When most travelers plan a trip to Africa, they dream of gazing at free-roaming lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards, and rhinoceroses—the “Big Five.” And while a safari in Africa can be a trip of a lifetime, it certainly is not the only way to explore this incredibly multifaceted continent.
Radically changing the typical travel narrative and giving visitors a new way to see Africa is Cherae Robinson, founder of Tastemakers Africa. By building experiences that focus on the burgeoning culinary, design, and music scene in the capitals of many African countries, Robinson and her on-the-ground team of curators are shedding new light on the creative class in Africa by hosting travelers at experiential events across the entire continent—from pop-up brunches in Accra, Ghana, to food blogger–led cocktail tastings in Johannesburg, South Africa.
African creatives are waking up to their own power, and there’s a higher appreciation for African-ness,says Robinson. They’re no longer seeking to make it big in Paris or New York; they’re opening galleries and innovative businesses in their own African cities. Robinson also sees that the creative community are no longer looking outward for validation—having an impact in the places they’re from is now more important to them.
No longer is being as Western as possible the goal—the goal is to reach back and learn more about your heritage and how you can fuse that with modern culture, society, and aesthetic, says Robinson.
Travelers are reacting to this shift as well, as many visitors to Africa are proactively seeking to better understand the history behind the places they’re staying and the cities they’re exploring.
We’re seeing people reconsider destinations by experiencing them through a different lens,says Robinson. We want travelers to experience African cities the way they experience their life. When you do this, you stretch yourself. You’re in a space where you’re really challenging notions of society and how we interact.
You’re meeting people who blow you away—that’s a level of transformation that people are looking for in travel.
To inspire your next trip to Africa, read on to discover Robinson’s tips for exploring the local creative scenes in the continent’s leading cities.
As Ghana’s capital and a hub for culinary connoisseurs and nightlife aficionados, Accra—located on the Atlantic coast of West Africa—is fast becoming the creative outpost of the country. During a visit, opt to stay at Olma Colonial Suites or Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City - Accra in Osu.
To experience Osu’s wave of creative chefs reinventing traditional Ghanaian meals, visit Tea Baa, Ghana’s first-ever tea bar and the playground where Dedo Azu concocts her famous herbal tea drinks, served in mason jars with striped lids. While you’re in Osu, dine at Chez Clarisse for a classic Ivorian dish of grilled fish with alloco (plantains) and attiéké (cassava couscous).
For an elegant evening, move inland to Tesano for a dinner at Midunu House or opt to attend one of the establishment’s monthly nomadic dinner events. Here, chef Selassie Atadika utilizes seasonal ingredients and traditional grains and proteins of Ghana to translate Africa’s bounty to the table.
For a night out, Mint is the go-to bar on Friday and Twist is where you’ll find the youthful on Saturdays. Visit the Nubuke Foundation to view art celebrating Ghana’s culture and heritage, and shop at leading stores, including Christie Brown and Osei-Duro.
Located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, Dakar is Senegal’s vibrant epicenter, home to the Dak’Art Biennale of Contemporary African Art gathering, the region's only major international art fair. Opt for a stay at Radisson Blu Hotel, Dakar Sea Plaza on the waterfront or at the French Colonial–inspired Le Djoloff Boutique Hotel.
If palatial glamour is more your style, then book La Villa Racine or La Villa 126. To explore the culinary offerings in Dakar, begin with lunch at Chez Loutcha, a small Senegalese restaurant known for serving heaping portions of local delicacies like thieboudienne, a traditional fish, rice, and vegetable dish. A visit to the picturesque, bustling Soumbedioune Fish Market will have you on the search for food-shack fresh catch, and for a sunset feast, enjoy crepes and grilled seafood skewers at Noflaye Beach.
