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Destination Guide: Cotonou

Wide boulevards, colourful markets and peaceful pirogues
Dodge zipping scooter taxis known as zemijdans as you revel in the colour and chaos of Benin’s most populous city. Escape Cotonou’s throng with a languid pirogue canoe ride on Nakoue Lagoon.

Food and Drink

Dine under open-air marquis or at French cafés. Local Beninese specialities like rice with arachide groundnut sauce are served up under the high-pitched thatched roofs of Cotonou’s marquis. Dine on fine French cuisine at perennial favourite Chez Clarisse in Camp Guézo or while away the morning munching on fresh baguettes, croissants and exquisite pastries at a delectable patisserie on Avenue Clozel.

Sightseeing and relaxation

Discover market treasures, intricate mosques and colonial architecture. The seemingly endless labyrinth of alleys of the open-air Grand Marche de Dantokpa takes over Cotonou’s heart. Admire the red-and-white-striped Notre Dame des Apotres cathedral near the Ancient Pont Bridge, then contrast it with subtle blue tones of the Grand Mosque.

Shopping

Take home quality crafts and beautiful fabrics. Have fun haggling for batiks and ethnic Fon jewellery with the so-called ‘Mama Benz’, the sassy female traders of the Grand Marche de Dantokpa. Or browse through the wood carvings and bronze sculptures at the Centre de Promotion de l’Artisanal. Upmarket Woodin on Rue des Hindous sells quality Dutch wax fabric and textiles.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Refreshing beer and live jazz. Join Cotonou’s expats and foreign diplomats as they chill out with the local La Beninoise beer to the tune of Western pop at Le Livingston in the leafy suburb of Haie Vive. For a taste of the local nightlife, pop into Cotonou’s small buvettes bars or tap your feet to jazz along popular Jonquet.