreigners like me, the entrance fee is 5000 CFAs. However, having been a Turk, I used the Muslim card and benefitted from the price for African visitors which is 1500 CFAs.

Les Memalles Lighthouse

Les Memalles is the oldest lighthouse in Africa. After visiting the African Renaissance Monument, I took a 20 minute walk to reach the lighthouse.  The road leading to the light house curves around a steep hill multiple times so I can say that it is not an easy walk.  On the way, you can take a quick stop at the small café Melo’s Patisserie aux Mamelles to snack upon and rest.

The lighthouse building is quite old but well taken care of, it is covered with beautiful ivys and flowers with different colors. At the entrance, I was welcomed by the security and some workers and was asked to join them for lunch. Unfortunately, I had to refuse kindly since I had some other places to visit, however, this had been the extreme level of hospitality I received during my drip. The entrance fee is 500 CFAs for tourists. I explored every corner of the structure went up to the lighthouse to witness the beautiful view. Cool breeze, squeaking seagulls and the taste of salt in the air… It simply couldn’t have been more tranquil.

Villages Des Artes

Hidden gem of Dakar! This place will marvel you with its uniqueness. Village of Arts is a small community built by Senegalese artists in Dakar. Upon reaching there I couldn’t believe my eyes due to the fact that these amazing geniuses actually established an art village in the middle of the bustling city. Each artist has his/her own small studio and some of them live there. I was welcome very warmly, offered coffee many times and even invited to listen to some reggae music.

Works that are created by these independent African artists are priceless. Especially the works crafted by Lassana Gassama blew my mind! Definitely visit his studio and take some of his works as souvenirs back home. I had unforgettable time chatting and exchanging words with the hospitable artists. This hidden gem is in a remote place in Dakar so it is not something you would easily notice. I luckily came across this unique place on Google Maps.

Huitres De Sokone

The restaurant where Anthony Bourdain had food

For dinner, I took a cab to Les Almadies vicinity and had my dinner at Huitres De Sokone where Anthony Bourdain had food during his Senegal trip. So, this was an honorable experience for me having food at the same place as Mr. Bourdain (May he rest in peace).

It is a very local place so don’t expect to see a proper restaurant. Huitres De Sokone is located at the beach of Les Almadies. This small beach is behind the American Embassy and has many small cafes and barbecue stalls where you can taste the authentic local Senegalese food. Despite the shabby concept, the food was amazing! I was taken care of very delicately and Thiof I had was delicious.


CULTURE NOTE: THIOF

Thiof is the fish you will find more or less anywhere in Senegal. It is a large, white, meaty fish mostly served grilled and coated with spices and lemon. Thiof is generally preferred to be eaten on the beach or anywhere near the ocean. It comes as the most expensive fish on the menu with the average price of 6000-8000 CFA (10-13 USD).

-DAY 4-

Mawa’s Taste Of America, Mosque of Divinity, Corniche Boulevard,
Musée Leopold Sedar Senghor, Marché Soumbédioune

Click To Access The Walking Route

24 KMs – 5.4 Hours

Breakfast at Mawa’s Taste Of America

And the day 4 starts with a beautiful tummy filling American breakfast at Mawa’s Taste Of America! Buttermilk pancakes, fried bacon, sausages, French toast, burger paddies, black coffee and much more! This place will fulfill your cravings for sure!

Mawa’s is a cozy garden restaurant located on the bustling seaside Corniche Boulevard. The garden is so nicely designed that it feels like you are in a mini paradise. Colorful chairs, thousands of scallop shells covering the ground, colorful lizards and long trees… The staff is very friendly and helpful. Mawa’s is a sort of place where you feel like home. Definitely try it out fellas!

Route de la Corniche

This long, bustling boulevard runs along the coast of Dakar and connects the north and south edges of the city. Route de la Corniche is perhaps the most opted road in Dakar for walks. I walked starting from Mawa’s Taste of America until the end of the road. Stopped by many places and witnessed amazing street settings along the road. It is a 2.5 hours walk with the cool breeze accompanying you.

Senegalese are the most gym-oriented nation I have ever seen. Along Route de la Corniche, in almost every corner, you see public sports areas and Senegalese working out. In addition, there are many stalls where you can find fresh cut fruits, coconut juice and quick snacks for extremely reasonable prices. Also on Route de la Corniche, there are many small beaches as well where you can sit on the sand and watch the beautiful view of the Atlantic.

Mosque of Divinity

Mosque of Divinity, is a mosque built on the beach in the area of Ouakam. It is known worldwide for its unique architecture which combines traditional Islamic style with modern ornaments. You can access the structure by taking the stairs from the main boulevard or taking a cab. There is an old fishing village abutting the mosque where you can find fresh fish in the afternoons.

There is a rumor on the internet which says non-Muslims are not allowed in the mosque. I myself am Muslim, however the imam did not ask me my religion when I said that I want to see inside. I had worn shorts that they and he just gave me a mantle to cover my legs. The congregation was very friendly and welcoming towards me. We chatted for some time and exchanged many words.

