Praia is Cape Verde's capital, located on the island of Santiago, the largest of all the Cape Verde Islands. At a population of 100,000, Praia doesn't so much cater to the tourists as accommodate them. This is a bustling, working city, with an operating port and industry.
The island of Santiago has a varied landscape, ranging from mountain scapes to sandy beaches, and much of the island is wild, rugged and undeveloped, even though half the population of the Cape Verde islands resides on it. Running from east to west is the Sera Malagueta, which encircles the island's highest point, the Pico d'Antonia. African and Portuguese culture both influence Santiago.
Praia is by far the largest draw for visitors to Santiago. This bustling city is at the heart of the Cape Verde Islands and boasts such sights as an old town with colonial style houses and various museums, churches and palaces. We recommend the Nossa Senhora da Graca Church and the old town fortress, Bateira, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the sea. You'll notice, if you look up, a towering fortress called Cidade da Ribeira Grande de Santiago, which was the former capital of Santiago, now a UNESCO-listed landmark.
When you've soaked up the history, head to western Praia where you'll find the Achada de Santo Antonio quarter, home to the bars, nightclubs and restaurants. You should also check out Mercado de Sucupira for twisting streets and traditional wares.
Praia isn't known for its extraordinary beaches, but if you fancy a swim you can head down to the Praia Prainha, a beach populated by locals, mostly. Alternatively, you can visit the small beach Quebra Canela which has a number of restaurants and bars nearby, plus good waters for swimming.
For beaches we recommend you head out to explore the rest of Santiago. The most popular beach on the whole island is Tarrafal Beach which is in the north of the island. Known as a spot to watch the sunset, this beach actually gets busiers as the day goes on. However, once you see the sunset and enjoy a meal at one of the beachfront restaurants, you'll understand why.