Dar Es Salaam is Tanzania’s largest and most influential city.
Yet Mount Kilimanjaro, the northern circuit of African wildlife and the island of Zanzibar are the reasons why many tourists that visit Tanzania miss the largest city altogether.
With 4 – 6 million inhabitants, Dar Es Salaam is a vibrant East African city that includes lots of excitement and plenty of character.
Culture, beaches, shopping and food – Dar Es Salaam has a little slice of adventure for you to enjoy.
Here’s a list of 23 fun things you can do while in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania!
1. Kariakoo Market
One of the busiest and most thrilling markets in Dar Es Salaam is the local Kariakoo market.
This is the place to go if you are hunting for the best bargains in town or wish to see the authentic side of local style Tanzanian shopping. Make sure you haggle to get the best deals.
Be cautious with your money and possessions as Kariakoo is a bustling crowded place.
2. Dar Es Salaam Fish Market
One of my favorite things to do in Dar Es Salaam is wake up early in the morning and wander around the Dar fish market.
People gather from around the city to purchase the fresh catch of the day. Climb the flight of stairs leading towards to the official offices for a lovely bird’s eye view of the fish market.
Arrive at around 6:30 am to catch the most energized fish auctions taking place.
3. View of Dar Es Salaam
Located near the Azania Lutheran Church, you can go to the New Africa Hotel and navigate your way to the Sawasdee Thai food restaurant for a great view of Dar Es Salaam and the harbor.
4. Askari Monument
One of the most well known historical statues of significance in Dar Es Salaam is Askari Monument. Depicting a soldier with his bayonet pointing to the harbor, the monument is a reminder of the soldiers that fought as the Carrier Corps in World War I.
The cast bronze Askari Monument is supposedly located in the precise center of Dar, in the middle of the roundabout that bisects Samora Avenue with Maktaba Street.
5. Azania Lutheran Church
Originally built by German missionaries in Tanzania, the Azania Lutheran Church is an iconic structure located at Dar Es Salaam’s harbor front. From the cathedral you’ll have easy access to other tourist attractions around town.
6. National Museum of Dar Es Salaam
The museum is not setup in the most entertaining way, but if you are willing to read, you’ll learn quite a bit.
7. Temple Road
If you are walking around downtown Dar Es Salaam, take a stroll down Temple Road where you’ll find a selection of religious temples. There’s not much else to do, but you can visit a few of the temples and have a look around.
8. Pugu Hills Nature Reserve
Pugu Hills is a designated nature reserve located around 25 kilometers from the center of Dar Es Salaam. Along with an opportunity to hike the trails, you can also choose to bird watch or visit the cave which is famous for its colony of bats.
9. Coco Beach on the Weekends
Coco Beach, also known as Oyster Bay, is a stretch of beach located on the Msasani Peninsula of Dar Es Salaam. If you are looking for fun things to do in Dar Es Salaam, head over to Coco Beach on the weekend when it’s packed full of local Tanzanians and Asians.
There are plenty of street food snacks and sometimes live music. The open area is also a place where frequent concerts and parties take place – check the city events guide.
Swimming is not really recommended at Coco Beach, though some choose to wade in the water.
10. Bagamoyo Town
Similar to Mombasa or Lamu, Bagamoyo town located north of Dar Es Salaam, is an ancient East African trade port. The town has been influenced by Arabs and Indians to create a uniquely Swahili culture.
On a day trip to Bagamoyo, you can visit ancient ruins, old churches and mosques and tour one of Tanzania’s only college of arts known as Chuo Cha Sanaa.
If you don’t have your own transportation, you can get to Bagamoyo by local bus or by taking a day tour.
11. Bongoyo Island
One of the most entertaining things to do in Dar Es Salaam is swim in the beautiful warm tropical Indian Ocean – but not right in Dar itself – there are a few locations that aren’t far that are much better (and cleaner).
Bongoyo Island is a small island off the coast of Dar that makes a fantastic day trip of lazying on the beach, snorkeling and dining on fresh fried fish and chips.
