HistoryLuanda was founded in 1575 under the name São Paulo de Loanda by a hundred families of settlers and four hundred soldiers. Two forts were constructed in the early 17th century and the city became Portuguese Angola's administrative centre in 1627. From the late 16th century until 1836, Luanda was the port where nearly all slaves bound for Brazil left. Aside from a brief period of Dutch rule (1640–48), this period was relatively uneventful, with Luanda growing much like many other colonial cities, albeit with a strong Brazilian influence as a result of the extensive shipping trade between these Portuguese colonies. The independence of Brazil in 1822 and the end of slavery in 1836 left Luanda's future looking bleak, but the opening of the city's port to foreign ships in 1844 led to a great economic boom. By 1850, the city was arguably the most developed and one of the greatest cities in the Portuguese empire outside Portugal itself and fuelled by trade in palm and peanut oil, wax, copra, timber, ivory, cotton, coffee, and cocoa. After slavery officially ended (resisted by the Portuguese but enforced by the British) forced labour began. Numerous imported crops grew well in the surrounding area to support residents, such as maize, tobacco, and cassava. In 1889, an aqueduct opened, supplying fresh water and removing the only inhibitor to growth in the city. The city blossomed even during the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–74), which did not affect the city, and this modern city was even labelled the "Paris of Africa" in 1972.
After so much success, the city took a turn for the worse in the mid-1970s. While largely untouched during the Carnation Revolution (Angolan independence), the start of the Angolan Civil War in 1975 scared almost all Angola's population of Portuguese descent out of the country as refugees (including the majority of Luanda's population). This led to an immediate crisis as Angola's African population knew little about how to run or maintain the city. They were helped a little by skilled Cuban soldiers who were able to help the MPLA government maintain some of the city's basic services, but hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled fighting in the countryside created slums stretching for miles on all sides of the city. The city saw some sporadic fighting during the Civil War which left bullet holes in many high-rises and government buildings. When peace was achieved in 2002, the government began planning to rebuild using oil revenues. Today Luanda's skyline is dotted with cranes, erecting numerous social housing apartments to replace slums and existing, but grossly dilapidated, 40-plus-year-old high-rises as well as offices for numerous foreign companies operating in Angola. Just south of Luanda in an area aptly called Luanda Sul, Western-standard housing, many compound-style, is being built for the growing expat community. Major improvements are being made to roads, highways, and the rail system in and around the city but there is yet an overwhelming amount of work to be done. And while certainly still home to a large impoverished population (59%), free housing and the creation of thousands of new jobs each year means that Luanda may in years to come have a bright future ahead.
OrientationLuanda is divided into ten municipalities: Ingombota, Maianga, Sambizanga (centre), Samba, Rangel, Cazenga, (middle ring), Cacuaco, Viana, Kilamba Kiaxi, and the newly created municipality of Belas (periphery).
In the centre (Ingombotas and Maianga) the oldest colonial town is divided in Baixa de Luanda (lower Luanda, from the port to the fortress), Cidade Alta (upper city, where the presidential palace is), and Ilha do Cabo (a peninsula surrounding the bay, with beaches and expensive night-clubs, bars and restaurants). Behind and above the historic centre, central bairros include Maianga and Alvalade (residential) and Miramar (embassies), as well as Kinaxixe and Maculusso, which are characterised by Portuguese apartment blocks. Further outside the centre, the neighbourhoods become more informal (self-construction), dotted with 1970s Cuban apartment blocks and new developments. In the South, luxury gated communities (condominiums) predominate.
Despite the city's very low tourist numbers, it has a surprisingly large number of international connections, which largely service Angolans living abroad (such as in Brazil) and the growing number of firms servicing the oil and diamond industries as well as reconstruction (done largely by Chinese workers and Brazilian firms). A couple of carriers still operate routes based on Cold War alliances (to Havana and Moscow).
The city is the hub of national carrier TAAG Angola Airlines, one of just three profitable airlines in Sub-Saharan Africa, which offers flights to 15 Angolan cities. They offer flights to many cities in West-Central/Southern Africa including daily flights to Johannesburg as well as Douala, Cameroon; Sal, Cape Verde; Bangui, CAR; Kinshasa, DRC; Brazzaville & Pointe Noire in the Congo; Windhoek, Namibia; Sao Tome, Sao Tome and Principe; Lusaka, Zambia; Harare, Zimbabwe. Their long-haul offerings include: Dubai, Beijing (via Dubai), Lisbon, Paris, and trans-Atlantic flights to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.
Aside from TAAG, SonAir serve about a dozen airports each around the country. International service includes flights to/from: Dubai (Emirates), Frankfurt (Lufthansa), London-Heathrow (BA), Paris-de Gaulle (Air France), Windhoek (Air Namibia), Brussels (Brussels Airlines), Havana (Cubana, seasonal), Moscow (Aeroflot), Beijing (Hainan, via Dubai), Addis Ababa (Ethiopian), Lisbon (TAP Portugal).
