Despite Banjul being rarely visited by many tourists, there are still some great things to do there if you have the time. Here are seven awesome things to do in the capital city.
This 36-meter tall arch towers over Independence Drive, the road into Banjul. It was built in 1996 to celebrate the military coup on 22 July 1994.
The top floor of the arch offers splendid panoramic views of the city, from where you can get a better sense of it being an island. You can see the Atlantic Ocean which surrounds it, the River Gambia and some of the Tanbi mangroves.
On the upper level (which can be reached by a lift or stairs), there is a cafe and also a small ethnographic museum. The museum displays traditional textiles, clothes, agricultural tools, and weapons like bows and arrows.
You are not able to drive under the arch between the columns; the alternative Marina Parade route has to be taken instead. Cars have also been
This bustling market open from 8 am to 7 pm is the main one in Banjul. It is found on Liberation Avenue and is a maze of alleys full of ramshackle shops and stalls, groaning under the weight of their wares.
On the first floor, you’ll find an array of colourful fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dried goods; alongside gorgeous vibrant fabrics and beauty products. Deeper inside the market is the Banjul Tourist Craft Market where you can find a huge selection of various handicrafts ranging from hand-carved wooden masks, to jewellery, to paintings, instruments and much more. On the upper levels are many tailors working side by side in separate cubicles.
This is worth exploring for a couple of hours if only to watch the jostling locals in their traditional costumes bartering loudly. If you want to buy anything, be prepared to haggle as it’s all part of the fun. If all of that leaves you hungry, there are also several food and drink stalls where you grab a snack or quick refreshment.
St Joseph’s Adult Education and Skills Centre
Disadvantaged young women have received skills training in this old Portuguese Building for over 20 years.
Visitors can take a free tour of classes such as tie-dye, crafts, sewing, and embroidery. There is also a reasonably priced shop where items made by the women can be bought and make lovely souvenirs.
The centre and shop are open from 10 am – 2 pm Mon – Thurs and from 10 am – 12 pm on Friday.
There are a couple of options if you wish to go sports fishing. You could rent a local long canoe (pirogue), some kitted out with an outboard motor and a driver to take you out on the peaceful Oyster Creek. There is rich fishing to be had here as the mangroves are the home to a plethora of fish species and other wildlife. You can easily arrange this independently with one of the small boat operators at Dentons Bridge or with a local fisherman on the shore near the Barra Ferry Terminal.
The other option is to charter a more professional, larger boat to take you fishing up river or even out on the ocean. Many of these larger boats also have a bar and restaurant onboard. These can be booked from one of many local and foreign-based fishing tour operators, either online or by email in advance, or upon arriving in Banjul.
One of the best tour operators according to the trip advisor is Pa’s Fishing Company.
Full day Gambian home cooking experience
This experience is well worth taking the time out of your schedule for, especially if you’re a foodie. It will also give you a unique insight into Gambian life.
It starts with a trip to a busy local market by land rover to purchase the fresh ingredients needed for the dishes you’ll learn to cook later. Once you have everything, you go to a local Gambian family compound, where you change into some practical, traditional Gambian clothes for preparing and cooking the food.
The dishes cooked will vary depending on the seasonal produce available at the market, but some meat or fish and vegetables will be included, most likely in a typical Gambian sauce such as Yassa with Benachin rice. A local juice may also be made like Wonjo or Baobab juice. You’ll prepare all the food, including the herbs and spices used for seasoning yourself and then cook them in a big pot, balanced over a small fire.
The preparation and cooking take a few hours, during which time you’ll also be able to get a real taste of real Gambian life and chat with the locals and their children.
Finally, when the food is ready, it is placed in the middle of the compound. You’ll gather round sitting cross-legged with the locals to enjoy the delicious meal you’ve just cooked.
This can be booked through various tour operators including Viator.
National Museum of The Gambia
This is a fairly small, dusty and dimly lit but well organized Museum, with nice displays of cultural and historical collections, including historical documents, musical instruments, ethnographic items and agricultural tools.
There’s also a very interesting archaeological area with reconstructions from the earliest inhabitation of Banjul and surrounding areas, and additionally, a floor dedicated to photographs from history all the way to the present day.
Opening hours are 9 am – 6 pm Mon – Thurs, 9 am – 1 pm Fri and 9 am – 2 pm Saturday.
If bird watching is your thing, head down to the most southerly road, Kankujereh Road. This passes through saltwater wetland habitats, teaming with many species of birds.
This road passes the estuary mudflats of the Gambia River on the left, which is home to wrecked sunken boats and ships. Here pelicans and cormorants set up roost for the night. At low tide, many wading birds can be seen on the mudflats, which they use as a feeding ground. Soon after to the right is the Tanbi Mangroves to both sides.
This is something you can do independently, but as it has a road nearby, it’s best to go at a quiet time when you’re likely to see more birds, after the morning and before the evening rush hours are best! A word of caution the ground can be quite uneven, and there’s a lot of scrap metal that’s been dumped so be sure to wear some good enclosed shoes or boots.
Written by Andy