Brazzaville is the capital of the Republic of Congo.
Brazzaville was a relatively well-developed and thriving city before the civil war began in 1997. Although there is still some fighting in the rural areas, it is a safe city to visit, but the infrastructure has been run down. Many new restaurants and hotels are being built—especially by Lebanese immigrants—and it can be a pleasant stopover to Pointe Noire or visits to the Congolese rain forests.
Brazzaville can also be reached through Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa four times a week; Addis Ababa has connecting flights to numerous other international destinations, including Dubai. Royal Air Maroc operates three direct flights a week from Casablanca. Kenya Airways operates flights to Brazzaville three times a week from Nairobi. If you are a Sky Team associate, you can catch a KLM or Air France flight to Nairobi, and connect to Brazzaville from there.
There are also many flights to other smaller capital cities in Africa, including neighbouring Kinshasa.
You can also travel to Brazzaville from Kinshasa via boat, but it is recommended to fly directly into Brazzaville if your intent is to visit the Republic of Congo.
Rail services link Brazzaville with Dolisie and the seaside city of Pointe-Noire. A new "express" train named La Gazelle was introduced in 2012, however it still takes a grueling 15 hours to complete the journey. On the plus side the train has air conditioning, a bar car and power sockets. There's also slower services, generally not recommended for tourists.
There is surprisingly no bridge between Brazzaville and Kinshasa. If you wish to take a car across, it is possible to pay extra and get a ride on the ferry. There have been reports the car will require "disinfection" when crossing from Congo to DR Congo.
You may use local green taxis, even if they are in a poor technical condition. Much as you would anywhere, take a security-first approach to taxis - Refuse to hop into any car that has two or more people in it already. One trip anywhere in town is XAF 1,000 (USD 2).
- Basilique Sainte-Anne of the Congo. Built by Roger Erell, 1949, one of the most beautiful modern churches in the world.
- Cathédrale Sacré-Coeur. This Catholic church was constructed by Mr. Augouard and offers views of downtown areas such as Poto Poto and Centreville, and Kinshasa, the capital of DRC across the river.
- Markets of Moungali, Poto-Poto, Bacongo.
- Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza Memorial. Brand new marble construction in memory of and his family. Located next to the former U.S. Embassy.
- Le Palais des Congrès, Avenue Des Armees (Across from the new Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The Palace of the Congresses
- L’Ecole de Peinture de Poto Poto – Poto Poto Painting School
- Les Rapides in Djoué
- Zoo (no animals since the war)
If you enjoy outdoor sports, bring equipment that you may need, such as picnic supplies, golf equipment, and sports attire. All equipment available locally is expensive. Photographic equipment and facilities are also available at double U.S. prices. The following clubs/hotels are open to paying memberships:
- Tennis Club (Close to roundabout going to Maya Maya Airport). Facilities include 10 clay courts with lights, a squash court, a swimming pool, and a large bar. Balls are supplied free. This club is located on the dirt road that is adjacent to the road leading to the National Stadium.
- Brazzaville Golf Club, ☎ +242 528 3643, +242 663 7127. The club has a well-kept, nine-hole course (which by clever use of tees converts into an 18-hole course) with sand greens. It is on the grounds of the regional headquarters of the WHO, 20 minutes South from Brazzaville, and has a spectacular view of the Congo River and the rapids.
- Laico Maya-Maya Brazzaville Hotel. Offers monthly subscriptions for use of its tennis courts and pool.
- Olympic Palace Hotel. Offers monthly subscriptions for use of its tennis court and pool. Monthly rates at Olympic are significantly higher than Laico Maya-Maya Brazzaville Hotel.
- The market of Poto Poto is fabulous. This is the West African quarter.
- The Bakongo neighborhood is great for wandering around; at night there are a plethora of plastic-chaired bars and street food to choose from.
Eat at Mami Wata (great pizzas in the afternoon, enjoy the Kinshasa view over the Congo river) or Nenuphar (great steaks). For Muslims there are very few places to go out for eating like La Mandarine, one of the Lebanese Restaurants in the city. On the Avenue Foch are few restaurants and cafes where you can get dinner, snack, caffe. But at all the Lebanese restaurants one can find Halal food.
