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Dar es Salaam, previously known as Mzizima and often abbreviated to simply Dar, is the former capital of Tanzania, the most populous city in the country and one of the most important economic centres in the region. One of the fastest growing cities in the world, Dar es Salaam is a hub for finance, the arts, media, fashion, film and television.
Located on the Swahili Coast, this is East Africa’s second-busiest port, as it straddles some of the most significant sea routes. As one of the most prominent cities in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam is often the first point of call for tourists visiting the country, as well as nearby Zanzibar.
You’ll certainly feel the energy of the city, from lively fish markets with docks of dhow boats, to the infamous traffic. However, what was once a quiet fishing village only a hundred years ago has still retained a relaxed, laidback vibe, aided by the sandy beaches and paradise islands offshore.
With so much to see and do in the region, many visitors miss Dar es Salaam completely as they head off on their safari adventures. Yet, if you can spare a day or two, there’s plenty to see and do in the city.
One of the best things to do in Dar es Salaam is shopping and there is a wealth of markets to choose from. At the Wonder Workshop, artists with disabilities create artworks and jewellery pieces using repurposed materials, while at Mwenge Carvers’ Market traditional woodcarvers transform chunks of wood into vivid art pieces. Nafasi Art Space is where to go for paintings by young, undiscovered talents and at Tingatinga Centre you’ll find colourful canvases filled with Tingatinga designs.
Other places to see include the Village Museum, which hosts traditional dancing and drumming performances; the Kigamboni Community Centre for support of a local organisation that focuses on vocational development; as well as the Alliance Francaise, which hosts French and Tanzanian cultural events. Or, you could see it all with a bicycle tour or history walk.
If it’s beaches you’re after, try breezy Bongoyo Island, lively Coco Beach, a dhow boat trip at Kigamboni, idyllic Ras Kutani or family-friendly Kunduchi Beach, which also features a water park.
Often overlooked, Dar es Salaam has much to offer visitors, especially those looking for an introduction to Tanzanian culture, or to unwind at the end of a safari trip.
Tanzania welcomes visitors throughout the year, as there are benefits to visiting in both the wet and dry seasons. If you’re looking to take part in a safari, the dry season is a great time to see the Great Migration (which takes place all year) across the Serengeti plains, or observe wildlife on walking or canoe safaris at the Selous Reserve. The wet season brings thousands of birds migrating south and in spring you’ll see newborn wildlife too.
If you’re heading to Zanzibar for a beach holiday, warm temperatures and clear skies can be found on the island throughout the year. However, sun is best guaranteed between June and September, when the ocean is calm and the resorts are open. March to May brings daily downpours of rain, which can affect travel and activities, and also carries a stifling humidity.
Currently, Dar es Salaam features on our Remote Tanzania: Safari & Beach tour, our Tanzania Family Safari as well as our Selous & Zanzibar Holiday. Although both itineraries state a transfer directly from the international airport to the domestic terminal for flights to Zanzibar, your tailor made Tanzania trip can include a night or two in the city of Dar, depending on your flight times and personal preferences.
Our tours which start and end in Dar es Salaam can include a stay at Hotel Slipway, a luxury waterfront hotel on the Msasani peninsula, just seven kilometres from the city centre. The hotel also features a spa, hair salon, nail bar and rooftop swimming pool. Another option is the Oyster Bay Hotel, located in the charming Oyster Bay area of the city, with ocean view rooms only walking distance from the beach.