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Dar es Salaam Travel Guide

About Dar es Salaam

Give Dar es Salaam some time and you'll probably fall in love with it. A lively waterfront city that blends African, Indian and Arab influences to create a unique urban culture, Dar has sprawled chaotically in all directions in recent decades, but still has plenty of charm.

With a city centre sprinkled with attractive colonial buildings, streets lined with bougainvillea and a plethora of palm-fringed beaches, Dar has a laidback feel that makes it hard to believe that the population is now over four million.

Despite being located on a coast with centuries of urban history, Dar es Salaam’s story is relatively short: when the Omani Sultan of nearby Zanzibar started building a new city here in 1865, the existing town was little more than a fishing village. Given a grand Arabic name (Dar es Salaam means “haven of peace”), the city later became the capital of the nascent country of Tanganyika (now Tanzania), firstly under the Germans and then under the British.

Following Tanzanian independence in 1961, the country’s capital eventually moved inland to Dodoma, but Dar es Salaam still remains Tanzania’s largest city, and its most prominent commercial and cultural hub.

Today, the city centre (referred to locally as ‘Town’) may have sprouted many steel and glass towers, but it also has many early 20th century art deco buildings.

Add to this a fringe of beaches, with their bars, palm trees and the occasional old sailing boats gliding past, and a lot of its old-world charm still remains among the chaos of a decidedly modern city.

While most non-business visitors only tend to stop briefly en route to Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti or Zanzibar, there’s enough on offer to make it worth lingering.

The clean, sandy island beaches at Bagamoyo and Mbudya are superb, while just inland, the Pugu Hills Forest Reserve offer a remarkably pristine tropical forest landscape for a site so close to a major metropolis.

If the way to a man’s heart is through its food, Dar es Salaam’s fine varied restaurants (and decent music scene) will net a few more love-struck travellers yet.

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Featured Hotels


Hotel Nikko Tower

Just a short walk to the ferry terminal, Hotel Nikko Tower is great for either a swift stay before heading to Zanzibar or for a longer budget break in Dar. Clean and colourful rooms have large TVs, free Wi-Fi and decent double beds and there is a simple fitness centre on the top floor. The on-site sports bar has a decent happy hour and shows live games on a large screen.

Hotel Sapphire

Centrally located, the Hotel Sapphire is a clean and pleasant budget option with 63 rooms to choose from. All come with either queen-size or twin beds as well as cable TV as standard. Marble floors help cool the sleeping quarters, while large bathrooms, Wi-Fi and coffee and tea making facilities ensure guests have everything they need. Best of all though are the extremely helpful staff and the rooftop bar, which gives great views across the city.

Tiffany Diamond Hotel & Spa

This clean and airy hotel in the centre of the city has much going for it. Spacious air-conditioned rooms come with complementary Wi-Fi satellite TV and great showers while suites have more room and large Jacuzzi baths. The Shaba Lounge on the 10th floor has views of the harbour and a small but fully-equipped gym sauna and spa are good for unwinding.

Hyatt Regency Dar Es Salaam, The Kilimanjaro

Providing a slice of serenity in this busy and bustling city, the 5-star oasis of The Kilimanjaro offer views over the open Indian Ocean as well as an affable, rooftop infinity pool if the beach seems a little too far away. The 180 large rooms mix African and European features and come with refreshing rain showers, king-size beds, satellite TVs and high speed internet. There are also two excellent restaurants on-site that dish up international fare and local specialties, as well as a lively lounge with an outdoor terrace. Its luxury wellness centre offers spa treatments, saunas, steam rooms and a gym.

DoubleTree by Hilton

In the chic Slipway section of the city, the DoubleTree by Hilton is a wonderful waterfront stay that overlooks Oyster Bay. Its spacious, regal-looking rooms are styled with African art and aristocratic furnishings, and all come with complementary internet, LCD TVs, refined bathrooms and the finest Egyptian cotton sheets. With a swimming pool and three restaurants on-site, the whim of every guest should be catered for.

Dar Es Salaam Serena Hotel

The Arabic touches and European elegance of this 5-star palace are just a few meandering minutes from the city centre. Its 230 rooms offer luxury in abundance with king-size beds, much needed air-conditioning, cable TV and separate sitting areas. The hotel also has enough bars, lounges and restaurants to form a break away village, but visitors are usually too busy relaxing in the swimming pool and wellness centre to worry about such fantasies.