24 hours in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

by Ontravlex

Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is often overlooked by tourists. However, those who make the effort to dive deeper into the chaos will be rewarded handsomely. Founded in 1887 by Emperor Menelik II, the city’s name, New Flower, means “new flower” in the indigenous Amharic language.

British travel company Far and Wild offers an 11-day “Historical Ethiopia” itinerary that includes time in Addis Ababa as well as trips to the Simien Mountains National Park and the rock churches of Lalibela.

You will see Mount Entoto Park and the National Museum as part of an exciting Addis Ababa highlights trip. There are a variety of packages available, starting at £3,195, which include flights both internationally and domestically, as well as activities, accommodations, and some meals.

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Must grab a coffee

If you want to start your day like a local, you should visit one of the many great coffee shops in the city and get a caffè macchiato to perk you up. Favorites include Café Choché, a charming café, and garden next to the city’s historic railway station, La Gare, serving delectable delights like Belgian waffles topped with melting chocolate.

Young woman in traditional clothing performing a coffee ceremony in Lalibela, Ethiopia

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony in LalibelaImage source: RudiErnst/Shutterstock.com

The first To.mo.ca store, which first opened in the 1950s on Wavel St., is a local institution and part of the rapidly growing To.mo.ca franchise.

Coffee shops with a more traditional aesthetic emphasize the relaxed coffee ritual that is an integral part of the culture there. After roasting the beans and brewing the coffee in “jebanna” clay pots, vendors pour out a line of little cups, each topped with a sprinkling of sugar and served with a side of toasted Kollo grains or popcorn.

Meet Lucy

Interior view of the main hall of the National Museum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Main Hall of the National Museum in Addis Ababa, EthiopiaImage source: imag3s 4 U/Shutterstock.com

Museums in the city can enlighten you on the rich history of the “Land of Origins.” The National Museum is the most visited, despite its rather disorganized and scant collection of attractions, which is led by the skeleton of Lucy, one of our earliest hominid ancestors.

The Red Terror Martyrs Museum is located not far from Meskel Square, and it provides a somber alternative to the more lighthearted Ethnological Museum, which is housed in a former palace. From the 1974 Revolution until his escape in 1991, the nation was ruled by Colonel Mengitsu’s totalitarian Derg dictatorship, and this impressive yet unnerving exhibition sheds light on that period of time.

Eat injera

A plate of vegetarian injera meal with shiro, lentils, egg, and assorted vegetables

Vegetarian Injera Meal: A Delicious Ethiopian FeastImage source: MagicBones/Shutterstock.com

One word, injera, sums up the experience of eating Ethiopian cuisine. At most meals, you’ll find this somewhat sour, spongy flatbread prepared with teff flour, served with your hearty choice of “wat” (stew) and/or “tibs” (small heaps of sautéed meat or vegetables). You can easily break off a piece of the rolled injera and use it as a spoon.

The Kategna Restaurant franchise offers reliable options for traditional dishes like injera. The traditional morning meal “fir,” which consists of chopped-up rolls of injera cooked in a stew and served up on a rolled-out injera, is available to those who develop a taste for it and will keep them full until midday.

Must go to church

St. George’s Cathedral and Museum is only one of several magnificent Orthodox Christian buildings in the city. Featuring sculptures by local artist Afewerk Tekle, this monument was commissioned by Emperor Menelik II to celebrate the country’s 1896 triumph against the Italians.

A view of the beautiful St. George Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

St. George Cathedral in Addis Ababa, EthiopiaImage source: Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock.com

The majestic granite graves of Emperor Haile Selassie and Empress Menen Asfaw can be seen at Holy Trinity Cathedral. Bole’s Medhane Alem Cathedral is the second biggest in Africa. Sylvia Pankhurst, a British suffragette who relocated to Addis Ababa in the 1950s, is buried just across the street.

Anwar Grand Mosque is another important religious landmark in Addis, and the Lion of Judah Monument, a symbol of the former monarchy, can be seen on a green traffic island in front of the charming old colonial station, La Gare.

Must go loco for Entoto

Mount Entoto is a popular stop on many of the city’s organized taxi tours. Athletes, especially those getting in shape for November’s Great Ethiopian Run, love to practice at this hilltop spot with sweeping views of Addis.

