An early morning walk around Yaoundé will give you a good idea of the town’s character and its dedication to fitness. The voice of a fitness instructor may wake you as groups come together for morning exercise. One of the best places to run is the University of Yaoundé I. The university sporting ground, Mateco, has an Olympic track and several pitches for handball and football that are open to the public. Make use of the track or join the five-a-side teams that play behind the goal. The track is also a popular skating ground.
For a real taste of everyday life, eat breakfast at one of Yaoundé’s street cafés. They’re found at every corner and will make you fried spaghetti and eggs with puree, beans, bobolo (cassava) and bread. It’s common to find people in suits munching bread on their way to work.
Pro tip: Taxi rates are less than half a dollar for a kilometre, and about $5 per hour. Rates may change at night.
It’s time to check out the National Museum to discover Cameroon’s bicultural heritage. This former presidential residence has a collection of art and historical objects from all over the country. The museum is surrounded by government ministries, Jamot Hospital and the prime minister’s office, and Lac Municipal nearby is being developed into an attraction for water sports and leisure. Poste Central is a good starting point from which to reach Hotel de Ville, Bastos, Hotel Mont Febe and Marche Mokolo, but attractions like Hilton Hotel, Insitut Français, Cathedral Notre Dame, Marche Central, Marche Mfoundi and Blackitude Museum are within walking distance.
With many good restaurants around, the only problem you’ll have with lunch is knowing what to choose. Boukarou Lounge has a wide menu with tasty local and international food, while Bois Sainte Anastasie serves buffets every day in its refreshing garden. Hilton Hotel is best if you want a range of top-class experiences in the same place, while La Marmite du Boulevard at Hilton Shopping Complex has a buffet with a good view of the street and Hilton’s own Le Safoutier specialises in African dishes in their themed restaurant.
Pro tip: The best thing to appreciate after lunch is right at the top of the city. Climb up to Hilton’s Le Panoramique bar and enjoy a breathtaking view over the city.
The Bastos neighbourhood has taken on a whole culture of its own, with spaces where locals and expats interact. Visit popular restaurants and bars like Istanbul Turkish Restaurant, JC Bastos, Route 66, Black & White, La Pizzeria, Chez Wou and Circle Club. The Goethe Institute hosts cultural events, but you do have to book a few days in advance. For those who prefer an evening stroll, going up Palais des Congrès is good exercise; you’ll love Yaoundé from the top. If you’re staying at Mont Febe, enjoy a quiet walk to your hotel.
Pro tip: Bastos is more expensive than the rest of Yaoundé, so make sure you carry enough cash. There are places that accept Visa, which is the most popular type of card in Cameroon. Very few businesses accept Mastercard.
Many bars and cabarets at Bastos are lively till 6am, but that’s just one of the many places in Yaoundé that never sleeps. Le Quebec is one of many lively bars at Essos. In Biyem-Assi you’ll find the classy Duchess, or you can have a dance at Cubana. Another aspect of the nightlife here is cabaret, with great live music. Try Yao Ba, O Maeva Club and Boukourou Lounge for live performances, late-night food and cocktails. Cabarets play urban music and Afropop, but bikutsi is still the most popular dance in Yaoundé.
Pro tip: Yaoundé is mostly safe at night, but it’s even safer if you know exactly where you’re going. It’s better to spend the night hours close to where you’re staying. Board taxis in well-lit areas, and do hire one if you’re alone after dark. At night it’s best to move around with other people.