Luanda, the capital of Angola, is on the Atlantic coast. Its current renaissance is an inspiring success story. Decades of conflict, which only ended in 2002, had long held Angola back. Since the start of the 21st century there has been a massive boom in construction in Luanda, where peace and stability have attracted numerous foreign companies to invest in offices in the city. The government of Angola, getting rich off revenue from oil, diamond and other natural resources, is also investing heavily in and around Luanda, including large social housing high-rise blocks of flats to replace slums and existing dilapidated (and often bullet-ridden) tower blocks; extensive repaving; the construction of several six-lane highways leading out of the city; the reconstruction of railway lines leading out of the city; and a large new airport on the south side is under construction, and following various delays is scheduled to open in 2023.
Luanda was founded in 1575 under the name São Paulo de Loanda by a hundred families of settlers and four hundred soldiers. Two forts were constructed in the early 17th century and the city became Portuguese Angola's administrative centre in 1627. From the late 16th century until 1836, Luanda was the port where nearly all slaves bound for Brazil left. Aside from a brief period of Dutch rule (1640–48), this period was relatively uneventful, with Luanda growing much like many other colonial cities, albeit with a strong Brazilian influence as a result of the extensive shipping trade between these Portuguese colonies. The independence of Brazil in 1822 and the end of slavery in 1836 left Luanda's future looking bleak, but the opening of the city's port to foreign ships in 1844 led to a great economic boom. By 1850, the city was arguably the most developed and one of the greatest cities in the Portuguese empire outside Portugal itself and fuelled by trade in palm and peanut oil, wax, copra, timber, ivory, cotton, coffee, and cocoa. After slavery officially ended (resisted by the Portuguese but enforced by the British) forced labour began. Numerous imported crops grew well in the surrounding area to support residents, such as maize, tobacco, and cassava. In 1889, an aqueduct opened, supplying fresh water and removing the only inhibitor to growth in the city. The city blossomed even during the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–74), which did not affect the city, and this modern city was even labelled the "Paris of Africa" in 1972.
After so much success, the city took a turn for the worse in the mid-1970s. While largely untouched during the Carnation Revolution (Angolan independence), the start of the Angolan Civil War in 1975 scared almost all Angola's population of Portuguese descent out of the country as refugees (including the majority of Luanda's population). This led to an immediate crisis as Angola's African population knew little about how to run or maintain the city. They were helped a little by skilled Cuban soldiers who were able to help the MPLA government maintain some of the city's basic services, but hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled fighting in the countryside created slums stretching for miles on all sides of the city. The city saw some sporadic fighting during the Civil War which left bullet holes in many high-rises and government buildings. When peace was achieved in 2002, the government began planning to rebuild using oil revenues. Today Luanda's skyline is dotted with cranes, erecting numerous social housing apartments to replace slums and existing, but grossly dilapidated, 40-plus-year-old high-rises as well as offices for numerous foreign companies operating in Angola. Just south of Luanda in an area aptly called Luanda Sul, Western-standard housing, many compound-style, is being built for the growing expat community. Major improvements are being made to roads, highways, and the rail system in and around the city but there is yet an overwhelming amount of work to be done. And while certainly still home to a large impoverished population (59%), free housing and the creation of thousands of new jobs each year means that Luanda may have a bright future ahead.
The climate is largely influence by the offshore Benguela current. The current gives the city a surprisingly low humidity despite its low latitude, which makes the warmer months considerably more bearable than similar cities in Western/Central Africa. The city receives an average of 405mm (15.9 in) of rain a year, mostly in heavy amounts in March and April and in lighter amounts from November through February. However, this is quite variable depending on the strength of the current and the coefficient of variation is 40% (there can be a sixfold difference between rain received in the driest of years and wettest of years). The temperatures are fairly stable year-round, with the mildest months being between May (29° max/23° min) and October and the warmest months being November (31° max/25° min) and April.
Luanda is divided into ten municipalities: Ingombota, Maianga, Sambizanga (centre), Samba, Rangel, Cazenga, (middle ring), Cacuaco, Viana, Kilamba Kiaxi, and the newly created municipality of Belas (periphery).
In the centre (Ingombotas and Maianga) the oldest colonial town is divided in Baixa de Luanda (lower Luanda, from the port to the fortress), Cidade Alta (upper city, where the presidential palace is), and Ilha do Cabo (a peninsula surrounding the bay, with beaches and expensive night-clubs, bars and restaurants). Behind and above the historic centre, central bairros include Maianga and Alvalade (residential) and Miramar (embassies), as well as Kinaxixe and Maculusso, which are characterised by Portuguese apartment blocks. Further outside the centre, the neighbourhoods become more informal (self-construction), dotted with 1970s Cuban apartment blocks and new developments. In the South, luxury gated communities (condominiums) predominate.