There are several great restaurants in Brazzaville. Any taxi driver can take you to one of these nicer places (5000-15000 CFA). Most places are closed on Sundays. Expect beers to be overpriced here (1000 to 2000 CFA).
- Le Jardin (French) soft bread, lovely t-bone, great outdoor ambiance, sometimes live music first class place
- Etoiles de Jade (Moroccan: great tagine, vegetarian dishes, sometimes they don't have everything on the menu)
- Mami Wata (Continental) right on the Congo River, $30 Sunday night buffet, pizza, seafood, pasta, and salad.
- Chef David (There are several in town. This is the best pizza in town, and the best one is near City Center.) They also do carry-out.
- L'orchidee (French) is one block up from the roudabout in front of the Ministry of Finance. Great lobster.
- La Mandarine (Lebanese: ice cream! the best patisserie in town. also a great brunch place)
- Noura I and II (Lebanese) Hotel de Ville are. Known for chicken shwarma.
- Hassan Burger (Lebanese), Avenue E.P. Lumumba, Hotel de Ville Area Between FESPAM headquarters and Belgian Embassy. Phone: 81 2334 or 666 2004.
- Les Bougainvillers Av. de l'amitie Centre Ville
- Pizzeria Royale aka River Bar on the corniche next ot the Brazza Mausoleum. Good pizza, cheap drinks, great view of the Congo river.
- Le Renouveau located at the corner across from the roundabout at Pharmacie Mavre. Serves local, fast food and some grilled dishes. Has a well stocked small bar inside.
- La Pyramide (Lebanese) located about 6 blocks west of Park N Shop. Wonderful tabouli!
- Le Bambino (Congolese and French) close to Exotic Palace.
- Pizzeria Centrale across from Le Renouveau, close to the roudabout at Pharmacie Mavre. Serves grilled dishes as well. Make sure to go a bit late (after 20:00) or be prepared to wait a while for the pizza.
- L'Sympathique (French) Down the street from Pharmacie Mavre. Good value, lunch and dinner.
- Le Missala (fine dining) located at the Olympic Palace. Italian cef presents a cotinental menu with flare. Expensive, elaborate, excellent.
Street food is mostly limited to beignets and manioc in the downtown area. Egg sandwiches, and avocado and salami sandwiches are found at random. At night there is meat on a stick.
- Hippocampe, Across from Radio Congo | Centre Ville, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. Hippocampe is a welcome alternative. The Vietnamis and some of the local dishes are good and the restaurant is a nice place to read or chat with fellow travelers. Finally, the location is convenient. It serves a good buffet at a reasonable price of FCFA 8000 on Friday and Saturday evenings with a wide variety of dishes.
Beer: Primus, N'Gok, Mutzig, Heineken, Guinness, Turbo King.
- Ram Dam. This nightclub is located at Plato next to Nanu Fer restaurant. Cover charge is 5,000 CFA per person and includes one drink. All drinks, including water, are extremely expensive. Local, French and English music. Opens late.
- Boom Boom Afrique. This lounge is located on the road that goes to the Beach and the road where Score Supermarket is situated. Plays a good mix of French, American and African music. This is a lounge, not a dance club. No cover charge.
- Diplomat. Local hotspot where you can listen to local bands, see local dancers and enjoy local karaoke. There is a disco and dance floor located in the back via a separate entrance. Cover charge.
- 3 D Bar. Located close to Exotic Palace restaurant, across from the roundabout close to Pharmacie Mavre. This bar/lounge is a favorite among the young and hip crowd in Brazzaville. This is a lounge-type bar with seating at the bar, outside on the patio-area or upstairs in the lounge area. No cover charge.
- Château Rouge, Avenue Foch. New nightclub located above the Chinese restaurant called Restaur Ant De Ta Paix in the Hotel de Ville area (located on the same street as La Mandarine and Noura restaurants). Cover charge is 5,000 CFA per person and includes one drink.
- Les Rapides is a bar that any taxi driver would know. It provides a great view of the river, and you can run around in the river if you want.
- La Maison Blanche (Plateaux) is a local club with three levels, great street meat, and local music.
- No Stress. A lot of foreigners and expats. Most of the taxis will know how to get there but you can always ask for instructions at the reception of your hotel.
