8 Incredible things to do in Freetown, Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a very interesting country.
The country was given it’s name by a Portuguese explore which in English means Lion mountains.
Located on the west African coast, the country initially was formed as a country for ‘free slaves’ to return to. This means many slaves who had ‘served their time’ were send back to Sierra Leone from countries like England, Canada and Jamaica.
As these former slaves often took their cultures along with them, when they arrived in Sierra Leone, they created a country infused with a range of ethnic cultures.
Travelling here, gave me a weird homely feeling as I’d often meet many Sierra Leoneans with very traditional Nigerian names even though they’re not Nigerian.
Jamaican influences are also very prevalent in the country with reggae being blasted in the streets of Freetown.
Freetown is a place to be if you’re planning on visiting this country and here are a few reasons why.
Tips to know before setting off
The airport and the city centre aren’t located close to each other and you’ll need a boat to get to the capital (don’t know why they did that) but from the airport you have 2 options;
The speed boat: this is around ($50, you will get a minivan to the port and onto a small boat that takes you to the island in about 4 minutes)
The government boat: This is more like a ferry and about a 10 minute taxi ride (which you’ll have to haggle for outside of the airport – the taxis inside are much more expensive).
From the port, you pay around $10 to get to the city, you will have to wait until the ferry is full, and I mean FULL until the ferry departs to the other side.
I’m not sure if there is a schedule but when I went in 2019, I waited for about an hour till the ferry began to move.
You also have to be careful on the government ferry, I’ve heard stories of pickpockets who can smell foreigners from a mile away.
Whilst I enjoyed trying agra fruit for the first time with the locals beside me, I know everyone else may not get this experience.
I stayed in St. Johns area which is quite nice and felt very safe. There are a lot of nice restaurants and markets around this area.
Which leads me onto tip 2 which is to have some dollars and leones (the local currency) with you. Depending on where you are it may be better to pay in dollars i.e. upscale restaurants.
Wherever you are in the city, make sure you take a walk through the streets as you’ll be blown away by the amazing views of green forests in the distance.
So let’s get into my must-see areas in Freetown:
This museum located in the capital, Freetown, is an amazing start to understanding Sierra Leonean history.
It is always better to get a guide as there aren’t many descriptions about the artefacts.
The manager there is a lovely woman who talked me through all the artefacts and where they derive from also.
The cotton tree:
Literally, beside the national museum, this is one of the country’s monuments as it many see it as a landmark of freedom.
This tree is huge and can be admired from a distance which is all the better as you won’t be able to get to it because it’s on a roundabout 🙁 .
The National market:
This market was the most organised market I’ve ever been to.
With so many pan African designs. From wood carvings to jewellery and accessories.
This market perfectly represents West African cultures and designs with traditional Nigerian (Ankara) and Ghanaian (Kente) print used on the clothing and accessories.
Though this island is not technically in Freetown, it’s still pretty close and is filled with beautiful beaches.
The island does have a dark past as it was used as slave trading and shipping stations.
But it is well worth the visit as it holds many historical ruins and monuments. I highly recommend going with a guide.
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary:
This sanctuary is just 40 minutes outside downtown Freetown, and gives a safe ground, protecting nearly 100 chimpanzees from hunters and poachers.
Though small, your visit to the sanctuary can keep them open and save these beautiful creatures.
Freetown’s National Stadium:
I initially found out about this stadium from a local who told me about a swimming pool there.
The day I went to the swimming pool was unfortunately closed but what surprised me more was the stadium itself.
Once into the grounds, you’ll see plenty of shops and stalls all selling beautiful African clothing and accessories, food, electronics and more.
You can choose to walk down this long strip to have a shopping spree or enter the main building which is the football stadium.
Here you can watch local Sierra Leonean teams play. But even if you’re not into football the arena is so big with extra buildings housing events such as swimming.
It’s always best to go in person to ask their schedule for the coming days or ask a local.
This is by far Freetown’s most popular beach.
With a lot of locals going to relax, soak up the sun and play sports.
Why not join in with the locals in their activities especially when the sun goes down as there are occasional parties on the beach.
Freetown is home to over 1 million people so it’s no surprise that there are always some events going on.
The weekend nightlife is always packed with Aberdeen street drawing in the largest crowds.
Why not test out the nightlife yourself and let me know how it goes?
Safe travels x