When leaving the country do not take any kwanza to the airport as it is illegal to try to take kwanza out of the country; you may be stopped by the fiscal police and receive a heavy fine (all your kwanza taken and most of your other money) or imprisoned.
By trainRail services in Angola have seen an dramatic improvement over the last few years. Reconstruction and modernization are carried out by Chinese firms, rehabilitating what was once one of the most extensive rail network in Africa during under colonial rule. However, trains are of limited use for the tourist as they mainly serve commuters. An exception is the long distance services from Malanje. Notice that rail services still have a reputation of not being fully safe.
All long-distance trains terminate at , located on Largo Eng. Pedro Folque, north of the city centre.
By carThe main road for tourists will be the coastal highway leading north to the DR Congo and south to Namibia. It is very scenic and in reasonably good repair. Roads are one of the top priorities in reconstruction efforts, including a handful of six-lane highways leading out of the city. Expect a mix of okay pavement on old highways and a smooth ride on new roads.
By busThe National Bus Service has just re-opened but routes are not organized yet. There are some local services in Luanda and in between cities.
By boatAs of 2007, there was a ferry operating from Luanda to the Cabinda exclave, useful to avoid a transit of the DR Congo. It takes 14 hours and costs $180 (including a bike), so you may be better off flying.
By minibusThe government is investing in an expansive a bus system to attract Luandans to use it.
By taxiA popular means for locals to get around the city is by mini bus taxis (Candongueiros), easily identifiable by their pale blue and white. Although they are considered dangerous by most expats, locals use them on a daily basis. During the daytime, until around 8PM, they are a safe, convenient, and usually very fast means of transport in the inner-city. Fares are 100 Kwanzas per trip, except in rain or heavy traffic, in which case the fares are doubled.
Consider to use the Macon Taxi a private taxi company (20-30 USD per trip).
Eco Tur also do 4x4 and minibus hire and airport transfers with bilingual drivers (email@example.com) +244 912 501 387
B Home will provide airport pick ups and are available for hire (drivers) +244 222 264 423
B Home has offices in Luanda, Angola and in Houston, Texas. +1-281-444-5988 (Houston Office).
Afri-taxi had 150 vehicles in Luanda and a rank at the airport.
By carThe roads in Luanda are generally of okay standard, as is the case on the main routes between cities, but elsewhere road quality greatly decreases. Don't be surprised if you encounter unexpected problems during the rainy season. In Luanda main streets are paved, but streets in the slums are in disrepair, and most roads have no lines or signals. As mentioned before, there are improvements being made throughout the city. Congestion is a major problem with lack of public transport and the plethora of minibus taxis.
Agostinho Neto Mausoleumphone: +244 222334835Upon arrival in Luanda, it is impossible to miss the towering obelisk-like structure shooting above the rest of the city. If you're curious to know what it is and why it is there, it's a mausoleum dedicated to Agostinho Neto, the first President of Angola who led Angola's struggle for independence.
Fortress of São Migueladdress: Calçada de S. MiguelBuilt in 1576, it became the administrative center of Luanda during the early part of colonial rule and was a self-contained city for the early military garrison and an important holding place for slaves. It contains ornate wall tiles detailing the history of the city along with many relics, such as cannons and the original holding cells for slaves.
National Museum of Slaveryphone: +244 222371622Built in the area where the slaves were held prior to being taken off to the Americas. The museum building is the Capa de Casa Grande, which is where they baptized slaves prior to sending them off to the Americas. The museum is worth seeing for the chapel itself and the cannons on the outside. In the center of the chapel is a fascinating stone font, but with no description. There are a few period objects of real interest (such as stocks, a whip, shackles), but the framed prints on the walls are mostly copies from published works, with relatively little accompanying information. On a mid-week visit there was no evidence of any knowledgeable guide, and no one available to turn on the video flatscreen monitor that seems to be part of the exhibit. Still, the high, windswept location is beautiful.
National Museum of Natural Historyphone: +244 222334055address: Nossa Senhora da MuximaA museum filled with thousands of species of animals, including fish, birds, crustaceons, and insects. Many of the displayed animals are endangered, and some are even extinct. The museum does an impeccable job of displaying the large amount of diverse organisms that inhabit and once inhabited this nation.
phone: +244 222337024address: Av. de Portugal 61Dedicated to educating people about Angolan history and culture, the National Museum of Anthropology features an impressive array of traditional masks along with art, sculptures, tools, weaponry, jewelry, clothing, and musical instruments.
São Pedro da Barra FortressA fortress that served a variety of purposes throughout its history. It was constructed in the 17th century to protect the area from invaders. When the slave trade began, it was then used as a keep for the slaves until they were ready to send them away. Throughout Angola's struggle for independence against Portugal from 1961-1975, the fort housed nationalists who were arrested and then forced into labor camps.
