On New Year's Day 1957, Ghana officially became independent after years of rule by the British, Dutch and Portuguese. In the half-century since, Ghana has become known as the Black Star of Africa – a shining example of a stable and secure post-colonial African country. And nowhere is this more evident than in its vibrant capital. Below is Time Out's celebration of the city, and the country, as we bring you the 75 best things to do in Accra and beyond...
Bars and nightlife in Accra and Ghana
Music is the defining element at this fairly new little bar. Album covers and photos of music stars adorn the walls and Ghana’s best music plays out – live too on the terrace. One of the most happening bars in Accra right now.
See more on Republic Bar • Go on an Osu bar crawl
+233 (named after the Ghanaian dialling code) is an intelligently designed club that has live bands six days a week. Inside, there are two floors. The band play on a small stage downstairs, but can also be seen from the U-shaped upstairs. Probably the best place in Accra to see live music at the moment.
This bar is owned by ‘Godfather of Hiplife’ Reggie Rockstone, who has created a kind of hip hop casual environment. There’s a relaxed outside terrace and often live music on Wednesdays. At weekends booming hiplife carrying the crowd through to 6am.
See more on Rockstone's Office • Accra's best terrace bars
The Accra-based arm of the French cultural centre offers a large range of artistic activities every week. It particularly excels in live music events, but there are also regular art displays and talks from international artists. The obvious focus is on French and Ghanaian artists (often working together), which forms an artistic bridge between the two cultures in terms of language, education and artistic programming. There’s always something interesting on; be sure to look at the website before arriving in town.
Champs is back! Expect all major sporting events on eight large screens TV and four project screens and a wide selection of regular events organised entertainment events, a quiz night every Thursday, regular live music, Thursday Quiz Night, Accra DJs such as DJ Black, DJ KillerFingers, DJ Big L and DJ Vision and a Friday karaoke competition.
Live music in Accra and Ghana
The party ethos is strong at this club. It’s a cleverly designed venue with an inside stage that you can see and hear from the outdoor patio. Most importantly is the exceptional roster of live music. Grab a Star beer, hear some of Ghana’s best music and join the party.
See more on the +233 Jazz Bar & Grill • Guide to Ghanaian highlife
Places to eat in Accra and Ghana
Santoku is the best restaurant in Ghana right now. The team from Nobu London helped devise the menu, and the results are excellent. Try Japanese chef Daisuke Yoshizaki’s signature dish of pan fried scallops with foie gras and orange tobiko.
See more on Santoku Restaurant & Bar • More fine dining in Accra
Buka is one of the best lunch spots in the city, with lively music adding to the ambience. The food hinges on Ghanaian and Nigerian specialties – dishes include okra stew and eba (a dough ball eaten with stews).
See more on Buka • More places serving Ghanaian cuisine
The wood burning pizza oven at Nicolino and a super tasty crust make a Nicolino's pizza the best pizza in town. The head chef previously served under two Michelin-starred chef Douglas Santi in Rome. Hungry? try the Nicolino burger – a beef patty enveloped in pizza crust.
See more on Nicolino • Accra's best pizza restaurants
Il Cavaliere Pazzo occupies a prestigious spot. It’s also one of the most impressive buildings in Accra. The menu, meanwhile, is unswervingly Italian, with authentic risottos, gnocchi and ravioli with spinach and ricotta.
See more on Il Cavaliere Pazzo • More international dining in Accra
Incredible space for sure, so what about the food? The tight menu of mains includes sandwiches, burgers and fish and chips. Plus there’s a wide range of salad dishes, rice bowls and that wood-fired pizza. Oh, and don’t forget the home-made ice cream and cakes.
Yard Bird mixes American-style diner food with Ghanaian spice and a funky environment in this new restaurant concept from the same team as Coco Lounge and Santoku. As the great branding attests, the flagship dish is fried chicken with Yard Bird’s own spice shake. The sweet, sticky ribs fall off the bone and are pretty special too.
