Exploring Accra, Ghana

Exploring Accra, Ghana

A week spent in #Ghana’s vibrant and beautiful capital city. #Accra is home to 2 million people and blends African tradition with 21st Century modernism. #Explore the city, learn about its #culture. I combined a trip of #foodanddrinks, relaxing and ... a fantasy coffin tour!


Accra, Ghana. As soon as my plane touched down at Kotoka International Airport, I knew I was going to like Accra. It may not be as well-known as other African capitals, but this sprawling city captured my heart almost immediately, despite it being so hot that the nail varnish on my fingers melted within a few hours of my arrival! 

Despite it being so hot that the nail varnish on my fingers melted within a few hours of my arrival!

It’s home to some of the best food I have ever tasted, and some of the best nightlife I’ve seen on any continent, as well as hundreds of years of history and a busy and ever-expanding trading center. If you’re looking for a city break by the sea, with busy markets, museums, trendy bars and beach parties with live music and dancing, then Accra is the place for you.

I traveled to Accra for five days in April and took in as much as I could during my stay. I started my trip by checking into the Golden Tulip Hotel, which is a five minute drive from the airport, in their very own shuttle bus. The hotel is beautiful, with spacious rooms leading directly onto a central courtyard, giant comfy beds, a lovely swimming pool, which I took full advantage of, and the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen or tasted; so good that I would walk back to Accra from France for another helping of Chef Jimmy’s cheese omelette! 

beautiful, with spacious rooms leading directly onto a central courtyard, giant comfy beds, a lovely swimming pool, ... and the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen or tasted
from  $296.01

Hotel Golden Tulip Accra

 Liberation Road, Accra, Ghana
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The location near the airport was a great base to explore the city from, and the hotel is easily accessible by taxi, which made getting out and about very easy.

I would walk back to Accra from France for another helping of Chef Jimmy’s cheese omelette!

I wanted to fit as much in as possible while I was in town, so I decided to book some activities with local tour guides to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Accra has a long and important history of slavery and I wanted to learn more about it, so my first experience was the Slavery Museums and Forts Walking Tour. Over the three hour tour we explored two forts which once housed slaves, took a sobering trip around the James Fort dungeons and learned about the cruelty of this trade, which is thought to have seen over four million people shipped to the other side of the world from Ghana in the 18th century. 

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Slavery Museums and Forts Walking Tour in Accra

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 Accra, Greater Accra, Ghana
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Our group was quite small, with only 10 people, and our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of his city and people. While it was often uncomfortable to hear about the sad history of slavery, and especially the part played by the UK, I felt it was also very important to learn about this part of the city’s and country’s history.

Accra has a long and important history of slavery and I wanted to learn more about it

On my second day in town, I decided to lighten the mood a little bit and indulge in one of my favourite pastimes - shopping! I was spoiled for choice in Accra as there are markets galore, bursting with locally made goods, plus modern shopping ‘malls;' which rival any found in Europe.

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Markets Explorer Tour in Accra

Culture
 Accra, Greater Accra, Ghana
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My friendly taxi driver dropped me off at the Arts Centre (Centre for National Culture) in the centre of Accra, which is actually a huge indoor/outdoor market with dozens of stalls selling everything from clothes, jewelry and artwork to antiques. The market can be a bit overwhelming with sellers offering you deals galore as you walk around, but there are treasures to be found, especially if you like to haggle. I ended up with a bag full of souvenirs to take home to all my friends and family.

The market can be a bit overwhelming with sellers offering you deals galore as you walk around

Haggling done for the day, I then headed over to the Accra Mall, which is the complete opposite of the Arts Centre, a huge modern American-style shopping mall, with shops, restaurants, a cinema complex and a play area for kids, all under one roof. You can spend quite a few hours walking round the centre’s shops and I’m not going to lie, the air conditioning was a welcome break from the heat too! One of the people I got chatting to in the mall told me that December 26th (Boxing Day to some!) is known in Accra as 'Mall Day,' and the local teens all meet up in the mall to spend the day chatting, hanging out and shopping together.