One should simply not miss the tranquil atmosphere of Mosque of Divinity and serene view it offers. You might as well take a quick glance at the village and fishing huts near the ocean. Overall the area is pretty safe and has well infrastructure.

Museum of Leopold Sedar Senghor

Museum of Leopold Sedar Senghor (the first president of Senegal) is one of the important attractions on Route de la Corniche. This is actually an old presidential residence open for public visit rather than a museum. Upon visiting, you get to see how Senghors lived. The façade of the structured is designed in the style of traditional African mud-brick homes however, inside the building is decorated in a very European way.

Since it is not a very crowded spot, most probably you will be alone there. I was the only visitor so even the curator came to met me which was fun. The guide of the museum is a very nice and soft-spoken man. He showed every corner and nook and told me about many things very elaborately. The entrance fee is 200 CFAs. It is totally worth it.

As I saw and learned, Senghors were a very modern family who gave vital importance to education and sophisticated interests. The overall design of the residence marveled me quite a lot. Marble bathrooms, silk carpets, handmade wooden cupboards, a pool in the house, grand piano, an extensive library and meticulously designed ceilings. In comparison to today’s dull architecture, Senghors knew how to design their residence in a greatly unique.

Marché Soumbédioune

One of the bustling markets of Dakar where you can find more or less everything from antiques to fresh fish, from spices to souvenirs. Still, watch out for pickpockets since the area is quite chaotic. However, this should not scare you off, be cautious and enjoy the local experience.

-DAY 5-

Pink Lake (Lac Rose), Ngor Island (Ile De Ngor)

Pink Lake

Pink Lake a.k.a Lake Retba among locals, is a natural vast lake in the color of pink located less than an hour away from Dakar. This unique lake is one of the biggest salt sources in the world and the density of salt per sq2 water is higher than it is in the Dead Sea. The color of pink is caused by Dunaliella salina bacteria due to high salt content in the water. The color of the lake fluctuates constantly, however the most vivid version of pink appears during the dry season between November-June. Tens of thousands of salt is extracted from the lake each year.

This vast lake is also the main source of income for many local Senegalese. More than thousand salt collectors work around the lake on a daily basis. What surprised me the most is that, many salt collectors go inside the water only with their swimming suits and without any protection. Due to high salt content, the water has a slight burn effect on your skin. To decrease the effect of saline water on skin, the salt collectors cover their bodies with shea oil which supposedly provides profound protection to skin.

Early in the morning, my friend Amadou picked me from my AirBnB and before we headed to Pink Lake, we stopped by a bakery and filled our bellies with a bunch of croissants and coffee. It took us less than an hour to reach. Along the way, we passed through small towns, witnessed beautiful sceneries and chatted a lot!

Upon reaching the lake, parked our car and took a long walk along the beach. Luckily, we ran into a local who spoke enough English, whom we would be able to ask some stuff about the lake. After he offered us to take us across the lake with his canoe for a small fee. Overall the lake is very shallow, at most of the spots, the depth of water would come to one’s knees. Took us 15 minutes to cross the lake, however in the middle we got stuck in the middle of a pile of salt, then 3 of us got off and pulled the canoe. As I jumped out of the canoe, I felt the slight pain on my skin, the water was burning me literally. Also, some of the salt crystals inside the water gave me small cuts in my feet.

Long story short, after these unforgettable 15 minutes we had made it across the lake. First spot was a nice open air restaurant, we sat under the shade and caught our breath for a couple of minutes, then we started our walk which would last 30 minutes. Visited a stables then stopped by an ostrich farm. Soon after we returned back to our canoe and crossed back to the point where we started our Pink Lake trip.

Ngor Island

The westernmost island of Africa

After visiting the Pink Lake, my friend Amadou was going to drop me back to downtown Dakar, however I wanted to do something spontaneous and offered Amadou to go to Ngor Island together and have food at the beach near the Atlantic. Luckily, he was up for it, so we drove to Ngor Ferry Services. Crossed to Ngor Island on a big boat for 500 CFAs per person.

Crossing to Ngor is quite simple and convenient. Always opt for Ngor Ferry Services which has very big boats and provide service for extremely reasonable prices. There have been some cases of private boat owners scamming foreigners and asking for 10.000 CFAs to take them back to the coasts of Dakar.

The island is very small and frankly it does not have much to offer. However, Ngor reminds me of a small heaven. It has picturesque narrow streets, beautiful stone houses, clean beaches and many small seaside restaurants. There are so many places to have food, the one I did was Sunu Makane/ Chez Seck. Amadou and I had Mafa, traditional Senegalese meat stew with rice. It was one of the most unforgettable memories I have ever had in my life, sitting on the beach near the ocean and having food with a Senegalese local. After this lovely evening, we crossed back to Dakar, Amadou dropped me back and we bid our farewells.

