Africa has long since been famous for its safaris, deserts, jungle and mountains, but the modern parts have been missing from the traditional perspective – African cities. Sprawling megalopolises overflowing in art, history, culture and beauty. If you ever want to visit the continent, these 10 African cities have the best the continent has to offer in terms of rich culture, modern infrastructure and natural wonders. From the tranquility of Essaouira in Morocco to the bustle of Lagos – West Africa’s center of commerce, these African cities are indeed worthy travel destinations.
- Cape town, South Africa:
This vibrant, colorful South African city has stunning beaches, breathtaking mountains and some of the best wine farms in any African city. Both the New York Times and the Telegraph named Cape town the best place to visit in the world in 2014. The views from table top mountain at sunrise and sunset are sensational – one of the things that make the picturesque city a photographer’s paradise. Cape town is without a doubt one of the best beach cities in the world and a true African destination.
- Essaouira, Morocco:
If you’re searching for a serene, tranquil spot, away from the mayhem and bustle of the larger, more densely populated African cities, Essaouira (pronounced ess-wee-ra) is the place for you. A culture-rich African city, Essaouira has several small art galleries and plays host to ongnaoua, reggae and jazz artistes from all over the world every year. The city has a medina (old town) protected by 18th century ramparts designed by european engineers. The strong trade winds and currents make Essaouira’s beach a popular place for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe:
During a full moon, the moonlight through the spray of this waterfall produces a moonbow – a lunar rainbow. The world’s best whitewater rafting is popular here for the more daring. The Victoria falls waterfall is a spectacular, awe-inspiring beauty and forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. This breathtaking work of nature was described by the Kololo tribe that lived in the area in the 1800’s as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” – “The Smoke that Thunders”. Although technically just a town, the Victoria falls is one of the most beautiful and popular sights in the continent – this earns it a spot on our list of African cities to see.
- Lamu, Kenya:
This city is popular as the best-preserved Swahili settlement in any African city and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The laid-back, coastal town will give one the impression of having gone back in time as donkey carts are the more preferred form of transport even today. The labyrinth-like alleys of the old town and the Shela beach are sure to settle visitors into the unhurried lifestyle of Lamu.
- Mozambique city, Mozambique:
This African city used to be a Portuguese trading post on the way to India. Surprisingly, it has preserved its architecture since its trade post days. The buildings – all made of the same materials, have the same decorations and were built using the same techniques. The architecture shows influences from different sources – Portuguese and local and to a smaller extent Indian and Arab. On the island of Mozambique, this city sits beautiful, fortified and picturesque as ever.
- Lagos, Nigeria:
The former capital of Nigeria is Africa’s most populous city and is undoubtedly Nigeria’s and West Africa’s capital of commerce and trade. Though notorious for its population, Lagos has the best nightlife of any African city and is a perfect destination for work during the day and leisure at night!
- Windhoek, Namibia:
The Namibian capital exudes the laid-back aura of a sleepy African city. This deceiving aura disappears when the weekend comes around, as the Katutura town transforms into party central, making Windhoek a great city for those searching for an exciting nightlife. Every year, two festivals shake the sleepy city alive – the Windhoek street festival in march and the Oktoberfest. Windhoek is a beautiful city with its traditional German-style buildings and pastel-colored modern architecture.
- Abuja, Nigeria:
Nigeria’s capital city is located right in its center. The best planned African capital – built mainly in the 1980’s, Abuja is defined by Aso Rock, a 400 metre monolith left by water erosion. Abuja is home to another larger monolith – the Zuma Rock that lies to the north of the city. Though a modern African city, Abuja has all the sights and sounds of traditional Nigeria. Go shopping at the Wuse market and visit the arts and crafts village for your wood carvings, paintings and leatherwork.
- Nairobi, Kenya:
Nairobi is Africa’s safari capital. The modern African city provides a single stop for both nightlife and wildlife. Clubs, markets and restaurants all over the city ensure that you get the best experience from this energetic, modern city. The sights here include the Giraffe center, the Karen Blixen museum and the Nairobi National Park with its famous black rhinos.
- Johannesburg, South Africa:
Once home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city and capital of Guateng province – the wealthiest province in South Africa. Mandela’s former residence is now the Mandela house museum and is one of the museums that recount the segregation struggle. Others are the Apartheid museum and the Constitution Hill – once a prison complex. Although not one of South Africa’s three capital cities, Johannesburg is located in the Witwatersrand range of hills and is home to a large scale gold and diamond trade.