Keke to Cotonou
Places to go and Things to do in Cotonou
Cotonou, the seat of Government in Benin Republic never flatters to deceive. It goes the whole nine yards. The alluring city provides tourists with the whole experience of African history and urban regeneration. Located in the south coast of Benin republic, the city is bothered by Togo, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. If you are looking for a place where you can shop till you drop, look no further, Cotonou is your home of shopping indulgences. The city has proven to be a home for business minded tourist. Most Nigerians find shopping in this city easy because they can communicate with most of the traders in Yoruba language.
Well, apart from shopping, there are a whole lot of fun activities and places to visit in Cotonou. Note, if you are a first timer, you may not find Cotonou stressful. But never mind, the memories of the events will stick to your head for a long time. For an adrenaline junkie, you are in a land of awesome wildlife, beautiful beaches, loving people and a unique culture. “What exactly can I do in Cotonou?”, you ask. A lot of things, Curzon and Jones answers. You can:
- Shop Till You Drop
- Taste a Different Cuisine
- Experience African History
- Visit Beaches
- Lodge in a Luxury Hotel
Shop at Dantokpa Market
As a teenager, I watched my step-mother start a cloth business with 30,000 NGN. Dantokpa market was her base, she left the house as early as 4:00 am. In a short time, the business grew to 400,000. I mean in less than four months! Marche Dantokpa has everything. Fast moving, feels safe, lots of fabrics. Baguettes & mini doughnuts for sale as you walk around.
Dantokpa boasts of a variety of goods and if you are not careful, you are sure to go above your budget. The largest open-air market in West Africa records a financial commercial turnover of over a billion CFA Francs a day. Like Idumota Market in Lagos, Dantokpa is Benin Republic’s - nay, West Afircan’s black.
Anything anyone is in search of can easily be found in this market. The market is located by a lagoon and the St. Michel Boulevard. Loads of colourful and lovely ankara (African prints) can be purchased here.
Negotiation skills are very important in Dantokpa Market as prices quoted are way higher than the sale price, please don’t be a “JJC”. LOL! It is advisable to negotiate half of what is quote. The traditional African market will overload your senses through the sounds of bicycles, taxis and motors driving around people.
Experience Africa at Fondation Zinsou Gallery
Created by the Zinsou family in 2005, the Fondation Zinsou is a fantastic exhibition space that seeks to promote contemporary African art and culture among Beninese people through photography. Although, the original goal was to create a platform and exhibition center for contemporary African artist with time, the foundation's activities extended beyond the realm of African art to include education. The gallery has excellent, modern facilities and a cafe on the ground floor, with an educational room on the first floor. The bookshop has a superb collection of books on African art and culture, but they’re all in French. A keke stop over at Fondation Zinsou will be exciting for an art junkie.
Take Pictures of Cotonou's Cathedral
If you happen to visit the Cotonou, this ancient place of worship will spice up your experience as it doubles as one of the city’s major attraction. The cathedral of Notre Dame of Misericorde has always been a major attraction in Cotonou. Built in 1883 close to the Ancien Pont bridge, Cotonou Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cotonou.The burgundy and white tiled architecture of the church makes it a great for photography. The Cotonou Cathedral has seen different transitions in the naming and now it is called the Metropolitan Archdiocese of the Cotonou region.
Visit The Ancient Pont Bridge
Are you a lover of wood carvings, bronzes, batiks, leather goods, jewellery and appliqué banners? The Ancient Pont Bridge is here to satisfy your cravings. As its name sounds, it is a massive bridge structure that was built in Cotonou to offer much needed over water transport, although remodeled it still holds ground in Cotonou.The Ancient Pont Bridge is biggest bridge in Cotonou; its amazing architectural design makes it float on top of the water like a vessel. In fact, it crosses the Lagune de Cotonou, which splits the two sides of the city. It was built in 1928 and renovated in 1981.
ALSO READ: Africa in 48 Hours
Buy Handicrafts at the Artisan Center
Set in traditionally styled houses with thatched roofs and pastel walls, the Artisan Center is a place to visit in Cotonou. The center offers handmade puppets, souvenirs, clothing, voodoo dolls, carved wooden masks, and batiks, and lots of trinkets; is a great place to visit if you are interested in checking and purchase arts and crafts unique to Benin. The center has multiple spaces built with an African architectural design.Here, a wide array of stands and shops sell traditional handicrafts.
The artisan center stands out due to its relaxed atmosphere. And if you are white, they may charge you double. So, it is better to visit with somebody local! Most of the sellers speak English - and can be little pushy at the time, but hey, that's their style of selling. Even if you don’t have spare cash on you, visit the artisan center for sight seeing.
Have Fun at Fidjrosse beach
Fidjrosse beach is located at residential estate side. It is good place to hangout with children during the day; and a big Beach with a lot of fun activities at night. Consisting of many beautiful beach terraces, Fidjrosse beach is also a good place for lovers and hide & sneak dating. At the gate, a ticket fee has to be paid to enter the beach. Although the water is not as neat as other beaches, there are still a lot of fun activities here. It is also a very good place for my quiet time, and not so populated like other beach in Cotonou on every sunday. It features a few places to eat and one that hang out by the beach to do a few sporting activities. The erosion of the beach-side poses a challenge; but in all, Fidjrosse beach is a nice hangout. You will enjoy getting fresh fish from the fisherman, mingling with the locals and great beach experience as you have virgin white sanded beach. The beach is not far from cotonou city, so your “keke” ride will not be more than 30 minutes.
Chill at Obama Beach
You are not in America neither are you “in abroad”, friend, you are still at Cotonou. Oh! Because it is called Obama Beach, you want to close your and see Obama abi, we are in the same boat. Ok, bye. Named after the former President of the United States of America, Obama beach is one of the exciting locations to visit in Cotonou. Located opposite the US embassy, Obama beach is a one of the best family hangout spots in Cotonou. It has a cool ambience and it is also one of the cleanest beaches in Cotonou. The beach has a tendency to get crowded in the evening or during festive periods, so let your “keke” drop you there in the morning. There is a a restaurant with good food at really reasonable prices here. And……. There are plenty of things to do! You can swim, play football with any of the locals having a beach soccer game, play volleyball or simply take a long walk on the beach! This lovely location is also a pocket friendly hangout spot for Nigerian travellers.
Taste a Different Cuisine at Teranga Restaurant
Benin Republic is a country with yummy meals Nigerians appreciate. Benin’s cuisine is wide ranging in taste, flavour and variety such as “Acarajé”, “Aloko” (fried plantain), fufu accompanied with peanut soup and others. If you are a foodie, you should probably visit Cotonou to have a taste of their delicious dishes. However, if you want international cuisines or dishes you have been used to, you can try out one or two restaurants. If you want to eat Lebanese, French and African food you can check out this Teranga Restaurant. They also have salad, pizza, and chicken hamburger.
Lodge at Maison Rouge Guest House
Cotonou is a place where you can have all the class and luxury you ever wanted. If you want to just escape from the hustle and bustle of Lagos, hotels in Cotonou are your hideouts. Try out Maison Rouge Guest House. Maison Rouge is bound to impress anyone with it’s lovely ambience, beautiful design and comfortable rooms. Enjoy a cup of cappuccino In front of the sea, in a charming and relaxing space. The hotel comes with modern rooms, spacious suites, a swimming pool, fitness centre, Free WIFI, a restaurant, and a magnificent terrace. Loaded with the benefits of a contemporary hotel , Maison Rouge is the perfect place for an exceptional stay.
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