Saint-Louis is a city on the Grande Cote in Northern Senegal.
The city of Saint-Louis is located about 260km north of Dakar on the coast and spreads across the mainland (Sor), Île de N’Dar (the Island), and the Langue de Barbarie Peninsula. The mainland is connected to the historical island which is just 2km long and 400m wide via the Pont Faidherbe Bridge, which was recently reconstructed, completed in November 2011. The Île de N’Dar is linked to the Langue de Barbarie Peninsula via the Pont Mustapha Malick Gaye Bridge, the Langue de Barbarie Peninsula is home to the beautiful beaches of the Hydrobase as well as part of the Parc National de la Langue de Barbarie. Also accessible from Saint-Louis are the Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj and the Réserve Spéciale de Faune de Guembeul.
There is no train service to Saint Louis.
The easiest way to get to Saint-Louis from Dakar is in a sept-place, which is a seven passenger station wagon. They leave from the main station in Dakar (also called Pompier). You wait at the station for the car to be full, which means the rest of the passengers are heading for Saint-Louis as well, so it's a direct trip. The going rate is about 5000 CFA. If you have your own car, from Dakar take Route N2 all the way to Saint-Louis. It is approximately 260km from Dakar.
You can usually count on taxis fares in Saint-Louis to be a solid fixed rate of 500 F CFA. From the garage (gare routiere) to downtown or at night expect to pay 600 F CFA. There is a fairly decent "car rapide" public transport system that shouldn't cost more than 100 F CFA for your average stretch. On the Island of Ndar, there are calesh rides designed for site-seeing tourists. However, most of the historic city is easily accessible by foot.
Bike and Scooter Rental
To see more of Saint-Louis, why not rent a scooter or a bicycle, this is a great way to cover more ground and to explore some places that you might not be able to reach on foot. Located on the corner of Rue Blanchot and Quai Roume on the Island. Scooters are available for 10000CFA/Day and bikes for 5000CFA/Day.
Island of Saint-Louis
Saint-Louis was founded in 1659 and named after the French King Louis XIV in the 1700s, it is the oldest city to be created by Europeans on the western coast of Africa and served as the capital of Senegal from 1872 to 1957. It played an important cultural and economic role in the whole of West Africa, a stroll around the Ville (as the cab drivers know it as) quickly reveals the French colonial influence. Many of the buildings hold their old character with many brightly colored buildings and beautiful balconies to be seen all around the Island. The Island was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2000. Be sure to stop into the Syndicat d’Initiative of Saint Louis located in the Governance building opposite the bridge and pick up the urban walk they have mapped out.
Walk to Guet Ndar, the fishing village that is located on the Langue de Barberie and watch the fisherman bring in their catch. If you're lucky, you might get a great deal on seafood. Dozens of trucks wait to buy up the fish (for as little as 500 CFA a crate) and transport them into the interior as far as Kaolack, Tambacounda and Mali. Local people carry the fish in baskets on their neck and on their heads. Women can be found smoking and drying fish next to the beach in vast cauldrons. Nearby very colorful pirogues are always under construction. It is possible to see nearly every stage from the first carvings to the final painting. If you walk into the residential district of Guet Ndar, you will see thousands of people trying to live their their lives squeezed in a tiny area. The scene is very colorful and lively, but when you walk along the beach you will see the effects of overcrowding in the squalid sanitary conditions and insufficient trash disposal. There is a decent sized market in Guet Ndar, somewhat smaller than the larger Sor market two bridges away.
Saint-Louis International Jazz Festival
This annual event generally occurs in May but the event is slated to take place in June for 2011, the festival lasts about a week. This internationally renowned event attracts jazz musicians and visitors from around the world and is the most important jazz festival in Africa. The events of the festival take place all over town. Exact dates and programs can be found online at www.saintlouisjazz.com (in French).
