From sleepy fishing village to a tropical gateway and busy metropolis, Dar es Salaam has come a long way over the last century. Artisan craft markets, sand beaches, and cliff-top seafood restaurants are just some of my Dar es Salaam delights. Founded in 1862 by the Sultan Majid of Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam (Arabic for ‘Haven of Peace’) has survived much adversity but emerged as a wonderfully cosmopolitan city that has much to offer.
Harbour no doubts about Dar es Salaam!
Today, Dar es Salaam’s rich history and colonial past is reflected in the buildings dotted around town. You’ll notice a mix of British, Islamic, German, and Asian architectural styles. The modern high-rises however, were built post-independence, as were the city’s hospital, university, and high court.
Here’s a Pro Tip: The currency used is the Tanzanian Shilling. About 3,000 Tanzanian Shillings is equal to one British Pound, so be prepared to handle loads of cash!
Julius Nyerere International Airport is Dar es Salaam’s main airport and the largest airport in Tanzania. From here, it’s 12km (7.5 miles) into the heart of the city. Most travellers opt for a taxi into Dar which takes roughly 40-minutes or longer during rush hour. Taxis can be flagged outside the airport terminals or can be pre-booked (check the airport’s website for a list of accredited taxi companies).
I go bananas for Kariakoo Market!
Once in Dar es Salaam, I’d recommend using taxis to hop from one attraction to the next. They’re cheap, hassle-free, and your hotel will happily pre-book you a ride. Tuk-tuks are a more affordable alternative mode of transport, as are dalla-dalla buses, though the later options quickly become uncomfortable on Dar’s busy and bumpy roads.
Here’s Another Pro Tip: The official language of Tanzania is Swahili, and it’s nice to learn some basic sayings before you go! ‘Jambo’ means hello, ‘asante’ means thank you, and ‘kwa heri’ means goodbye.
These are my must-see attractions in Dar es Salaam:
- National Museum and House of Culture – Covering Tanzania’s history and heritage, this small museum is home to numerous exhibits including the cast of a footprint 3.5 million years old.
- St Joseph’s Cathedral – This gothic church was built in 1890 and houses the Archbishop of Dar es Salaam. Head here around 9am on a Sunday, and you might hear the local choir in song.
The National Museum shows Dar’s different faces
- Mwenge Woodcarvers Market – In the heart of Dar you’ll find artisan craftsmen hard at work creating wood carvings and sculptures. It’s a fantastic place to purchase a souvenir.
- Kivukoni Fish Market – If you can handle the pungent smell, Dar es Salaam’s biggest fish market offers a glimpse into the life of local fishermen.
- Coco Beach – Hugging the coastline of Oyster Bay, one of Dar’s most affluent neighbourhoods, this soft sand beach is one of the best in the city. It’s the place to be if you’re in town on a national holiday as locals take to the sands to celebrate all day long!
The city is renowned for its fresh seafood, and you’ll find plenty of great restaurants and cafes dotted around town. My top three eateries include:
Mamboz Corner BBQ – Occupying a patch of turf just off Dar’s busiest road, this makeshift restaurant serves authentic Tanzanian street food with an Asian flair including hot gajjar chicken and paneer platters.
Out of my way shrimp! I’m headed for the seafood bar!
- Chef’s Pride – Popular with the locals and tourists alike, this restaurant/cafe serves a variety of curries along with Tanzanian specialities including sweet potatoes and rich beef broth. Visit for a hearty lunch.
- Karambezi Cafe – For a spot of Tanzanian fine-dining, make your way to the 5-star Sea Cliff Hotel on the Msasani Peninsula. The seafood here is divine, and you can enjoy it while admiring a vista of the Indian Ocean.
At night, Dar es Salaam comes alive as the residents take to the city’s best bars and nightclubs to dance the night away. Check out my recommendations below:
- Savannah Lounge & Bar – For a fun evening out in a colourful bar, head to the third floor of the JB Belmont Hotel. The multi-coloured disco lights give this lounge a festive air.
- High Spirit Lounge Bar – This busy bar is possibly the city’s most popular hangout when the sun sets. You’ll find it atop the IT Mall Building, and you can enjoy a beer and a twirl on the dancefloor!
- The Waterfront Sunset Restaurant & Beach Bar – Kick back and relax by the ocean at this lively beach bar. Reggae music is usually playing from the speakers, and you can enjoy local beer and wine until the doors close at midnight.
Whether you opt for a central hotel or coastal accommodation, Dar es Salaam offers excellent hospitality. Here are my favourite hotels:
- Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam The Kilimanjaro – This contemporary hotel provides a quiet oasis tucked away from the bustling streets of central Dar. It’s one of the city’s most luxurious hotels and boasts excellent views of the Indian Ocean.
- Sea Cliff Hotel – Located just 5km (3 miles) from Dar’s city centre, this 4-star hotel sits atop a cliff and boasts two onsite pools, two restaurants, and a casino.
- Ledger Plaza Bahari Beach Hotel – Set aside a sand beach in Kunduchi and surrounded by tropical palm trees, this hotel provides an elegant retreat. Expect to enjoy beauty treatments at the onsite therapy centre and cocktails on the beach!
Life’s a beach in Dar es Salaam
With picturesque beaches, a bustling harbour, and a thriving nightlife, Dar es Salaam is one of favourite cities in Sub-Saharan Africa!