Accra, Ghana's capital, is an extremely vibrant city. With good beaches, excellent nightlife, colorful markets and inspirational art galleries there is plenty to see and do to suit everyone's tastes. Getting around is easy, too, whether you choose to travel by private taxi or public tro-tro. If you'd rather walk, make sure to stay hydrated with the help of the city's numerous coconut stands. A tour guide is not a necessity, but can be a good idea for first time visitors or women traveling alone. Check out Jolinaiko Eco-Tours for exceptional rates and service.
Join the Party at Labadi Beach
Labadi is Accra's most popular beach. Waterfront restaurants serve ice cold Star lager, delicious fried fish and spicy jollof; and provide a great vantage point to people-watch from. Keep an eye out for little boys performing acrobatic tricks, beautiful young people dancing to hip-life, men on horseback offering rides to shy ladies and rasta groups playing for money. The waves are strong here, so a dip to cool down is more advisable than a long swim. If you prefer a more peaceful setting, head to a luxury resort like Labadi Beach Hotel on the Accra-Tema Beach Road.
Browse Contemporary Art at Artists Alliance Gallery
Those interested in contemporary art will be blown away by Accra's Artists Alliance Gallery. Huge metal sculptures mix with antique Asafo flags, kente cloth, furniture and fantastic masks. One of Ghana's most respected artists, Ablade Glover, is responsible for this three-story treasure trove. Every Ghanaian artist worth their salt is represented in the gallery. You can buy most of the art you see here direct from the artist. The gallery ships all over the world and accepts credit cards, while those on a budget can browse smaller items in the well-stocked gift shop. Admission is free.
Explore Oxford Street's Global Restaurants
It's all happening on Oxford Street, a busy thoroughfare in the upmarket area of Osu. Here, you'll find some of Accra's best restaurants, bars and shops. Stalls selling fake Rolex watches, pirated CDs and soccer shirts line the street and bumper-to-bumper traffic adds to the exuberant atmosphere. Step into Arlecchino Gelateria Italiana for a refreshing ice cream, or choose nearby Country Kitchen for delicious local favorites. Global Mamas boutique sells quality crafts made by a network of Ghanaian women. The street also has plenty of bars and clubs for a raucous evening on the dance floor.
Chaotic Makola Market features stalls selling everything from fabrics to beads and souvenirs. Many of the stalls are operated by strong, independent African ladies with marvellous headdresses and a no-nonsense business sense. Ask permission before taking photographs and be prepared to negotiate for the best price as you rub shoulders with local Ghanaians doing their daily shop. The fresh produce stalls are particularly interesting, boasting exotic fruit, vegetables and meat that you're likely never to have seen before. To get there, hop in a taxi or jump in a tro-tro from central Accra or Usher Town.
Take a Tour of Historic Jamestown
Seaside Jamestown is a fascinating neighborhood that's full of history and riddled with poverty. To experience it fully (and safely) consider employing the services of a local guide, who will be able to point out the various points of interest. These include colonial buildings left behind by the Portuguese and the British; brightly painted storefronts and shacks; and ramshackle gyms famous for producing some of Ghana's best boxers. For an elevated view of Jamestown's colorful fishing harbor, consider making the climb to the top of the district's iconic red-and-white lighthouse.
Step Inside a Fantasy Coffin Workshop
Fans of the bizarre will love Accra's fantasy coffin workshops. The tradition of burying loved ones in a coffin to remember began with the region's Ga people but has since spread across the country. Coffins are commissioned and created to order, and can be made in the shape of just about anything - from exotic fish to fruits, household objects or religious icons. For a small tip, most coffin shops allow visitors to view their artisans at work or admire their finished products. You never know, you may even be inspired to purchase your own statement casket - apparently, orders can be shipped!
Experience Accra's Soccer Fever
Soccer is a national obsession in Ghana. While most of the best Ghanaian players have been snapped up by European teams, you may still catch Michael Essien or André Ayew playing during a World Cup or Africa Cup of Nations play-off game. Local Accra soccer team Hearts of Oak play in the Ghana Premier League. If you want to see an intensely fierce match, find out when they're due to play their arch rivals (Kumasi's Asante Kotoko) and grab yourself a ticket at the gate. Once inside the stadium, expect lots of drumming, dancing, excellent head gear and colorful face paint.
The National Museum of Ghana is divided into three main sections: one for ethnography, one for archaeology and one for art. Above all, it is a good place to learn about the tragic history of the Atlantic slave trade. Cultural exhibits also provide a fascinating insight into the ethnographic diversity of modern Ghana. You can see how kente cloth is woven and learn about the all-important royal Ashanti stools. There are musical instruments on display as well as some modern paintings. The museum is open between 9:00am and 4:30pm every day, and costs approximately $5 to enter.
Visit the W.E.B Du Bois Memorial Center
The home of American Civil Rights leader and Pan-Africanist W.E.B Du Bois now serves as a museum of his life's work. Du Bois was invited to live in Ghana by President Nkrumah in 1961, where he began work on an African Encyclopedia at the ripe old age of 93. In early 1963, the United States refused to renew his passport, so he made the symbolic gesture of becoming a citizen of Ghana. His health declined during the two years he was in Ghana and he died on August 27, 1963. His tomb shares the same grounds as the museum, which is small but full of interesting personal artifacts.
After a busy day, head to Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park to relax amidst five acres of landscaped gardens complete with flowerbeds and graceful water features. The park is dedicated to the memory of Ghana's first president and founding father Kwame Nkrumah, and is located on the spot where he declared independence in 1957. Its centerpoint is the architecturally impressive mausoleum where Nkrumah and his wife are buried. A museum tells the story of the former president's campaign for freedom, and includes an interesting array of personal effects and photographs.
This article was updated by Jessica Macdonald on July 4th 2018.