Langue de Barbarie Peninsula
On the Langue de Barbarie Peninsula you can check out the fishing village of Guet N’Dar and watch the bustling fish market and catch glimpses of the colorful pirogues that are used for fishing. Further down on the Guet N’Dar is the fisherman cemetery and past that is the Hydrobase, a great place to spend a day at the beach. Occupying the very south end of the Peninsula is part of the Parc National de la Langue de Barbarie which is home to a variety of bird species.
There are two main tour operators that offer tours in and around the Saint-Louis area and northern Senegal, Sahel Decouverte and Saint Louis Jeunesse Voyages. Contact either of these for their offerings but some of the different daily tours include, a tour of the Island, the Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj, the Parc National de Langue de Barbarie and also a boat ride along the Senegal River to see mangrove trees. If you have more time there are longer trips available and it is best to contact the agencies below for the most up to date offerings. Another good resource is the Syndicat d’Initiative which also has a smaller offering of tours.
This museum has displays about the colonial airmail service that played a role in the development of Saint-Louis as well as an exhibit about the pilot Jean Mermoz.
Here you will find a café, library and often times there are concerts, films and art exhibitions. Pick up the monthly program brochure at the center, one of the hotels around Saint-Louis or the Syndicat d’Initiative.
Saint-Louis International Jazz Festival
Held annually in May or June, see the description under the See section in this article.
This festival is held each year between Christmas and New Years and is a night parade of lanterns, lit from within by candlelight that resemble carnival floats and are accompanied by songs and drums. This historic procession is unique to Saint-Louis and was initiated by the signares, who in colonial times were the colonists’ prestigious wives.
For those that are staying longer, classes in Wolof and French can be taken at the French Cultural Center, see the contact information above.
Saint-Louis offers a lot by way of shopping, you can check out the large market on the mainland as well as a smaller market on Guet N’Dar which if you look hard enough you can find boutiques filled with fabric down the side streets or you can check out any number of the small shops on the island to get your fix of locally made items and other tourist type offerings. Boutiques selling everything from water and candy to ice cream and basic staples can be found on just about every block as well throughout all of Saint-Louis.
There are many boutiques on the Island that sell locally made items, such as clothing, wood carvings, jewelry, post cards and many other Senegalese crafts. Check out Chez Adja Sokho Creations where the owner serves as designer and then has the designs made in Saint-Louis, located on Rue Blanchot and Rue Blaise Diagne. Also visit the fair trade shop of Keur Fall where the items in the store come from one of fifteen villages in the Diourbel region that make up an association called Ndem, the store is located on the Quai Roume. Another nice place to shop is the Galerie N’Dar, Cadeau and Souvenir Mama Africa, on Rue Blaise Diagne. You will also find an Artisanal Village on the main land of the Rue De La Corniche, be prepared to bargain when you visit here and be prepared to be hassled.
Supplies & Provisions
A boutique can be found on nearly every block, you will find the boutiques stocked with snacks, sodas, and other beverages but for those looking to do some cooking themselves check out Exotica and D.S.K. Mini Prix both located on the Island on the Rue Khalifa Ababacar Sy both of which offer a larger selection of Western foods.
Fuel can be purchased at any one of the gas stations on the mainland. You will find gas stations along the Rue de la Corniche as you come into Saint-Louis from the south. There is also an Oil Lybia off the Route N2 as you head north out of town and there are many stations along the Avenue General de Gaulle as well.
The market runs daily up the Avenue General de Gaulle and offers vegetables, fruit, clothing, fabric, you can pretty much find anything you need here, including used clothing that comes from America and Europe, keep your eyes open for a chance to find some cast off t-shirts that are always good for a laugh. Wander down any of the side streets from the main market and you will find additional fabric stores, clothing stores, tailors and boutiques. Check out the smaller, less hectic market on Guet N’Dar just as you cross over the bridge, a walk down the side streets from the market reveals boutiques stuffed to the brim with different fabrics and tailors hard at work.
