The city of Praia is the capital of Cabo Verde, an archipelago country in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Senegal. It is located at the south of the island of Santiago. It is also the seat of the Municipality of the same name.
The largest city in Cabo Verde, it has an important fishing industry, a busy commercial port and a recently built international airport. It mainly focusses on the tertiary sector, including activities related to administration and governance, extensive commerce, services, tourism and construction.
The village of Santa Maria Beach appeared in 1615, when a settlement of a plateau was formed near a beach (Santa Maria beach) that offered good conditions for ships. Initially used as a clandestine port, the locality gradually acquired the characteristics of a village. As the ancient city of Ribeira Grande faded, its population steadily moved to Praia. The official passage from the capital of Ribeira Grande to Praia de Santa Maria took place in 1770.
With more cosmopolitan features, Praia easily absorbs influences from the other islands, due to the inter-island internal migration. It also has foreign influences, due to the concentration of the foreign origin population and the communication facilities with the outside realm.
The island of Santiago is composed by a variety of scenarios, from cosmopolitan cities to world heritage sites. Watch this video to see the different facets of the island: Visit the island of Santiago!
Seat of the main infrastructures of the country, the City of Praia also offers diverse options of entertainment and sight-seeing. Monuments and historical sites make the city an attraction for tourism. The Pope’s Cross (A Cruz do Papa), the Miradouro Diogo Gomes, the old Town Hall (Câmara Municipal), the Church of Our Lady of Grace (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Graça), the Diogo Gomes Monument, the Presidential Palace (Palácio Presidencial), the Assembly Palace (Palácio da Assembleia), the Jaime Mota Barracks (Quartel Jaime Mota), the Ethnographic Museum, the D. Maria Pia (Farol de D. Maria Pia) and the Old Town (Cidade Velha) that is 15km from the Capital are some of the interesting points that the city offers.
Set in a building that dates back to the 19th century, the Ethnographic Museum (Museu Etnográfico) of Praia is a space that tells stories. The exhibition is small, but here it is possible to understand a little of the Cabo Verdean traditions. Samples of pottery, earthen cloths, baskets, wheat grinding utensils, milk processing, cheese and butter manufacturing, gourds, “Kankan” tobacco consumption, agriculture and cattle rearing are included in the exhibits.
The Archaeological Museum (Museu de Arqueologia) has pieces collected from the seabed since 1992. At the bottom of the seas around the islands of Cabo Verde, there are more than 150 wrecked ships. Each one of them, through the objects and goods it transported, tells a different story. The remains left by each of these ships, which were shipwrecked by storm or pirate attacks, reveal to us what life was like in other times, in a world where it was natural to sell slaves, to trade ivory and sail the seas to discover places never explored before.
The Cultural Centres of Brazil-Cabo Verde and Portugal (Centros Culturais Brasil-Cabo Verde e de Portugal) are other cultural options of the Cabo-Verdean capital for a wide audience, from children to senior citizens, either in their one-off initiatives or daily programming.
The historical centre of the city of Praia, the Plateau is a prime space. It is the administrative, cultural and economic centre with a history of almost 400 years. In 2013, it received the status to be recognized as National Heritage. Strolling along the Plateau is stepping onto centuries-old sidewalks and letting yourself be transported to another era. The marks of the past still exist in this plateau, through the various buildings noticeable by their traces of colonial architecture. The Plateau is a testimony of a path that does not go away but transforms and consolidates over the centuries.
The Old Town of Santiago is the cradle of Cabo Verde. It is also the toponymy of what was the ancient city of Ribeira Grande, which was the first capital of the archipelago. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on June 26, 2009.
Praia is one of the most privileged places of Cabo Verde for cultural pursuits. Cultural activities take place every week, such as the launch of works, exhibitions, shows and cultural infrastructure, such as the Palace of Culture (Palácio da Cultura), the Ethnographic Museum (Museu Etnográfico) and the Portuguese Cultural Center (Centro Cultural Português), 5th July Park (Parque 5 de Julho). Praia also has several facilities for night time entertainment. Over weekends, Praia City is filled with a frenzied joy that lasts all night in clubs, bars, pubs, and even in restaurants, many of which have live music.
For lovers of sun and sea, the capital city offers beautiful beaches. In the south, are the beaches of Quebra Canela, Prainha, Portinho and Gamboa. In the northeast of the city, are the beaches of São Francisco and São Tomé.
Glamor, sophistication, allure, charm, beauty, tranquillity and warmth. These are synonymous with Praia Shopping, a commercial center of the Calú & Angela Group, located in the Kebra Kanela Zone. Praia Shopping offers products and services that match the growth and needs that the capital demands. It is the first shopping mall of its kind built in Cabo Verde, with a large supermarket, 20 clothing stores, footwear and jewellery of national and international brands, a cinema with the capacity of 90 people, a panoramic restaurant and bar with breath-taking views of the sea.
The Sucupira Market (popular market) is a must. From clothing to local crafts and local music, from appliances to dishes from Cabo Verde, the Sucupira Market is a must for anyone visiting the city. Located in Várzea, Sucupira Market is the largest in the city and stands out not only for the joy it can bring to visitors, but also for the friendliness and helpfulness of the operators.
Praia is a bustling city, and live music plays a big role in its culture. It can be heard in bars and restaurants, and it is very popular both among locals as well as among tourists.
On the weekends, many places have disco nights. The action usually starts a little late – after midnight- and goes on until dawn. There is a lot of Cabo Verdean music such as Zouk, Funana & Hip Hop- local as well as international music.
The numerous restaurants scattered around the capital city offer varied gastronomic choices. The offerings of seafood dishes are as diverse as possible. Lobster, perceves, lapa, conch and ‘bafas’ delight seafood lovers. Fresh tuna stew, boiled in onion or simply grilled, is an excellent alternative. The basis of popular Cabo Verdean cuisine is maize that, prepared in different ways, usually accompanies pork, beans, manioc and sweet potatoes. The best known and most appreciated dish is the ‘Cachupa’ – the national recipe, emblematic of Cabo Verde. Do not forget the xerém, the couscous, the corn cakes (pastéis de milho), the famous grogue and the national liquors.