- 1 Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport
Despite the city's very low tourist numbers, it has a surprisingly large number of international connections, which largely service Angolans living abroad (such as in Brazil) and the growing number of firms servicing the oil and diamond industries as well as reconstruction (done largely by Chinese workers and Brazilian firms). A couple of carriers still operate routes based on Cold War alliances (to Havana and Moscow).
The city is the hub of national carrier TAAG Angola Airlines, one of just three profitable airlines in Sub-Saharan Africa, which offers flights to 15 Angolan cities. They offer flights to many cities in West-Central/Southern Africa including daily flights to Johannesburg as well as Douala, Cameroon; Sal, Cape Verde; Bangui, CAR; Kinshasa, DRC; Brazzaville & Pointe Noire in the Congo; Windhoek, Namibia; Sao Tome, Sao Tome and Principe; Lusaka, Zambia; Harare, Zimbabwe. Their long-haul offerings include: Dubai, Beijing (via Dubai), Lisbon, Paris, and trans-Atlantic flights to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.
Aside from TAAG, SonAir serve about a dozen airports each around the country. International service includes flights to/from: Dubai (Emirates), Frankfurt (Lufthansa), London-Heathrow (BA), Paris-de Gaulle (Air France), Windhoek (Air Namibia), Brussels (Brussels Airlines), Havana (Cubana, seasonal), Moscow (Aeroflot), Beijing (Hainan, via Dubai), Addis Ababa (Ethiopian), Lisbon (TAP Portugal).
When leaving the country do not take any kwanza to the airport as it is illegal to try to take kwanza out of the country; you may be stopped by the fiscal police and receive a heavy fine (all your kwanza taken and most of your other money) or imprisoned.
Rail services in Angola have seen a dramatic improvement over the last few years. Reconstruction and modernization are carried out by Chinese firms, rehabilitating what was once one of the most extensive rail network in Africa during under colonial rule. However, trains are of limited use for the tourist as they mainly serve commuters. An exception is the long distance services from Malanje. Notice that rail services still have a reputation of not being fully safe.
- 2 Central railway station (Estação Central de Luanda), Largo Eng. Pedro Folque (1 km north of city centre). Also known as Bungo railway station (Estação Ferroviária do Bungo). All long-distance trains terminates here.
The main road for tourists will be the coastal highway leading north to the DR Congo and south to Namibia. It is very scenic and in reasonably good repair. Roads are one of the top priorities in reconstruction efforts, including a handful of six-lane highways leading out of the city. Expect a mix of okay pavement on old highways and a smooth ride on new roads.
The National Bus Service has just re-opened but routes are not organized yet. There are some local services in Luanda and in between cities.
In 2018 a new ferry started on the Luanda to Cabinda, which is useful to avoid a transit through the DR Congo. It is operated by TMA Express.
The government is investing in an expansive a bus system.
A popular means for locals to get around the city is by mini bus taxis (Candongueiros), easily identifiable by their pale blue and white. Although they are considered dangerous by most expats, locals use them on a daily basis. During the daytime, until around 20:00, they are a safe, convenient, and usually fast means of transport in the inner-city. Fares are 100 Kwanzas per trip, except in rain or heavy traffic, when fares are doubled.
Consider to use the Macon Taxi a private taxi company (20-30 USD per trip).
Eco Tur also do 4x4 and minibus hire and airport transfers with bilingual drivers ([email protected]) +244 912 501 387
B Home will provide airport pick ups and are available for hire (drivers) +244 222 264 423 B Home has offices in Luanda, and in the US. +1-281-444-5988 (Houston Office).
Afri-taxi had 150 vehicles in Luanda and a rank at the airport.
The roads in Luanda are generally of okay standard, as is the case on the main routes between cities, but elsewhere road quality greatly decreases. Don't be surprised if you encounter unexpected problems during the rainy season. In Luanda main streets are paved, but streets in the slums are in disrepair, and most roads have no lines or signals. As mentioned before, there are improvements being made throughout the city. Congestion is a major problem with lack of public transport and the plethora of minibus taxis.
A commuter rail service is expected to open during the first half of 2021. While useful for reaching the suburbs, it will not be too useful for the average tourist.
- 1 Fortress of São Miguel (Fortaleza de São Miguel), Calçada de S. Miguel. Built in 1576, it became the administrative center of Luanda during the early part of colonial rule and was a self-contained city for the early military garrison and an important holding place for slaves. It contains ornate wall tiles detailing the history of the city along with many relics, such as cannons and the original holding cells for slaves.
- 2 São Pedro da Barra Fortress (Fortaleza de São Pedro da Barra). A fortress that served a variety of purposes throughout its history. It was constructed in the 17th century to protect the area from invaders. When the slave trade began, it was then used as a keep for the slaves until they were ready to send them away. Throughout Angola's struggle for independence against Portugal from 1961-1975, the fort housed nationalists who were arrested and then forced into labor camps.
