1. Where to Stay
The Le Méridien President (from 121 euros) is the city’s only real beachfront resort; your room will either face the sea or the nine-hole golf course out back.
Far more central is Hotel Ganale (38 rue Assane-N’Doye; 221-821-5570), a stylish, budget-friendly property with a buzzy late-night bar.
On nearby Gorée Island, the French-managed Auberge Keur Beer (1 rue du Port; 221-821-3801) serves a huge breakfast — with baguettes, bien sur.
2. Where to Eat
Dakar’s cuisine happily blends the African and French traditions. At Le Dagorne (11 rue Dagorne; 221-822-2080), a Colonial-era Gallic institution near the Kermel Market, eat a salad niçoise or salad lardons in the breezy courtyard.
Less formal is Le Toukouleur (122 rue Moussé Diop; 221-821-5193), a plant-filled, airy eatery with an open kitchen that serves light French dishes and Senegalese classics such as maffe, a peanut-butter stew.
The menu at Chez Loutcha (101 rue Moussé Diop; 221-821-0302) is made up of food from Portugal’s former African colonies, like cachupa, a corn stew with meat and dried vegetables.
By day, eat buttery pastries and people-watch at Les Ambassades (4 Blvd. de l’Est, Point E; 228-825-5587); late night, the café serves pizza and Middle Eastern snacks.
3. What to Do
Even the hardest-core Putumayo fan will feel like a wannabe at Club Thiossane (pronounced cho-sahn; Sicap rue 10, 221-824-6046), the nightclub owned by Senegalese pop king Youssou N’Dour. He might well play if he’s in town, or you could see world-music biggies like Baaba Maal or Cheikh Lô. The show doesn’t start till after midnight. A similar vibe and audience can be found at Le Sahel (Centre Commercial Sahm; 221-821-2118), the Thiossane’s less-legendary competitor. For more experimental music, the mbalax at Sun Set Sahel (Centre Commercial Sahm) is served to a crowd of young locals whose sartorial sense is clearly more influenced by Jay-Z than N’Dour. Young mbalax musicians also get their start at Yengoulene (Nord Foire; 221-869-0710), just outside the city center.
For a mellower sound, try the Couleur Café (Carrefour Ouakam; 221-569-5260). Acoustic band Freres Guisse, already a hit in Europe, performs weekly. Expected to be Senegal’s next big export, Freres Guisse plays with an instrumental and more traditional world-beat sound.
Dance at the nightclub in Le Casino du Cap-Vert (Route de Ngor; 221-820-0974). Play the tables when you get tired.
4. Insider’s Tip
Boxes of CDs and cassettes in the dusty, mazelike stalls at the Marche Sandaga (Aves. Pompidou and Lamine Gueye) will provide the best introduction to mbalax, a modern Senegalese mélange of electric guitar with the traditional sabar and tama drums. The latest Afro-Franco rap is in stock at Disco Star (59 Ave. Pompidou; 221-822-2791).
5. An Oddball DayWitness witch-doctoring at the source in Yoff — a fishing village located a short drive up the coast from Dakar — where the distressed from all over the region arrive to be cured by local faith healers in grand, public ceremonies. The animal sacrifices are not for the faint of heart. Hire a taxi and its driver for the return journey, and make time for the excellent beaches nearby.
Listen to an entire continent’s worth of African music — including mbalax at Afromix.
Find traveler-written, traveler-tested Dakar information at World 66.
The Senegal Tourist Office (located in the Empire State Building) has lists of hotels, craftsmen, and advice for vistors.