Eat and Drink
Given that Saint-Louis is a hot destination for French speaking tourists as well as a home to many foreign born residents, the offerings are plentiful on the island for food and drink. You can stop at any one of the unassuming Tangana shacks for Senegalese food or a simple sandwich which can be found in great numbers on both the Mainland or the Island or check out some of the restaurants and bars listed below for something a little different. Also don't be afraid to stop at one of the many sandwich stands set up on the street or any of the other street foods. You can also drink a cup of Nescafe or Cafe Touba for under 100CFA at many places along the street. In general you will find that it is cheaper to have a drink on the main land as opposed to the Island.
On the Main Land
This is a great neighborhood bar and restaurant where you can sit out back in the large garden and order warthog brochettes from the grill as well as Senegalese dishes. They also have some of the cheapest and coldest beer in Saint-Louis. Located off the Rue De La Corniche, down the street from the Pharmacy Malang Lyss.
This small restaurant with quick service on Avenue Malick Gaye offers hamburgers, chawarmas, sandwiches, fatayas, pizzas and rotisserie chicken dishes. They also offer a Senegalese plate of the day. Prices range from 300F for more of a snack to 6,500F for a whole rotisserie chicken served with fries, in a tasty onion sauce along with a basket of bread, absolutely delicious!
On Avenue Malick Gaye, this restaurant serves everything from Carpaccio to Brochettes, along with pizza as well as many meat and fish dishes and serves up a fabulous chocolate cake for dessert.
On the Island
Known as the original patisserie of Saint-Louis, they serve pastries, omelets, pizza, desserts (try the chocolate ice cream or a piece of cake) and hot drinks. They also have WiFi if you need to get online. Prices for the pastries start at 400F. Located off the Rue Blanchot & Quai Roume.
A fast food place with WiFi, serves up a warm cup of coffee, tasty pastries as well as one of the best cheeseburgers in Saint-Louis, located on the Rue de France and Aynina Fall.
This small restaurant doesn’t look like much when passing by, but a stop here guarantees a delicious pizza with prices starting at 2500F. If you’re not in the mood for pizza try a hamburger. Chat with the friendly owner who hails from Lebanon. Located on the Rue Abdoulaye Seck.
This is the place to go for pastries, croissants and cakes in the morning and tasty kabobs and charwamas in the evening, the hummus plate is also a great starter before dinner. Prices range from 1000F for sandwiches to 3000F for the larger plates. Located on the Rue Blaise Diagne.
Stop in this restaurant for a great plate of Yassa Poulet or your choice of many other Senegalese dishes, the prices start at 1500F. The brochettes are also an appetizing option. Smaller dishes start at 1000F and fish and meat dishes start at 2500F. Located on the Rue Blaise Diagne.
Diners at this restaurant sit under a big tent outside and eat delicious, flavorful plates of Moroccan food and if you prefer, order a Senegalese dish. Prices range from 1500F to 3300F, El Falah is located on Avenue Jean Mermoz at the northern tip of the island.
This Vietnamese restaurant sits in a great location right at the northern tip of the island at the Place de Liège. The food is wonderful and full of flavor and spice and is a welcome change from some of the other restaurants. Prices range from 2500F for starters to 4800F for some of the main dishes.
This restaurant and bar with WiFi has a nice selection of drinks which range in price from 1,000F for a beer to 4,000F for some of the house cocktails. The menu features French dishes, starting at 3000F as well as a small selection of deserts with the menu changing weekly. You can dine outdoors on the inviting patio or sit inside in the lounge, located on the rue Blaise Diagne.
When this historic ship docs here every other weekend on the Saint Louis River you can either have dinner, starting at 3000F or just go for a drink and listen to live jazz music on Saturday night. Check with the agency Sahel Decouverte to confirm when the boat will be docked.