- 3 Museum of Money (Museu da Moeda), Av. 4 de Fevereiro 151, ☏ +244 226 431 231. 09:00-15:00 M-Sa, closed Su. About Angola's history of currency, from non-cash to Zimbo and Kwanza.
- 4 National Museum of Slavery (Museu Nacional da Escravatura), ☏ +244 222371622. 09:00 to 18:00. Built in the area where the slaves were held prior to being taken off to the Americas. The museum building is the Capa de Casa Grande, which is where they baptized slaves prior to sending them off to the Americas. The museum is worth seeing for the chapel and the cannons on the outside. In the center of the chapel is a fascinating stone font, but with no description. There are a few period objects of real interest (such as stocks, a whip, shackles), but the framed prints on the walls are mostly copies from published works, with relatively little accompanying information. The high, windswept location is beautiful.
- 5 National Museum of Natural History, Nossa Senhora da Muxima, ☏ +244 222334055. A museum filled with thousands of species of animals, including fish, birds, crustaceons and insects. Many of the displayed animals are endangered, and some are even extinct. The museum does an impeccable job of displaying the large amount of diverse organisms that inhabit and once inhabited the country.
- 6 National Museum of Anthropology (Museu Nacional de Antropologia), Av. de Portugal 61, ☏ +244 222337024. Dedicated to educating people about Angolan history and culture, the National Museum of Anthropology features an impressive array of traditional masks along with art, sculptures, tools, weaponry, jewellery, clothing and musical instruments. Free.
- 7 Igreja do Carmo. Built in 1669.
- 8 Igreja da Nazare. A church built in 1664. It is famous for its beautiful altar made of Italian rose marble.
- 9 Church of Our Lady of Remedies (Igreja Nossa Senhora dos Remédios), ☏ +244 939 779 809. Another old Catholic church, this one built in 1628.
- 10 Agostinho Neto Mausoleum, ☏ +244 222334835. Upon arrival in Luanda, it is impossible to miss the towering obelisk-like structure shooting above the rest of the city. If you're curious to know what it is and why it is there, it's a mausoleum dedicated to Agostinho Neto, the first President of Angola who led Angola's struggle for independence.
- Old Town. Historic quarter of Luanda, contains a splendid variety of Portuguese colonial buildings and dates to the 16th century.
Jobs are mainly available in the oil sector, but also in the increasing number of international Angola based companies which are investing in Angola now that peace and stability are offering great development prospects for the country.
- 1 Benfica Handcrafts Market, Belas, ☏ +244 941 615 450. For local crafts, at low prices, try this market just south of Luanda.
- 2 Belas Shopping, Av. Luanda Sul. 21:00 to 22:00. Opened in 2007, it is Angola's first shopping mall. It features nearly 100 shops, a cinema, various restaurants and a central square for live entertainment.
The majority of restaurants are on The Marginal or on Ilha de Luanda, where Luanda's elite go to dine and have fun. Be careful: when eating out, do not drink the tap water.
The Belas Shopping mall has a food court with a variety of options from local foods to pizza and burgers.
- Panela de Barro, R. Emílio M'Bidi, ☏ +244 933 552 244.
- 1 Chez Wou, Av. Mortala Mohamed 50 R/C Ilha do Cabo, ☏ +244 924 237 190.
- 2 Macau Restaurante, Avenida Mortala Mohamede Ilha, ☏ +244 938 967 888. 10:00–23:00.
- 3 Vista Da Fortaleza, Rua Massano de Amorim, Chicala 1 (in front of Supermercado Pomobel), ☏ +244 938 550 540. 11:00–22:00.
- 4 Restaurante Café Del Mar, Av Murtala Mohamed, ☏ +244 923 581 333. Formerly Coconuts Restaurant, still with a great Atlantic Ocean view though.
- 5 Beer Burger & Beef (BBB), Av Murtala Mohamed, ☏ +244 931 003 774. Formerly the popular Cais de Quatro Restaurant. You can still see a spectacular view of the Luanda skyline from your table.
- 6 Pimms, Rua Emílio M’Bidi, nº 112, ☏ +244 222 326 290. M–F 12:30–15:30 & 19:30–22:30, Sa 19:30–22:30.
Luanda is highly influenced by Portuguese culture. Portuguese beer is widely consumed, although Heineken and Carlsberg make an appearance. Super Bock, Sagres and Cristal (most popular) are popular beers from Portugal. Local beers such as Nocal, Cuca (the most popular, especially the excellent draught version, or "fino" in Portuguese) and Eka. Try Portugalia (Portuguese Beer House) at the beginning of the Ilha, or either of the two boat clubs just on the Ilha for a nice sundowner (Clube Nautico and Clube Naval).
