The heart and soul of Nigeria can be an intimidating place. With 20 million people, Lagos is loud, crowded, and in your face all the time. With news reports about the dangers or the city blown out of proportion, we can understand why people would be hesitant. However, Lagos is also one of the most exciting cities on the continent with unlimited options for activities, dining, and going out. The city can be hot and hard to navigate, however, there are plenty of cool activities off the streets that many people may never discover due to the sheer size and scope of Lagos. Here are 15 ways to beat the heat in Lagos while getting to know this pulsing metropolis.
1) Lekki Market
Lekki Market is the place for shopping for handicrafts if you’re trying to find some authentic African souvenirs for you or your loved ones. Everything from traditional baskets to jewelry to wooden carvings to masks. Get ready to haggle as the prices will be a bit inflated for oyibos (white people), but as you get lost through the myriad of alleys and narrow stalls, you’ll get a real feel for the people of Lagos.
2) Tarkwa Beach
Tarkwa Beach is definitely one of the nicer ones of the plenty that Lagos has to offer due to its relative isolation and more laid back feel. Accessible only by boat or water taxi, it’s relaxing because there are very few hotels and restaurants nearby and in turn, less people. Fill your bag with some street treats, a few beers, and a good book for a peaceful break from the bustling city. Check out the lighthouse towering over the harbor too — it’s over 100 years old!
3) National Museum of Nigeria
Like many capital cities, no visit to Lagos (or Nigeria) would be complete without a visit to the National Museum. With excellent exhibits that focus on the art, culture, food, ethnography, music, and history of Africa’s largest country, the National Museum is the place to really dig in and learn about Nigeria’s fascinating history that spans thousands of years. Make sure you set aside at least a few hours to get lost in its different exhibitions.
4) Nike Art Gallery
The Nike Art Gallery in Lekki is the brainchild of artist and designer Nike Davies Okundaye. Take your time perusing the gallery or interact with local students who study a variety of disciplines. Watch a documentary or check out some of the traditional art forms practiced like dying, sculpting, and painting. Nike Art Gallery can also organize tours and other accommodations for visitors.
Depending on your willingness to exit your comfort zone, you could also visit Makoko, Lagos’ slum on the water. Home to hundreds of thousands of people, it’s quite amazing how things operate so seamlessly in this “city,” despite the fact that it’s floating. If you do decide to visit, make sure you go with a guide that focuses on community-based tourism and that your fees support the people or projects there in some way. The government of Lagos is trying to dismantle Makoko, which they consider to be an eyesore, so now may be your last chance to see this unique place.
6) National Theater of Arts and Culture
Another great activity that will really give you insight into Nigeria’s culture scene is a visit to the National Theater of Arts and Culture, located across the bay on the mainland. Completed in 1977 for the International Festival of Black Arts and Culture, it is now the pre-eminent place in Lagos for all things performing arts. Able to seat thousands of people, it also contains cinemas, a restaurant, a bar, and air conditioning!
7) New Afrika Shrine
Fela Kuti is without a doubt one of the most famous Nigerian musicians ever. His music and legacy has done a great deal for Nigeria and Africa culturally. His son Femi Kuti is continuing that legacy with his own music at the New Afrika Shrine, which is located in Ikeja, on the mainland. A sprawling complex that plays host to live music and dancing every night, Femi and his entourage play every Sunday and things really get kicked up. Street vendors sell snacks outside and the bar inside is well stocked with whatever you need to get you in the groove.
8) Victoria Island
Probably the most prosperous area of Lagos, Victoria Island is the epicenter of tourism, shopping, restaurants, bars, and beaches. So it’s a bit gentrified, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The main haunt for wealthy Nigerians and ex-pats, Victoria has almost anything and everything you could possibly want from food, to nightlife, to sun and sand. While generally more secure than other areas of Lagos, the same precautions apply when going out at night.
9) Balogun Market
Balogun Market, located in Lagos Island is the first and last stop for shopping for the average Lagosian. And it should be for you too. Most shopping in Nigeria and Africa in general is done in markets like this sprawling one where you can find nearly everything including the kitchen sink (really). From food to textiles to houseware, most people are friendly and you may have more than a few people excitedly trying to sell you their goods as not as many foreigners tend to shop here. Just play it cool and enjoy the experience!
10) Lekki Conservation Center
Located on the Lekki Peninsula, the Lekki Conservation Center is a great way to spend the morning and get back in touch with nature. Featuring dozens of animals like crocodiles, duikers (imagine an African deer/antelope mix), and birds, the center also has hundreds of local species of plants native to coastal Nigeria. Take one of several trails at the center in the morning hours to see the animals when they’re most active.
11) Sungbo’s Eredo
Hire a taxi for a short hour long ride from downtown to Sungbo’s Eredo, just north of Lagos for a lesson in history (and a good way to get back to nature). A series of walls and ditches set within the jungle forest, the monument was built to honor a noblewoman one thousand years ago and is claimed to be the largest single pre-colonial monument in Africa. Hire a local guide to give you more insight and facts, like the claim that more earth was moved to create Sungbo’s Eredo than was used to construct the pyramids.
12) Eko Tourist Beach Resort
Just outside the city is Eko Tourist Beach Resort, a markedly more upscale alternative to Lagos’ beach culture. With cabanas set in a palm tree lined beach, this is the perfect place to kick back with a drink and a good book. An immaculate swimming pool, uninterrupted power and internet, and luxury amenities make this a peaceful escape from hectic Lagos for an afternoon or a few days.
13) Terra Kulture
Terra Kulture in Victoria is another great way to dig into Nigeria’s deep culture and history. Featuring a mini-library with a wealth of information on Nigeria and Africa, Terra Kulture features an excellent craft shop featuring many of Nigeria’s different art styles. They also offer language courses in Ibo, Yoruba, and Hausa as well as a multi-purpose hall and restaurant.
Exactly what its namesake implies, Funtopia is a family fun center and water park newly opened in Lekki. With multiple pools and water slides, this facility is the first (and hopefully not last) of its kind not only in Lagos, but in the entirety of Nigeria. Arcade games, billiards, and tennis tables are available for use as well a wide range of other activities. A great way to beat the heat of the city and chill out for a day.
15) City Tour
Another great way to experience Lagos is to hire a guide for a day to get a real insider’s feel for this incredible city of 20 million which is Africa’s largest (along with Kinshasa and Cairo). While there are tours that focus on different aspects, a knowledgeable and reputable guide will be able to tailor the tour to your desires and show you all the best spots, whether you’re searching for history, food, or crafts. Be sure to hire a guide and/or driver with an air conditioned car – it’ll help beat the heat, and it also beats taking public transport!
Related content on AFKTravel: