Dakar is the thriving coastal capital of Senegal with a bar scene to match. From the hustle and bustle of downtown Plateau to the hidden inlets of Almadies’ Petite Corniche, Dakar’s bars come in all shapes and sizes. Here are nine of the hippest hangouts on the Cap-Vert Peninsula.
Bayékou is fast becoming a Dakar institution. A stone’s throw from Ngor Beach in the north of Dakar, Bayékou’s classy, open-sided roof terrace is the go-to place for expats on a Friday night. Blending a heady mix of stylish decking, cosy alcoves and West African décor with well-mixed cocktails, eclectic beats and an ‘anything goes’ vibe, it’s not hard to see why. The kitchen also dishes out excellent Mediterranean-inspired fare for both lunch and dinner, while special events, such as live music evenings and fashion shows, are scattered across the calendar.
Like a bar with a view? Well, Le Phare will be right up your street. Nestled on top of one of Dakar’s Mamelles (‘breasts’ in French), two hills on the city’s western corniche, this stylish restaurant-bar at the base of a 19th-century lighthouse boasts some of the best views of the city’s coastline. A shuttle service ferries you from the bottom of the hill to a swanky open-air veranda hosting a wide program of events, such as Deep House Thursdays, Live Music Fridays, Club Saturdays and Brunch Club Sundays. There is a 5,000 CFA (US$9) entry fee, but the lively atmosphere and free drink more than make up for the outlay.
Recently renovated, Relax Beach is staking a claim to be the go-to ‘late bar’ for expats on the weekend, which in Dakar also includes Thursday nights. This tiered bar on Almadies’ Petite Corniche comprises three floors like giant steps down to the sea, with a seating area, dance floor, and private beach. You can expect funky house tunes to be bouncing out the speakers until at least 5am.
On the beach? Check. Hammocks and swings? Check. A boat transformed into a bar? Check. Chez Max is one of Dakar’s worst-kept secrets. Hidden away on the tiny Plage de Mamelles, this is the beach-bar from heaven, Dakar-style. Think car seats wedged into the sand, drift wood tables, shell sculptures, and handmade masks made from recycled plastic. Reggae beats mellow out the speakers to add to the laid-back atmosphere that is personified by Max himself. This daytime spot is one of the best places to spend a lazy day with a chilled beer in hand. You may even get to see a few dolphins bouncing up the coast.
Khorbi may not have a beach or a rooftop, but it more than makes up for it with its sprawling enclosed courtyard, filled with palm trees and fairy lights. In the heart of Fann Hock, Khorbi can easily be missed from its indiscernible exterior, but the inside is anything but. A rowdy bar jam-packed with a clientele from across the African continent, Khorbi is one of the best value places to drink and eat in large quantities. Dibi (Senegalese BBQ) can be ordered by the kilo, and beers are served in hefty 660ml bottles. If there is football on, you can rest assured that Khorbi will be playing it on its two large projector screens.
Plum centre of the Ngor strip, Patio has something of a mercurial reputation: an excellent dining spot gradually transforms into a lively bar, which then evolves into a pulsating late-night party with its own nightclub. No matter which of Patio’s many faces you’re after, the bouncers on the door will ensure you are looking the part to stroll down its red carpet, which then opens up into a tree-filled patio surrounded by cushioned sofa-booths and two bars. As the night wears on, men shouldn’t be surprised if they become a little more popular than usual.
Despite its name, Secret Spot is not secret at all. Nestled above a small stretch of beach on the Petite Corniche, this Dakar stalwart even comes up on Google Maps. Named after the surf spot it overlooks, this chilled beachside bar is the hangout of choice for Senegal’s surf community. Especially vibrant in the late afternoon, the bar also serves up mean foot-long baguettes and some of the best-priced beers in town. Go and watch the sun disappear into the Atlantic while being mesmerised by skills you’ll wish you had.
Although a French cultural centre might not scream ‘funky drinking spot’, L’Institut Français is not just any old cultural centre. In the thick of Plateau, its tranquil garden Bidew Bar, complete with colourful mosaic tables and a bounty of pot plants, is a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Dakar. A great place to escape the rush or meet friends for a casual drink, L’Institut Français also has an eye-watering programme of events each month, ranging from visual art exhibitions and lively debates to Senegalese rap nights and choreographed dance routines. Check their website to see what’s going on.
Unsurprisingly for one of Dakar’s most luxurious hotels, Terrou-Bi’s La Terrasse bar can boast a drinks menu as extensive as its panoramic views. Situated alongside the hotel’s private beach and swimming pool, the terrace extends out into the Atlantic Ocean offering up views of the endless blue, while the kitchen whips up a wide variety of international and local dishes at reasonable prices. Wide sofa seats, attentive service and subtle tropical décor, La Terrasse nails down the laid-back lounge vibe. If you like picking up a cigar and tucking into a bottle of rosé, La Terrasse has got your name on it.