Once a place of conflict, Luanda has reinvented itself as a peaceful, stable modern city. There has been a surge in the country's fortunes, which have restored a city that was historically a center for trade, culture, and commerce. Today you'll fine a chic luxury beach party scene, fine dining, and shopping in a lush and welcoming tropical locale.
Along with the upscale beach scene along the peninsula, there are many other great beaches to explore around the city, including Sangano Beach just to the south of the city.
A walk along this beautifully restored promenade is a must during your visit to Luanda, extending from the port towards the peninsula with gorgeous views of the waterfront.
You'll see Porsches and other sports cars on the downtown streets, and an upscale shopping scene that includes international designers.
Luanda is a city still under reconstruction, but with all that is new, you can still experience its storied, centuries-old past in monuments like the old Portuguese Fortress of São Miguel that overlooks the city from the hill, among other museums.
From fine dining to fabulous street food, including mouthwatering fresh seafood dishes, there is a diverse restaurant scene for your taste buds to explore.
This city center museum is one of Luanda's most enlightening attractions. It was originally set up in the Fortaleza area in the 1930s, but had to move as its collections became too large to accommodate. Nowadays, the halls and cabinets are jam-packed with Angolan fish, mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects - giving a fascinating impression of the richness of the country's biodiversity. A particular attraction is the black sable antelope specimen, which you won't see anywhere else, but the colorful and beautiful animals on display go on and on.
Definitely Luanda's tourist hub, the Fortaleza de São Miguel was built by the Portuguese way back in 1576, and still cuts an impressive figure on the seafront of Angola's capital. See the whitewashed walls, cannons and historic displays, but make time for the fort's other attractions as well. The Museum of the Armed Forces is located on-site, and includes a wide range of 1970s military vehicles and artillery. If you're interested in the tangled story of how Angola won its independence and the civil war of the 80s and 90s, it's a good place to start.
Slavery was a central part of Angolan history for hundreds of years, and countless locals were taken across the Atlantic, never to return. This engaging museum tells their story, and is located a few miles southwest of the city center, by the Atlantic Ocean. While the museum is absorbing, it's also right next to a haunting monument to the era of slavery; the Capela da Casa Grande, where slavers "baptized" slaves before herding them onto cramped ships, bound for the Americas.
Situated around 50 miles away from central Luanda, but relatively easy to reach by road, Quiçama (or Kissama) National Park is a nature lover's dream. Angola's best-run nature reserve, it stretches over a whopping 3 million acres (making it twice as large as Rhode Island), and has become a vital elephant sanctuary thanks to the pioneering work of the Kissama Foundation. The best way to visit is probably via tour companies who work out of Luanda, and can show you all of the best wildlife viewing locations.
Located in the Coqueiros neighborhood, the National Museum of Anthropology is another massive hoard of engaging exhibits. In this case, the exhibitions center on the communities who live in Angola, their rich cultural practices, and their often troubled pasts. Items like farming tools, musical instruments, and clothes give a vivid picture of everyday life away from the bustling capital, and there's even a reconstructed iron smelting furnace of the kind Angolans have used for generations to make tools, pots, jewelry, and weapons.
The climate of Luanda is warm and humid. Most travelers opt to visit during the cooler, drier winter months between May and October, when temperatures average about 75 to 80.
Luanda International Airport or Quatro de Fevereiro Airport (LAD) is the country's main international air travel hub, located about six miles to the south of the city. A taxi to the city runs about Kz8,200.
There are rail connections available to Dondo and Malanje.
Roads throughout Angola are still under reconstruction, and their condition can't be guaranteed.
TCUL provides intercity bus service within the Luanda province to centers such as Benguela, N'dalatando, Malanje, and Huambo.
You can opt for contemporary luxury at the Hotel Presidente. Stay beachside in the trendy Ilha do Cabo at the Hotel Ilhamar, with a stylish roof bar and restaurant offering great views of the ocean.
Baixa de Luanda - this area extends from the old port to the fortress in the lower city, and is where you'll find the oldest parts of Luanda, featuring narrow, winding streets and colonial architecture.
Cidade Alta - this neighborhood is located in the upper city and it's where you'll find the gorgeous Parliament buildings.
Ilha do Cabo - this small peninsula extends into the bay, lined with fine sand beaches and a string of restaurants, lounges, bars, and other entertainment options.
TCUL operates bus lines throughout the city.
Minibus taxis are a popular way for locals to get around the city. Typical fares are Kz100 per trip.
Compact rentals start at about Kz12,000.
Maianga is the city's shopping district for locals, where you'll find basics and bargains. For more upscale shopping, look to the port area, or the malls in Luanda Sul to the south.
Casa dos Frescos is one of the city's supermarket chains, where you'll find a decent selection of goods at reasonable prices. A quart of milk costs about Kz425, while a dozen eggs costs about Kz830.
Enjoy high-end Mediteranean cuisine with an emphasis on delectable seafood at Lookal Mar, where main dishes start at about Kz10,000. At La Vigia, you can savor classic Portuguese barbecue, including fish and seafood, starting at Kz4,150.