Fun things to do in Addis Ababa

  • A typical view of a market street
    A typical view of a market street
    by GrumpyDiver
  • Fron of the museum
    Fron of the museum
    by GrumpyDiver
  • Painting by Afewerk Tekle
    Painting by Afewerk Tekle
    by GrumpyDiver

Most Viewed Things to Do in Addis Ababa

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    Traffic in Addis

    by egonwegh Updated Mar 21, 2014

    By chance, we happened to be able to make a series of photos where hardly any traffic can be seen. We were told that traffic jams are rather frequent in Addis, but that sooner or later you get used to them.

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    A Refreshing Start with Ethiopia

    by zakchahal Written Dec 23, 2013

    A place that is home to some of the most exquisite collection of tourist attractions, Ethiopia is a place unlike any other. This is a place where culture and natural experiences go hand in hand and gives you exactly what you need; a break from the monotonous nights and long hours spent at the office. For me, Ethiopia was a land of unveiled mysteries and magical landscapes and natural wonders that surprised me every step of the way. There is so much to see and do here that make sure that you have enough time on your hand to discover each and every secret that Ethiopia has to offer. If you are a travel enthusiast like myself then Ethiopia is the best place for you as it is rich in cultural, natural and historical monuments and attractions that will take you to a whole new world.
    My journey was mind blowing from the moment I stepped out of the aero plane till the moment I had to bid farewell to this adventurous and wonderful land. What made my trip even more memorable was the fact that I came across great discount flights to Ethiopia and I knew at that moment that I simply had to go there and take my loved ones along. Your trip to Ethiopia will not be complete without visiting some of the most loved attractions and some of which I simply adored. This is your chance to go trekking, bird watching and all these other exciting adventurous activities that you would simply fall in love with.
    Nature and all its Bounties
    People who have visited this place once are waiting for opportunities just to get a glimpse of it again. Not only is this one of the most naturally beautiful places but the weather is exceptional! The extraordinary beauty of Ethiopia lies within the diverse landscapes and the flora and fauna that puts the cherry on top! Starting from the rugged Simien Mountains and the Bale Mountains which are some of the main natural attractions for trekking and bird watching spots, get ready for your adventurous journey and I can assure you that this is one that you will never forget.In addition to this the rock hewn churches of Lalibela is a must see place if you are in Ethiopia.
    Historical Attractions
    Ethiopia is a land that is waiting to be discovered by you as it known to be the oldest independent nation in Africa. This is your chance to explore and get up close and personal with the mesmerizing heritage of Ethiopia which dates back to the first century AD. Uncover the history from the time when the traders from places such as Greece, Rome, Persia and Egypt knew of the riches of Ethiopia. Visit Ethiopia and its history will be evident from the way the locals live and how it has been preserved. Visit the numerous museums such as the famous Ethnological Museum which is simply enthralling even if you are not a museum fan you will love it!

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  • Addis Guide recommendation

    by j_traveler Updated Apr 21, 2013

    I typically use trip advisor as my go to reference for travel, which I do a lot. However, last month I had a trip planned to Addis Ababa for a 2 week meeting and hit google. Up popped VT - what a find! I had one day off during the 2 weeks for sight seeing and am an avid photographer, especially unique people and places, which can be a bit challenging at times, especially if you don't have someone to help. In the photog world, we call this a "fixer". Based upon DAO and Jan's recommendations here, I reached out to Solomon Mensa. He is from southern Ethiopia and has lived in Addis more than 5 years. He knows the streets, communities and nuances well. He is independent, not affiliated with a large tour company, many of which there are around Addis. I was a little reluctant, but not after initially meeting him. Solomon is gracious and strives to meet your tour needs. For example, during the day we were able to meet and talk with some really very unique individuals. We toured most of the major sites during the day, ate at a local butchery, attended a large outdoor religious ceremony that I will never forget - he translated the service for me. After spending 2 weeks in Addis and being asked repeatedly for money or offered services I didn't want/need - the day with Solomon was a welcome relief. None of those things happened in his presence and you can feel safe in some sketchy areas if you are under his guidance.

    Email is the best way to contact him, he got back to me with a day:
    imsolomonmensa@hotmail.com

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    Ethnological museum

    by hannette Updated Feb 2, 2013

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    The ethnological museum is definitely worth a bit of your time in Addis Ababa!
    According to the Lonely Planet - and as far as my experience goes, I agree - it is maybe the finest museum in Africa, even if you are usually not a museum fan.

    You should not be discouraged by the price, because it is only 50 birr for adults and 30 birr for students.

