Bissau is the capital of Guinea Bissau, a former Portuguese colony. I visited in February 2020 and here are a few things to see and do in Bissau.
Presidential Palace and Independence Monument
As you would imagine, Bissau was a major port town on the coast of West Africa. Follow the road up from Bissau Port to see the majestic Presidential Palace, home of the current president. In front of the palace is Independence monument. Guinea Bissau gained their independence from Portugal in 1974. Be strategic how you photograph this area as there is a no photography rule in place.
Portuguese Catholic Church
If there’s a top Instagram spot in Bissau, I award it to the Portuguese church. As you walk up to the door it transports you to Portugal.
Martyrs Square – Hand of Timba
The Pidjiguiti massacre took place on 3 August 1959. Although slavery was history, Guinea Bissau was still a Portuguese colony. Consequently, the Portuguese were still exploiting the local people. After years of being underpaid, local dock workers demanded fair pay. However, the Portuguese refused therefore the dock workers went on strike. Following this a series of events led to the dock workers being massacred at gun point. Guinea Bissau would not gain independence for a further 15 years.
Amilcar Lopes Cabral Bust
Amilcar Lopes Cabral was the leader of the Independence movement. Essentially an anti-colonial leader / freedom fighter. Unfortunately he was assassinated shortly before Guinea Bissau gained freedom from Portugal. Nonetheless, he fought against them for the 10 years prior to his death and laid the groundwork for the country’s freedom. Today, he is considered to be the Che Guevara of Bissau.
Christ the Redeemer – Guinea Bissau
When you think of Christ the Redeemer, maybe Rio Brazil comes to mind. Did you know that Bissau has its own version? It doesn’t quite take your breath away like the Brazilian version but it’s still worth a visit.
Guinea Bissau Port
Take a walk on Bissau Pier for sea views as well as panoramic views of Bissau Velho. It’s interesting to see how Portuguese buildings aged during years of neglect.
What’s interesting about Bissau Fort is that it’s still used for military purposes. Nonetheless, it’s possible to take a tour. Simply go to the entrance and tell the guard you’re a tourist and would like to visit. Finally, I’ve visited similar Portuguese forts all over the world including, Fortaleza Brazil, Bahrain and Maputo Mozambique.
Abandoned Boats and Buildings
There are several disused boats surrounding Bissau Port. What’s more, in Bissau Velho you’ll discover several colonial ruins.
Colonial International Bank
Imagine the importance of the International Bank during colonial times. I’m sure it was used for profits raised by slavery and other trades of this era. Nowadays, it’s an example of colonial architecture. However, if you’re looking for a bank or ATM to withdraw money try the nearby ECO Bank.
When I was on my way to Bissau I was wondering if I could try a Pastel de Nata here. I was in luck as Hotel Imperio make them freshly each morning. As a matter of fact, you can enjoy a Portuguese Nata whilst enjoying views of the Presidential Palace. I must confess, they’re not as good as I found in Porto or Lisbon but considering you’re in West Africa, I’d order several!
If visiting a busy market is your thing then you must visit Bandim Market. Known in Portuguese as ‘Mercado de Bande’ this is the biggest market in the country. You can buy anything here from meat to mens clothing.
The main road which passes through the market is often congested. Not only with cars but also with vendors selling their products.
Bissau Artisan Market (FAB)
For locally made African art I recommend you visit the Bissau Artisan Market. Locally known as ‘Feira de Artesanato de Bissau’ or simply ‘FAB’. You must bargain here and be prepared for vendors approaching you with excitement. Lastly, there’s also some cool street art dotted around this area.
Street Art in Guinea Bissau
There’s something about African street art. It seems to be more vibrant than the street art back home. Here is the exact location of the block of flats pictured above.
Centro Cultural Brasil
Adjacent to the Brazilian Cultural Center is a top Instagram spot in Guinea Bissau. These picturesque locations are rare in West Africa therefore take your Instagram shot here!
Outskirts of Bissau
Gone are the Portuguese colonial influences when you venture to the outskirts of the city. Here you’ll find dirt roads and unfinished houses.
How to Travel from Bissau to Conakry via Boke
Firstly, it’s not an easy journey from Bissau to Conakry. On the contrary, it’s a complete nightmare. Here are the journey stages and estimated times:
- Share taxi from Bissau to Gandembel – 4 hours
- Motorbike from Gandembel to Boke, Guinea – 4 hours
- Share taxi from Boke to Conakry – 6-7 hours
The shared taxi leaves Bissau from the central bus station off Airport Road. Head in and someone will direct you to the next available share taxi towards Gandembel on the Guinea border. Once at the border town you’ll be mobbed by motorbike drivers who want to take you to Boke. The cost was 13000 francs in 2020. You pay this in an office and get a receipt, don’t pay directly to the bike driver.
Read my detailed post on overland travel from Bissau to Conakry.