The bustling capital of Gambia, Banjul seems more of a large village in size than a capital city but really embodies urban Africa at its best. At the Albert Market, you’ll find local crafts and art, ideal for taking home to family and friends as souvenirs of your trip or unusual gifts that really impress. Head to the National Museum of The Gambia to learn about the history of this beautiful and fascinating country and peruse its wide range of exhibits. You could stop by the War Memorial and Fountain, erected to commemorate King George VI’s coronation, or head out of town to visit the Abuko Nature Reserve, where you might spot monkeys and giant lizards. If you’re a fan of sun, sea and sand, head to Bakau or Kololi to find some golden beaches and get your heart racing with some water sports. The year-round sunshine makes Banjul a fantastic destination for some winter sun.
Banjul may be the capital of The Gambia but the atmosphere is more of a large and colourful village. It’s a fantastic place to soak up a genuine slice of African life. Near the showpiece 22 July Square is the city’s principal attraction, the bustling Albert Market, where locals come to pick up their provisions from heaped stalls. There’s also a tourist craft market, which is a great source of local souvenirs. There are fabulous beaches nearby in Bakau or Kololi, which feature swathes of golden sand and a host of water sports. You could also visit the Abuko Nature Reserve, where monkeys flit through the trees, or the Bijilo Forest Park, which attracts myriad species of bird as well as supporting a very tame monkey population.
You’ll find a good choice of international restaurants in Banjul, whether you want to tuck into some delicious local cuisine, or fancy a pizza or some classic British grub. There are lots of fabulous restaurants serving the tasty traditional cuisine of The Gambia. White rice is staple and comes served with a choice of toppings, including the popular domada, a classic African peanut stew with onions and tomatoes. You could also try okra stew, which is made with beef slow-cooked with okra and other local vegetables and spices. If you’re looking for something spicy, go for the yassa, a chicken dish flavoured with chilli, lime and onion that sometimes comes in seafood or vegetable variations. A refreshing baobab juice is a great accompaniment to combat the heat, or you could go for the local palm wine – watch out, though, as it’s stronger than you’d think!
Banjul is a wonderful destination for a laid-back family holiday in the sunshine. The Gambia is known as ‘the smiling coast of Africa’ and the locals are famously welcoming. Kids will enjoy the street life of colourful, bustling Banjul, as well as the fabulous beaches in nearby Kololi (although be careful of strong currents). They’ll also love the chance to see exotic animals, from the monkeys in the Abuko Nature Reserve and Bijilo Forest Park to the crocodiles in the Kachikally Crocodile Park, located in Bakau’s Old Town. You could also take a day trip to the Tanji Village Museum, which showcases the local Mandinka culture with a recreation of a traditional village and dance and music performances.
Action & Adventure
There are plenty of amenities for water sports in the neighbouring resorts of Bakau and Kokoli, just a short drive from Banjul. These include sea kayaking, paddle boarding, jet-skiing, parasailing and fishing. There are some sports centres that offer equipment, but many people arrange equipment rental or excursions through their hotels. The Abuko Nature Reserve and the Bijilo Forest Park (often known simply as ‘Monkey Forest’) are both located close to Banjul and, although they are small, have walking paths through the trees, where you can spot the various monkey species and giant lizards. You could also consider a kayaking excursion along the Gambia River, which is home to endangered hippos as well as many other animals.
The Gambia enjoys a subtropical climate with plenty of sunshine and average temperatures of around 30 degrees, making its capital city an ideal destination for sun seekers. Thanks to its coastal setting, Banjul allows you to experience urban Africa while being able to enjoy all the delights of sun, sea and sand. The nearest beaches are at Bakau, just a few kilometres away, with more at Kololi. Bakau is still an authentic fishing village, with fishermen mending their nets on the beach, but Kololi is a more developed resort, and offers a host of facilities, including plenty of options for water sports.
Banjul is very quiet at night – quite a contrast with the bustle and colour during the days. But you’ll find plenty of nightlife in the nearby beach resorts, particularly Kololi. Kololi is one of the liveliest resorts in The Gambia, and has lots of bars and clubs, most of which are concentrated along the ‘Senegambia Strip’, locally known simply as ‘The Strip’. Whether you’re looking for a mellow night of jazz, or fancy DJ sessions and cocktails, you’ll find it on the The Strip. Many of the hotels in The Gambia are all inclusive and most of these have their bars as well as a special entertainment programme.
Banjul is a wonderful place for a romantic holiday with a difference. You can experience a taste of authentic African life in this vibrant little harbour town, but also relax on the long, golden beaches of nearby Kokoli. Stroll around the city, soaking up the atmosphere of the bustling Albert Market and pick up some souvenir at the craft stalls. You could relax at a beach bar in laid-back Bakau, watching the fishermen mend their nets, or head into the lively resort of Kokoli, which has plenty of nightlife. Enjoy a spa treatment at one of the hotels, or perhaps sign up for a cooking or drumming class.
Banjul, which is the capital of The Gambia, has a smattering of interesting colonial buildings, including the impressive State House, which is now the official residence of the country’s president. It has several museums which are worth a visit, particularly the Gambia National Museum, which has exhibits outlining the country’s history and culture. Neighbouring Bakau has an African Heritage Museum, which is part guest house and café, but displays and sells traditional masks, sculptures, textiles and other arts and crafts. Banjul’s biggest landmark is Arch 22, which was erected in 1996 to celebrate the 1994 coup d’état, and offers a fantastic panorama from its viewing deck.