We’ve always known Africa is the coolest continent. Now it seems like the rest of the world is waking up to that fact too. Instead of only going to well-known tourist spots, they’re finding the hidden gems, where creatives are producing music and art that’s just awesome.
Of course, the outstanding natural beauty of our continent is still a massive attraction for tourists. But increasingly, neighborhoods are finding their voice and identity, and travelers are loving it. Take a look at what we think are some of the trendiest locales, in some of the best African cities.
Lagos, Nigeria: Victoria Island
Choosing our favorite neighborhood in Lagos was tough! But “the Island”, as locals call it, has something for everyone. Eko Hotel is perfect for luxury accommodation and high-profile events, and a lot of functions are also held at the landmark Civic Centre.
The Red Door Gallery is just one of the dozens of spaces used by creatives to show their work, and there are also several theatres and world-class restaurants to discover here. Make a point of seeing what is playing at Terra Kulture Theatre, and stopping by Crust and Cream for some heavenly dessert.
Johannesburg, South Africa: Maboneng Precinct
A recent Forbes list of the world’s 12 coolest neighborhoods mentioned both Kalk Bay in Cape Town and Maboneng, but we like the Johannesburg option a little more. Since Maboneng is not in the Mother City, you are less likely to be overrun by tourists.
Soak up some culture at the Museum of African Design and Arts on Main, before you stop for a bite to eat at Pata Pata or Che Argentine Grill where you can listen to a live tango band on weeknights. Or, if you’re watching a movie at the Bioscope Independent Theatre, enjoy a pizza or burger at their en-suite diner, The Chalkboard Café.
Marrakesh, Morocco: Kennaria
The Red City attracts a lot of tourists, but Kennaria gets our vote for the coolest area. You’ll find it inside the Medina, the old walled part of Marrakesh.
Nearby is the famous main square, the Djema-el-Fna, where you can watch snake charmers and dancing monkeys, get a gorgeous henna tattoo or be entranced by storytellers. Exploring the many tiny shops and cafés is also a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Cairo, Egypt: Zamalek
Eclectic galleries and fair trade stores make Zamalek one of Cairo’s most dynamic enclaves. The Museum of Modern Art is on the grounds of the Cairo Opera House, so make sure you check out both to feast both your eyes and your ears.
When you’re feeling peckish, settle into the all-white Sequoia Restaurant on the banks of the Nile. The rotating menu of international and Egyptian dishes is truly something special, with the mombar and eggplant being particularly popular. You can also ask them to add vodka to your freshly squeezed juice!
Kigali, Rwanda: Nyamirambo
Loud music is not permitted after 8 pm in Kigali, but there is a vibrant underground music scene in Nyamirambo. Established and emerging artists perform, with hip-hop and reggae being the most popular styles. Choice Motel is one place you have to stop and listen to what’s playing.
After a night of great music, get the indigenous version of morning coffee at the nearest milk bar. You’ll find several of them, serving warm, fresh milk with tea, honey or cocoa powder. Add a banana, like the locals do, and you’ll have all the energy you need to go exploring.