St-Louis, or Ndar as it is known in Wolof, was founded in the 17th century as a French colonial settlement, and is one of the oldest cities created by Europeans on the west coast of Africa. Its incredible history as the capital of Senegal until 1957 is part of what led to its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. I fell in love with this city at first sight.
Saint-Louis is everything I like: it’s a vibrant, lively, colourful city. This city is like Havana, Cuba, or The French Quarter of New Orleans and maybe Ouidah in Benin. Many people will tell you Saint Louis is not clean (which is a little bit true) but I think the buildings reflect the decline of the city after the capital moved to Dakar and traders started bypassing this port in favour of the safer and deeper port of Dakar. Saint-Louis is made up of three distinct areas, with the heart of the old colonial city being on the tiny island where I spent most of my time. To the west, a narrow strip of sand known as the Langue de Barbarie runs down the coast from Mauritania, sheltering the island. To the East lies the mainland.
Here are my 5 favorite spots in the city :
Where to sleep?
Au Fil Du Fleuve, a beautiful boutique guest house. This place used to be a warehouse and factory, storing and preparing gum arabic (sugar) for transportation to the West. It was quite by accident that I found this place. I was looking for a gallery and they were presenting the work of a local artist. Anyway, I fell in love with this piece of oasis. The owner, Marie-Carolina Camara (who is half French and half Senegalese) spent years renovating the building and she did it well!!! By the way, all of the materials are from St. Louis. I love reading, so I was really impressed by her library and glad to know that we had the same taste for books.
Where to eat and drink?
I really love street food, especially in Africa. But in Saint-Louis I did not find street food or maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention?
La Kora Chez Peggy, Blaise Diagne, Saint-Louis BP 720, Senegal
A great bar and restaurant with quality food and great service. I ordered the fish with a glass of wine. Even if the restaurant is pricier than other restaurants I went to during my visit, for the flavour and portions, you should go there. The decor is nice and I loved the atmosphere.
Le Ponton, the restaurant of Hotel Sindone, Quai Henri Jay, Saint-Louis, Sénégal
I came here twice. For three reasons : the amazing location, the beautiful riverview and the food of course. Even if I did not like their Mojito. I ate well and tried as many dishes I could. I’ve shared everything on my snapchat.
Ndar Ndar Music & Café, Ave Blaise Diagne, St Louis, Sénégal
In French, we say “Le coin chic”. If you love music and Bissap here is the place to be. I love the decoration, it inspired me for my own apartment. I fell in love with this amazing little Café. You can find a lot of stuff in there, from nice art, Cds to special drinks.
La crêpe Saint-Louisienne, rue Me Babacar Seye, Ile Sud, Saint-Louis, Senegal
I ate at La Crepe Saint-Louisienne based on reviews online and I was more than pleased. Senegal often means rice-based fare for both lunch and dinner… but not always! This little place is a gem in Saint-Louis. The crepes were delicious. There were tons of options to my surprise. The owner is from Benin, and spent part of her life in Paris.
PS : Please if you can, try local food at someone’s place, LMAO. That what I did too.
What you can do?
Anything you want. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone so just walk, explore, meet new people and create your own experiences.
Photo credit : Jbdodane and Diane Audrey Ngako.