Culinary destinations in Africa

The enormous continent is a melting pot of cultures and traditions and each flows into the food. These must-see cities across Africa all have the markers of a culinary hotspot WTF (worth traveling for), a thriving street food culture, plenty of delicious spices, and an impressive fine dining scene.

Tangier, Morocco

For foodie travelers visiting Morocco, Tangier is the top destination. Located by the Atlantic Ocean, less than10 miles from the Spanish border, it’s so close you can not only see it from Spain, you can jump on a fast ferry and enjoy lunch on a different continent. Here lunch is the largest meal of the day and is served in courses accompanied by a variety of dips, fresh bread, and olives.  Save room for the main event, most likely a tagine and prepare to fall in love. A traditional meat or seafood stew prepared in a ceramic pot and served with veggies and scooped up with khubz bread instead of cutlery. The way the pot is designed seals in moisture and helps to evenly distribute the flavors throughout the dish. 

Must try meal in Tangier: La Saveur De Poisson has a preset 6-course meal featuring traditional Moroccan dishes like couscous and harira along with showcasing local seafood. 

Where to stay in Tangier: We love the 18th-century palace Hotel Nord-Pinus Tanger for its views of the Atlantic Ocean and Spanish coast, and the way the vintage international design with Berber rugs, Chinese lacquered cabinets and Syrian chandeliers.

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Zanzibar has long been a hub for the spice trade. Combine that with the city’s rich history and Chinese, Arab, Indian and Portuguese culinary influences, and it’s a recipe for a bold foodie experience. So do drag yourself from the island’s turquoise waters to explore its many spice markets and spice tours to learn about Zanzibar’s culinary history (some of the best street food in Africa can be found lining its beachfront streets). Try a signature Zanzibar pizza, a savory spice infused crêpe overflowing with meat, cheese, eggs, and veggies, eaten like a local with chili sauce (beware it’s spicy). And always follow the scent of the thick smoke permeating the air that will be fresh seafood on the grill. 

Must-have meal in Stone Town: Emerson on Hurumzi is a rooftop tea house with 360-degree views of the city. The three-course set menu is a fusion of Zanzibar, Persian, and Omani cuisine featuring delicacies like ginger prawns, sesame aubergine and bungo fruit ceviche.

Where to stay in Stone Town: We love the Zuri Zanzibar for its stand-alone bungalows, on-site spice garden, and remote ferry or flight-only location.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is, without a doubt, one of the most sought-after food and wine destinations in Africa. What makes the culinary experience in South Africa unique is the influence of the colonizers and local cultures. Local markets, great coffee shops, and amazing food-based experiences like wild food foraging and cooking classes complement the phenomenal international restaurant scene. The best of which you can find in Cape Winelands on the outskirts of the city. Expect to find everything from sushi and  Spanish tapas to local favorites like biltong (dried cured meat) and bobotie (layered and baked curried meat with an egg and milk topping similar in appearance to lasagna or moussaka). The demand for fine dining in Cape Town is sometimes off the charts (especially in peak travel season December – January) so make reservations in advance. 

Must-have meal in Cape Town: The Test Kitchen, recognized as one of the Top 50 Restaurants in the World, is a hot spot serving an innovative global menu that features dishes like gnocchi dumplings, strawberry mille-feuille, and coconut laksa that is pure sensory overload. 

Where to stay in Cape Town: We love the Cape View Clifton for its panoramic mountain and beach views, an impeccable location that offers both privacy and access to the city.

Lagos, Nigeria

While much of Nigeria is filled with villages and nature reserves, Lagos is a buzzing metropolitan city with a burgeoning tech industry and plenty of gastronomy action. You’ll find high-end dining and energetic nightclubs as easily as delicious street food, which for Nigerian dishes means heavy on the chilies and spice. Luckily there are endless types of bread and root vegetable dishes like eba, pounded yam, and plantains in every imaginable form to help soak up that heat. When visiting Lagos, you must try the jollof rice — their signature dish cooked with tomatoes, onion, peppers, and scotch bonnets. 

Must-have meal in Lagos: NOK Garden by Alara is hip, stylish and everything about the vibe makes you happy.  From the modern and bright decor to the food — generous portions of Nigerian and Senegalese favorites such as lamb mafe, seafood okra stew and egusi soup with white yam to the delicious cocktails.

 Where to stay in Lagos: We love The Wheatbaker a boutique hotel with a beautiful poolside restaurant located in the popular Ikiyi neighborhood.

Dakar, Senegal

One of the best parts of dining in Darkar is how the food — a vibrant, flavorsome blend of local and French-influenced cuisine — is usually always accompanied by the lively beat of drums (talk about a perfect pairing). Perhaps the Darkar foodie pinnacle is eating in beachside restaurants serving grilled seafood and fresh beer. The most popular dish is thiebou diune, a local white fish accompanied by seasoned rice, steamed vegetables, and a bold tomato sauce. Expect to see peanuts, an important crop in Senegal, incorporated into many traditional dishes such as mafe, a tomato, and peanut sauce or stew. They’re also sold by street vendors all over the city and make for the perfect mid-afternoon snack before the next gastro experience strikes. 

Must-have meal in Dakar: Lagon 1, is a beachfront restaurant built high on stilts where you can enjoy fresh-caught seafood, their specialty is king prawns while listening to the waves break. 

Where to stay in Lagos: We love the Pullman Dakar for its ocean-front restaurant, poolside cabanas and vibrant local art displayed throughout the property.