Welcome to Freetown in Sierra Leone, a hidden gem on the West African coast that’s still dusting off the sand to reveal its sparkle. If you’re the type of traveler who thrives on adventure, embraces the charm of rusticity, and enjoys the bragging rights of visiting places your friends have never heard of, then Sierra Leone is calling your name. Let’s dive into the highlights of my recent trip to this up-and-coming destination that promises both enchantment and a hearty dose of reality check.

Where to Stay in Freetown

Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko HotelRadisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel

Our journey begins at the Radisson Blu Hotel, the kind of place that whispers, “Hey, we know you’re roughing it out there, but let’s start with a little comfort, shall we?” With a breakfast buffet that could make a morning person out of anyone and an à la carte dinner menu that’s as diverse as your travel itinerary, this hotel sets the tone for a trip filled with contrasts. Check current rates.

Toma Boutique HotelToma Boutique Hotel

If the Radisson is full an okay alternative is the Toma Boutique Hotel. Even if you don’t stay here you can stop in for a meal and a drink. It’s a cool place to take photos. 

Explore Freetown: Take A City Tour

Sierra Leone National Railway MuseumSierra Leone National Railway Museum

Kick off your city tour with a visit to the Railway Museum. Here, you’ll find relics of the country’s rail history, and if you’re lucky, a local guide who’s as animated as the exhibits. Sadly, one of their past leaders closed their railway and this is what is left. 

Old Fourah Bay CollegeOld Fourah Bay College

Next, step into the past at Old Fourah Bay College, West Africa’s first university. Though its glory days are behind it, the site holds a certain nostalgic charm that’s hard to miss. Plans are being made to refurbish it.

Cotton TreeCotton Tree

The beloved Cotton Tree may have recently fallen, but its legacy stands tall and some of the tree is left and regrowing. This spot is a poignant reminder of resilience and history.

Peace and Cultural MonumentPeace and Cultural Monument & National Museum

These stops offer a deeper dive into Sierra Leone’s rich cultural tapestry and tumultuous history.

Sierra Leone’s National Museum Sierra Leone's National Museum 

The National Museum, though small, packs a punch with its artifacts and stories. The history here is extremely rich.

Sierra Leone Peace MuseumSierra Leone Peace Museum 

A must-visit for those interested in understanding the shadows of the 11-year Civil War. It’s sobering but essential. They will ask you if you want to see images that they have covered up. This includes people who have been beheaded. I recommend declining to see it. After seeing I just can’t seem to unsee it. 

Gateway to the Kings Yard

Conclude your city tour with a stop at this historic gateway, which offers a peek into Sierra Leone’s colonial past.

Lunch with a ViewThe View: Restaurant & Sky Lounge.

At some point during the day refuel at the rooftop restaurant of the city’s tallest building, The View: Restaurant & Sky Lounge. The view is spectacular, and the food? Equally so.

Evening Cooking Class with Susan SenesiCooking Class with Susan Senesi

The highlight of my Freetown experience was an evening with Susan Senesi, a champion of women’s empowerment. At her Treat Food Concept, we rolled up our sleeves and dived into a home cooking class. Susan shared the stories behind the food, turning a simple meal into a cultural immersion. During the day you can stop in for lunch. 

River No. 2 BeachRiver No. 2 beach

River No. 2 beach is a lovely white beach area on the Atlantic and it has a river there that reaches the ocean which makes for a calmer place to swim if needed. There are several restaurants and bars here you can visit. They do charge you though to sit down. There are no ATMs here and they do not take credit cards. 

 

Day Trips from Freetown

Bunce IslandBunce Island

Bunce Island is a hauntingly beautiful relic of the past. The largest British slave castle on the Rice Coast, its ruins tell a story of sorrow and strength. The history here is hard to hear but important. The boat ride back to the mainland gives you plenty of time to reflect on the island’s history.

Tacugama Chimpanzee SanctuaryTacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary

A day at Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is heartwarming. The sanctuary, hidden in a 100-acre reserve, is committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned and abandoned chimps. The tour through the various stages of the sanctuary. Spending the night in one of their cozy cabins adds a rustic charm to the adventure.

I found out later that they offer good hiking and have waterfalls you can see. 

Final Thoughts

Sierra Leone is not for the faint-hearted, but it rewards the adventurous soul with its rich history, vibrant culture, and natural beauty. Pack your sense of humor, a hearty dose of patience, and a spirit of adventure, and you’ll find that Freetown, Sierra Leone has more than enough to offer. Happy travels!

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