The Guide: Dakar

Penny de los Santos

Where to Stay

Hotel Al Afifa 46 rue Jules Ferry (221/33/889-9090) Rates: $90-$220 Double. With its lush garden patio, this hotel feels like a colonial throwback. Its location—on a quiet side street within easy walking distance of several of Dakar's best outdoor markets—is tough to beat.

Radisson Blu Route de la Corniche Ouest (221/33/869-3310) Rates: $250-$280 Double. Set right in Dakar's Fann Corniche neighborhood on a lively oceanfront esplanade, this sparkling new high-rise boasts a huge outdoor swimming pool and beautiful ocean views.

Where to eat

Keur N'Deye 68 rue Vincens (221/33/821-4973) This simple, cozy oasis in the heart of downtown Dakar is widely known for serving some of the best Senegalese cuisine available outside of home kitchens. The yassa poulet—grilled chicken with a tangy onion-and-pepper sauce—is excellent.

Le Djembe 56 rue St. Michel (221/33/821-0666) A very pleasant hole-in-the-wall located right behind the Place de l'Independence—Dakar's central square—this place is famous for its thieboudienne, the rice-and-tomato-based fish dish that is the Senegalese national dish.

Chez Loutcha 101 rue Mousse Diop (221/33/821-0302) This rollicking eatery, popular with the downtown lunchtime crowd, specializes in both Senegalese and Cape Verdian dishes, served in gargantuan portions. Try the mafe ginaar, rice and chicken in a thick peanut sauce.

Patisserie Les Ambassades, 4 boulevard de l'Est, Point E (221/33/825-5587) Dakar is teeming with Parisian-style cafes, and Les Ambassades, filled at all hours with employees of nearby embassies, is arguably the best. It would be hard to find a better pain au chocolat in all of west Africa.

What to Do

Marche Sandaga Avenue Pompidou Dakar's largest outdoor market is chock-full of classic Senegalese street foods, including fluffy beignets; pastels, tiny empanada-like parcels filled with fish; and accara, black-eyed-pea fritters, served with kaani, a fiery chile-and-tomato sauce.

Soumbedioune Route de la Corniche Ouest At this evening fish market right on the beach, you can buy fresh grouper, swordfish, barracuda, prawns, and sea urchins fresh off the boats. Several makeshift food stalls called tanganas sell grilled fish, omelets, and pasta. Wash everything down with a cafe touba, a heavily sugared, thick, bracing coffee.