Set on the banks of the Congo River, Brazzaville is an elegant and clean capital city, where visitors are warmly welcomed. The international airport has distinctly modern architecture – all efficiency and light airiness below vaulted ceilings. Characteristic of this tranquil capital city, the airport staff – from customs and immigration officers to porters – are quietly efficient and polite. Heading into the city proper, you pass a curious mix of old and new: contemporary skyscrapers, traditional cathedrals, impressive monuments, and the multitude of colourful little stores and hustle-bustle characteristic of Africa’s informal economy.

The city serves a vibrant community of travellers, mostly businessmen and tourists on a Congo safari, overnighting before their morning flight to Odzala-Kokoua National Forest. There are some quality hotels and restaurants – it is definitely worth taking the advice of your guide or hotel concierge about where to eat and what to see. That is the only way you will find local institutions like the riverside pub and restaurant, Mami Wata, which is a definite recommendation for sunset drinks and dinner. Speaking of sunset: this is tropical Africa so apply insect repellent from the minute you arrive. Illnesses like malaria and yellow fever are often most prevalent where the human community is densest, so be vigilant about avoiding insect bites when you explore and not only as an after-sunset precaution.

Brazzaville’s main attractions are conveniently located fairly close together. This makes it possible to visit a national attraction, like the Pierre de Brazzaville monument, one of the city’s beautiful cathedrals, and go shopping in a vibrant market, all on an afternoon city tour. The city is orderly and clean, the Congolese are eager and helpful hosts, the attractions are presented to visitors with discreet pride, quality restaurants serve Western cuisine, and the local brew is simply sublime – a real treat for coffee aficionados. This is a city worth exploring! Tear yourself away from the comforts of the hotel swimming pool, and you will be richly rewarded.