On the Angolan coast, the African metropolis of Luanda is waiting to be discovered.
Rich in culture before colonial times, then heavily influenced by the Portuguese in the 16th century, Angola has a lot to celebrate in its heritage, cuisine and traditions.
A constantly evolving city, Luanda offers a lot to visitors; from colonial architecture and diverse musical culture to an upscale beach scene and delicious grilled fish.
The province of Luanda gives visitors a great taste of urban Angola, a blend of Portuguese and African culture, but it can also be a great place to start your journey of exploring the country’s many natural wonders. Angola has 1600 km of coastline, with beautiful deserted beaches, tropical forests, savannas, a desert in the south, as well as an extraordinary climate all year round.
Luanda is one of the most important industrial and cultural urban centers in Africa and is home to five million inhabitants. Portuguese is the official language.
What to do first? The landmarks.
The old town of Luanda dates back to the 16th century when the Portuguese first arrived and built a settlement. They stayed for four centuries and their influence is deeply felt.
You can travel back in time to colonial Luanda by visiting monuments such as the Iron Palace, thought to have been designed by – or by someone close to – Gustave Eiffel, or the Baroque Sé Cathedral, another of the oldest constructions. from the city. The São Miguel Fortress, built on the side of Mount São Paulo is the oldest in Angola and is also worth a visit.
After visiting the fortress, return to the old port by walking along the Marginal Promenade (Avenida 4 de Fevereiro), a beautifully renovated seaside boulevard running along Luanda Bay. Throughout its three kilometers, the bay has a life of its own with plenty of green spaces, lively shops, bars and restaurants.
A musical state of mind
In Angola, music and dance play a central role in cultural life. In Luanda, people gather in the Marginal for “Kizomba na Rua” (kizomba dance in the street) every Sunday evening. The best dancers in Luanda usually show up. Everyone is very friendly and you will probably be invited to join.
Another great Angolan style music worth checking out is Kuduro, a popular national genre that flourished in the 1990s. Head to the Rangel neighborhood to find the ‘next generation Kuduro’. You will be greeted by a festive atmosphere, fast rhythms and spontaneous choreographies.
Have you brought your appetite? You will need it.
Luanda’s gastronomic tradition is well established and promises to appeal to seafood lovers and culinary exotics. The city has a vibrant restaurant scene, taking advantage of local and historical food influences (such as Mozambican, Portuguese, or Brazilian).
Angolans excel at cooking fish, so make sure you don’t miss out on a good grilled catch – Calulu fish is always a good option. Also try Muamba Chicken and Mufete, a generous national dish of fish, beans, plantain, and sweet potato. Dairy production is well developed in the area, for something special opt for the homemade goat cheese and yogurt. If you have a sweet tooth, try doce de ginguba, a peanut jam that’s also great to buy as a souvenir, or Cocada Amarela, a delicious coconut pudding.
Where to eat
La Vigia, in the Maculusso district, is an extraordinary gastronomic institution. It has a large charcoal grill and their fish and steaks are displayed for you to choose your cut. The portions are large and the beer is always cold. Luanders love their beer and, due to the Portuguese influence, they also love wine. The Rooftop by ListenSound is a great place to have a drink and a bite to eat while taking in the views over the Luanda skyline. If you like sushi, K. Sushi in downtown Luanda or its sister Restaurante K in Talatona are splendid choices.
Another great choice is Cafe del Mar, and not just because of its private beach. The place has been at the forefront of the culinary scene for over two decades. It is located on Ilha de Luanda (the island of Luanda), which is always a fun place.
Beach time is a must
In addition to the upscale beach scene in the ‘Ilha de Luanda’ peninsula, there are many other beaches to explore in and around the city, one of the favorites being Mussulo Island. But countless other secluded and wild beaches are waiting to be discovered on the coast. Just outside Luanda, a short car trip will take you to Barra do Donde in the north of the city or Sangano in the south.
Now, if you’re looking for a laid-back atmosphere, head south to Cabo Ledo, the surfers’ top destination. Just 100 km from Luanda, Cabo Ledo hosts one of the longest left-wing waves in the world. If skydiving is on your to-do list, Cabo Ledo also offers the option to test your resolve and jump out of a plane.
Sport fishing is another great option around Luanda, Angola offers some of the best conditions in the world for marlin, sailfish, dourado and tuna.
Not so salty getaways
If sandy and salty feet aren’t high on your list, head to Miradouro da Lua (Moon’s Viewpoint), a stunning landscape that Hollywood could claim to be the moon. The lunar cliffs are the result of erosion caused by rain and wind – it’s staggering to see. The place also offers a nice view of the sea, which makes it a remarkable backdrop for aperitifs and sunset, bring your picnic!
Not far from the Miradouro da Lua is the mouth of the Kwanza River. Head here and take a river cruise to experience the region’s wildlife – colorful monkeys and birds await you. We went for a boat ride with the Kwanza eco-lodge. Another fun option is to rent a kayak and move around at your own pace.
Angola is growing fast, so visiting its capital will always be filled with new discoveries and unique contrasts. Local produce is a testament to the country’s cultural diversity, and the bustling open-air markets are the best places to find them. One of the best known is Benefica, in southern Luanda. He sells everything from food and jewelry to art and clothing.
Animal sculptures are very popular, as are signature pieces of Angolan art such as the “Thinker sculpture” and the traditional Mwana Pwo masks, which are believed to represent the feminine ideal.
If you want to go to a classic mall, Belas Shopping, Shopping Avenida, Talatona Shopping, and Fortaleza Shopping all offer an international shopping experience.
How to get around?
Taxis are the best and safest way to get around Luanda. You can also opt for the candogueiros (mini-buses) for a more authentic experience, they are plentiful and easy to spot thanks to their pale blue and white paint. Candogueiros are safe and practical during the day and the same rule applies for walking: best when the sun is out! If you prefer a more exclusive ride, apps like Kubinga, T’Leva, and Heetch all offer an “Uber-Like” experience. There are also several car rental services available, hiring a driver is also recommended if the budget allows. If you want to explore a luxury train experience, be sure to research the Rovos Rail train ride between Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and Lobito, Benguela.
Angola is twice the size of France and blessed with a remarkably beautiful, diverse and wild territory – you are guaranteed a fascinating journey.