Dar-Es-Salaam Holiday in Tanzania
Located on the Indian Ocean coast, Tanzania’s largest city and logistics hub is affectionately known as ‘Dar’ but it is not the capital of the country – that title belongs to Dodoma, a drab administrative city located inland and best avoided. Even so, for most travellers, Dar es Salaam is just a convenient port of call before hopping across to the beaches of Zanzibar or flying inland for phenomenal game viewing on a Tanzania safari.
Its architecture a legacy of Swahili, colonial and Asian influences, Dar es Salaam is a city that heaves with energy and emotion, belying its translated name of ‘Haven of Peace’. Founded in the 1860s and so a relatively modern city when compared to other coastal settlements, its bustling streets and chaotic traffic may not be to everyone’s taste and there is little within Dar itself to attract the visitor bar a museum or two, the Botanical Gardens, a couple of upmarket hotels and apparently the best restaurants in East Africa.
Dar’s attractions lie outside the confines of the city: luxurious beachfront accommodation is available a few kilometres from town; all Tanzania’s Indian Ocean destinations are little more than an hour’s flight away; and the huge and wild Selous Game Reserve is a short hop by light plane, making a Dar es Salaam safari add-on easy and allowing you to enjoy a holiday that embraces big game as well as beautiful beaches.
Moreover, with increasing interest in Tanzania’s less-visited south and central parks such as Ruaha, Katavi and the Mahale Mountains, Dar es Salaam’s importance as a safari gateway continues to rise.
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Where To Stay & What To Do
Dar es Salaam is a fascinating destination shaped by a medley of influences clearly seen on everything from the culture to the cuisine. Home to more than four million people, the humble fishing village charm of Dar es Salaam still shines through. From the dhows that fill the fish market to the women wearing kitenge and kanga, and from the bajaji and boda-boda zipping through narrow roadways to the spices and coffee, Dar es Salaam is diverse and compelling.
Stay in comfort with Southern Sun in Dar es Salaam at Southern Sun Dar es Salaam. This leading Dar es Salaam hotel is renowned for comfort-boosting services and productivity-enhancing amenities. With modern meeting rooms, exceptional dining, a pool, gym, and great-sleep rooms in a tree-lined, location near the ocean, there’s nowhere better to discover Dar es Salaam’s many attractions.
Located just a five-minute walk from Southern Sun Dar es Salaam the National Museum of Tanzania is not one, but a collection of five museums preserving the history, nature and culture of Tanzania throughout the country. The main museum, the Dar es Salaam National Museum, features significant archaeological discoveries, as well as exhibits that look a little closer at colonial history, the dark days of the slave trade and the first people of Tanzania.
Other attractions nearby include the Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve. The islands of Bongoyo, Mbudya, Fungu, Yasini and Pangavini are part of this Swahili Coast Marine Reserve. Uninhabited, but open for tourists to visit, Bongoyo and Mbudya are both beautiful tropical islands with sandy beaches, warm waters, and resident wildlife on the beach and under the water.
Dar-es-Salaam City location
Things to do in Dar-es-salaam
Mwenge Woodcarvers Market: This market is a great place to buy local souvenirs and watch local artists as they showcase their crafts. Artists are always happy to show off their talent and discuss their artwork with travellers. Make sure that you don’t fall for the first shop you see, venture into the depths of the market and haggle.
National Museum and House of Culture: This museum is great for learning more about the local and national history and seeing some artefacts. Visitors will be able to view some of Tanzania’s earliest fossils as well as reports on the colonial and slavery period. You can also view President Nyerere’s Rolls Royce. Despite a lot of work in the past few years, the museum can seem a bit incoherent at times. Tickets cost around TSH 6500, while students only pay TSH 2600.
St. Joseph Cathedral: Home to the Archbishop of Dar es Salaam, this cathedral was built at the end of the 19th century by German missionaries. The gothic architecture, stained glass windows, and German inscriptions continue to enthral visitors.
Askari Monument: This monument was unveiled in 1927 to honour the askari (soldiers) who fought in for the British in WW1. It is located in Kisutu, the City Centre.
