Once dusty and chaotic, Ghana’s capital is now an energetic entrepreneurial metropolis with a burgeoning foodie scene. To experience it all, take a look at our Accra city guide…
Where to stay
Accra hasn’t traditionally been known for its luxury hotels. But all that changed in 2015 with Kempinski’s long-awaited Hotel Gold Coast City. This dazzling complex embodies the spirit of modern Accra – ambitious, contemporary and glamorous. The buildings are spread over 35 hectares – tennis courts and a mall will be completed this year – and the hotel itself has 269 rooms, including 22 suites and two huge presidential suites. Rooms have all the trappings you’d expect of a five-star hotel – king-size beds, rainfall showers, ergonomic writing desks and even a pillow menu. Its new Resense spa is due to open next month and will include 10 treatment rooms, salon, hammam and yoga studio. Other features include seven meeting rooms, the largest ballroom in Ghana, organic food bar, cocktail bar and 25-metre outdoor pool. The well-designed poolside space – with both cabana-style seating and sunloungers – works as brilliantly for sunworshippers as it does for the digital nomads holding meetings.
Where to eat and drink
Kempinski’s Gold Coast City offers great Ghanaian cuisine in the Papillon restaurant or Lebanese fare in the alfresco Cedar Garden. It’s the very cool Gallery Bar, however, that has become a hot spot for the city’s movers and shakers, with its bamboo booths and creative cocktails. There’s also a lively rooftop bar scene in Accra, with SkyBar25 leading the charge. Decor is LA cool, there’s a rooftop pool and the views – from the tallest building in west Africa – are breathtaking. Also try Coco Lounge, created by Lebanese entrepreneur Nada Moukarzel, who has recently opened nightclub Carbon (one floor up) with Mahiki founder Nick House. And for a truly unique experience, try La Tante DC-10 Restaurant – it’s set inside a DC-10 aeroplane, with customers feasting on grilled tilapia while seated on real airline seats.
What to see
Accra is an invigorating, cheerful, varied city – browse the boutiques and stalls in Oxford Street or hang out at La Beach, and don’t miss Jamestown and the chaotic Makola Market. Also, be sure to visit the busy, humbling Fisherman’s Village. Depleted stock means fishermen now have to go to sea for weeks rather than days, but NGOs are hard at work regenerating the village.
Tips and etiquette
Ghana is more relaxed than you may be used to – especially about punctuality – so keep your sense of humour close and don’t pack your day with back-to-back meetings. Getting around can be interesting – Uber works brilliantly, but Accra only got street names a few years ago so directions can still be of the “turn left at the pink house” variety. Manners-wise, if you need to ask anything from anyone, remember to greet them first: coming straight out with your question is considered rude.
For the flight
Ghana: The Bradt Guide by Philip Briggs is a great travelling companion, and the accompanying website is frequently updated. Check in with both Time Out Accra and the Accra Craves blog by local millennial entrepreneurs Ash and Dede for info on the many launches and pop-ups. Good books include Travels in Ghana, former Peace Corps volunteer Marie McCarthy’s insightful record of her 2009 road trip, and Taiye Selasi’s novel Ghana Must Go. Highlife is the national music, and the Ghana Special compilation on Soundway is a great introduction to its 1970s development.
Accra city guide: view the gallery (click to enlarge)
Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City offers luxury accommodation in Accra from £223 per room, per night. Contact the High Commission for a visa as early as you can – it can take a while.