The National Museum is well worth a visit. It is on two floors, and all in the information is in English. There is a small charge for entry, and although photography is not allowed, I was told to take pictures surreptitiously if I wanted to. There were no other visitors when we were there, and although there is a shop on the site, which appears to sell all sorts of nice artifacts, there was no-one there to man it during our visit. That was a Saturday morning.
The exhibits include thrones, fishing implements, stools, wood carvings, masks, displays on dances, the slave trade, currency, pottery, youth of today and their future within the society, leather work, war, puberty rites, prehistory and contemporary art. Some of the paintings are for sale.
Allow a couple of hours for your visit in order to do the museum justice. Visiting hours are 09:00-18:00 every day except Monday. There is a small admission charge.
Ghana National Culture Centre is nothing more than an enormous craft market. It is, however, from a traveller’s point of view, a great place to pick up that last minute souvenir.
The sales people will approach you to try and entice you to buy from their stall, but personally I didn’t find them uncomfortably pushy. I knew exactly what I wanted, and went from stall to stall to find the right item.
I have a very good friend, a young girl whose father is from West Africa. She herself has never been, and is very unlikely to ever have the means to go, so I wanted to bring her back something typical from the region. I wanted a painting that represented the young girls of this region, something typical but not so ethnic that it didn’t fit in to a modern British home.
Eventually I found just the thing I was looking for, and managed to negotiate the price down to level that she stallholder was happy with and that was within my budget. We were both happy, and so was Simone when I gave her the gift upon my return to the UK. She showed it to her African aunt who confirmed it was indeed very typical of the region where her father was born.
Kaneshie market is the second largest market of the Accra region. It is located in a big yellow 5 storeys building full of small shops for the market.
The people and shops are now so numerous that the places around are also invaded by merchants.
The area is also a big bus station for small busses and tro-tros.
Just climb the pathway on top of the main road and you will see those thousands of people going and sellin everywhere around you, these hundreds of tro-tros trying to park, embark and disembark people in the middle of the traffic.
One of the most chaotic, colourful and exciting markets I've ever seen in my life is Makola Market in central Accra. This big area close to the Tema Tro-tro station and the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial, is the biggest "supermarket" of the city.
Entering Makola Market is like being a being a movie star among its biggest fans: from all directions you are attacked by salesmen who want to shake hand, want to know your name and where you come from. Here the enthusiasm of the people is sincere: they are too excited to think about selling their ware.
At Makola Market you can buy anything you can think of. Not only food like big piles of rice, colourful selections of fruits and vegetables, and smelly meat like pigheads and cowfeet. There also are completely other things that you can get here. You can buy things like televisions and fridges on the market, all types and sizes of pans and of course all types of clothes and fabrics.
The market is like a huge maze: you know where you get in, but you don't know where you will get out. It is not that big that you can get lost though. Inside the market you hardly have to be afraid for pickpockets: Ghanaian people normally are very honest.
Soccer, need I explain.Unfortunately I follow the English premiership more than I do the Ghanaian one.I am a hearts fan though,NO DOUBT!Anyway, check out the sports stadia for a game or two,and then hit the beaches HIT THE BEACHES!!!And then you should absolutely check out the open air night markets.They are the best.RThere is spicy African food, freshly prepared on the spot sometimes on charcoal grills right there in front of you .It makes for a romantic date (just dont forget the mosquito repellent.)teeheee.
Accra is a lifely city, but easygoing at the same time. I stayed in Accra several times. The more I came back anf strolled around, the more I liked the city. Since my first three visits in the 80s a lot has changed. There are many more hotels, restaurants and shops and a lot of more traffic. You can find internet at several places in town. What a difference compared with my first visit. In 1980 I had to wait one week for an international call at the head postoffice.
What to see while walking around downtown:
* The big lifely Makola market and the shops around.
* The arts centre with a big craft market.
What to visit going a little away from the citycentre:
* Labadi beach,east of the centre.
* Legon University with a nice campus, bookstore and libraries, 5 KM north of Kotoka airport.
* Aburi gardens, 30 KM north from the city.
South of the 28th February Road is the Nkrumah Memorial in the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, This park is monumentally designed with fountains and green lawns.
The park and memorial are first established in the nineties in honour of Kwame Nkrumah, the founder of independent Ghana. In the park is his resting place. So when I came back to Accra in 2003 it was new for me.
You have to pay a small entrance fee and extra for the use of a camera.
Ussher Fort, at the eastern end of James Town, is one of three European forts that were built in Accra. Officially all three are closed to public, but Ussher Fort is the only one where you can get a -illegal- tour for a small fee.
Ussher Fort was built as Fort Crêvecoeur by the Dutch in 1649, and started its existence as a trade fort. In the 18th century, it started to play an important role in the slave trade. Where the fort in Elmina was the Dutch Headquarters in the whole of West Africa, the one in Accra was the base for the eastern part of the region. The Dutch here took most of their slaves from the Ashanti region around Kumasi.
In 1782, during a Dutch-British war, the British took over the fort and destroyed it with the canons they took out of the fort, that were brought to the nearby James Fort. In 1786 however, the remains were returned to the Dutch who rebuilt it stronger then ever before. In this period the Dutch remained strong bonds with the local people of so called "Dutch Town", now called Ussher Town. A lot of people still have Dutch familynames and there even is a streetname Van Hien Street, named after a Dutch official Carel Hendrik Van Hien.
In 1862 Fort Crêvecoeur was heavily damaged by an earthquake, and partly reconstructed in the next years. In 1868 it was handed over to the British, because of the end of the slavetrade. They gave it its current name Ussher Fort. Soon they turned the Fort into a prison and they enlargened it to its current size.
