Bissau is the capital of Guinea-Bissau. The city lacks the chaotic hustle and bustle of other capitals, offering a refreshing atmosphere that helps visitors relax and recharge. The pace of life is slow, and you will find more locals spending the evenings chatting on their porches than in any nightclubs or bars. There are also few traditional tourist sights in the city, but Bissau is constantly growing and evolving.
Best Time to Visit
The year is divided into two seasons: the dry season from December to May, where the harmattan blows, and the rainy season between June and November when the wind comes from the southwest. It is more pleasant to visit Guinea-Bissau during the dry season.
Top Places to Visit in Guinea-Bissau
1. Bissau Velho
The country was a Portuguese colony before achieving independence in 1974 after a decade-long war. The colonial influence can still be seen in Bissau Velho, the old center of the city. Today, the dusty streets are usually empty, but a walk through the district provides visitors with an interesting glimpse into Bissau’s history and heritage. Most of the candy-colored buildings are in disrepair, but it is easy to imagine them filled with life during the colonial period.
2. Fortaleza d’Amura
The fortress that today guards the colorful neighborhood dotted with Mediterranean-style buildings. The Guinean military still uses the fort, and it is supposed to be off-limits to visitors, but making friends with the guards can often sneak you a peek inside the imposing stone walls.
3. Porto Pidjiguiti
The bust port where fisherman still bring in the daily catch and pelicans soar over the sandy coast. The port also has great historical significance. It was there that police killed striking dockworkers in 1959, igniting the resistance movement against the Portuguese. A monument designed like a huge black fist stands at the port to commemorate the massacre.
4. Mercado de Bandim
The city’s main market, the Mercado de Bandim, is also worth a visit. Thatched-roof huts hold all kinds of treasures, including wood carvings, hand woven textiles and cashew nuts. The busy atmosphere is a great place to immerse yourself in the local culture and score great deals on souvenirs.
5. National Ethnographic Museum
Many of the country’s handicrafts are also on display at the National Ethnographic Museum. The small collection of wooden masks, baskets and statues can only be seen in the mornings, but it is worth getting up early, and the friendly staff is quite good at explaining the traditional spiritual beliefs connected with each piece.
The city has a surprisingly high concentration of good restaurants serving up everything from traditional meals to Belgian waffles and pizza. You can usually find a delicious meal at very nominal price, and many restaurants have courtyards or terraces for alfresco dining. The nightclub and bar scene is still developing, but there are a few places where you can dance the night away or shoot pool with locals. For a more cultured evening, visit the French or Portuguese cultural centers. The centers often put on free concerts, movies and lectures in the evenings.