Best Things To Do in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau

Best things to do in Bissau - Guinea-Bissau

Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, is a captivating destination that offers a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

This former Portuguese colony, situated on the coast of West Africa, boasts a range of tourist attractions, including national parks, museums, and architectural gems.

In this article, we will explore the best things to do in Bissau, providing you with a comprehensive guide to make the most of your visit to this captivating city.

Exploring Bissau’s Architectural Gems

Exploring Bissau_s Architectural Gems - Guinea-Bissau - Source wikipedia
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Old City of Bissau

The Old City of Bissau, also known as Bissau Velho, is a charming neighborhood filled with decaying Portuguese buildings that exude a nostalgic atmosphere.

Strolling through its narrow streets, visitors can admire the pastel-colored colonial-style houses, many of which feature intricate balconies and ornate facades.

Among the notable buildings in the Old City are the Bissau French Culture Center and the Presidential Palace, both of which have been rebuilt after being destroyed during the Civil War.

Presidential Palace

Located in Praca dos Herois Nacionais, the Presidential Palace is an impressive building that boasts a renovated neoclassical facade combined with modern elements.

Its graceful architecture and grand scale make it a significant landmark in the city, reflecting the country’s historical and political importance.

Igreja Catolica Bissau Cathedral

The Igreja Catolica Bissau Cathedral, also known as Bissau Cathedral or Se Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Candelaria, is a must-see attraction in Bissau.

Surrounded by beautiful greenery, the cathedral features stunning architecture that showcases both European and African influences.

Fortaleza de Sao Jose da Amura

Originally constructed as a Portuguese headquarters in the 18th century, Fortaleza de Sao Jose da Amura now serves as a museum in Guinea-Bissau.

The fort’s imposing architecture and strategic location along the Geba River make it an impressive sight. The museum houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits that shed light on the country’s cultural and historical heritage.

Historical and Cultural Sites

Historical and Cultural Sites - Guinea-Bissau
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Artissal

Artissal is a community project that aims to preserve and promote the traditions of the Papel people, an ethnic group native to Guinea-Bissau.

Located on the outskirts of Bissau, this center offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn about the Papel people’s customs, beliefs, and way of life.

Artissal provides various hands-on activities and workshops, allowing visitors to participate in traditional crafts such as pottery, weaving, and basket-making.

Bubaque Museum

Situated on Bubaque Island, the largest island in the Bijagos Archipelago, the Bubaque Museum houses an impressive collection of masks, sculptures, and ritual objects that showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Bijagos people.

The museum’s exhibits reflect the unique blend of animist beliefs and Portuguese colonial influence that shaped the archipelago’s history.

Fortaleza d’Amura

Built in 1753 by the Portuguese, Fortaleza d’Amura is a historic fortress that once served as a strategic military outpost.

The fort’s imposing architecture reflects the Portuguese colonial influence and showcases the engineering prowess of the era. Today, Fortaleza d’Amura stands as an important symbol of Guinea-Bissau’s history.

Home Museum of Amilcar Cabral

The Home Museum of Amilcar Cabral is dedicated to the life and legacy of Amilcar Cabral, a prominent African leader who played a pivotal role in Guinea-Bissau’s struggle for independence from Portugal.

It’s located in Cabral’s birthplace, providing visitors with a unique connection to his personal history. It features a range of exhibits that highlight Cabral’s life, work, and accomplishments.

Through photographs, documents, and personal artifacts, the museum shows Cabral’s impact on Guinea-Bissau and the broader African independence movement.

Pidjiguiti Monument

The Pidjiguiti Monument stands as a powerful tribute to the victims of the 1959 Pidjiguit Massacre, a pivotal event in Guinea-Bissau’s fight for independence.

On August 3rd, 1959, Portuguese colonial forces opened fire on striking dockworkers, killing dozens and galvanizing the independence movement. It’s a national holiday in Guinea-Bissau, known as Pidjiguiti Day or Martyrs’ Day.

Natural Attractions

Natural Attractions - Guinea-Bissau (2)
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Parque Nacional das Ilhas de Orango

Parque Nacional das Ilhas de Orango is an archipelago consisting of several islands, each offering a unique blend of pristine beaches, lush vegetation, and rich wildlife.

The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including marine turtles, manatees, and dolphins. Visitors can enjoy guided tours to spot these fascinating creatures in their natural habitats.

