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Approximately 67 million tourists visited Africa in 2018 — marking this continent's tourism industry as the second-fastest growing in the world. With so many incredible places to choose from though, it might feel a little overwhelming to decide where in Africa to visit first. If you're planning a trip to this beautiful continent, here are six cities you should definitely visit.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Whether you're a history buff, a coffee lover, a foodie, or a musician, Ethiopia's vibrant capital city has something for everyone. Although it was founded back in 1892, Addis Ababa is still a fast-paced, rapidly-changing city. You'll find traditional markets alongside booming clubs, soaring skyscrapers, and modern luxury hotels.
Ethiopia is world-renowned for its coffee, so you might start your trip with a stop at a buna (coffee stand), which you'll be able to find on just about every street. To get an incredible panoramic view of the city before you start exploring, try taking a trip to the first space observatory in the Horn of Africa. You'll find it in the hills just outside the city limits. For anyone who loves history, a stop at the National Museum of Ethiopia is a definite must. The museum's prized exhibit is Lucy, the oldest hominid skeleton that has ever been discovered.
Home to the one-of-a-kind Giraffe Manor, Nairobi National Park, and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi is the perfect place to travel if you want the chance to see some amazing wildlife without straying far from city limits. In fact, Nairobi National Park is one of the only places in the world where you can spot lions, leopards, and rhinos while surrounded by views of a city skyline.
Nairobi has more to offer than its amazing wildlife though — it's also a tech-savvy city. In 2017, it was ranked as the city with the fastest internet speeds in Africa, as well as the most dynamic city in Africa and the 10th most dynamic city worldwide.
There are also plenty of great restaurants in Kenya's capital. You might grab some coconut fish stew at Ranalo Foods or some gourmet burgers at the Mama Rocks food court. The Alchemist Bar often features live music, dancing, and weekly movie nights.
For a warm beach vacation destination that's affordable, Dakar is the perfect place to visit. This African city is home for many markets that sell beautiful fabrics and have outfits tailored to fit. If you love to dance, there are also plenty of nightclubs. Consider visiting Le Viking, where you'll get to enjoy live music in a variety of genres.
Dakar is also a short ferry ride away from the Isles de la Madeleine National Park, where you'll find stunning beaches surrounded by jagged cliffs. This hidden gem doesn't see many tourists, so it's a great place to go if you want to enjoy the scenery without the crowds.
Influences from the French colonization of Senegal can still be seen around the city. In fact, French is the primary language spoken and patisseries offer treats in multiple spots around Dakar. However, you'll also be able to find more traditional Senegalese foods. Seafood dishes are incredibly popular here, so you should definitely try Senegalese tea, which consists of green tea, mint, and sugar brewed together in a ritual called attaya.
Although Egypt's political turmoil deterred visitors for many years, tourism rates in the capital city of Cairo are rapidly rising once again. Listed as the number one best place to visit in Africa by "U.S. News," a trip to Cairo simply shouldn't be missed.
Of course, no trip to Cairo is complete without seeing the pyramids, the Saladin Citadel, and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali, but this bustling city has even more to offer. Make your way to the Zamalek neighborhood on Gezira Island to experience some of Cairo's beautiful art galleries and to see Cairo Tower, the fourth tallest building in the world.
To get a better sense of Cairo's history, you should spend a few hours visiting the oldest part of the city — Coptic Cairo. Here, you can visit Africa's oldest mosque — the Mosque of Amr ibn al-Aas. You can also get a look at some stunning mosaics and buy local goods from street vendors as you explore the twisting alleys.
For anyone looking for a lively nightlife, Accra is the perfect destination. From gallery openings to house parties and salsa dancing, people who decide to go out for the evening in Accra will find plenty to do and will often end up exploring all night — it turns out New York isn't the only city that never sleeps.
Music lovers should definitely plan their trip around Afrochella, an annual festival that celebrates African music, fashion, and art. If you're a foodie, you're in luck since Accra offers some of the best dishes Ghana has to offer.
Make sure you try some jollof, a rice dish served with a spicy tomato stew. This is one of the most popular meals in west Africa — so much so in fact, that its proper preparation technique is a subject of hot debate between Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria. In Ghana, the dish is always served with fried plantains. Any jollof served with salad greens is seen as inauthentic and will be met with serious disapproval.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is chock full of fun events, activities, and places to see. You might need to book a few extra nights here if you really want a chance to experience the city to its fullest. Wildlife lovers might enjoy a trip to Rondevlei Nature Reserve, where they can do a little bird watching and see hippos, porcupines, and otters.
If you're more into architecture, consider taking a tour of the Slangkoppunt Lighthouse. With a balcony 100 feet off the ground, Slangkoppunt is the tallest cast-iron lighthouse in South Africa.
Feeling a little daring? Take the opportunity to see Cape Town from a whole new angle by signing up for Table Mountain Paragliding or if you're afraid of heights, learn how to scuba dive in the sparkling blue waters of Cape RADD. No matter where you go in Cape Town, you'll be met with plenty of opportunities for unique adventures.