A view of Maryam (St. Mary) Church in Entoto, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Maryam (St. Mary) Church in Entoto, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaImage source: Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock.com

However, the Entoto Maryam Octagonal Church and Museum is the main attraction. Also, the ruins of one of Ethiopia’s best-known rock-hewn churches, the Kiddus Raguel church, can be seen on its grounds, a short stroll through the indigenous Eucalyptus trees from Entoto Maryam. Visit Washa Mikael in the Yeka district for another church hewn from the rock.

Must bag some souvenirs

Churchill Avenue and its branch, Nigeria Street, are a souvenir shopper’s dream, teeming with vendors selling everything from silver crosses and woven baskets made in Ethiopia to football jerseys and embroidered traditional outfits. Locally roasted coffee in bags from shops like To.mo.ca is another great option

A skilled Ethiopian woman creating Habesha baskets at Addis Mercato, the largest market in Africa.

Ethiopian Woman Crafting Habesha Baskets at Addis MercatoImage source: Magdalena Paluchowska/Shutterstock.com

Merkato, in the Ketema area, is the biggest open-air market in Africa and a great place to interact with locals and get a feel for the culture. Since it’s both massive and chaotic, it’s best to explore it with a local expert by your side.

Must grab a treatment

Indulge in a massage or treatment at one of the city’s fantastic value spas to relax after a long day of sightseeing and shake off any remaining jetlag. The Bole district, only a quick cab ride from the terminal, is home to many of the city’s best. Boston Day Spa is a safe bet.

Must get into the rhythm and booze

Aerial view of illuminated Addis Ababa cityscape at night

Aerial View of Addis Ababa City at NightImage source: Dereje/Shutterstock.com

When night falls, local bars and clubs become prime destinations. Before heading out to one of the city’s music venues, stop by the Road Runner bar in neighboring Haya Hulet for a few drinks by the fire while taking in some of the owner Tony Hickey’s huge collection of African music.

The Kazanchis district is home to some of our favorite shops, including Fendika Azmari Bet on Zewditu St. The wonderful local and regional artists that perform here to a consistently full house have provided us with many memorable nights.
Yod Abyssinia and Checheho Cultural Restaurant are always bustling with a diverse crowd of residents and visitors thanks to their blend of regional music and dance performances and authentic Ethiopian cuisine.

‘Ethio’ jazz performances are another must-do while in Addis. Artists like Mulatu Atsatke, whose African Jazz Village is located at the Ghion Hotel, were the forerunners of the style in the 1960s. Alternatively, Thursday evenings at the Jupiter Hotel tend to be rather busy.

Bole has a variety of bars and restaurants open late, from the quieter Flirt Lounge and Black Rose to the rowdier Mojito Bar and Flirt Lounge.

Must Stay

Lead-in Deluxe rooms at the five-star, 90-bedroom Golden Tulip in Bole start at Euros 145 per night for two people sharing. The superb service, comfortable contemporary accommodations, and delicious cuisine (both local and foreign) are just a few of the highlights. Bole’s bars, restaurants, and shops are conveniently located just outside your door; Addis Ababa International Airport is less than three miles away; and the heart of the city is only a cab ride away.

Fact File

Far and Wild provides a “Historical Ethiopia Tour” last 11 days, including two days spent in Addis Ababa. The tour will take you to Mt. Entoto Park, the National Museum, and the bustling marketplace of Merkato, where you can stock up on coffee and souvenirs.

Ethiopian Airlines flies from London Heathrow to Addis Ababa once every day during the winter and once per week during the summer (June 2 to October 27, 2022). The round-trip price for an economy seat on the seven-hour and 35-minute journey is £580, while the business class price is £1,840.

Ethiopian Airlines offers a discount of around 75% off the domestic base ticket to foreign passengers. The overseas flight discount is only available via the airline’s contact center or sales offices, not online. When booking many flights at once, you might save money by doing it online. The city is convenient as a transit point since visitors can get transit visas upon arrival.

A new light train constructed by the Chinese and inaugurated in early 2022 has made getting around Addis Ababa much simpler. The new Chinese-built train line from Addis Ababa’s outskirts, Furi-Lebu station, to Djibouti through Dire Dawa in the country’s east is also worth checking out for railfans. Sky Bus and Salem Bus, two long-distance bus companies, both depart from Meskel Square.

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