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Firstly, let’s get the sushi out of the way. It’s good. Really good. The sushi chef knows what he’s doing – that much is clear. However, it’s across the rest of the Asian fusion menu where the creativity begins to shine. The crispy salmon takes the often indistinct texture of ceviche and cleverly added a tempura-style crunch packed with flavor.
Read more about SoHo
Art and exhibitions in Accra and Ghana
'Fantasy' coffin making emerged in Accra in the '50s, and the Kane Kwei Carpentery Workshop, in the city's Teshie suburb, was one of the pioneers of the original style. They, or any of the other workshops dotted around the area, offer an insight into what's become the iconic Ghanaian art-form.
See more on the Kane Kwei coffin workshop
Ablade Glover, one of Ghana’s most respected artists, conceived the Artists Alliance Gallery in the 1960s. It now houses not only contemporary arts, but also collectors’ pieces and ancient strip-woven kente cloths. It sells art directly from the artist.
See more on Artists Alliance Gallery • Interview with Albade Glover
You can find carvings, baskets, drums, bags, beads, fabrics, sandals, sculptures, stools, rugs and occasionally antiques. It’s a place to unearth some incredible finds and gifts. The best bet is to head past the hassle which you’ll inevitably encounter at the entrance and make your way towards the back of the complex, where it’s a bit more relaxed. Haggling is expected. There’s also an art gallery, which sells prints and paintings at reasonable prices.
It’s foremost a workshop, employing artisans for the production of emblematic Adinkra collectables, beautifully finished wooden furniture, ceramics, bespoke textiles and jewellery wrought of silver and bull horn. It’s brimming with handmade art objects, collectibles, homewares, tables, handbags, musical instruments, soaps, Ghanaian children’s books, bangles and other design products.
The National Museum is home to some of Ghana’s most absorbing historical finds. The museum gives an opportunity to travel through the country’s history from both an archaeological and ethnographic perspective. There’s also a gallery with pieces by Ghanaian artists that is getting better all the time.
The second location of the La Maison emporium.Keep an eye out for exhibitions too (sign up to the digital mailing list), especially if Ghanaian artists are involved.
Heritage and history in Accra and Ghana
Although described as an Arts Centre, this is in fact a sprawling market selling all manner of crafts, textiles, musical instruments, antiques and pretty much anything else you can imagine. It’s an intense experience.
See more on the Centre for National Culture
Despite being a little tired around the edges, the content of the National Museum is impressive. It’s a good idea to hit this place first to provide some context to the remarkable, and often brutal, history that has made Ghana the Black Star of Africa today.
See more on the National Museum of Ghana • Ghana's history in pictures
See how national heroes are built at the mausoleum of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president and one of its founding fathers. Across the five acres of land are a museum, statues, manicured gardens and, of course, the mausoleum itself.
See more on Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and Mausoleum
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, the African-American civil rights activist and 'Father of Pan-Africanism' became a citizen of Ghana in the 1960s. The centre, where he and his wife once lived and are now buried, tells his story.
See more on the WEB Du Bois Memorial Centre
Jamestown is undoubtedly one of Accra’s most atmospheric regions, and despite the poverty it is largely safe and very friendly. It is the oldest area in Accra and steeped in both colonial history and local life.
See more on the Jamestown Lighthouse • Area guide to Jamestown and Usher Town
Shopping in Accra and Ghana
Renée Q Boateng has expanded from the back of her car to a new boutique, specialising in bespoke T-shirts. The shop also sells her jewellery accessories – freshwater pearls, crystals, contemporary or traditional beads and custom-made couture pieces.
See more on Renée Q
Makola Market is a colourful open-air department store spread over several blocks. Hot, noisy and insistent, it’s a bewildering sprawl of kitchenware, jewellery, textiles, shoes and anything else your cedi might conceivably buy.
See more on Makola Market • Guide to haggling in Accra
Trashy bags sell just that - products made from recycled plastic bags stitched together. They tend to be extremely colourful, and the range includes everything from shoulder bags and backpacks to rain macs and briefcases. Ingenious.
See more on Trashy Bags
Sport and well-being in Accra and Ghana
Labadi Beach is a high-end resort that retains its colonial cool. It boasts a sizeable, turquoise swimming pool, with a smaller children’s pool and fountain. Sporty types will be more than satisfied with the gym, floodlit tennis courts, volleyball court and table tennis equipment; sauna and massage services are also available.