-DAY 6-

Goree Island

IFAN Historical Museum, Canon de Navaronnes, Mémorial Gorée-Almadies, Old French Colonial Fortifications, Mosque of Goree, Hostellerie du Chauvier de Boufflers

Goree is a small island off the coast is Dakar which is primarily known for being largest center of slave trade in Africa between the 15th and 19th centuries. This small car-free island was also one of the earliest spots which was inhabited by European settlers. Well-preserved colonial buildings from French era, narrow streets, small beaches, vivid flowers&trees… Despite its sorrowful past, Goree is the most popular touristic attraction in Dakar. The island is a small paradise with so much to see and do in it! As locals say: “It does not count of you do not visit Gorée.

IFAN Historical Museum

Human presence in Goree Island dates back to 5th century. It is one of the richest areas of Dakar in terms of history. IFAN Museum (should not be confused with IFAN Museum of African arts) is a remarkable museum inside the fortress of Goree. In the exhibition there are ancient findings in Goree, artefacts & information from the French colonial era. Moreover, you might as well climb to the walls of the old fortress and witness the picturesque view of the island.

Canon de Navaronnes

Canon de Navaronnes is an old massive canon remaining from the French Colonial era. It is so huge that there is a big control room attached to it going 5 meters deep in the ground. You might go down through the rusty stairs, however be careful for they are very old. The canon is also a perfect spot to take photos. You can climb on it as you wish and take cool photos. Some locals sell their work and souvenirs along the way. Especially some women who sell souvenirs might become too clingy, just be firm and brush them off.

There are a couple of artists who live in small huts around the canon. The artworks they sell are artisanal, also the artists are very friendly and talkative. Take a moment and stop by the stalls and exchange some word with the artists. Especially do not leave their without having a word with my buddy “Freedom Revolution” who is a Rastafarian artist who lives on the left side of the canon. Yes, you didn’t hear it wrong, he introduced himself to me as “Freedom Revolution”!

Mémorial Gorée-Almadies & Old French Colonial Fortifications

Memorial Goree-Almadies is a monument erected a few meters away from the Canon de Navaronnes which adheres the resistance of the African folk during the slavery era. The monument is a bit neglected, however, still it is a prominent site of the island.

Both of the structures are located, on the southern hill on the island.  Aside from the canon and memorial, there are old French fortifications and military structures scattered around. Some locals and independent African artists live in these hundreds of years old structures. I shall say that it is quite an interesting site. People will be very intrigued by the presence of a foreigner. They will approach you with curiosity, ask questions about yourself and perhaps will invite you to have tea with them.

A very friendly local whose name I unfortunately can’t recall, invited me to his small yard which was right near a small canon and watchtower remaining from the Colonial era. From Turkey’s politics to life in Senegal, from history to food we talked about many different things, we chatted for almost an hour.  

Mosque of Goree

Mosque of Goree is an old center of worship which was built in 1822 and it serves as one of the oldest structures and religious complexes of the country. It is located near the southern hill of the island, a few meters away the small rocky beach. Recently, the mosque does not suffice due to increasing population of the island which chiefly consists of Muslim residents. The mayor of Goree has asked for some help and the Turkish Ambassador to Dakar offered collaboration to provide a better center of worship for the residents of the island. 

Hostellerie du Chauvier de Boufflers

Speaking of view, this restaurant is located in an amazing spot in the island. Right near the main beach, overseeing the beautiful Atlantic until the horizon. The staff is quite friendly and the atmosphere is pleasant, however, I didn’t really like the mixed seafood platter I had. The small bottle of French white wine I tried was beautiful tough. Moreover, there are so many cats around which makes the overall experience way more memorable! Maybe the food I had was not very fresh, I don’t know however, still I recommend you to have a dinner once at that unique spot.

-DAY 7-

Goree Island

St. Eclise Church, House of Slaves

St. Eglise Church

A beautiful and an old Catholic church in Goree island. Built back in 1833, this church is still an active place of worship. Entrance is free. It feels very peaceful to sit and look around. Highly recommended to see upon visiting Goree for it is among the top sites in the island. Not forgetting to mention that, Pope Benedict visited St. Charles Eglise a couple of years ago.

House of Slaves

The most visited tourist attraction in Goree Island. As mentioned above, Goree island had been the largest center of  slave-trading in Africa between the 15th and 19th century. This small piece of land represents vital importance in colonial past, however, the name of Goree mostly appear in the dark-shameful pages of history due to tragic slave trade. House of Slaves was the slave market of the island, where merchants and traders used to stop by and purchase slaves.

The famous “Door of No Return” is the symbol for appalling slave trade and remnant of the dark past of the island. This was the door that slaves passed through before they were shipped to different lands and went to the unknown… By many, it is assumed that millions of innocent locals were sold here in Goree Island to merchants and traders.

Many prominent leaders with African roots such as Barrack Obama and Nelson Mandela have visited this site. House of Slaves in considered as a memorial revering the millions of victims of slave-trade. Since 1962, the structure has been serving as a museum. Each cell, each room have stories to tell… Upon visiting the museum, you see the rooms where men, women and children were held separately in abject conditions.

Argun Konuk
Argun Konuk

I am a 24 year old Turkish travel & history enthusiast, sharing my travel experiences both in Turkey and different parts of the world!

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