Brazzaville is a very very expensive city, as you will find all kinds of things but almost four times the price in Dubai or elsewhere. For example if you are looking to buy a can of Pepsi Cola which is usually 1 UAE Dihram in Dubai and you will get it for XAF 750 (Central African CFA Franc) which is equivalent to 5 UAE dirhams. Same goes for other things. So if you are planning to come here, bring usual day to day usage stuff along with the you.
There is a HUGE market close to the Cathedral where one can buy decent African wear and bright colored materials - an adventure in itself.
Currently, there are two major grocery stores in Brazzaville, as well as a few convenience type stores which carry some of the same products. Below is a list of supermarkets and convenience type stores: Casino (used to be Score) is the second largest supermarket with Park N Shop new super market recently inaugurated. Everything is overpriced here, but if you need your frozen pizzas, . Tel: 81 03 35. Park N Shop (close to the Mpila roundabout and Tower Nambemba). Tel: 548 2936 Ste. Regal (located close to Park N Shop, on the same street as Tower Nambemba). Tel: 527 5260
With enough patience, shoppers can usually find most of the brands what they are looking for which they are accustomed.
The major grocery stores and a few other stores have a good selection of imported fruits and vegetables, but prices are a bit expensive. You can get a wide selection of local and fresh fruits from local markets around town. Below is a list of the local markets frequented by Americans and expatriates:
- Marché De La Plaine (located around the corner from Casino supermarket). Here you can find a good selection of local fruits and vegetables. Be prepared to bargain for good prices.
- Marché Du Plateau (located close to BDEAC, across from Nenuphar restaurant). Here you can find some local fruits and vegetables, but you will find a better selection at the Marché de la Plaine. As always, bargaining is a must.
- Total Market (located in Bacongo). This is a large local market where you can find a good supply of fruits and vegetables, and local food products at low prices. All prices are fixed and displayed on products, so no need for bargaining.
- Marché de Poto Poto (in Poto Poto). This is the West African part of town.
Butchers and Meat Stores
There are two good butcher stores in town that sell both local and imported meats and seafood. There are also a few stores that sell frozen meat and seafood.
- Nénu Viande (located on the same street as Exotic Palace, close to Park N Shop). This store is run by a French butcher. It has a good selection of local and imported meat, but a limited supply of seafood. Check with the butcher to find out when seafood arrives. It also has an excellent selection of sausages. You can call and place an order for pick up later the same day. Tel: 81 4659 (general number).
- Casino Supermarket (located on the same street as the Brazza mausoleum): The meat section of this grocery store has a good selection of meats and seafood.
'*Guenin or Coup:' Located opposite the entrance to the ‘Beach’. Store sells frozen meat, fish, chicken, etc.
Local bread, white and whole wheat, is of good quality. You can buy fresh bread from the following bakeries:
- La Mie Dorée (located close to La Mandarine)
- La Mandarine, Avenue Foch
- Casino Bakery (inside the supermarket)
- Boulangerie de la Plaine Ex Leon (located down the street and around the corner from Score, next to the Marché de la Plaine fruit and vegetable market)
- Exotic Palace Ex. La Manne (across from Pharmacie Mavre, close to the roundabout),
Bread is cheap and sells out quickly. The best times to shop are between 9 and 11AM on weekdays and between 8:30AM and 10AM on the weekends. However, "street bread" can be found throughout the day for 100-150 FCFA. You can also find imported white and whole wheat bread from a few grocery stores, but they are expensive and sell out very quickly.
Small boutiques (mostly run by north Africans) are on every corner. You can find soap, pasta, croissants, basic goods here. They are reasonably priced.
- Marché du Plateau Craft Market (located across from Nenuphar restaurant, close to BDEAC). Here you find a selection of crafts, mostly from the neighboring area. Bargaining is a must.
- Tala Na Miso (located on the same road as the Marché du Plateau craft market). This store specializes in wood carvings and some brass work. Shop owner gives a good deal if you are a frequent customer.
- Poto Poto Painting School (located in the Poto Poto area). Excellent selection of paintings from local artists. School is one of the best places to find local paintings.
- La Paille et La Poutre (located across from Park N Shop). This store stocks nice crafts, mostly imported from South Africa. Very expensive, but good quality items.
