Dar es Salaam combines the clamor of Tanzania’s largest city with an agreeably relaxed place of life. Unlike other cities in East Africa, this is not the sort of city where you see lots of other travelers. This makes it a wonderful opportunity to get a glimpse of urban African life as locals live it. Immerse yourself in its markets and street-food scenes, explore its museums, and enjoy its outdoor attractions. There’s all this and more in our guide of what to do in Dar es Salaam.


Dar es Salaam Safari Tours

1. Shop the markets

Kariakoo market in Dar es salaam flickr.com/photos/127611680@N02/26502651514

To really experience the sights and smells of an authentically Tanzanian market, it just has to be Kariakoo Market. Spread across a number of busy city blocks, it’s filled with everything from household goods to clothing and food. More touristy but with more crafts, Mwenge Carvers’ Market has an excellent blend of pieces made for tourists alongside genuine traditional items.


2. Find the best street food

Street bbq Street bbq

You’ll eat well in Dar es Salaam, and what locals crave more than anything is a street barbecue. Every evening queues form at aromatic Barbecue House, close to Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road. Here locals order chicken, beef, or fish, served with naan bread and a choice of chilies, coconut chutney or tamarind sauce. It’s a similar deal at Mamboz Corner, where Morogoro Road meets Libya Street, with Zanzibari marinades a highlight. Four times a year, Nyama Choma festival (Swahili for grilled meats) takes over Tunisia Road with barbecue cook-offs and live entertainment.


3. Visit the fish market

Kivukoni Fish Market flickr.com/photos/36526739@N03/36291828396

Kivukoni Fish Market is a real Dar experience, especially in the early morning when fisherfolk hawk their fish and other seafood to local restaurant and home chefs. It’s a fabulous experience, filled with local color, salespeople shouting to make themselves heard, and some rather pungent smells. Even if you’re not in the market for something to cook for dinner, you’ll love the experience. It’s one of the least touristy things to do in Dar es Salaam.


4. Go to the beach

Hammock on the beach at sunrise Hammock on the beach at sunrise

Locals in Dar es Salaam love a day at the beach, and with balmy temperatures year-round, it’s always a good choice for when you’re in town. There are plenty to choose from, but Coco Beach, on the Msasani Peninsula north of town, is a real favorite. It offers the chance to mingle with locals enjoying the food stalls, wandering minstrels selling beer and coconuts, and live music. The beaches out on Bongoyo Island are quieter and just as worthwhile.


5. Get out on the water

Bongoyo Island as seen from above flickr.com/photos/146472787@N03/35150889166

The Indian Ocean off Dar is an underrated destination for diving, snorkeling, and just escaping the city to sail around beautiful local islands such as Bongoyo, Pangavini and Mbudya. The Dar es Salaam Yacht Club runs sailing and fishing excursions, and, once back on shore, if you can take out a temporary membership you can use the club’s facilities, which include a swimming pool and a children’s playground.


6. Discover the city’s museums

National Museum Dar es Salaam National Museum Dar es Salaam

Tanzania’s capital in all but name, the city has some excellent museums, and they’re among the best things to do in Dar es Salaam. The biggest and best is the National Museum, which takes you on an intriguing journey through Tanzanian history. It begins with world-famous archeological finds from Olduvai Gorge, then travels down through the slave trade and colonial era, and even houses former president Julius Nyerere’s Rolls Royce. The Village Museum has reconstructed village scenes from all corners of the country, with live cultural performances and craftspeople at work to bring it all alive.


7. Admire the art

Painting by Bush Mikidadi for East Africa Art Biennale Painting by Bush Mikidadi for East Africa Art Biennale

Nafasi Art Space ranks among East Africa’s best galleries for contemporary art. You’ll see artists at work here in the studios that are hewn from a former industrial warehouse. There are exhibitions, workshops and live performances most evenings.


8. Tour the city center

Dar es Salaam waterfront area at night Dar es Salaam waterfront area at night

There’s no better way to get to know Dar than on one of the tours offered by Afriroots. The tours, mostly conducted by bicycle, are a good mix of getting to know the city’s major historical landmarks and encounters with the locals. There’s even a tour dedicated to nightlife. It’s a terrific way to access Dar’s lively after-dark scene.


9. Stroll the botanical gardens

Dar es Salaam botanical gardens flickr.com/photos/40973131@N04/4122212399

This outpost of quiet greenery dates back to the final years of the 19th century, and remains a retreat from the noise and traffic. It’s also a refuge for local and exotic plants, including cycads, palms and vivid scarlet flame trees.


10. Watch the goat races

The Goat races The Goat races

Every year in September, the nation’s finest goats take to the Green, along Kenyatta Drive, for the city’s annual Goat Race. It’s all good clean fun (unless you’re a local worker who has to clean up afterward…) as enthusiastic locals and expats place bets and cheer on their charges. If your billy goat doesn’t win, your losses support local charities.

Dar es Salaam Safari Tours

By Anthony Ham
Australia AU

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

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