10 Largest African Cities
Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, sprawls inland from the Gulf of Guinea across Lagos Lagoon. Victoria Island, the financial center of the metropolis, is known for its beach resorts, boutiques and nightlife. To the north, Lagos Island is home to the National Museum Lagos, displaying cultural artifacts and craftworks. Nearby is Freedom Park, once a colonial-era prison and now a major venue for concerts and public events.
Cairo, Egypt’s sprawling capital, is set on the Nile River. At its heart is Tahrir Square and the vast Egyptian Museum, a trove of antiquities including royal mummies and gilded King Tutankhamun artifacts. Nearby, Giza is the site of the iconic pyramids and Great Sphinx, dating to the 26th century BC. In Gezira Island’s leafy Zamalek district, 187m Cairo Tower affords panoramic city views.
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Kinshasa is the capital and the largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is on the Congo River. Once a site of fishing villages, Kinshasa is now an urban area with a 2014 population of over 11 million.
Luanda, the capital of Angola, is a port city on the west coast of Southern Africa. A seafront promenade known as the Marginal runs alongside Luanda Bay. Nearby is the well-preserved 16th-century Fortress of São Miguel, which now contains the Museum of the Armed Forces. The fort has views of the harbor and the Ilha do Cabo, a long, thin peninsula in the bay that’s home to beaches, bars and restaurants.
Nairobi is Kenya’s capital city. In addition to its urban core, the city has Nairobi National Park, a large game reserve known for breeding endangered black rhinos and home to giraffes, zebras and lions. Next to it is a well-regarded elephant orphanage operated by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Nairobi is also often used as a jumping-off point for safari trips elsewhere in Kenya.
Mogadishu, known locally as Hamar, is the capital and most populous city of Somalia. Located in the coastal Banaadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for millennia.
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Abidjan is the economic capital of Ivory Coast and the most populous French-speaking city in Africa. According to the 2014 Ivory Coast census, Abidjan’s population was 4.7 million, which is 20 percent of the overall population of the country.
Alexandria is a Mediterranean port city in Egypt. During the Hellenistic period, it was home to a lighthouse ranking among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as well as a storied library. Today the library is reincarnated in the disc-shaped, ultramodern Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The city also has Greco-Roman landmarks, old-world cafes and sandy beaches. Its 15th-century seafront Qaitbay Citadel is now a museum.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s sprawling capital in the highlands bordering the Great Rift Valley, is the country’s commercial and cultural hub. Its National Museum exhibits Ethiopian art, traditional crafts and prehistoric fossils, including replicas of the famous early hominid, “Lucy.” The burial place of the 20th-century emperor Haile Selassie, copper-domed Holy Trinity Cathedral, is a neo-baroque architectural landmark.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city and capital of Gauteng province, began as a 19th-century gold-mining settlement. Its sprawling Soweto township was once home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Mandela’s former residence is now the Mandela House museum. Other Soweto museums that recount the struggle to end segregation include the somber Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill, a former prison complex.