Crossroads between Africa and the West, Dakar, capital of Senegal is planted at the western end of the African continent.
A dynamic city built on an ancient volcano, once a simple fishing village, it is now very cosmopolitan with its 2 million inhabitants. An economic, political and cultural rallying point for all of West Africa, Dakar is undergoing rapid change and urban transformation. An urban monstrosity to become? Not so sure, its historic mark and treasures are still intact. A preserved and claimed authenticity, which will dazzle your visit.
When to go to Dakar?
Located on an old volcano, Dakar offers sunshine all year round, and is even one of the sunniest countries on the planet. Two seasons punctuate its landscape, a dry season and a rainy season.
The dry season extends from November to May, a pleasant period to visit Dakar and Senegal. Temperatures vary between 27°C and 34°C, with very little rainfall, and some strong winds.
The rainy season, does it extend from June to October, the precipitations are important and frequent there, it is the monsoon.
What to do in Dakar?
The impressive Dakar is a dynamic multi-faceted center, which is home to 19 arrondissements, also called commune d’arrondissement, for an area of 547 km2. A city made up of great diversity, visible through the uniqueness of its neighborhoods. Discover the main districts, those that punctuate the city, for an amazing visit.
It is the oldest district of Dakar, with the Medina, it constitutes the essence of the city, in the extreme south, composing its city center. Former bastion of the colonial administration, it is today anchored in the contemporary, as much by its architecture as by the animation which reigns there. Avenue Pompidou, Place de l’Indépendance, the Kermel market, the historic far south; symbols, mixing history and modernity. You can find there the main banks, the best-known restaurants and hotels, many shops and all of the city’s administrations. A district a bit messy in the shopping streets, which quickly regains its calm and cozy atmosphere, once you venture into its old residential areas.
The Medina is undoubtedly the most popular district of the former fishing village, lively and colorful, it is like an authentic Dakar. Very populated district, the animation is always present, especially towards the Tilene market, where you can find everything; fruits, vegetables, spices, fabrics, utensils, new remedies, and near the Great Mosque, with Moroccan architectural influence.
Friendship / Sacred Heart
These two districts are mainly residential, they benefit from a slight relief, decor of the vast and luxurious houses of Dakar.
Consuls, ambassadors and expatriate businessmen from Dakar have established their stronghold in these two districts. Between superb houses in splendid alleys, and architect-designed villas in the middle of luxurious gardens, private caretakers preserve the calm of these districts. If you’re into diving, the National Pool is in the center of Point E.
An industrial district, the Bel-Air is an area where you can find factories, a gendarmerie camp and a military base. There remains an area of shadows and questions for the Senegalese press.
Popular, picturesque and above all very lively! One of the few neighborhoods where entertainment and village life are constant 24 hours a day. We like it or we don’t like this district, but there is no in between, the dynamism is preponderant and present at every street corner, a city frenzy with a natural look. Important point of exchange with the Casamance region, there are many Casamance products, churches, and a host of contrasting sub-districts, between residence and poverty.
Yoff is the largest district of Dakar, originally it was only a fishing village, the transformation of the city, earned him the establishment of a large area, richer and more residential. This development goes hand in hand with the diversity that can be seen in Yoff, its division into numerous sub-districts is an important mark of this. In your discovery of Yoff, you may be surprised to go from a popular street to a residential street, just by crossing. For your desires for beautiful beaches, this is a very good place to enjoy the fine sand. And if you want to taste (very) fresh fish, the island of Yoff, which is just opposite the northern beaches, offers it every day around 5 p.m.
Not far from the airport and bordering the Yoff district, the Dakar district of Ngor is in the process of becoming the seaside resort of Dakar. Far from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, this heterogeneous district will allow you to stroll through the gentle natural resources of the city, while enjoying a good restaurant or the beach.
Off the coast of Dakar, a small island forming part of the arrondissements of the city, is an authentic testimony of history: the island of Gorée. 28 hectares classified as a historic site by UNESCO, memory of the slave trade and symbol of human exploitation that has become a sanctuary of reconciliation. Everything is done to keep its authenticity, and make visible its strong architectural contrasts, between the dark slave quarters and the elegant houses of the slave traders. It is an essential place and above all a fantastic historical vestige, where life reigns.
How to get around in Dakar?
Thanks to the development of major highways and public transport, Dakar’s old, somewhat infernal traffic has improved significantly. To avoid getting stuck in the frenzy of traffic, avoid peak hours and Friday afternoon, the sacred day of the great prayer.
For your travels, you will find four main means of transport:
Buses Dakar Dem Dikk
Which literally means Dakar back and forth is one of the public transport networks present in Dakar. The vehicles there are relatively new and serve a large part of the city.
The fast coaches
Directly in competition with the Dakar Dem Dikk buses, the legendary fast cars provide public transport in major Senegalese cities, including Dakar. These cars, decked out in all colors, are more like mini-buses, with an apprentice hanging from the rear door to chant the final destination. Stops are made at will and everywhere on the route leading to your final destination, so do not hesitate to signal that you want to get off, where you want.
The new Tata minibuses
Urban development obliges, these new mini-buses with the souls of more recent and comfortable coach-fasts manage to serve the most inaccessible places. Ideal for your routes off the beaten track.
The taxi remains the easiest way if you have trouble finding your way around the city. There are a large number of them, official and clandestine. Dressed in black and yellow, the (official) taxis will take you where you want, once your negotiation for the price of your trip has been concluded.
Senegalese cuisine is considered one of the richest and most varied in West Africa. Sharing certain dishes with other West African countries such as Mali or Mauritania, it stands out with mixtures of flavors with North African, French and Portuguese influences. A culinary crossroads revealing pleasant surprises for your taste buds.
Dakar is not on the leash of this rich culinary offer, there is something for all tastes and stomachs, the choice is not lacking.
This ranges from dibiterie*, to gourmet restaurants, offering more European cuisine, through small Senegalese, Lebanese (very present), Italian and Asian restaurants. Throughout your discoveries you can learn about traditional Senegalese cuisine and smell the smells of these typical dishes, before tasting them in one go. Here’s a little taste for you:
The thiéboudienne (tiebou dien) is the national dish, it is a rice with fish accompanied by vegetables. Dishes traditionally consumed at lunch, you will also find some with meat: the tiebou yapp.
Chicken yassa is a gentle marinade of chicken in lemon juice with a good amount of minced onions, chilli, and spices served with rice, as for the Casamance preparation.
Peanut maffé is a hearty dish made from beef or chicken, cooked with peanuts (or peanut paste), tomatoes and rice.
The most famous and most cooked fish is the thiof (from the grouper family), most often served only braised. For your small snacks, you will find fish fritters, millet dumplings or pastels (meat fritters) everywhere.
*small eateries, where you only eat grilled mutton
Where to sleep in Dakar?
Dakar offers great choices in terms of accommodation, all in accordance with the neighborhoods of which they are part. If you are more of a fan of city frenzy, orient yourself in the Plateau district, where the animation is always present. If you are more of a beach person, you will find a large number of hotels on the coast for your afternoon strolls. And finally for nature lovers, curious to discover the natural beauty of Africa, between authenticity and comfort, the eco-lodges are beginning to bloom. A concept of lodges respectful of the environment and the inhabitants, welcome you in an immersion in a real African adventure.
- Independence Square
- The Great Mosque
- Kermel market
- Goree Island
- Theodore Monod Museum
- Camberene Beach
- The pink lake
- Mamelles Lighthouse
- Tilene Market
- The Corniche