Also, there are some excellent Portuguese wines widely available.
- 1 Inn Luanda (Inn Luanda Boutique Hotel Type), Rua Francisco Sá de Miranda, nº 50, ☏ +244 922687350, +351 919863637. Boutique hotel located in residential area close to center. Very clean and good air-con with free WiFi. Breakfast was included and they can prepare lunch and dinner. The manager speaks English. Single $225, Double $245, Triple $275.
- 2 Art House, Av. Murtala Mohamed, ☏ +244 918 001 001. Free breakfast, wifi, a/c, restaurant/bar, beach access. Nice artistic vibe. Kz 55469.
- 3 Casas de Luanda-GH Kinaxixe (next door to natural history museum), ☏ +244 222 320 358. Free wifi and breakfast. Kz 56079.
- 4 Hotel Tropico. This one will cost a pretty penny. Kz 202981.
- 5 Hotel Presidente, Largo 17 de Setembro nº4, ☏ +244 222 311 717. A prestigious four star hotel in the city center.
- 6 Rouxinol Luxury Guesthouse (Hotel Rouxinol), Beco de Moçambique nº 16, Bairro Cruzeiro, ☏ +244 923 745 078 (Farah), +244 923 581 308. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 14:00. Near the Embassies in Miramar and the centre of town. $180-400.
- 7 Alvalade Hotel. Kz 179818.
Safety in Luanda is average for safety among African cities. Don't venture into the slums. Don't go out at night alone. Keep your car doors locked at all times. Violent crime has been on the rise, but it is mostly in the slums. The colonial part of the city is safe from violent crime; but like most African cities, pickpocketing or muggings are a fact of life. You will greatly reduce your chances of such if you stay low key: no fancy clothes or car, use a money belt, etc. The city is an expensive place to live and Angolans have realized that most expats in the city are high-salaried employees from large corporations, so you should especially avoid business attire.
Do not give beggars money; if you do, you will soon have a lot of them surrounding you.
This is Central Africa: many police in Luanda are very corrupt. Check for their identity number (should be located on an arm band near the shoulder) and you may present charges against any abuse. As a visitor, it's important to carry an authorised photocopy of your passport at all times. Otherwise, you will get an on the spot fine or worse, courtesy of the police. Do not carry your original; the police may ask for it and keep it until you pay a "fine".
Embassies and consulates
- Consulate of Canada, Rua Rei Katyavala 113, ☏ +244 222 448-371, +244 222 448-377, +244 222 448-366, fax: +244 222 449-494, [email protected].
- Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Avenida 4 de Fevereiro 120 Caixa Postal 1295 Luanda, ☏ +244 222 334516, +244 912 508146, fax: +244 222 37 25 51. Mondays to Friday- from 09:00 to 12:00 or by appointment.
- Consulate of Greece, Av. 4 de Feveiro 82, 2 o Andar, Apt. 1, Zip Code 2177, Luanda, ☏ +244 23 96 852, fax: +244 23 96 171.
- Embassy of the Netherlands, Empr. Comandante Gika Edificio Garden Towers - Torre B - Piso 8, Travessa Ho Chi Minh - Bairro Alvalade, ☏ +244 222 310686, +244 222 311511, fax: +31 847300850, [email protected]. Mondays to Friday- from 08:00 to 16:00 on Friday till 13:00.
- Romania, Rua Ramalho Ortigão, 30, Bairro Alvalade, ☏ +244 222 321076, fax: +244 222 321076, [email protected]. Embassy
- Embassy of the Republic of Serbia, Rua Comandante Nzagi 25/27, Alvalade, ☏ +244 222 321421, fax: +244 222 321724.
- Embassy of the United Kingdom, Rua Diogo Cão 4 Caixa Postal 1244, ☏ +244 222 334582, fax: +244 222 333331. Mondays to Thursday - from 08:00 to 12:30 and 13:30 to 16:30; Fridays - from 08:30 to 13:00.
- Embassy of the United States, Rua Houari Boumedienne, #32, ☏ +244 222-641-000, fax: +244 222-641-232, [email protected]. Consular assistance (for US citizens) available Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday from 2PM-4:30PM.
- Embassy of Israel, Rua Rainha Ginga #34, Edificio Siccal, ☏ +244 222-395-195, fax: +244 222-396-366, [email protected].
Go a bit south of Luanda and you will find the outstanding Parque Nacional Da Kissama (also spelled Quiçama in Portuguese), home to elephants, antelope, exotic birdlife, ostriches, zebras, wildebeest, and giraffes, which are still thriving in great numbers but because tourism is just beginning to start in Angola, it still has a bit of a wild side to it. It is also very beautiful with spectacular views.