I went to Niamey earlier this year.
I visited the capital of Niger (not Nigeria) in March to work for a non-governmental organization specializing in peace-building and conflict resolution. Since it is absent from most lists of places to visit in Africa and there were very few interesting posts on or from Niamey on social media when I went there, I was not sure what to expect when I arrived at Diori Hamani International Airport. Still, I looked forward to visiting the capital city of the vast yet sparsely populated country (because 3/4 of it are a desert) north of my homeland.
Ultimately, my four weeks in Niamey were interesting. In this post I share five things I recommend doing there.
Five things to do in Niamey
Have drinks and/or relax at the bar behind the Piscine Olympique
On my second day in Niamey, a Saturday, one of my coworkers invited me to have drinks at the bar/restaurant behind the Piscine Olympique. It is a lovely outdoor space with lots of trees, a nice view and a couple of spots to hide under Niamey’s scorching sun. There was loud music to entertain the many swimmers at the pool when we went there but I suspect it’s much quieter and less crowded during the work-week.
Eat at Amandine, La Cabane, Grand Hotel and/or Le Pillier
Amandine and La Cabane were my go-to places for shawarmas, pastries, burgers and fries to eat lunch or dinner during the week. I also went to the Italian restaurant Le Pillier with my boss. The food was pretty good and, considering other options, the setting is suitable for a business meeting as well as a date. Sadly, although I briefly stopped by the Grand Hotel on my second to last day in town, I did not have its famous brochettes de viande (meat skewers). Should I return to Niamey at some point, it will be a priority to try one – or several – of those.
Watch the sun set at La Plage
Plage is the French word for “beach.” As Niger is a landlocked country, there are no beaches in the country. But Nigeriens (not to confuse with Nigerians) make the most of their situation and call the banks of the Niger river a beach. In Niamey, La Plage is a popular hangout spot for Niamey’s youth that I would recommend checking out – with a Nigerien friend – to watch the sunset or meet other young people on weekends.
Visit the National Museum
I would recommend visiting Niamey’s Museum, one of the few cultural places in the city, to learn about Niger’s history and different ethnic groups as well as check out the zoo and arts and crafts market. PS: The colorful and well-designed facade and doors of most buildings make for great photo ops.
Tour the Grand Mosque and watch people play soccer/ football on its grounds
A gift from Libya that includes Moroccan designs, Niamey’s Grand Mosque is one of the few mosques I have entered as a non-Muslim woman. The security guard gladly gave me a private tour in exchange for a couple of CFA Francs. Outside, I met and briefly spoke to a group of young bikers as we watched others – including a few highly skilled children – play soccer.
Have you been to a city or country that is not a popular destination for vacations or holidays? What did you do? What do you recommend doing there?