We’re excited at the success of our 24 Hours series, where we be share the coolest places to eat, visit, and stay around Africa. Have you seen our first edition on Accra? Now, check out our suggestions on what you should do while exploring Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
WHERE TO EAT:
Coffee has grown in Ethiopia for over 1,000 years, so it’s no surprise that Ethiopians take coffee drinking very seriously. Family-run Tomoca Coffee, the most famous coffee shop in Addis, is a staple in almost every Addis guidebook—and with good reason. At the original shop, located near the lively Piazza area, you’ll always find a buzzing shop filled with people enjoying coffee and conversation. Order a macchiato for around $0.50, and buy some fresh coffee beans for the equivalent of $4.
For lunch, stop by Kategna which is located just off Bole Road (with another branch at Gabon Street). You can find just about every delicious Ethiopian delicacy at this local favorite including “doro wat” and “dirkosh firfir.” Ethiopia is a vegetarian-friendly country: many traditional meals center on fresh vegetables, beans, and legumes. At Kategna, you can order the vegetarian beyaynetu, a vegan platter full of delectable stews. Eager to sample everything? Take advantage of their half-portions.
Want to get true bang for your buck? Addis Eats food tours are an excellent way to learn about Ethiopia’s history and culture while sampling the best of delicious local food. You’ll end your tour with a full belly, and explore corners of Addis you might not otherwise discover on your own. Have some time on your hands? Take on a wine tasting to learn about some of Ethiopia’s best locally-made wines.
WHERE TO HANG:
Start your morning off with a visit to Entoto Hill, the highest peak overlooking Addis. The wooden oasis is a respite from the hustling, bustling city, and the former home of Emperor Menelik II, who built his palace here when he founded Addis Ababa. Menelik’s palace is located next to the historic Maryam Church. After exploring the church, wander the mountain’s dense forests sweet with the smell of eucalyptus trees imported from Australia over a century ago. Entoto’s hills are the training ground of some of the country’s greatest athletes.
Take advantage of the top-class local spas, which offer incredibly affordable massages and beauty treatments for $20 or less. Ethiopia’s women are renowned for their beauty, and regularly treat themselves, so why not take advantage of local custom and join in? Check out Boston Day Spa, Oasis Spa, or the Radisson Blu to pamper yourself.
Launched in 2010, the Red Terror Martys Memorial Museum honors the victims of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s repressive Derg Regime. From 1978 to 1991, over 500,000 died or were tortured under the brutal dictatorship. The museum, located at the crossroads of Bole Avenue and Meskel Square (previously named Revolution Square), was created a group of families of victims of the Red Terrors.
A trip to Addis is incomplete without listening to Ethio-jazz, a mesmerizing mix of musical styles. Stop by Mama’s Kitchen in the Bole neighborhood to listen to this cross between traditional Ethiopia tribal music, R&B, and jazz. While the genre was suppressed during the Derg, it has been recently resurrected.
Learn how to make injera, the naturally gluten-free Ethiopian staple at Mama Fresh, the country’s largest commercial manufacturer and exporter of fresh-baked injera. In 2016, Mama Fresh opened the Teff and Injera Learning Center at its Addis Ababa export facility. Mama Fresh aims to make the entire world fall in love with Ethiopian cuisine by providing a wonderful educational and cultural experience that is great for the whole family. Stay ahead of the trend, and learn all about teff, which some are calling “the next quinoa.”
Yod Abysinnia is must-see for dinner, which includes a stage show that begins at 7:30 p.m. nightly and runs until about 11 p.m. While local musicians and sings perform, dancers take guests on a cultural tour of all the dances of Ethiopia’s nine states. While you sample some of Ethiopia’s finest dishes, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
WHERE TO SHOP:
Salem’s shop is an Addis staple, well-known to all city residents. The fair-trade boutique, which also sells products to American shops like Anthropologie and West Elm, is home to gorgeous crafts from all over Ethiopia. Here, you’re find gorgeous silver, gold, and beaded jewelry, including some of Ethiopia’s iconic Orthodox crosses. Spoil yourself by purchasing one of the textiles made on site. It’s shopping for a cause: the average annual income in Ethiopia is the equivalent of $170. The average income of a Salem employee comfortably outstrips this with the top basket-maker earning $1,100 and the top textile-weaver earning as much as $2,100 in 2011.
Ethiopia is home to the largest cattle population in Africa, and its leather trade is rapidly growing. Take advantage of the premium leather goods and purchase products from locally-made, globally-oriented brands like ZAAF and Enat.
If you want a truly authentic Ethiopian experience, you have to take in Addis Ababa’s massive Mercato Market, a sprawling mazelike market that is reputed to be one of Africa’s largest. Here, you can find just about everything including jewelry, cookware (including the traditional jibena coffee pot), incense, and more. Make sure to check it out with a local guide to get the most bang for your buck, but hold onto your purse—the area is notorious for pickpockets. Not up to the hectic nature of such a big market? Stop by the slightly more manageable Shola Market.
Have you been to Addis Ababa (or do you live there)? What else would you add? Email email@example.com if you’re interested in putting together a “24 Hours” Guide!