Satisfy your craving for beef with one of the best steaks in Saint-Louis at La Résidence Hotel, with prices starting at 3200F. Also check out the menu of the day which is a little pricier, the cost, 8000F but you will get a starter, entrée and dessert. Located on the rue Blaise Diagne.
Situated out on a dock right on the river at the Hotel Sindone, serves some of the best food in Saint-Louis as well as a great steak however it is more expensive as meals run between 4000F and 6000F.
Located right on the river, it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat or a drink and you can swim in the pool for 4000F, they have the only pool on the island that is not inside a hotel. The food is a little pricey, with entrees starting at 4000F but a swim in the pool could be worth it, located on the Quai Roume.
On the Island
A great place to grab a bite to eat, but if you have time why not stay on for the live music they regularly have here. The large outdoor patio, abundant in trees and flowers is a great place to relax and have a drink. Located on the south end of the island at Rue Duret and Rue Serigne El Hadji Madiordise.
A popular night club in Saint-Louis, come here to dance until the wee hours of the morning on the Rue Abdoulaye Seck.
Try some of the creative house made cocktails or just go for a cold beer and listen to live music, also stop in during the day for a bite to eat, located on Rue Abdoulaye Seck.
This large bar, located in a renovated historic building, serves up a great cheeseburger and offers sandwiches as well. Grab a drink and while you’re at it play pool here too. Located along the water on the Quai Roume.
On the Island
Situated in a quiet residential neighborhood on the north end of the island off the Rue Bouet and Avenue Mermoz, this modest hostel is clean, quiet and comfortable and is sure to be a great place to stay that is easy on the wallet. Some of the rooms even have views of the tree lined Avenue Mermoz and there is a nice courtyard at the center of the hostel with a long table in which to swap stories with other travelers and have a cold soda.
Set in a six bedroom colonial house along the river, the owner Awa makes you feel right at home. There are three rooms with a shower and bathroom and two single rooms as well as one room for five people. A great place to stay with a large group of people and those visiting on a shoestring budget. Hotel has A/C, bed nets, water and only hot water in the rooms with shower and a bathroom, electricity, no generator. Reception speaks French and English.
On the North End of the island off the Quai Giraud, Sunu Keur is right on the Senegal River. Eight of the rooms offer views of the Senegal River, with balconies and there is a lovely patio in the center of the hotel with tables and chairs at which you can sit after a long day of exploring and enjoy mint tea, hibiscus punch or a drink served from the bar.
In a great location, opposite the Palais de Justice and close to the governance and an easy walk to the restaurants and bars in the area, this hotel is sure to make you feel right at home. The rooms are decorated simply but are clean and comfortable. There is also a bar that opens up into the street as well as a patisserie that serves delicious pastries and tasty coffee.
With clean and comfortable rooms in a good location right in the heart of the island on the corner of Rue Blanchot and Av Blaise Dagne, this hotel is a great place to stay for those looking for a more modest budget friendly hotel on the island. The hotel also has a restaurant and breakfast is included with the price of the room. Hotel has A/C, a generator, hot water, electricity, fans and no mosquito nets. Reception speaks French and some English.
On the south end of the Island on the Quai Henri Jay right along the river, which many of the rooms face, this hotel retains its colonial architecture and also has a restaurant situated right on the river so bring your appetite because their restaurant serves a delicious steak. Hotel does not have A/C or fans, has a generator, hot water, electricity, mosquito nets. Reception speaks French and English. WiFi is available.
This beautiful hotel sits on the Sur le Quai Roume, in a restored old colonial building and has seven rooms and nine suites. The rooms are decorated nicely and some even have nice views of the river and the Pont Faidherbe Bridge. There is also a restaurant that sits on the roof top of the hotel and offers panoramic views of the city as well as a terrace where you can relax and buy a drink and enjoy a view of the bridge.
