Discover Dakar: from African art to rooftop hangouts and hidden culinary gems

In Dakar, colonial style meets modernity, and a new city is emerging. Wallpaper* contributor Emeline Nsingi Nkosi takes us on a tour of the must-see spots

view of Dakar with mosque in foreground and sea in background
(Image credit: Igor SPB)

It is safe to say Dakar is having a moment. The city has always been a creative hub and a point of reference within sub-Saharan Africa. But recent events, such as Chanel’s 2022/23 Métiers d’Art show, which took place in December 2022, are cementing it on a global platform. The sprawling city is a magnet for those in art, fashion, film, music and sports, and will host the Summer Youth Olympics in 2026. Travel presenter Emeline Nsingi Nkosi, who has been based in Dakar for the past three years, gives a glimpse into the allure of a buzzing city still in the throes of building itself. 

Dakar: from culinary hotspots to artistic attractions

H2 Selebe Yoon

door to selebe yoon gallery in dakar, white building

Selebe Yoon Gallery in Dakar

(Image credit: Courtesy Selebe Yoon Gallery)

Within a white colonial building, which dates from 1952 and spans 2,500 sq m over four floors, art gallery and residency Selebe Yoon has taken over 1,000 sq m on the second floor. The façade alone is worth the visit. An imposing curved entrance accented with louvres allows light to shine onto the spiralling staircase. In Wolof, ‘Selebe Yoon’ means ‘the crossroad’, the place where different paths intersect. It's the perfect summation of the ethos of the gallery, understated yet luminescent, a place where local and international thinkers alike lend their ideas to the canvas of its white walls.

Seku Bi

view of room at seku bi in dakar, senegal. Bed with large frame and plant pot

(Image credit: Seku Bi)

Nestled in a quiet street in Plateau, Dakar’s bustling downtown area, Seku Bi is the kind of spot you might blink and miss. A true oasis in the city, the seven-bedroom boutique hotel is housed across two colonial-style villas overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The terrazzo flooring has been preserved throughout, with each of the rooms either facing the ocean or the private gardens. The serenity continues in the form of Il Pappagallo, the Italian restaurant led by chef Abdou Fall, who brings a new dimension by mixing local flavours from his familial home of Senegal and from Turin, the town where he grew up.

Phare des Mamelles

rooftop view with sunset in background

(Image credit: Courtesy Phare des Mamelles)

Perched atop the taller of twin hills, Dakar’s working lighthouse dates to the late 19th century. In contrast to the city’s flat terrain, the hill, of volcanic origin, makes for a thrilling ride up in a shuttle bus. The adjoining restaurant serves up local classics like thiof (a fish caught off the Atlantic coast), sautéed gambas and lobster over 360-degree views of the city below. Come for the highest view of Dakar, stay for the sunset, live music and good times. 

Agence Trames

view of rooftop in dakar, senegal

(Image credit: Courtesy Agence Trames)

Overlooking Independence Square, cultural hub Agence Trames is usually packed on its infamous Thursday evenings, with a concoction of the city’s creatives connecting over cocktails and collaborations. Chanel held its official afterparty on the rooftop following its Métiers d’Art show in 2022. Come daytime, it’s a true hive of activity, with gallery spaces, co-working areas and artists’ residences spread over four warehouse-style levels. Each level is divided by wrought iron windows rather than solid walls, allowing threads of collaboration to form. Agence Trames is also now home to École Kourtrajmé, the tuition-free French film school founded by award-winning director Ladj Ly.


F Koncept

pink and yellow bag on white rug

Bags on display at F Koncept in Dakar

(Image credit: Courtesy F Concept)

The city is fast emerging as a fashion centre, and looking on the streets it’s easy to see why. If you’re feeling inspired, then it’s a quick stop from the city centre to F Koncept, which showcases the work of many local designers and artisans. The moment you enter this hall of treasures, hidden behind omnipresent building works, you will be welcomed by its owner, Senegalese-born Faiez. As if his selection of fashion, beauty and homeware weren't tempting enough, the store is also one of the few retailers of Nio Far by Milcos trainers, which are limited-edition, handmade works of art.


Le Djoloff

view of hotel from outside, vines on outside and cars outside

(Image credit: Courtesy Le Djoloff)

A visit to Le Djoloff boutique hotel is a visual lesson in the splendour that is earthen architecture. Designed by David Guyot, the seven-storey hotel was built by Doudou Dème’s ElemenTerre using compressed earth brick, in 2015. A focus on natural resources and local expertise is at the forefront of the establishment. The fabrics and furniture are by Aissa Dione, and the metal stools and coffee tables from Ousmane Mbaye. The basement offers vibrant jazz and the rooftop a locally sourced menu. It’s also where you will likely find Dakar’s most prominent architects having a drink.

The Théodore Monod African Art Museum

view of art installation at dakar art musem

Works by Johanna Bramble and Fatim Soumaré, installed at Théodore Monod African Art Museum in Dakar

(Image credit: © Barada Preira)

A visit to the Théodore Monod African Art Museum, one of the oldest museums in West Africa, is a cultural highlight. Built in a Neo-Sudanese and colonial style, the first of two buildings, situated at the front, was erected in 1932. It houses rotating displays of the museum’s permanent collection, comprising 10,000 pieces of art from 20-plus African countries. The second building, built in 1992, is hosting Chanel’s Galerie du 19M (showcasing the skills of its métiers d’art ateliers, based in the house’s Le 19M building in Paris) until 31 March 2023, and Louis Barthélemy’s ‘Mbër Yi / The Wrestlers’,  until 28 April 2023.


You’d be mistaken in thinking Bazoff is a nightclub, despite the bodyguard manning the entrance off the busy Avenue Bourguiba. Enter and you will find local professionals taking their lunch break on canteen-style wooden tables. Offering two dishes of the day, one local and another European, lunchtime is always a dish roulette. Hope for thieboudienne (Senegal's national dish of fish and rice), mafé (a meaty peanut stew) or caldou (a fresh fish and vegetable stew), all specialities they do particularly well. A bissap (hibiscus cold drink) or a local Gazelle beer to wash it down never disappoint.

Originally hailing from France and DRC, Emeline Nsingi Nkosi grew up in the UK and landed in West Africa in 2016. A freelance presenter and producer, she covers art, fashion, culture and travel. She is recognised for her reporting on the BBC World Service, presenting The BBC Travel Show and travel anchoring for TravelXP. Outside of her presenting work, she is a working actor with various credits under her belt.