The third day of my trip was the one I was really looking forward to from the start, I had heard from friends that Wednesday is beach day in Accra, so to make the most of it, I planned a whole day of beach-style fun. Labadi or Pleasure Beach is the most well-known and popular beach resort and is always popular with locals and tourists alike. After a taxi ride from the hotel, I headed to the Labadi Beach Hotel, a beautiful resort right on the beach, with two restaurants, a bar, pool, tennis courts and spa. 

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Labadi Beach Hotel

 1 Laby Pass, Accra, Ghana
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I cooled off with a locally brewed Club beer and spent the day relaxing and making the most of the hotel’s facilities before the main event - the evening beach party! 

I had heard from friends that Wednesday is beach day in Accra... 

On Wednesday evenings and at weekends, Labadi Beach is the place to party, it feels like all of Accra is hanging out on the beach and here you'll find everything from live music and DJs pumping out reggae music to stands selling food, and a bar with a huge choice of drinks, which was doing big business the night I was there. The beach is an amazing place to meet locals and other travellers and if you enjoy live music, you won’t be disappointed by the groups who come to play there. It’s almost impossible not to get up and dance the night away under the stars.

It’s almost impossible not to get up and dance the night away under the stars

On Thursday, having recovered from my big night out at the beach, I decided to soak up some more local culture and booked one of the craziest sounding activities I’d ever heard of, but which ended up being my favourite outing of my week in Accra, a tour of the fantasy coffin workshop.

Before arriving in Ghana, I had no idea that Accra is the birthplace of the fantasy coffin - incredible hand carved coffins in the shape of, well anything you like, from a Formula 1 racing car to a bottle of beer! Seth Kane Kwei was the originator of the fantasy coffin back in the 1950s, but today the best known Ghanian coffin-maker is Paa Joe, whose work is featured in museums and art galleries all over the world. I visited the Kane Kwei Carpentry workshop on the Teshie-Tema Road run by Kane Kwai’s sons and grandsons, and whilst on the tour I saw various coffins in the shape of vegetables, trucks, beverages, including a bottle of champagne, and even a flip flop! And on the way home in the taxi, I spotted some other fantasy coffins by local craftsmen on the side of the road, including my very favourite; a giant white chicken!

I saw various coffins in the shape of vegetables, trucks and beverages, including a bottle of champagne, and even a flip flop! 

All too soon it was my last day in town, and as I had been busy running around all week, I decided to reward myself with a special tour for my last day. I booked a Market Explorer Tour to explore the busy Makol & Salaga markets. As with my previous tours, we were in a small group of about nine people, mostly tourists like myself from Europe and America. Our guide met us in Old Accra before whisking us off into the huge open-air markets. We quickly learned that markets are more than a source of food in Accra, they are a way of life, and the locals spend hours haggling over food and spices every week to make sure they get the best produce for their tables. The smell of delicious freshly cooked food was on every corner, and every now and again we had to stop the tour to pick up some goodies to nibble on, using the handy tips passed on by our guide about how to haggle like a local.

Markets are more than a source of food in Accra, they are a way of life and the locals spend hours haggling over food and spices

From the food markets we moved on to a local timber market where some of the local fantasy coffin makers get their wood from to make those giant trucks and chickens. Next we headed to the spice market, which sells a dazzling array of herbs and spices for the traditional uses of cooking, medicine, and the slightly darker voodoo arts which are still practiced in Ghana today. Eating and drinking local goodies whilst learning about the markets was the perfect way for me to spend my last day in town, and I would recommend this tour to food lovers who want to discover Ghanaian cuisine. That evening, I put my newfound food knowledge to use and ate my fill of grilled tilapia (river perch) with rice, acheke and banku at local favorite restaurant The Blue Gate, whilst washing it all down with a Spark, an amazing gin drink I discovered and tried to smuggle back with me in my suitcase on the way home.

Next we headed to the spice market, which sells a dazzling array of herbs and spices for the traditional uses of cooking, medicine, and the slightly darker voodoo arts

I cannot recommend a visit to Accra enough for those who are looking for a fresh, vibrant African experience. There is so much to do and see that a week is nowhere near enough. I will definitely be back in the near future to explore some more and drink an ice cold beer in the sunshine.

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