Langue De Barbarie Peninsula
This small hostel situated right off the Route De Hydrobase, offers the chance to stay in huts that back right up to the ocean or in the small rooms and studios in the main part of the hostel. The rooms are small yet comfortable and the owner a great host and a pleasure to talk to. There is a bar and restaurant at the top of the main building of the hostel that has a beautiful panoramic view of both the ocean and the river. Stay here and you will be sure to come away feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
This camp ground located right next to the Hotel Dior along the Route de Hydrobase allows visitors to camp as well as the chance to stay in a hut, the beach is located right behind the campground and offers a great place to stay and relax and unwind. If you left the tent at home they are available to rent. There is also a small bar that serves as the reception desk. Hotel does not have A/C, fans, generator, hot water, but has water. Has mosquito nets and electricity. Reception speaks French.
This small hotel with twenty comfortable rooms sits right between the river and the beach and is a great option for those with smaller budgets that want to stay on the Route de Hydrobase. The hotel also has meeting facilities, pool, and a nice bar and restaurant. Breakfast is also included with the price of the room. Hotel has A/C, fans, generator, hot water, electricity and no mosquito nets. Reception speaks French and English.
This small hotel with friendly staff is situated along the Route de Hydrobase and also right on the beach of the Langue de Barbarie Peninsula, set in a garden of 2 and a half acres the hotel offers basic rooms as well as lovely bungalows right along the ocean. Hotel has A/C, fans, generator, hot water, electricity, and no mosquito nets. Reception speaks French and English.
This tranquil seaside oasis sits right on the beach and features a spa and pool. The hotel even offers child care for those parents who just need a break from the kids. Once the kids are in child care go horseback riding for 5000F or even take part in the various water sports that are offered by the hotel. Also a sure bet is the restaurant which serves up delicious seafood and other offerings. Located on the Route de Hydrobase. Hotel does not have A/C or fans, has a generator, hot water, electricity, mosquito nets. Reception speaks French and English. Hotel has fans, A/C, a generator, hot water, electricity, mosquito nets. Reception speaks French, English, Spanish and Italian.
Outside Saint Louis
About 20 kilometers outside of town is the fabulous "campement" Zebrabar. It's located in the Langue de Barberie National Park, right along the water, so it's a beautiful spot to relax and head out for a tour of the park. Delicious european meals are served family style, but can be expensive (5000 CFA for a complete dinner). It is also possible to rent kayaks as well, they are free for guests of the campement and are also available for a small fee for visitors to the Park.
In the fishing Village of Bango near the airport, Senegalese-French couple Seb and Diarra have built their home with two guest rooms in a beautiful garden. You can go walking along the river or on the dam with good chances to spot monitor lizards, kingfishers and many more birds. Alternatively they will be happy to show you their field where they grow organic vegetables to make a living. To find them take a shared or private taxi to the airport and ask for Seb and Diarra in front of the airport.
There are two catholic churches in Saint-Louis, one located on the island and another located on Sor.
Located just 11 miles south of Saint Louis in the region of Gandiol, the Park is home to over 160 different species of bird as well as other animals and is a great place for nature lovers, sightseers, photographers and bird watchers to visit. The park offers tours by boat, or explore on bike or by foot. There is a monthly bird count that visitors to the park can participate in that happens towards the end of each month, contact the park for details.
Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj
Located in the Senegal River Delta, this bird sanctuary is home to some 1.5 million birds covering 16,000 hectares and here you will find a wide variety of bird species. It is easy for bird lovers to take a day trip to the park and visit the third largest bird sanctuary in the world. The park is most easily accessible with an organized tour group which can be arranged through one of the agencies listed under the activities section or by any hotel or the tourist information. Prices for a tour including driver, guide, entrance fee and boat tour are about 20'000 CFA per person. It was dedicated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981.
Réserve Spéciale de Faune de Guembeul
This natural reserve is home to many bird species, mammals and reptiles as well as to the African Spurred Tortoise and is about 10km south of Saint-Louis.