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. 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 four million people. Though the city is short on typical tourist attractions, it 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 Cathedral are notable structures on the waterfront, and the city has a worthwhile museum. If you're a beach lover, you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city on day trips to beautiful Mbudya or 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 you 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. You can also 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, as well as a small collection of vintage cars, including the Rolls Royce used by former president, Julius Nyerere.

Address: Shaaban Robert Street, Dar es Salaam

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Dar es Salaam

2 Village Museum

Village Museum
Village Museum Shaun Metcalfe / photo modified

About 10 kilometers north of the city center, the Village Museum showcases traditional dwellings from some of Tanzania's 120 ethnic groups. You can wander through replicas of tribal homesteads scattered across 15 acres and learn about traditional customs and crafts. The museum also hosts Ngoma, tribal dances, and other cultural activities. Children, in particular, love exploring the different huts and traditional artifacts.

Address: Bagamoyo Road, Kijitonyama

3 St. Joseph Cathedral

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

Built by German missionaries from 1897 through 1902, this Gothic-style Roman Catholic church dominates the harbor front and is the seat of the Dar es Salaam archdiocese. 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. To really soak up the atmosphere here, attend a packed Sunday morning service, when the church reverberates with the soulful strains of the local choir.

Address: Sokoine Drive

4 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 19th-century German mission; it is now the cathedral for the diocese.

Address: Kivukoni Road, Dar es Salaam

5 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

6 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

7 Mbudya Island

Mbudya Island
Mbudya Island Dom Pates / photo modified

A 15-minute motorboat ride from the mainland, 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 in 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.

8 Bongoyo Island

Bongoyo Island
Bongoyo Island mwanasimba / photo modified

Bongoyo Island, a much-loved island getaway, lies off the Msasani Peninsula, about four miles north of the city. On the northwest tip of the island, you 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 you 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.

9 Kunduchi Wet 'N' Wild Water Park

Next to Kunduchi Beach Hotel and Resort, about 19 kilometers 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 more than 29 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

10 Kivukoni Fish Market

Kivukoni Fish Market
Kivukoni Fish Market

Visiting the busy Kivukoni Fish Market on the harbor front is one of the most popular things to do if you want to soak up a slice of daily Dar es Salaam life. Fishing boats arrive early in the morning to offload their catch, where it is auctioned to local restaurants and the public. Bargain hard if you're in the market for some fish. Crabs, snapper, and squid are among the many species on display, and you can also enjoy a seafood meal while you're here. Try to arrive early in the morning to see the markets at the height of their action.

11 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, you 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 its native Seychelles.

Address: Samora Avenue

12 Oyster Bay

Oyster Bay
Oyster Bay Paul Scott / photo modified

This affluent expatriate enclave, about six kilometers north of the city on the Msasani Peninsula, is a popular weekend social spot. Locals and tourists alike come here to stroll Coco Beach, savor street food, and listen to live music. The Oyster Bay Shopping Center here is a popular attraction, with farmers markets, art galleries, and boutique shops.

Where to Stay in Dar es Salaam for Sightseeing

  • Luxury Hotels: On the harborfront, the Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam, The Kilimanjaro is one of the city's top hotels. Amenities include a spa with a sauna and steam room, two restaurants, a lounge with an outdoor terrace, and a harborview infinity pool. Many rooms have water views.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: A few blocks away from the Hyatt, Southern Sun Dar es Salaam has an outdoor pool and is only a five-minute walk to the National Museum and botanical garden. Also with an outdoor pool, and in a quiet neighborhood near the beach, the Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar es Salaam Courtyard is an older colonial-style hotel with friendly staff and cozy rooms. Both these hotels include breakfast in their rates.
  • Value Hotels: In the city center, near restaurants and shops, Tanzanite Executive Suites accommodates guests in clean, modern studios and suites with complimentary breakfast.

Other Must-See Destinations in Africa

For more information on things to see and do near Dar es Salaam, check out our articles on Tanzania, Kenya, Nairobi, and Mombasa. Both Kenya and Tanzania, along with South Africa, are top safari destinations. Discover the best areas for wildlife viewing in our article, the Best Game Reserves in Africa, and see our page on Kruger National Park for details on this popular game reserve. If you're looking for the best places to stay on safari, our article on the Top-Rated Luxury Safari Lodges in South Africa can point you in the right direction.

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