Igreja Nossa Senhora do PópuloConsidered to be the first Anglican Church, it is one of Luanda's most treasured cultural and historical sites. The structure dates back to 1482. Aside from its religious significance, the unique Baroque architecture and the lavish interior attract many visitors.
Igreja do CarmoBuilt in 1669.
Igreja da NazareA church built in 1664. It is famous for its beautiful altar made of Italian rose marble.
Humbi-Humbi Art Gallery
Additionally, you must try the Benfica market, which sells everything from perfume to ivory to animal skins and tourist guidebooks. Also take the boat out to Mussulo, the best beach in town.
For local crafts, at extraordinarily low prices, check out the Benfica Handcrafts Market just south of Luanda.
Doniel Tomasphone: +244 924091680address: Maianga Luanda
address: Av. Luanda SulOpened in 2007, it is Angola's first shopping mall. It features nearly 100 different shops, a movie theater, a variety of restaurants, and a central square for live entertainment.
- Ilha de Luanda is where Luanda's elite go to dine and have fun.
The Belas Shopping mall has a food court with a variety of options from local foods to pizza and burgers.
- Panela de Barro
- Chez Wu Chinese
- Macau Chinese
phone: +244 923 581333address: Av Murtala Mohamed
phone: +244 222 309430address: Av Murtala Mohamed
Chill Outphone: +244 924 282810
Don't forget the excellent Portuguese wines also widely available.
phone: +244 924991999address: ilha de LuandaDiscoteca;Dj licinho bruno AG Clessio dance, semba, house, and salsa.
- The Alvalade Hotel
phone: +244 922687350, +351 919863637address: Rua Francisco Sá de Miranda, nº 50Boutique hotel located in residential area close to center. Very clean and good air-con with free WiFi. Breakfast was included and they can prepare lunch and dinner. The manager speaks English.
- The Tropico Hotel
Hotel Globophone: +244 222 332 179address: Rua Rainha Ginga 100One of the few low cost hotels in Luanda, an ageing three-story building from the days of modernist architecture and neon signage.
phone: +244 222 311 717address: Largo 17 de Setembro nº4A prestigous four star hotel in the city center.
phone: +244 923 745 078 (Farah), +244 923 581 308address: Beco de Moçambique nº 16, Bairro CruzeiroNear the Embassies in Miramar and the centre of town.
Safety in Luanda is average among African cities. Don't venture into the slums... period. Don't go out at night alone. Keep your car doors locked at all times. Violent crime has been on the rise, but it is mostly in the slums. The colonial part of the city is safe from violent crime; but like most African cities, pickpocketing or muggings are a fact of life. You will greatly reduce your chances of such if you stay low key: no fancy clothes or car, use a money belt, etc. The city is an expensive place to live and Angolans have realized that most expats in the city are high-salaried employees from large corporations, so you should especially avoid business attire.
Do not give beggars money; if you do, you will soon have a lot of them surrounding you.
This is Central Africa: many police in Luanda are very corrupt. Check for their identity number (should be located on an arm band near the shoulder) and you may present charges against any abuse. As a visitor, it's important to carry an authorised photocopy of your passport at all times. Otherwise, you will get an on the spot fine or worse, courtesy of the police. Do not carry your original; the police may ask for it and keep it until you pay a "fine".
Embassies and consulates
Consulate of Canadaphone: +244 222 448-371, +244 222 448-377, +244 222 448-366address: Rua Rei Katyavala 113
- phone: +244 222 334516, +244 912 508146address: Avenida 4 de Fevereiro 120 Caixa Postal 1295 Luanda
Consulate of Greecephone: +244 23 96 852address: Av. 4 de Feveiro 82, 2 o Andar, Apt. 1, Zip Code 2177, Luanda
- phone: +244 222 310686 or +244 222 311511address: Empr. Comandante Gika Edificio Garden Towers - Torre B - Piso 8, Travessa Ho Chi Minh - Bairro Alvalade
Embassy of the Republic of Serbiaphone: +244 222 321421address: Rua Comandante Nzagi 25/27, Alvalade
- phone: +244 222 334582address: Rua Diogo Cão 4 Caixa Postal 1244
- phone: +244 222-641-000address: Rua Houari Boumedienne, #32Consular assistance (for US citizens) available Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday from 2PM-4:30PM.
- phone: +244 222-395-195address: Rua Rainha Ginga #34, Edificio Siccal
Eco Tur run trips there in specialised 4x4 game viewing vehicles, be in the wild and beautiful bush and on the magnificent Kwanza River within 3 hours. www.eco-tur.com +244 912 501387 / +244 923 601601 / +244 923 602420
Kissama Game Park, a beautiful and enormous national game park just 2 hours south of Luanda recently restocked. Contact Eco Tur who run safaris there in specialist game viewing vehicles www.eco-tur.com / +244 912 501387 / +244 923 601601 / +244 923 602420