Discovering Cotonou, Benin's capital

Cotonou is the capital of Benin - an African country located in the Gulf of Guinea, set between Togo and Nigeria. There is a port in the city, which opens out onto the Atlantic. Cotonou is thus a huge economic hub for the country. It is home to 760,000 inhabitants.
The climate there is tropical, with two rainy seasons that you had best avoid - going from April to July and from September to October.
During these periods, the streets are often flooded.
Once there, the official language is French - spoken by more than half of the population. There are also many other local dialects - such as Fon, Yoruba, Bariba, Goun, Mina, Adja, Dendi and Haoussa.
English is not spoken much, so English-speaking tourists will be better off with a dictionary.
To organise your adventure, make sure you book your airline ticket to Cotonou between November and February. You will land at the local international airport, located right on the water. Air France offers regular flights from London, with a lay-over in France. You will therefore need to count a 12-hour flight when travelling to Cotonou, with a lay-over, but you will appreciate not having to deal with any time difference once there.
Lastly, remember to prepare your trip before taking off and comply with all the formalities so your trip goes perfectly.

Cotonou, a city of the future filled with traditions

Like many other African countries, Cotonou is not a major tourist destination - which is a good thing for visitors who appreciate authenticity and tradition. Cotonou used to be a mere fishing village, but its advantageous position by the ocean makes it a key economic hub for the country's growth. The city is a huge bustling place, always filled with people despite the tropical temperatures. The city is now developing and gaining ground. Indeed, Cotonou is now expanding on both sides of the canal dug out in 1855 - even though it initially used to be set on the Western bank.
The inhabitants' activities revolve around trade, with lots of street vendors and lots of motor-taxis that can be easily recognised by their yellow shirts. You cannot visit Cotonou without calling upon one of these essential two-wheeled taxis.

During your trip to Cotonou, you can discover he largest open-air market in Western Africa. Dantopka market is a fascinating experience. You can buy anything you like there. You can enjoy mooching around the many stalls filled with fresh produce, fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, clothing, material, toys, crafts and even spare car parts. Do not hesitate to bargain for your purchases - it's a local custom!

In addition to its huge market, you can discover the various local cultural riches during your stay in Cotonou. Indeed, the city is extremely dynamic in terms of art and culture - boasting remarkable popular initiatives. The Centre for Craft Promotion is a key stage in your visit, with lots of objects exhibited by local artists. The Zinsou Foundation is also worth a visit: contemporary artists exhibit their works, and you can discover archives of African artistic culture.

When carrying on through the city, have a walk around the Red Star Square - a remnant of the military Marxist regime from the 70s. The central monument pays tribute to Dahomey soldiers.
Lastly, and to finish your visit, we recommend discovering the local beaches - not only to swim but also for their local activities and to find out about the inhabitants' customs and traditions. You will no doubt be seduced by the simplicity and authenticity of the Cotonou people.

For more information on preparing your trip:
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