Places to visit in Benin

When you travel to Benin, you will love to visit popular tourist spots and enjoy the local culture. Amongst other Things to do in Benin, you can surely explore some of the best things to do in Benin to make your trip a fulfilling one. On a trip to Benin things to do can include exploring Benin attractions and visiting the places of interest.

The Royal Palaces of Abomey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is situated in the Abomey town. This town was the capital city for the Kingdom of Dahomey once upon a time. This kingdom was once known for its military prowess and its commercial trading which mainly included slave trading. Until late 19th century they dominated this trade where they used to sell their war prisoners to the European slave traders. This trade generated huge revenue annually for the kings of the Dahomey.

This entire complex spread over 40 hectares comprises of 12 beautifully preserved palaces. It is said that these palaces could hold almost 8000 people at a time. Now these buildings are no longer inhabited.

This erstwhile French colony has a deep and rich history. Though it is one of the smallest countries of Western Africa, it is unique in its own way. Kids can take immense learning about the slave trade which was actively done from its port.

The major religion of Benin is Christianity with almost half of the population follow some of the other view of this religion. Apart from this, there are many followers of Islam and Voodoo. There are many other local religious groups apart from these main three.  The Cotonou Cathedral is one of the prominent places to visit in the city of Cotonou. It has a very distinctive appearance as it has an exterior of striped tiles in white and burgundy. It is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.

Inside the complex of Royal Palaces of Abomey, two of the palaces particularly which belonged to King Guézo and King Glèlè has been converted into a museum. They have over 1050 exhibits which once belonged to the kings of Dahomey. Mainly there are paintings, personal effects of the kings, traditional drums and various other things which define the culture of that kingdom.

Situated some 1.5 kms. from the city of Parakou, there is Musée en Plein Air de Parakou. This museum has five circular complexes depicting the housing of Batanou people living in this region.

The Pendjari National Park is a protected national park which is home to animals like elephants, hippopotamuses, African lions, antelopes, buffaloes and various kinds of birds. Spanning over 2755 sq. kms. It is a part of a large protected area spread through Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso. This national park is quite famous for its elephants as it has the most number of these animals in the whole western Africa. This wildlife national park is open to the tourists throughout the year. However, due to high rainfall in the months of June to November, some parts of the park get inaccessible. It is easier to access this park from Natitingou as it is situated merely 45 kms. north from there.

When in Cotonou, do make it a point to visit the Ancien Pont Bridge. Apart from this, the hustling city also has a multi purpose stadium known as Stade de l’Amitie or Friendship Stadium. It holds several football matches and athletic events and has a capacity to hold around 35, 000 spectators at a time.

Being a French colony, its native culture has an influence of the French culture and lifestyle. However, apart from this influence from several other ethnic groups can be observed which migrated to this region previously. For instance, Yoruba, Dendi, Bariba, etc. are just to name a few. Lately there has been various other people coming here and settling for various other purposes. Some of these are Nigerians, Togolese, etc.

The main language is French here. Even in the education sector it is used as a medium for instruction. Since, Benin is the birthplace for voodoo, its prevalence can be found throughout the country. Grande Marche du Dantopka in Cotonou is a voodoo fetish market which is a grand market place where different kind of voodoo accessories can be found.

This Western African nation has a large part of it designated as a wildlife national park which is a habitat to famous African lions, elephants, hippopotamuses, antelopes, etc. these can be seen through the guided tours through these protected areas. These national parks are also known for some of the exotic species of birds and their habitat. An early morning bird watching visit can give you brilliant opportunity of watching them closely.

Although the beaches of Ouidah, were once known to be the points of no return for the slaves being sold of. Now these beaches are quite a relaxing spots for the travelers to this country.

Bab’s Dock is one place which should not be missed at any cost. It is a secluded retreat which is situated in the end of a lagoon near Route des Pêches. The food served is European however, the ingredients are locally sources and fresh. To reach the restaurant one has to go through dense mangroves by a boat. The fee charged includes the secure car park facility and the transport to the restaurant on a boat.

In Cotonou, there is the famous Maman Aime which is a rustic old place serving local Benin cuisine. Here food is authentic and comes very cheap. But if you are planning something like fine dining then L’Atelier is the stop. It offers excellent French cuisine with a wonderful choice of wines to go along the food.

Commonly, palm and peanut oil is used for frying purposes. Many a times, meat is prepared by frying them in these oils. Meat dishes are often served with rice, beans, couscous and tomatoes. Smoked fish is also very popular among the people of Benin. Apart from these there are several local dishes like Aloko which is deep fried slices of plantain. Wagasi is a cow milk cheese which is abundantly found here.

Near Place de l'Étoile Rouge in Cotonou, Yes Papa is known for its live music. These jamming sessions feature jazz, reggae and Afro tunes. For live jazz, Le Repaire de Bacchus is another hot destination in the same city.

Cotonou has some of the great options for a vibrant nightlife. Jammin Bar is an open air bar which serves some good food to go with the beers.

The city of Cotonou has some of the main supermarkets like La Ponte which has several shops and boutiques. At Centre de Promotion de l'Artisanat you will find local wood carvings, leather goods, jewellery, bronze items, etc. it is open from 9am till 7pm everyday.

In all the cities, you will the market places where people are busy selling the local produce directly from their farms and fields. There are varieties of fruits and vegetables which make these markets exotic and colorful. Apart from these there are several vendors selling cheap souvenirs like old photographs, maps and memorabilia.

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