Sights and museums in Accra Central
With modernist and Soviet- influenced lines, the stands around Independence Square can seat 30,000 people. The vast area, built under Kwame Nkrumah, is designed for huge events and military marches, but it is usually empty except for a few soldiers sheltering from the sun. The only times the square comes alive are at commercial events such as concerts and fashion shows, which take place throughout the year. Even if there’s not much happening it’s worth wandering around just to marvel at the sheer audacity of it all.The Independence Arch, at the centre of the busy roundabout, is also known as Black Star Square, thanks to the motif that dominates the arch. The sculpture is a nod to Ghana’s acclaim as the ‘Black Star of Africa’: it was an inspiration to other African countries vying for independence and the Flame of African Liberation, lit by Nkrumah, still burns strongly nearby. Please note that there are (seemingly unwritten) laws about taking photographs and we strongly suggest that you don’t take photographs of any part ofthe area.
A national park erected in memory of Osagyefo (the Messiah) Doctor Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president and one of its founding fathers. Built on a former British polo field, it was the point where Nkrumah declared independence in 1957. The park consists of five acres of land and holds a museum tracing Nkrumah’s life. There are many personal items on display, but the centrepiece is the mausoleum, Nkrumah and his wife’s final resting place. Tours in English can be taken. Kwame Nkrumah is an essential part of Ghana’s history and a good half-hour here will fill you in on most of the details. Events are held on Independence Anniversary celebrations on 6 March and the Celebration of Emancipation Day on 1 August.
The National Museum is home to some of Ghana’s most absorbing historical finds. The museum, opened by the Duchess of Kent in 1957, gives an opportunity to travel through the country’s history from both an archaeological and ethnographic perspective. Much of the display is dedicated to indigenous art and crafts: there are regalia, musical instruments and the all-important royal Asante stools. Other displays include Asante gold weights, currency, instruments, textiles and leatherwork. Slighty hidden away is the chair used in Kwame Nkrumah’s inauguration and the chair of the last British governor, rescued from Christianborg Castle. An exhibition about the slave trade is essential viewing, outlining the era’s brutal history, and showing poignant relics such as shackles. There’s also a gallery with pieces by Ghanaian artists.
This is a popular location for tourists wanting a one-stop-shop for arts and crafts. The stalls are crammed full with textiles, carvings, bags, music instruments, clothing and jewellery. The stalls continue through the main hangar, and into an outdoor market that holds the more interesting treasures such as metal ornaments, drums, wood furnishing, antiques and leather goods. There is less hassle at the back of the market. All prices are negotiable.
The unmistakable architecture of the National Theatre deserves to be seen – it has been described as either a ship, or, more abstractly, as a seagull spreading its wings. Chinese developers built the theatre and it opened in 1992 as the centrepiece for cultural life in Ghana. It’s home to the National Symphony Orchestra, the National Theatre Players, National Dance Company and three youth groups. The events calendar is getting better all the time, but it still seems seriously under-used.
Shops in Accra Central
This luxury art boutique set up by Kukua Ampah has recently opened a branch at the new Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel. Many of the elegant and creative pieces here are bespoke and adapted by Kukua. Modern works of art incorporating the rich cultural influences of West Africa are created, customised and commissioned by Kukua’s clients. A key range is the elegant metal flowing sculptures, partly polished, partly left to gather the natural colours of metal. Beautiful. This is the place for the classiest souvenir. Other location Labadi Beach Hotel. Open 8.30am-9pm Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri; 10am-8pm Wed; 8.30am-7pm Sat; noon-6pm Sun (0204 311 126).
Need something to blow you away sonically? Stellar Sounds is the place. Stellar Sounds are purveyors of very fine audio gear that sounds as crisp as it was recorded, but the speakers, sound systems, TVs and headphones look incredible too. The shop sells equipment from Bowers & Wilkins and Marantz among others.
Another great addition to the Mövenpick’s already pretty good retail option is Stellar Deluxe, a very high-end retail outlet from the South African company. The store on the upstairs gallery is an intimate venue for trying on a pair of the latest Jimmy Choo styles. Need a statement handbag from Gucci or Dolce and Gabbana? This is the place. And need to make a statement in the fabulous Mövenpick pool? They have swimwear covered too.
Restaurants in Accra Central
Backed by palm-studded grounds and a sweeping azure pool, Accra’s newest luxury bolthole is certainly living up to its hype. Waiters on roller blades glide across the gleaming patio, supplying fresh snacks and icy drinks to holidaymakers stretched out on loungers around the pool. Inside, its Sankofa restaurant pleases with an array of international flavours, with the Mövenpick currently serving the best breakfast in Accra. And the cocktail lounge is a good choice for a sophisticated evening drink, with bartenders expertly whipping up any favoured tipple.
This four-star family-friendly hotel might lack some of the pizzazz of the beach resorts, but the Novotel’s selection of restaurants and facilities provides ample entertainment for holidaymakers of all ages. The walls are covered in local art, as part of a project to encourage arts in Accra. Sunshades and loungers line the outdoor pool, while tennis courts and a fitness centre will keep exercise fiends happily active. The hotel has several mealtime options including an international menu and buffet at the Garden Brasserie and freshly baked pizzas at La Terrasse. Those making the most of their holiday lie-ins can pick up a late breakfast at Sangaw Bar. (There are also some historical flags from Ghana’s colonial past to browse in the bar.) Novotel Accra’s 190 air-conditioned rooms range from standard and superior rooms to larger suites with two bedrooms. Bars (2). Concierge. Business centre. Gym. Internet (free wireless, shared terminal). Parking. Pool (1 outdoor). Restaurants (2). TV.