Additionally, the islands are an important breeding ground for various bird species, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Parque Natural das Lagoas de Cufada

Parque Natural das Lagoas de Cufada is the largest wetlands reserve in Guinea-Bissau, offering a serene environment for water-based activities.

Kayaking through the calm waters is a popular way to explore the park’s stunning landscapes and observe its abundant wildlife. The park’s tranquil atmosphere makes it an ideal destination for birdwatching.

With over 200 bird species recorded in the area, enthusiasts can spend hours spotting various species, including herons, egrets, and kingfishers, while surrounded by the park’s natural beauty.

IBAP Nature Reserve

The IBAP Nature Reserve features a library that showcases the various plant and animal species found in Guinea-Bissau, providing visitors with an educational experience.

Parque Lagoa N’Batonha

Parque Lagoa N’Batonha is a tranquil park located away from the busy city, offering a serene environment for visitors to unwind and connect with nature.

The park’s calm atmosphere makes it an ideal spot for picnics, leisurely walks, or simply enjoying the beautiful scenery. It’s home to a variety of bird species and plant life and a perfect destination for birdwatching and nature photography.

Here, visitors spend hours exploring the park’s trails, spotting different bird species, and admiring the diverse plant life that thrives in this peaceful haven.

Venturing Beyond Bissau’s Horizon

Venturing Beyond Bissau_s Horizon - Guinea-Bissau
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Bissagos Islands

Overview of the islands and their attractions:

The Bissagos Islands, also known as the Bijagos Archipelago, are a collection of around 88 small islands known for their remote, calm, and peaceful environments, these islands offer beautiful beaches, lush greenery, and diverse wildlife.

Bijagos Carnival

One of the most significant cultural events in the Bissagos Islands is the Bijagos Carnival. Celebrated by different ethnic groups, this four-day extravaganza showcases the rich cultural heritage of the archipelago.

The Bijagos Carnival features traditional masks made of colored paper mache, worn by performers during the festivities. The opening parade showcases warriors wearing crocodile-skin suits and waving arrows, followed by parading floats, dance performances, and traditional music concerts.

Bolama Island

Bolama Island, the closest island to the mainland, boasts a significant colonial presence with historic buildings that reflect its past as the former capital of Portuguese Guinea.

Bolama Island is also an ideal base for exploring the nearby uninhabited islands, which offer pristine beaches and abundant wildlife. there are boat trips to spot various species of birds, marine turtles, and even the rare saltwater hippopotamus.

Bafata

Bafata is an old colonial town located in the heart of Guinea-Bissau. This charming town features preserved colonial structures and offers visitors a glimpse into the country’s history.

Bafata is also known for its markets and narrow streets where locals sell fresh produce, traditional handicrafts, and textiles.

Turtle spotting at Guinea-Bissau’s beaches

Guinea-Bissau is home to several beautiful beaches that serve as important nesting sites for various species of sea turtles.

From October to February, these magnificent creatures laying their eggs on the shores. Popular turtle-spotting locations include Poilao Beach on Bolama Island and the beaches of the Bissagos Islands.

Local Experiences and Gastronomy

Local Experiences and Gastronomy - Guinea-Bissau
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Bandim Market

Bandim Market, located in the heart of Bissau, is a bustling hub of activity where visitors can explore the vibrant local culture. The market offers fresh produce, traditional handicrafts, and textiles.

Culinary Delights

Guinea-Bissau’s cuisine is a delightful fusion of African, Portuguese, and Arab influences. Seafood lovers will be particularly pleased, as the country’s coastal location provides an abundance of fresh fish and shellfish.

Some popular dishes to try include caldo de peixe (fish soup), arroz de coco (coconut rice), and yassa (marinated grilled chicken or fish). Try on local treats like bol de coco (coconut cake) and pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts).

Wrap-Up

From the architectural gems of the Old City of Bissau and the Presidential Palace to the cultural immersion offered by Artissal and the Home Museum of Amilcar Cabral, Bissau offers a lot of experiences.

The city’s natural attractions, such as Parque Nacional das Ilhas de Orango and Parque Natural das Lagoas de Cufada, provide opportunities for wildlife spotting and serene moments in nature. Beyond Bissau, the Bissagos Islands and Bafata offer further exploration of the country’s colonial past and rich cultural heritage.

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