Since becoming a marine reserve a few years ago, fees have severely increased, but it’s still worth it. Get to the island by taking a boat from The Slipway shopping center.
12. North Beach – Jangwani and Mbuja Island
North of Dar Es Salaam there are a few lovely beaches and islands to enjoy as well. From White Sands hotel in Jangwani, you can take a boat to Mbuja Island, a great place to unwind and eat freshly caught Indian Ocean seafood.
13. South Beach – Kigamboni
Seclusion, peace and quietness is how I would describe the South Beach area of Dar Es Salaam. There are a number of hotels that you can visit, or you can rent your own personal banda thatch covered hut for the day. The lanky palm trees rustling in the breeze and the rythmic wash of waves makes spending a day at South Beach one of the most relaxing things to do in Dar Es Salaam.
Get there by personal vehicle or by local dala dala minivan. You’ll need to cross to the Kigamboni side of Dar by taking the ferry across the port – the ferry ride alone is an awesome Dar experience!
14. Village Museum
More of a hands on than the National Museum, the Village Museum offers a chance to observe a number of typical style Tanzanian traditional huts and learn more about the tribes of the country.
Dance and drum performances are held in the evenings on weekends.
15. Mwenge Carvers’ Village
Located on the outskirts of town, Mwenge Carvers’ Village is a great attraction in Dar Es Salaam if you are in the market for Tanzanian souvenirs.
Though there is a lot of the same same type of things, if you take the time to browse around you’ll come away with some unique and quality Tanzanian handicrafts.
16. Tingatinga Art Center
Tanzanian’s have long been famous around Africa for their artwork (even on the streets of Dar). The modern movement of Tingatinga painting is one my my favorite styles of Tanzanian art.
An artistic movement that began with Edward Said Tingatinga, the style is characterized by extemely bright oil colors and cartoon imaginative figures.
The Tingatinga center is a rainbow of color and artistic inspiration. You can browse around and buy anything you see!
17. Kanga Shopping – Uhuru St.
A popular thing to buy in Dar Es Salaam are the colorful pieces of wrap around cloth known as kangas. These brightly dyed rectangles of fabric are available in infinite colors, with infinite patterns and often include a message written in Kiswahili.
Head over to Uhuru Street in downtown Dar Es Salaam for a huge distribution selection of kangas.
18. Nyama Choma
Just like in neighboring Kenya, nyama choma (roasted meat – often goat) is wildly popular – and incredibly delicious. Go to a local restaurant, order your choice of meat and wait for it to slowly roast.
In Tanzania, nyama choma is served with a few chillies and sometimes a tomato and red onion garnish. Many Tanzanians choose to wash down their nyama choma with a few beers.
Mishkaki is the Tanzanian version of meat on a stick – street style shish kebabs! Marinated in a few spices, cooked on a bed of hot coals, and served with hot chili and lime juice, mishkaki is a wonderful treat.
20. Indian Food
With a sizable population of Indians, there’s a decent selection of delicious Indian food available in Dar Es Salaam (just like with Kenyan food). The Upanga area, in central Dar, is one of the best areas of town to locate good Indian food.
21. Zanzibari Mix
There is one dish in Dar Es Salaam that is rare, but is a gem of an example of an expertly prepared dish that sums up the realm of cultures and traditions of the city: Zanzibari Mix.
The makeshift Mama Mumtaz restaurant is not easy to find – in fact, you’ll probably have to walk to Kariakoo market and ask someone to direct you to it. Zanzibari mix is incredible – a comforting combination of deep fried fritters in a coconut milk curry and garnished with fresh chutneys and chili sauce.
22. Tanzanian Street Food
23. Tanzanian Beverages
Everywhere you travel you’ll encounter a new and unique set of local beverages. When you are in Tanzania you may want to sample the selection of locally brewed beer, have a few cups of Dar street coffee and especially guzzle a pungent Stoney Tangawizi.
After spending a few days in Dar Es Salaam you may want to visit the famous island of Zanzibar for a relaxing holiday. Be sure to read about how to get from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar and then check out these top things to do in Zanzibar!