Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, is known as Africa’s megacity. It is the home of Nigerian fashion and African entertainment. Its streets are never quiet as music, madness, and money-filled dreams mix in the air. The hustle and bustle of Lagos is incomparable to any city I’ve visited. Many liken it with New York, and that is certainly a valid comparison, but Lagos has this extra injection of energy and vibrancy that not even New York City can rival.
Over the years, I have heard visitors and natives alike try to qualify Lagos. An Irish expatriate once described it to me as a heroin addiction: bad for you in a general sense, but hard to leave and the best high you’ll ever get. I’ve also heard living in Lagos likened to being in an abusive relationship with a rich and handsome man: some days are brutal beatings, but you keep coming back because the making up is epic! These colorful descriptions ring true because despite the adrenaline overdose that can result from living in Lagos, you can never go too far. Sooner or later you’ll be craving it like a perilous drug or a passionate (sometimes abusive) lover.
My description of Lagos is simple. Lagos is home: a home that is not always where my heart is, but home nonetheless.
I went to a U.S college that had many international students and we often invited one another to visit our home countries, but my invitation to Lagos always came with the stipulation that my friends visit only when I was in the city. This is because Lagos is not a tourist city. It is safe. It is stunning and cosmopolitan. It has great restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. It has culture, history, and cool monuments. However, Lagos is one African city that does not seek to meet the taste of the international traveler. Lagos is unapologetically Lagos. Therefore, I believe one needs a native host to enjoy it and experience the more livable (and even lavish) sides of the city that travel sites fail to mention.
My favorite thing about Lagos is that it is a “love it or leave it” kind of place. It is impossible to leave Lagos feeling “blah.” Neither will “sorta” nor “kinda” be in the narrative of your visit. The hard-core realness of Lagos will hit you as soon as you step off the plane at Murtala Mohammed International Airport. And at the end of your trip, you either return home addicted and absolutely in love and awe of Lagosian life, or you leave whiplashed by the aggressive fast pace, and somewhat mentally traumatized by the traffic and specialist driving. Lagos is experienced in extremes; there is no middle ground.
There are tons of things to do in Lagos as blogs like Lost in Lagos can attest. Nigerians love to celebrate life in the most extravagant ways and Lagos is the epicenter of all events. From concerts, galas, fashion weeks, festivals, weddings, and any other form of party you can name, residents of Lagos have full social calendars. Nevertheless, when I find the time to enjoy the city on my own terms, these are my favorite places to go and favorite things to do:
Brunch at Olivia’s Cafe (Nuts about Cake)
I enjoy going to Olivia’s for their full American breakfast, chicken panini, chocolate cake, fresh fruit juice, and fast free wi-fi. Some of their special offerings include a Saturday acoustic breakfast and daily baking lessons.
Lunch at Yellow Chilli
When I want gourmet Nigerian food, Yellow Chilli is my restaurant of choice. It has a mainland location in Ikeja and an island location in Victoria Island. I always order the jollof rice fiesta with a side of fried plantains. If I want a Nigerian soup, seafood okra with pounded yam is my go-to order.
Evening Drinks on the waterfront
I love getting drinks by the water in Lagos. The view is always gorgeous and I find it extremely calming. The Radisson Blu in Victoria Island and Sailor’s in Lekki are both favorites.
Dinner at Spice Route
When I first walked into Spice Route, I thought I had been transported to a Tribeca restaurant. The décor is gorgeous, the vibe is electric, and the food is delicious. Spice Route is my top choice for Indian cuisine in Lagos and I like that it turns into a club at night.
Desert at Ice Cream Factory
Ice Cream Factory is my guilty pleasure! It’s on my way home, so I have the habit of going almost daily for some variety of sweet treat. I love their dulce de leche ice cream, red velvet cheesecake, and warm chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream. They also have free wi-fi, which is a major plus.
Apparently I’m a super foodie, so since all my favorite places in Lagos are restaurants and cafes, here’s a list of some non-gastronomic Lagos experiences. Enjoy!
10 Must Visit Places in Lagos
No 1: Fela’s Shrine
by Eyitemi Popo