Although not rich in traditional tourist attractions, Accra, Ghana still presents a number of sights and activities for visitors. Maybe not enough to consume several days on the ground, but plenty to fill an afternoon or two. And when all else fails, the people watching opportunities are spectacular. The people I met were wonderfully welcoming and friendly, if not a bit over-eager to take a few extra cedi off a tourist. Still, the exchange rate is reasonable enough that it wasn’t too much of a problem.
One of the best known sites in town is Independence Square. The square is really just a large parade grounds, with some bleachers surrounding the vast central area. Used mostly for rallies and such, the square is often deserted making for some interesting photo opportunities. There is also a memorial in the square and Independence Arch in the traffic circle just inland form the square. Not really a ton to see, but it is one of the main landmarks in the city and certainly worth paying a visit. Don’t be scared off should one of the security suggest that photos are prohibited and try to exact a fine from you. Your choice whether to fight it or pay the couple cedi, but either way you’ll likely be fine. I was also fortunate to meet a few other tourists while snapping photos at the arch, a rather fortuitous meeting in the end.
The most popular neighborhood in town is Osu. Just inland from the shore and north of Independence Square, Osu has shops, restaurants and residences covering a broad swath of the populace but mostly in the middle-class range. Lots of tourists out and about in the area and plenty of shopping and dining choices, from local fast food to some more upscale restaurants that are still reasonable values. I had both lunch and dinner in the area and both meals were quite good. The dinner was at Buka, a more upscale shop that I chose mostly due to it being listed in the Brussels Air in-flight magazine. Great grilled fish, start to finish. Watch out on the salsas. They were HOT.
The lunch was actually with a new friend I met through FlyerTalk. He has been in Accra for the past six years working with an airline and had some phenomenal stories to share about things like how to feed a plane-load of passengers when an airplane has to divert to a random strip in the middle of the Sahara or how to rather quickly find oneself persona non grata in a couple dozen countries without too much effort. In addition to the great roast chicken – I recommend ordering it spicy – at one of the shops in the Osu food court followed by ice cream at Frankie’s, the stories were a great way to pass an afternoon. Plus I made a new friend out of the deal. Not so bad.
While waiting out a bit of drizzle we also walked through a local grocery store. The selection was certainly focused on the more affluent locals and on tourists. Still, I was quite impressed with the options available. The bakery, butcher and other fresh goods were quite nice. I also got to try my first Guinness Malta. I can understand the view that it is an acquired taste.
Back down on the waterfront about a mile west of Independence Square sits the African Artists Village. The Village is a marketplace where vendors come to sell everything from T-shirts to hand carved wood works. There are a dozen or so aisles in the market, somewhat dark and crowded, and the hawkers can be quite aggressive but ultimately they respected a “no thanks” when delivered with a bit of authority. Yeah, there is plenty of schlock in there, but there are some gems, too.
Finally, taking in sunset over the beach (only sortof as it really sets over the land behind you, not over the water) with a large bottle of Star or Club isn’t a bad way to wrap up the afternoon.
The people of Accra were wonderfully welcoming and hospitable. There wasn’t really enough to do to keep me interested for more than a day or two, but there it is a great base for exploring the region. To the west is the Cape Coast area and then Cote d’Ivoire and to the east Togo, Benin and Nigeria. If you’re up for that level of adventure.
- Touring the Fetish Market of Lomé, Togo
- Dear Togo: You win.
- On the road to Togo
- I really don’t think I need air conditioning in Africa
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