Dakar, Senegal

Dakar's Big Buildings and Busy Streets


Dakar is the capital of Senegal and home to a massive population. It is a chaotic jumble of a city and yet with a vibrancy all of it's own with french cafes and restaurants scattered everywhere intersperced with Chawarma (Lebanese) and other ethnic restaurants. Here everyone lives in harmony with one another.


  • Best views of the city are from the top of the Independence Hotel (on Place de l'Independance) that also has a swimming pool – Be sure to buy a drink or they might be a bit upset…Also, if going for a swim be aware that there is a glass window looking into the pool behind the bar on the floor below.

Swimming on top of Hotel d'Independance

  • Use the gelly-gellies for local transport, MUCH cheaper than a taxi if you are going to a particular area of the city
  • The cultural centre often has good shows and art exhibits – be sure to check it out.
  • Personal security is a BIG problem here – Always watch your belongings.
  • Ignoring the people that will follow you on the street trying to sell you things will normally get rid of them, but they ARE persistant.
  • DO NOT MISS Île de Gorée, Senegal – Only a short ferry journey away (the ferry terminal is near the train station).


The train station in Dakar is where you can catch trains to many different places in Senegal (though the one to St. Louis no longer seems to be running) and even Mali. Local trains leave every day. Check with the station for times and prices.

The train to Bamako (Mali) leaves early on Wednesdays and Saturdays (though the one on Wednesday was not running at the time of this page being updated). It takes about 36 hours according to the schedule though count on 48 hours or more. If you are interested in taking the train it is suggested you talk to someone at the station for details. There is also a phone number you can call for further details (enquire at the station).


There are a wide range of culinary delights awaiting you in Dakar. In addition to the local, traditional African cuisine, there is a good assortment of french and other restaurants to be found. Here are just a sampling of a few in the core area of the city:

  • Ali Baba Snack Bar - Serving up a range of lebanese cuisine in cheap and cheerful surroundings (don't go here for a romantic evening), Ali Baba's is the author's favourite take-away restaurant in the city with fantastic Chawarma sandwiches. The staff are curt, the service is laughable, the surroundings are barely clean but the food is fantastic (keep your ears and eyes shut if eating inside and I am sure you will be fine!). Rating: * * * *
  • Big-Five Restaurant - This restaurant has a rather interesting decor (terribly tourist) but don't let that put you off – the menu is delightful, and the service is fantastic. Not terribly cheap but worth every CFA. 24, Rue Victor Hugo, Telephone: 822.08.17 Rating: * * * *
  • Cafe Rome - A hopping restaurant serving everything from a traditional french (continental) breakfast all the way to dinner with everything in between. With seating out on the sidewalk on both sides of the restaurant and occasional live entertainment this restaurant is a great find. Serving a wide range of dishes with particularly good meat and desserts though not cheap is a very good find. Be sure to see the daily special board or ask them about it (English is not a problem here). Rue Victor Hugo Rating: * * * * 1/2
  • Chawarma Donald - Located in the middle of the tourist trap that is Ave Pompidou, Chawarma Donald serves up the famous Chawarma sandwich in sparse surroundings (order and get the food on the right, pay at the cashier on the left). Food is OK but not fantastic. Rating: * * *
  • Chez Loutcha - Popular with the locals and having a tremendous menu (all 30 some-odd pages of it, including a travel brochure, for some reason) with the emphasis particularly on quantity making this quite a good value for your CFA. The surroundings are quite interesting with the occasion, annoying, Kora player to make things interesting (the idea is you put some money in the bowl of the instrument in the hope he will go away). The service is abrubt but efficient. For people in the mood for a big meal with reasonable quality, this is the place. 101 Rue Mousse Diop, Telephone: 824.03.02 Rating: * * *
  • Gelati Mezzo - There are many places to get ice cream or sorbet in Dakar but this is one of the best, and also serves great meals to boot! Don't let the rather run-down appearance of the alley leading to the restaurant fool you – a treat awaits those that venture forth. 26 Rue Jules Ferry, Telephone: 822.58.88 Rating: * * * *
  • Le Dragon - One of the best (if not one of the only) chinese/vietnamese restaurants in the city complete with fake waterfall (a product of their recent renovations). The menu is quite good (also available in English) while the food is acceptable and the service is fantastic. The prices are bit “over the top” but, again, acceptable. 35 Rue Jules Ferry, Telephone: 821.66.76 Rating: * * *


You have your pick here, but a few that are particularly noteworthy:

  • Hotel Al Afifa - Great hotel, a bit overpriced, but you get an outdoor swimming pool (in terrific gardens), air conditioning, CNN, hot water shower/bathtub – What more do you need? Rating: * * * *
  • Hotel St. Louis-Sun - Charming, smaller, hotel with a lovely central courtyard. Does not look like anything special from the outside but the inside…Be sure to book well ahead of time as there are only a few rooms. Rating: * * * *

Further Information

For further information, please see:

  • Senegal Journal - My visit in Spring, 2002 for the St. Louis Jazz Festival