    The location, in the gardens of the main campus of Addis Ababa University, as well as the content of the museum is worth a visit.
    Some historical objects of Haile Selassie's time, his authentic bed and bath room and an extensive collection of instruments, old orthodox crosses and paintings can be found. Most beautiful to me however was the main collection: organized as a voyage from birth to death and after death you are taken through different customs of the several tribes and peoples of Ethiopia.
    Very educative and beautifully exposed.

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    HIRE THE BEST GUIDE

    by DAO Updated Jan 31, 2013

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    This is my good friend and one time guide: Solomon Kasaye. Solomon was the first person I ever met in Ethiopia and we still keep in touch. He is a close friend and a very excellent guide. Would you like to see the real Ethiopia? Solomon is the man. He can show you how shared taxis work, take you to a chat house, any museum and also guide you throughout the beautiful rural south of Ethiopia. He really opened my eyes to what many tourists who never leave the hotel will not see. He also provides escort service to the Merkato and knows where and how the pickpockets operate. Please drop him an email if you would like to use his invaluable help. You can also email me if you need any help.

    Addis Ababa is the starting point for seeing the 'Historical Places'. I recommend you organise it with Solomon before you come, or just Addis is you are only here for a day or 2. It will ensure you get a lot more out of Ethiopia.

    You can email him on:
    imsolomonmensa@hotmail.com
    - or -
    gamoman2009@yahoo.com

    All the best,

    DAO

    ** Please note: Solomon has acted as a guide for 2 other VT Members since I met him and they found him to be an excellent guide who also kept the costs down. **

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    Go on adventure in Addis

    by JanH56 Written Dec 17, 2012

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    I have visited Addis Abbaba now for 4 different times. I'm a photographer and a writer and must try to find places off the beaten path. On my own it is really difficult to find those places, but that is why it was so fantastic that I found my friend, guide and wonderfull assistent Solomon.

    Either you wanna see shelters for homeless people, do a funny photoshoot in one of the many bizarre photo studio's Addis Abbaba has to offer, or you want to go to a Holy Water meeting (that's a ritual in a church where people with beginning mental problems come to be washed with holy water), or also if you wanna do more normal things like going to the market without being robbed then Solomon is your man. He knows the street and the city really good, and so is his english.

    You can mail him with at this email: imsolomonmensa@hotmail.com

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    THE DERG MONUMENT - PART 1

    by DAO Updated Jun 24, 2012

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    This huge obelisk dominates Churchill Avenue and is just over the road from the main Post Office. It is a grotesque tribute to the rise of the Communist Derg (translates as ‘committee’) which was a military junta that seized power in 1974. Their first months were marked by the imprisonment, torture and murder of tens of thousands of innocent Ethiopians. Led by Major Mengistu Haile Mariam, they ruled with bloodthirsty ruthlessness until 1991. This is actually a complex that you pay an entry fee to get into the grounds. The main obelisk is decorated with typical Communist gothic ‘heroic’ figures brandishing guns and ploughshares. It is an absolutely grotesque romantic depiction of the enslavement of a nation. It is a must see to understand the bloodshed of over a decade and even bizarre depictions of the famine deliberately caused by the Derg themselves.

    Open 7 days a week. The ticket seller finds you. There is no ticket office. Just walk up to the gate. They will give you a receipt.

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    THE MUSSOLINI STEPS

    by DAO Updated Jun 23, 2012

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    What in the world? If you go for a visit to the fantastic Ethiopian Ethnological Museum you will see these weird stairs leading to ….nowhere! It gets stranger from there. On top of the stairs is a Lion! In fact it is the Lion of Judea – the symbol of the Ethiopian Royal family. Here is the story. The Italians invaded and occupied Ethiopia form 1936-1941. The Ethnological Museum, on the grounds of Addis Ababa University, used to be Emperor Haile Selassie’s Palace and residence. The Italians decided to build the stairs just out front with each step representing a year in the reign of Benito Mussolini and the fascists since 1922. A kind of poke in the eye to Ethiopian people. Well, the Allies threw the Italians out and the Emperor returned. Rather than be spiteful, Haile Selassie had his personal symbol put on top to show who came out on top!

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    Take a tour

    by iaint Written Jan 29, 2012

    I used a tour company for excursions. A half day one for the city and a full day one to Bishoftu.

    The cost was $76 for the half day and $148 for the full. I could have saved myself a lot by just getting my own guide and a blue taxi (at least for the city tour), but it seemed too much like hard work - and I was on holiday after all.

    The half day trip took 3 hours. My own driver/guide in a big Toyota Landcruiser. He was fine - knowledgable and good English. He dealt with things like paying admission and the “in house” guide at Kiddest Selassie - all included in the price.

    The full day trip took 5 hours.

    The company is NTO - it has an office at the Hilton (where I was staying), so convenient.