After the independency the Fort stayed a prison, until it was closed in 1993. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and slowly they are restoring the building. During this work it is possible to ask some of the workers to show you around and tell about its history. You should bargain about the price. I paid 20.000 cedis for my 30 minutes tour: about $ 2,-. During this tour you can have a look in the old slave cells as well as the prison cells where Dr. Nkrumah also was kept for some years, and walk around at the inner square.
Another former slave fort in Accra is James Fort in James Town; the oldest part of the city with nice old houses. This fort however, is still used as a prison and it is not possible to visit it. Just like a lot of other things in Accra, it is even forbidden to take pictures of the building. Again, I didn't really care...
When the British captured Gold Coast in 1665, they first built their base in Cape Coast. Cape Coast Castle was their centre of administration for a long time. When they moved further to the east, they built James Fort in 1673. First it was used as a trade centre for the region, and later it was turned into a slave fort, just like the nearby Ussher Fort.
When the base of British was moved to Accra in the 19th century, James Fort became the first centre of administration and it was no longer used to deport slaves. Later the fort was turned into a prison, and today it still has that function.
The Independence Arch with the black star in top, direct north of the Independence Square - also called Black Star Square - is an important landmark in the south part of the citycentre.
The Arch is a replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It has an eternal flame, lit by Nkrumah himself. The Independence Square is a big parade ground at the seaside with space for 30.000 people. There is also a huge stadium. All this is built by Nkrumah in the sixties.
When I visited Accra in December 2003, I was surprised by the traffic at this square, so much more than the first times I visited Accra. At the parade and stadion grounds was a large meeting of the Presbyterian Church. This wasn't difficult to find out because most women were wearing African dresses, showing the purpose of the meeting that day.
The most popular beach in Accra definitely is "La Beach". It is a nice sandy beach at a few kilometres east from the centre. It officially belongs to the Labadi Beach Resort, but it is also possible to enter it for a day visit.
At the beach it is not wise to swim in the ocean, because the currents are very strong in this part of the sea, but it is possible to refresh yourself in the shallow part. There are -not so clean- showers and dressing rooms that you can use, there is a lifeguard and there are nice chairs that you can use for free.
The restaurant on the beach can serve fresh fruit juices and great meals. I had a lobster with fried rice and I really enjoyed it.
One very annoying thing about La Beach however are the young salesmen that hang out there all day long and attack every white person they spot. Stories like "you are my friend", "I can show you the nice places of Ghana" and all that crap can be very annoying after the 10th attempt. At the end of every conversation they offer you all kinds of souvenirs and even drugs. So better don't start a conversation with them.
At 100 metres west from James Fort you will see the nice Lighthouse of James Town. The original lighthouse called "Jamesfort Light" was built by the British in 1871, to clearify the position is the main harbour of the city.
In 1930 the old lighthouse was replaced by the current one. This "Accra Light" is about 35 metres high and is visible from 16 nautical miles at sea.
Officially it is not possible to enter the lighthouse, but because "officially not possible" never means "impossible" in Ghana, you can get in if you give the lighthouse keeper a small fee. And again, it is forbidden to take pictures of the Lighthouse and its surrounding, because of the nearby James Fort.
Right in the middle of the city centre of the city, close to James Town, you will find the old Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. It is a very strange sight to see such a typically British structure in the middle of this typically African city. Its style of construction and the materials that were used don't have anything to do with the African styles, which make the building a strange one in this tropical environment.
In 1876 the Seat of the Government of the Gold Coast was moved from Cape Coast to Accra. At first the Anglican base stayed in Cape Coast, because of the many activities of the church in that area. In 1887 a few Gold Coasters decided that a new Anglican church had to be built in Accra too.
At the 9th of August 1893, the commander-in-chief of the Gold Coast Colony, Sir William Brandfort was the one to lay the cornerstone of the church and the building was completed in the following year. In 1949 it received the title Cathedral.
Today it is part of a Anglican school complex in central Accra, but it is no problem to visit the church for free. And for a change: taking pictures here IS allowed.
During the colonisation of Ghana by the British, there once was a big manifestation to demonstrate against the oppressors. During this action, three men were shot by the police. The place where thing manifestation was held, now is called Independence Square: a symbol for Ghanaian and African nationalism.
Because this area was the place where the first rebellion started against the British, it also became the place where the liberation of the country years later should be celebrated.
Today the huge square is THE place for celebrations in the country. It has a seating capacity of 50.000, and it has some important monuments in its surroundings. At the sea-side you will see the Independence Monument: a huge concrete arch that is the centre of the square.
At the other side of the square you will see a black marble monument that is the monument for the Unknown Soldier.
During my visit to the square I was nearly attacked by some soldiers who told me photographing was stricktly prohibited. I played a little bit with my camera and told them I deleted the pictures from the camera. Later, when passing the square by taxi I took some other ones. But better watch out when you visit the square yourself: they might be a little bit smarter next time.
Directly north from the Independence Square you will see another important landmark of Ghanaian Independency: the Independence Arch.
This is Ghana's version of the Arc de Triomphe. The arch has "Freedom and Justice, AD 1957" written on top of the arch, being an example for other African nations in those days.
Right underneath the arch you can find the "Eternal Flame of African Liberation" to memorise the importance of freedom in the continent. It was originally lit by the first president of the country: Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
With the Arch it is the same as the Independence Square: it is forbidden to take picture of it. Why? I don't have any idea...