Village Museum: This museum is an interactive, open-air exhibition where you can enter various Tanzanian huts to see how rural people live in the countryside. There are also dances and music performances, which come at an extra price. Prices are TSH 6500 for adults, TSH 2600 for students and an additional TSH 2000 for performances.
Tinga Tinga Arts Cooperative Society: Tinga Tinga is the local style of art, and it depicts nature. It originated in Dar es Salaam and has since spread to other East African countries as a prime touristic art style. The Tinga Tinga Arts Cooperative Society is a group that continues this style, and they allow travellers to visit their workroom, order commissions and, buy artworks. The Society is conveniently located on the Msasani Peninsula where most travellers stay for great access to Coco Beach.
Cultural Tours with Serengeti Trips: Serengeti Trips provides walking, cycling and night tours to educate travellers about the city’s roots, social issues, and culture. Prices vary from US$40-50. Bookings can be organised at www.serengetitrips.com/
Coco Beach in Oyster Bay is Dar es Salaam’s most famous beach. The white sand beach attracts locals and travellers alike. Due to its popularity, the beach can get quite crowded, but there are many bars and restaurants to enjoy a drink or a bite to eat in the evening. At night, there is often live music. Avoid taking valuables. Mbezi Beach and Kigamboni Beach are quieter alternatives.
There are also two islands just off the coast of Dar, offering serene white beach stretches, swaying cocoa palms and an island feel. Just 20 minutes away by boat, Mbudya Island is perfect for snorkelling, swimming, and tanning.
Boats can be taken from any major hotels on the beach. Travellers will need to pay a slightly inflated fee for entering the island (TSH 22,500 at the time of writing). Cabanas can be rented on the island and there are several food stalls.
Bongoyo Island is slightly larger than Mbudya Island and it is located about 30 mins away from the harbour by ferry. Ferries can be taken from the Slipway Shopping Centre on the Msasani Peninsula.
Ferries depart every 2 hours from 09:30-17:00 and the journey costs TSH 35.000 per person (at the time of writing).
The beautiful coastline can also be enjoyed from a traditional dhow, a popular boat in the Arabic part of the Indian Ocean. There are day trips that combine coast views with snorkelling and lunch on one of the many deserted islands off the city’s coastline.
You can also take a sunset boat trip or go fishing. At the time of writing, boat cruises cost around US$35 per person and kayaking costs US15$ per person.
Dar es Salaam’s eclectic food scene is a fusion of African, Asian, Arabic, and European influences.
You can try a range of delicious dishes, from traditional Tanzanian and Indian snacks from street vendors to high-end Asian restaurants to barbecued fish at the beach. At Kivukoni Fish Market, you can watch as the local fishermen bring in their catch. Fishing is the primary source of income for many of the locals.
Msasani has some higher end restaurants that serve European cuisine, as well as beach bars, and seafood restaurants. There are several great restaurants next to the Slipway Shopping Centre which all offer stunning views of the beach.
We recommend Thai Kani, which fuses Tanzanian and Thai cuisine. The Yacht Club is also a great choice. Many restaurants also turn into clubs and bars at nights.
Tanzanians know how to party. Tanzanian nightlife is shaped by some of the best music on the continent and cheap drinks, and nights out in Dar es Salaam are unforgettable.
Tanzanian bars and clubs are generally safe, but you should take precautions.
Some restaurants have live music performances, including the Maisha Club on Coco Beach, or Q Bar which is just 10 minutes from the beach.
Level 8, the bar of the Hyatt Regency, is a more upmarket option, and it offers sweeping views across the city and refreshing drinks.
Dar es Salaam is a great starting point for a weekend trip to Zanzibar or Mikumi National Park. Trips to both locations can be arranged through a tour operator or your hotel.
Venture to Zanzibar for its pristine beaches, a spice tour, and excellent waters for snorkelling. Zanzibar offers several outdoor activities and water sports, including cycling, kitesurfing, diving, or even island hopping.
Mikumi National Park is 4 hours away from the big city, making it perfect for a weekend trip. The park’s sweeping plains contain a plethora of wildlife that will excite animal enthusiasts and bird watchers alike.