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    Entoto Hills

    by iaint Written Jan 9, 2012

    These lie just north of the city, and are mostly covered by eucalyptus trees. Yes, an Australian import.

    The city gets a lot of its firewood from this source - fast growing so more sustainable than native species. It has its controversies, however - the effect of wildlife, for example.

    The Entoto National Park has been created in this area. I didn’t try to venture in, so can’t comment further.

    I do know you get wonderful views of the city from up there. I also know you have to beware of the altitude - over 8,000 ft - when exerting yourself.

    You may be shocked (I was) by the sight of women carrying huge bales of wood down the road to the city.

    You’ll also find Entoto Maryam up there - see separate tip.

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    Emperor Menelik II’s palace

    by iaint Written Jan 9, 2012

    This lies directly behind the Entoto Maryam church, and is not obvious unless you know it’s there. My guide did. My guide book didn’t.

    It comprises 3 buildings - the main one, a sleeping one and one for guests. They’re all modest and tiny by palace standards. Simple wooden roofs & floors - mud & straw walls. They do offer a fascinating insight into lifestyle at the time.

    Watch out for the local sheep, and their dung. Also watch out for the huge and noisy local “crows”.

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    Entoto Maryam

    by iaint Written Jan 9, 2012

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    This is a relic of the Emperor Menelik II era in the late 19th century, when the country’s capital was in the Entoto Hills (before moving to Addis Ababa in 1887).

    It is the church where Menelik was crowned in 1882. The interior is only accessible at the time of services - 9am each day.

    It is octagonal, and traditionally painted. In it’s grounds you can see the orginal church built on the site, the belltower and the “throne” where Emperor Haile Selassie sat during his annual festival for the locals.

    Also in the grounds you will find Menelik’s original “palace” - perhaps grand by local standards of the time, but seemingly very modest to my eyes. You have to know it’s there (my guide did) in behind the church (I'll do a separate tip).

    Lastly, don’t miss the Entoto Saint Mary, Emperor Menelik & Empress Taitu Memorial Museum - also in the church grounds, but at the front. A tiny affair with lots of interesting items - including a gold medal from the Sydney Olympics won by one of Ethiopia’s athletes.

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    National Museum of Ethiopia

    by iaint Written Jan 9, 2012

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    This is a rather unpretentious building, but is home to “Lucy”. That is the 3.5m year old skeleton of the oldest known “humanoid”. It’s discovery in 1974 turned human anthropology on its head, proving that we were up on our hind legs about 2.5m years earlier than previously believed.

    The Ethiopians call her Dinknesh (which means “wonderful”), and I prefer that. The English name seems totally incongruous.

    For some reason I chose not to photograph her. Invasion of privacy?

    It was a timely reminder that this is where it all started for homo sapiens - Ethiopia I mean, not the museum.

    The other exhibits are also interesting and informative - labelled in English as well as Amharic.

    The museum is crying out for someone to invest some time and money in upgrading and modernisation, but that’s part of its charm - no pandering to tourism.

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    Kiddist Selassie

    by iaint Written Jan 9, 2012

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    This church is also known as the Holy Trinity Cathedral. It’s not big - at least by European standards - although my guide book describes it as “very large”. Hmm...

    It’s cornerstone was laid in 1933, so it’s not old either.

    It is worth seeing, however. Emperor Haile Selassie laid the cornerstone, and his remains are now entombed there. They were elsewhere after his execution, and were moved in 2000. In addition, the “thrones” from which he and his wife worshipped in the church are still there - now unused.

    For me it was also an informative introduction to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, of which (not surprisingly) I knew nothing before. I had a guide from the church, organised and paid for by the company which I bought an afternoon excursion from.

    Like a lot of what I saw that afternoon, it’s all quite informal. It was quite possible to go up and stand beside or touch Selassie’s tomb.

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    Unique Souvenirs

    by Ferengewa Updated Sep 6, 2011

    I found this great NGO working with families living with HIV. They have a workshop where the women make jewelry out of roasted coffee beans as well from local traditional beads. Its the nicest souvenirs I've found in Ethiopia and the money supports a great cause. Their place is a little hard to find but worth it if you want to see how they do their art and learn about the other programs they have. It is just up the hill from the Sidist Kilo University (where the Anthropology Museum is). Turn right at the Ethiopian Cultural Center, before you reach the American Embassy, and follow the signs for Cure Hospital. The road kind of forks but you stay on the right side. Its called Beza Entoto Outreach. Their gate is black and white, on the right side, and their sign is small. It is across from a brightly colored elementary school called Vikas Academy. Its a very interesting place to visit if you want to see something out of the usual tourist circuit.

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