Guinea’s capital is the lively center of the country, where you’ll hear music everywhere and find streets full of people having a good time. Conakry can feel a little like the wild west—somewhat chaotic and with plenty of dust—and so few tourists take flights to Conakry that it feels almost off the map. When you venture here, even if you stay for just a couple of days, the friendliness of the people and the energy of the city mean you’re guaranteed to collect stories you’ll be telling years from now.
The city center isn’t brimming with tourist sights; you can probably see everything of importance in a single day and then spend the rest of your time socializing with the locals and going to the beach. Start at the National Museum, which is home to a collection of native musical instruments, art, and masks. Then stop by the Grande Mosque, an impressively large and beautiful building that opened in 1984. The grave of Sekou Touré, the first president of Guinea, is on its grounds.
The most fun shopping in Conakry is to be had at the open-air markets. Be sure to leave enough time to wander through the sprawling Marché Madina, one of the largest markets in West Africa, which sells everything from household goods to leather rugs to jewelry.
In the evenings, head outdoors. Music lovers will revel in the sounds of Conakry: nightlife here happens in the streets, rather than in venues, and playing instruments, singing, and dancing are all standard evening activities. The Kindia people are famous for their songs; it’s worth asking around to find out where to hear them.
There are also several day trips from Conakry that are well worth doing. Head to the Îles de Los, islands just off the coast, for excellent beaches and good swimming (you can access them easily from the city by boat). The town of Kindia is known for beautiful fabrics, often dyed with indigo; the cloth market in the town center is a brilliant place to stock up. Closer to home, in the Conakry suburb of Ratoma, the Kakimbon Caves can be toured with a guide, who can explain the religious significance of the caves and the fascinating legends associated with them.