- Open Air Painting Market (next to the post office). Here you can find paintings by local artists. You can also find copper items and wooden sculptures. Bargaining is a must here.
- Souvenir D’Afrique (a few shops down from Marché du Plateau, on the same road). Here you can find local souvenirs and trinkets.
Olympic Palace Hotel Craft Shop (located at Olympic Palace). Here you can find local crafts, but they are very expensive. You can get better prices at the local craft markets listed above.
- Laico Hotel Maya Maya (formerly Le Meridien Brazzaville), Boulevard Lyautey, BP 588, ☎ +242 81 03 03, fax: (242) 81 5549, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The beds have smushy mattresses, the pillows don't smell too good, but both the hot and cold water work. At the moment the hotel is undergoing refurbishment works which started on 28 February 2009 and will be ongoing during 24 months maximum (information received from the administration of the hotel).
- Olympic Palace Hotel, BP 1050, ☎ +242 81 34 36, fax: +242 81 00 30, e-mail: email@example.com. The new section of the hotel is the only one in Brazza that keeps westerns standards. The whole hotel arguably the best in the town (Air France personnel has moved from Laico to Olympic in last months, so now all the airlines have their air crews there, even the ones landing in Kinshasa, DRDC). The only drawback is the loud music till the morning once a week, when weddings take place. Free internet in the bar for anyone. 100.000 for old room, 150.000 for new room, 180.000 for double room.
- Hotel Hippocampe, +242 668 60 68 Price: 26,000-36,000 F CFA/night, depending on the room. Average price for a meal: 5,000 F CFA food + 2,000 F CFA drinks = 7,000 F CFA (€11). Owned by a French-Vietnamese couple. Staff is very nice. Food is good, though most of it is non-Congolese. It has warm water and wireless in some rooms and in the restaurant. Very nice outdoors restaurant.
- Hotel Oriental, Price: 30,000-40,000 F CFA/night, depending on the room. New hotel opened in May 2012 by a Lebanese in the quieter Bacongo district (on the road leading to "Case De Gaulle") - A restaurant is expected to open later in the same 3 storey building... It has air-con and brand new big flat screens in every room. Staff is very nice.
- Hotel Bikomou Quartier de l'OCH
- Hotel Mpama 141 Av. Loutassi
- Hotel Marina, BP 1947, +242 81 16 05. All rooms are of a good standard, double bed TV, mini bar, all en-suite, internet in some rooms (2000/hr) but you can also use for free the connection at the "Business center", doesn't compare to Olympic Palace, but much more central and perfectly comfortable, breakfasts are expensive at 10,000 much rather visit the Manderin near by. Staff don't speak a lot of English so communication can be a problem sometimes. Avoid the hotel restaurant at all costs. Very expensive and their foos quality is average. As in most of the hotels if you are travelling on your own you need to give them a deposit before you get a reservation. 85,000 for a room.
- Hôtel Belle Ville, Alphonse Fondere, ☎ +242 81 55 62.
- Bougainvilliers, BP 646, ☎ +242 81 11 56.
- Hotel des Ambassadeurs, ☎ +242 548 00 00.
- Hotel du Boulevard, BP 1547, ☎ +242 537 04 07.
- Hotel Etoile, ☎ +242 944 90 00.
- Villa Lys Hotel, 93, avenue du Dr Jamot, ☎ +242-5950002. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. In a former life, the Hotel Villa Lily used to be, for a part an office building, and for another part an apartment building. 117-208.
- Hotel Mikhael's, 67, Nelson Mandela Avenue, ☎ +242 05 366 66 60. An elegant boutique hotel situated in downtown. Within walking distance from the city’s main attractions, ten minutes away from the international Maya Maya Airport, and surrounded by natural richness.
Equipped for business conferences and receptions, it is the ideal meeting place for entrepreneurs.
- United States, 70-83 Section D, Maya-Maya Blvd, ☎ +242 06 612-2000, e-mail: BrazzavilleHR@state.gov;BrazzavilleACS@state.gov. M-Th 7:30AM-5PM, F 7:30AM-12:30PM.
- Pointe-Noire — the country's second city and a beach resort, a 15 hour train ride away at the Atlantic Ocean
- Kinshasa — the capital of DR Congo is just across the Congo river