See more on the Labadi Beach resort
Ghana's boxing heritage is remarkable – in terms of international boxing heroes the country punches well above its weight. To see some boxing head to the district of Bukom (with someone who knows the area) – where there are 20 boxing schools. Also try the Greater Accra Amateur Boxing Association (+233 302 760 892).
See a blow-by-blow fight report
Seeing a football match in Accra is one of the highlights of any visit. Two teams dominate the Ghanaian support: Hearts of Oak from Accra and Asante Kotoko from Kumasi. The games are largely safe and rarely sold out unless Hearts of Oak and Kotoko meet.
See information on Ohene Djan Stadium
The eponymous Lizzy is Marcel Desailly’s mother. In 2011, the famous former pro opened up this world-class sporting complex in his native Accra. If Marcel is in town, he’ll often be around.
Read more about Lizzy's here
Pippa’s is one of the best gyms in Accra, with a wide range of Life Fitness equipment, air-con, satellite TV and a modern music system. For the little ones there’s a tumble-tots class. Taekwondo is an important element, and classes are held by one of Africa’s best Taekwondo fighters.
Read more about Pippa's here
Family activities in Accra and Ghana
The La Palm Kids Theme Park is a pleasant and safe enclosed park right by the main pool, and there’s also a shallow pool well suited to kids. All pool facilities are open to non-residents for GH¢30 for adults and GH¢15 for children, and it’s well worth taking up this opportunity.
Getaways and breaks in Accra and Ghana
Mole National Park, which covers an area of 4,480 square kilometres, is Ghana’s largest wildlife refuge. It is home to a stunning terrain of grassland savannah veined with streams and rivers. Elephants are the unofficial symbol of the park, which also contains lions, leopards, buffalo and 3,000 bird species.
See more on exploring Ghana’s wilderness and wildlife reserves
Elmina must be one of the most colourful places in the world. Most of the town comes out twice a day, to wish its fishermen a safe trip and greet them again as they return. Brightly painted boats, everyone wearing football shirts, the flip-flopping catch being sold on the dockside: it’s an overwhelming site...
See the Elmina spectacle in pictures
This small beach town has become a destination for sun seekers and pleasure seekers. The long-established Big Milly’s has become somewhat of a backpackers classic – a laid back hostel with an open bar. But the beach is the main attraction – the finest near Accra.
See more on Kokrobite • See more on Big Milly's Backyard
Kakum National Park is a hugely popular day trip from Accra. Leave the visitors’ centre and you start walking on a series of vertiginous walkways suspended high in the canopy. It offers a fabulous view of the park, and a bit of an adrenalin rush to boot.
See more on Kakum National Park
Thatched umbrellas stud the shoreline, looking out over the area’s characteristically crashing waves. Rustic to say the least, Bojo is a delightfully simplistic set up of sand, water and seating. Bojo is well-maintained, clean, and the urban hubbub seems eons away.
See more on Bojo Beach
We were rather taken aback by Aqua Safari. It faces out to the estuary of the River Volta, a mile or so upstream from the ocean. From an open-sided restaurant and bar you can see Ghana’s island-dwelling folk crab-fishing and clam-diving in the water. The forward-thinking owners offer guided tours to the islands for boat-building and basket-weaving workshops – there’s also a lot of water to play around in on a jet-ski or one of the pontoons.
Read more about Aqua Safari
The Royal Senchi Resort is a bold undertaking; a largely thatched 84-room complex with facilities for large conferences just west of the town of Akosombo. Its location by the river gives it a wild tropical feel, while being within a 90-minute drive from Accra.
Read more about Royal Senchi here
Cape Coast might be the former capital city, but when held up against Accra, it's the very picture of serenity. The centre is an appealing place in which to watch and wander - particularly down by the crescent-shaped harbour - it also has a sharply sobering history. You'll most likely be aware that Cape Coast Castle was where some of the worst atrocities of the slave trade era were committed.
Read more about Cape Coast here