For drinks, opt for a Wednesday visit to Charly’s for dancing, and visit the renovated lighthouse of Phare Des Mamelles for a weekly sunset cocktail hour and a live, rotating set from Senegal’s best DJs. To bring home a slice of Senegalese fashion, visit Bantu Wax for surf styles, Layu for jewelry and accessories, and Sophie Zinga for couture made with Senegalese cloth and semi-precious stones.
In South Africa, galleries, museums, and a youthful emergence of contemporary artists fuel Johannesburg as the leading creative capital in Africa. Although Sabi Sands and Kruger National Park are near, the real cultural hum of life is evident in the city: Visit Goodman Gallery to view sociopolitical works from African artists and Gallery Momo for contemporary art from locals like South African sculptor and photographer Mary Sibande.
Stay at the luxurious Saxon Hotel or Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Johannesburg, or go for boutique, eco-chic charm at The Peech, originally a private residence built in the 1950s.
For shopping, visit DOPEstore for South African streetwear staples, browse Work Shop New Town for fashion and lifestyle goods from more than 100 local designers, and a trip to 27 Boxes will prove to be the perfect locale to merge the best of Johannesburg’s fashion, art, and culinary scene.
For dining, visit The Potato Shed for wood-fired oven fare and live music, Bolton Road Collection for freshly baked goods and inventive cocktails, and Marble for slow-cooked food over an open fire and amazing rooftop views.
Complete your stay with a night out at locales like Lenin’s Vodka Bar, the rooftop at Living Room in Maboneng, the wine-centric Ace + Pearl, and AGOG, home to an art gallery, whiskey lounge, and wine and tapas bar.
More known for its exclusive, gorilla-trekking experiences, Rwanda is also home to the lively capital city of Kigali, nestled within a landscape of picturesque hilltops. During a visit, stay at the centrally located Urban by CityBlue or Heaven Boutique Hotel, perfect bases to explore the works of fashion designers like Linda Mukangoga of label Haute Baso: By collaborating with local artisans and empowering young women to preserve traditional craftsmanship, Mukangoga is breathing new life into cultural designs like imigongo, a spiral of geometric shapes in shades of black, white, and red.
Utilizing Kigali’s new SafeMotos app to get around—a local motorcycle company operating similarly to Uber—venture into the city to watch a performance by local Afrobeat artist Mani Martin and traditional dance troop Inganzo Ngari. Spend an afternoon at Inema Arts Center to see works by a collective of Rwandan creative artists.
The gallery’s artists-in-residence program allows up to 10 artists at a time to explore their creative talent, specializing in contemporary African arts, crafts, music, and dance. Enjoy sweets, coffee, and juice on the rooftop at Shokola Storyteller’s Cafe, taste authentic Rwandan cuisine at local hot spot Repub Lounge, and try the city’s Italian scene at Brachetto’s restaurant and tapas bar.
For a final exploration of local life in Kigali, take a road trip out of the city to Gisenyi, a local retreat set on Rwanda’s Lake Kivu.
As the largest city in Africa and home to a booming technology scene, Lagos is a city brimming with creative opportunity. To explore the city, begin by booking a stay at The George or Bogobiri House in Ikoyi.
Begin your art crawl at Omenka Gallery, browse paintings and sculptures at concept store Temple Muse, and visit Rele Gallery to view a globally renowned collection of works by artists like Àsìkò, a photographer raised in both London and Nigeria.
Browse contemporary fashion at Alara, sip cold brews with fellow creatives at Stranger, and hit the streets for Lekki Market, a buzzing maze of street stalls where you can find bargains on traditional Nigerian goods. Dine at Craft Gourmet by Lou Baker for a hearty brunch of chicken and waffles, and drop in Otres Restaurant for traditional soups and a Chapman, a local Nigerian drink of Fanta, Sprite, and grenadine syrup.
Visit the cosmopolitan RSVP for braised lamb and wine, ending with a night of live music with Afropolitan Vibes. Round out your stay in Lagos with a visit to Terra Kulture, a lounge, theater, art gallery, and craft shop all under one roof.