"The Congo!" Top 5 Page for this destination Brazzaville by Ramonq

Brazzaville Travel Guide: 17 reviews and 27 photos

The verdant city

Sitting on the right bank of the mighty Congo River lies the sultry capital of the Congo Republic. Brazzaville is a verdant city of roads aligned with large mango or acacia trees providing much needed shelter for the weary traveller. The tropical jungle heat may be overbearing, but Brazzaville is surprisingly pleasant enough, thanks to the abundant tropical foliage. Speaking of jungles, you are never far away from it. In fact, in Brazzaville, there are dense forest parks in the suburbs and they are quite amazing. Brazzaville is definitely a green city. I noticed that even their cabs and taxi vans are green, not eco-friendly green , but painted green!

The city centre of Brazzaville has more of a country town feel to it. The streets are wide with a few sprinkling of strange-looking glass buildings which can be familiarly seen in inland Chinese cities like Luoyang or Xian. Perhaps they were designed and built by the Chinese. Near the Hôtel de Ville is an imposing large mausoleum for the European founder of Brazzaville, an Italian born Frenchman, Mr. Pierre de Brazza. It is suitably situated near the Congo River where Brazza courageously explored the impenetrable hinterlands of Africa.

Brazzaville being the capital of the Congo, has all the government headquarters and embassies. Just up the hill are the leafy suburbs overlooking the city where foreign ambassadors live. Its very pleasant surroundings contrast to the chaos and grinding poverty of the poorer districts where roads are muddy and littered with trash and sewer.

The Poto Poto district of Brazzaville has its own character though. Brazzavillians shop here and the atmosphere is very lively. The market in Poto Poto is a good place to experience Congolese life. Women and men in very colourful African robes and headresses jostling in the crowd to find a good bargain. Poto Poto is also where the green-roofed Basilica of St Anne is located.

The remnants of civil strife of the 1990s are still present in Brazzaville. Some of the older buildings have bullet holes and they are slowly being patched. Brazzaville has a short but somewhat turbulent history, and this image does not augur well for tourism in the country. Yet the city is a great base for exploring the jungles of the Congo to see gorilla reserves or meet the smallest people on earth, the pygmies.

Short History

The Italian explorer, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza laid the foundation of Brazzaville on September 10, 1880. It started as a small village named Nkuna. As the city grew it was later renamed after the founder. De Brazza managed to negotiate with the local chieftain, Makoko of the Téké to sign a treaty which effectually hand over his lands to the French Empire.

Across the Congo river, the Belgians occupied what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo and they built a capital city of Léopoldville, which is now Kinshasa. Not to be outdone, the French made Brazzaville the capital of the French Congo. Presently Brazzaville and Kinshasa are the only capital cities of two sovereign nations that are only separated by a river. In fact, the two cities are very visible from each other.

Brazzaville was built in to compete with Kinshasa, but KInshasa is far bigger and more populated. From 1910 to 1958, the city was made the capital of French Equatorial Africa which included the present day countries of Gabon, the Central African Republic and Chad. During World War II, Brazzaville became the center of Free French forces in Africa. There is a house that is still standing in Brazzaville which was built for Charles de Gaulle.

The French presence gave Brazzaville its character. Wide tree lined boulevardes and avenues are still present especially around the Parliament House. Brazzaville was a pleasant French outpost in tropical Africa. The city was divided into European (Centre Ville) and African sections which included Poto-Poto.

When the Congo obtained independence from France in 1960, Brazzaville became its capital until today. Unfortunately, the city became a ground for regional conflicts from Angola and DRC during the 1970s and 1980s. Civil conflicts also arose in Brazzaville between rebel and government forces in the 1990s.

There is now some peace in Brazzaville and life has returned to normal. In the city centre, I saw reconstruction going on. Men in ties and suits go about their business. Women walk about in colourful African dresses. Although it is not as bustling as Luanda or Kinshasa, the city is quietly enjoying its peace at its own pace. As I sit along the Congo River overlooking the bright lights of Kinshasa across the river, Brazzaville has steadfastly remains like a big country town , yet still enjoy a small degree of sophistication. Although it does not boast 5 star hotels and swanky clubs, Brazzaville does it in small doses. For those people who do not like big city living, Brazzaville, even though it is very much a poor city, may come as a surprise to you.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Green city
  • Cons:Poor infrastructure
  • In a nutshell:Not brassy at all!
  • Intro Updated Feb 9, 2008
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