12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Dar es Salaam

One of East Africa's busiest ports, Dar es Salaam is Tanzania's largest city and commercial center, though no longer its capital. The name means "haven of peace" in Arabic, and was more fitting for Dar's former status as a sleepy fishing village than the now bustling city of more than three million people. Nevertheless Dar es Salaam is loved among travelers for its seaside setting and eclectic vibe thanks to its mix of African, Arabic, and Indian cultures.

Tanzania's main port is found at Dar es Salaam harbor straddling some of the most important sea routes in the world. On the northern section of the harbor is Kivukoni Front, with a bustling fish market, where dhows sail in every morning at dawn to offload the night's catch. The city's architecture is a mix of Swahili, German, Asian, and British influences. German colonists organized Dar by arranging a grid pattern of streets fanning out around the port. The Lutheran Church and St Joseph's Cathedral are notable structures on the waterfront, and the city has an excellent museum. Beach lovers can escape the hustle and bustle of Dar with day trips to beautiful Mbudya and Bongoyo Island.

1 National Museum & House of Culture

National Museum & House of Culture
National Museum & House of Culture David Bacon / photo modified

Originally opened in 1940 as a memorial to King George V, the National Museum & House of Culture takes visitors on a journey through Tanzania's colorful past. The museum displays important fossils of some of the earliest human ancestors unearthed during the Leakey digs at Olduvai Gorge. Visitors can learn about Tanzania's tribal heritage and the impact of the slave trade and colonial periods. Other highlights of the museum include ethnographic displays on traditional crafts, customs, ornaments, and musical instruments.

Address: Shaaban Roberts Street

Official site: www.houseofculture.or.tz

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Dar es Salaam

2 Village Museum

Village Museum
Village Museum Shaun Metcalfe / photo modified

About six miles north of the city center, the Village Museum showcases traditional dwellings from some of Tanzania's 120 ethnic groups. Visitors can wander through replicas of tribal homesteads scattered across 15 acres, and watch local artisans demonstrate their traditional painting, weaving, and carving skills. The museum also hosts Ngoma, tribal dances, and other cultural activities.

Address: Bagamoyo Road, Kijitonyama

3 Askari Monument

Askari Monument
Askari Monument Adam Jones / photo modified

Cast in bronze, the Askari Monument depicts an Askari (soldier) in a World War I uniform, the bayonet of his rifle pointing towards the nearby harbor. The monument commemorates the African troops who fought as the Carrier Corps in World War I. Look for the inscription in English and Swahili written by Rudyard Kipling, the famous British writer and poet.

Address: Azikwe Street and Samora Avenue

4 Old Boma

Constructed in 1866-1867 by Majid Bin Said, sultan of Zanzibar, Old Boma is Dar es Salaam's oldest surviving building. It was built to accommodate the guests of the Sultan who had a palace next door. Distinguishing interior features include a carved wooden door from Zanzibar and coral walls.

Address: Sokoine Drive

5 St. Joseph's Cathedral

St. Joseph's Cathedral
St. Joseph's Cathedral Alexander Johmann / photo modified

Built by German missionaries from 1897 through 1902, this Gothic-style, Roman Catholic church dominates the Dar es Salaam harbor front. Its most striking features include a shingled spire, vaulted interior, and stained-glass windows. The cathedral contains many of the original German inscriptions and artwork, including a carved relief above the main altar. It is the seat of the Dar es Salaam archdiocese.

Address: Sokoine Drive

6 Botanical Gardens

Home to the Dar es Salaam Horticultural Society, the Botanical Gardens were established in 1893 by Professor Stuhlmann, the first Director of Agriculture. They were used as a trial plot for testing different types of plantation crops and tree species. Today garden enthusiasts can admire an enchanting mix of indigenous and exotic plants including purple bougainvillea, blue jacaranda, scarlet flame trees, and red hibiscus. Though the gardens are only a fraction of their former size, they are one of the few places in the world to see the beautiful coco-de-mer palm tree, outside of its native Seychelles.

Address: Samora Avenue

7 Azania Front Lutheran Church

Azania Front Lutheran Church
Azania Front Lutheran Church RIGHT TO HEALTH / photo modified

German missionaries built Azania Front Lutheran Church in 1898. The red-tile belfry rises above the surrounding rooftops, and the whitewashed building is still an iconic landmark in Dar es Salaam. Tiled canopies over the windows provide shade and the gardens are a welcome retreat for weary tourists. At one time Azania was the center of the original nineteenth century German mission; it is now the cathedral for the diocese.

8 State House

Built in the late 1890s, the State House was the original residence of the German Governor. In 1922 the British rebuilt the State House, adding scalloped upper-storey arches and a crenellated parapet, after they nearly destroyed the building during World War I. The State House is now the home of the current president. Although it is closed to the public, the building is an eye-catching landmark along the harbor front.

Address: Luthuli Street, Kivukoni

9 Mbudya Island

Mbudya Island
Mbudya Island Dom Pates / photo modified

A 10-minute motorboat ride from Kunduchi, beautiful Mbudya Island, in the Dar es Salaam Marine reserve, seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Dar es Salaam. Sun seekers come here to bask on the island's white-sand beaches, snorkel, and swim the turquoise waters. Bandas (thatched huts) are available for rent on the beach, and locals sell fresh barbecued seafood and cold drinks. This is one of the most popular day trips from the city.

10 Bongoyo Island

Bongoyo Island
Bongoyo Island mwanasimba / photo modified

Bongoyo Island, a much-loved island getaway, lies off Msasani Peninsula, about four miles north of the city. On the northwest tip of the island, day-trippers can relax under the shade of thatched umbrellas on the white-sand beach or cool off in the clear waters. Angelfish, starfish, clownfish, and sea urchins, are just some of the marine species snorkelers might spot among the coral. Behind the beach, nature trails wind between baobab trees to the island's opposite shore. The open-air snack bar serves cold drinks and fresh barbecued seafood. Bongoyo is perhaps the most frequently visited of the four islands in the Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve.

11 Kunduchi Wet 'N' Wild Water Park

Next to Kunduchi Beach Hotel and Resort, about twelve miles from the center of town, this is the largest water park in East and Central Africa. Popular with families, the park is a colorful mix of pools, playgrounds, fast-food restaurants, and twenty-two water slides of varying heights, catering to both adults and young children. The park is also home to Tanzania's only Go Kart track.

Address: Mtongani, Kunduchi Beach

Official site: www.wetnwild.co.tz

12 Oyster Bay

Oyster Bay
Oyster Bay Paul Scott / photo modified

Also known as Coco Beach, this affluent expatriate enclave, about four miles north of the city on the Msasani Peninsula, is a popular weekend social spot. Locals and tourists alike come here to stroll the beach, savor street food, and listen to live music. The Tanzanian Tingatinga Art Gallery in Oyster Bay is also worth a visit.

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