On my latest west Africa trip, we visited Togo and Benin while also veering across the border (yet unvisiting) Ghana. In Benin, we visited 4 main cities – ee toured Cotonou in some detail as well as backpacking the UNESCO world heritage site at Abomey, the slave history at Ouidah and the capital city of Porto Novo. There seems little need for me to return to Benin and I won’t shed a tear on an un-return to either it or Togo. Well, okay, except maybe the National Park in the north, which anyway is best accessed through Burkina Faso. I didn’t fall in love with country of Benin one bit, nor with neighbouring Togo.
Travelling with Malina was brilliant though, as we both share similar ideals in life. We both speak the truth, we work hard, we hunt bargains, we are rude to those who disrespect us and we get up early to sightsee. One thing we also both love to do is relax at night in the hotel or bar. As cheapskates we often bought the 1000 CFA Sangria ($1.5 USD) and drank it at the hotel or by the beach which we visited twice.
Then at night we enjoyed looking for cosy bars. In Benin these were my top 5 bars and most of them were in the Haie Vive area of Cotonou where our hostel was but also there were crazy idiotic wankhead Insulin scammers of Benin!
1.The Times Bar (Les Moments), Haie Vive, Cotonou
This awesome three story bar was our regular haunt for three nights in the same area – Times (Les Moments). We stayed at the Guesthouse Cocotiers in Haie Vive. The Times corner rounded it.
The Times had live football on television and lots of beers. It had a cosy balcony floor where Malina and i drank and smoked shisha.
The Times also had friendly staff and fast WiFi. For three nights it was home, and it’s done for a lifetime now!
229 Cotonou, Benin +229 69 69 86 86
2.La Plancha, Haie Vive, Cotonou
La Plancha was one of the closest bars to our guesthouse and probably my favourite bar from our time in Benin.
Happy hour meant two beers for the price of one, half price shisha (3,000 CFA) and cheap nachos. We enjoyed this place a lot also!
We also enjoyed speaking to Maxime the manager here – a cool French guy who knows something about customer service that parts of Africa neglect somehow. The Happy Hour ran from 17.00 to 20.00. La Plancha also had fast free WiFi. The staff in La Plancha were superb, well trained by Maxime no doubt.
3.Le Livingstone, Haie Vive, Cotonou
We had our dinner in Le Livingstone one night after failing to find 2 of the local restaurants recommended to us (one at Bulgaria place). After a few days of hardcore backpacking, this was worth a stop off in. However, it’s rumoured to be the most popular immigrant/foreigner bar in the city which meant it wasn’t as local as some of the joints I have whackpacked before. In fact, we saw less than 30 white people during our entire trip to Togo and Benin yet about 10 of them were in here in the space of 2 hours!!
We drank Beninese wine and beer but stuck to pizza instead.
It wasn’t quite as local or cool as The Times or La Plancha but still great. We shared a pizza in the outer front area as well as local beers and wines. Football was on the television but the venue didn’t have WiFi. It is connected to a hotel of the same name. The hostel we stayed in had no bar, so this was a handy stop off on the main street in Haie Vive.
4.Songhai Bar and Restaurant, Porto Novo
We only visited Porto Novo out of curiosity as it is the capital city of Benin and was also pretty close to Nigeria. However without a visa to Nigeria, we remained just in the capital on this day. We had our lunch here at Songhai, in the area where production is high – you name it – vegetables, meat, garments, all made locally here. Songhai is one of the biggest producers of goods in the country and it is great for helping the country’s economy as there are exports produced here. The Baobab juice was excellent.
It’s a centre of agriculture and industry known as Songhai. After checking out the facilities and products they make here, we had coffee and chips here. We also tried to Baobab juice which I first sampled almost 3 years earlier in The Gambia and Senegal. After that, I had a beer and bought a second one to takeaway to consume in our shared taxi back to Cotonou.
5.Maquis “Chez Delphano” Restaurant, Abomey
We did Abomey on a day trip from Cotonou but still had time to fit in a lunch and a beer in Abomey itself at Maquis “Chez Delphano”. After touring the UNESCO world heritage site- the ancient Kings castles- we headed to what was recommended as being the best restaurant in the city. However, even though it makes my top 5 list, we really only visited about 6-7 cafes and bars and I stuck this one in as an oddball. It was terrible but could have been good!
Food wise, it was one of the worst restaurants I have ever been in!! Seriously However the garden was pretty and the beer was cold and good.
It was the first place I tried the Porto Novo Beninese beer, which is why I put it on this list as the beer was decent and certainly set Malina and I up for the trip back south to Cotonou.
(unsurprisingly, no Facebook or Website).
We also toured Ouidah but only had coffee and bread there, though there was a cool bar by the beach which I went into. We also had coffee from a bowl in Cotonou and a few beers and wines in various locations, including in the car, on the beach and at the hostel, but for this lifetime, those were my top 5 bars in Benin…
Here are some videos from my time exploring the bars of Benin: