From Algiers’ magnificent Museum of Modern Art to the fantastic Zanzibar National Museum of History and Culture; Africa’s many museums are a delight to explore.
Editor’s Note: Given the current COVID-19 situation, it’s best to check directly with the museums for the most up-to-date opening hours and visitor regulations.
Not only home to spectacular landscapes, incredible historic sites, and beautiful beaches, the African continent boasts a mesmerizing array of museums for you to enjoy, each more fascinating than the last.
Whether it is culture and art that interests you, science and nature, or history and archaeology, here’s a look at ten of the best museums in Africa well worth a visit.
1. Museum of Modern Art of Algiers – Algeria
Located in a beautiful building that boasts a wonderful neo-Moorish interior, this magnificent modern art museum is home to some absolutely delightful paintings and sculptures by both Algerian and international artists – a must when in Algiers.
2. Museum of Egyptian Antiquities – Egypt
Crammed full of mummies, statues, and artifacts, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo showcases a stunning array of impressive Pharaonic antiquities. While a multitude of amazing items awaits, the two statues of King Tutankhamun and King Akhenaten count among the most awe-inspiring pieces.
3. National Museum of Ethiopia – Ethiopia
Although it is mostly known for being home to ‘Lucy’ – a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of a human ancestor – Ethiopia’s National Museum has much more to offer with lots of arts and crafts on display alongside large ethnographic and paleontological sections. Taking you through the history of the country and indeed the continent itself, the National Museum of Ethiopia is well worth visiting when in Addis Ababa, and just one of many reasons to visit Ethiopia, in general.
4. Cape Coast Castle Museum – Ghana
Documenting Ghana’s rich cultural heritage both before and after the arrival of the Europeans, the Cape Coast Castle Museum offers up an invaluable look at the impact of the slave trade on the country with the castle’s dungeons and the ‘Door of No Return’ is particularly haunting to visit.
5. National Museum of Mali – Mali
With its vast archaeological and anthropological collections, the National Museum of Mali takes you through the country’s rich history. The displays on French colonialism and Mali’s independence are among the most powerful.
6. Marrakech Museum – Morocco
Located in Marrakech‘s spectacular Dar Menebhi Palace, the museum is breathtaking at first sight… before you even get around to the artifacts and items that showcase the city’s Berber, Islamic and Jewish influences. With lovely tiled walls, sparkling fountains, and magnificent mosaics, the Museum of Marrakech is a gem.
7. House of Slaves – Senegal
Part of the Goree Island UNESCO World Heritage Site, this museum’s cheery colorful buildings hide a dark past as many Africans departed to the Americas from the House of Slaves, never to see their homes again. Just a short ferry ride from Dakar, the museum and island are both an important and haunting memorial to the Atlantic slave trade.
8. Apartheid Museum – South Africa
Documenting the atrocities that took place under apartheid – the policy of institutionalized racial segregation that ran from 1948 to the early 1990s in South Africa –, a visit to this museum is a must if you want to understand present-day South Africa. While it is full of horrifying items, photos, and testimonies, the visit ends on a positive note as the museum states that by looking at its oppressive past, the country can work towards a brighter and better future for everyone.
9. Iziko South African Museum – South Africa
South Africa’s first museum, Iziko hosts some fascinating collections with fossils and meteorites featuring rock art, indigenous knowledge, and zoology displays. With over one and a half million specimens housed in the museum, Iziko has something for everyone to enjoy as it offers up the perfect mix of history, culture, science, and nature.
10. Zanzibar National Museum of History and Culture – Tanzania
Located in the magnificent ‘House of Wonders’, the Zanzibar National Museum of History and Culture is home to lots of interesting artifacts and items that showcase Swahili civilization and culture. With lovely views out over the glistening Indian Ocean, the museum definitely warrants a visit when in Zanzibar’s laidback capital of Stone Town.