Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, is a lively mix of old and new. Originally founded in the late 19th century, and made capital of Ethiopia in the 20th century, this city includes a mix of traditional Ethiopian culture and modern influence.

Here is a handy guide for everything you need to know before visiting this vibrant city.

The Basics

Before you arrive in Addis Ababa it’s important to know the basics. Addis Ababa follows East Africa Time (EAT), which is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+3) and the city’s altitude, sitting at over 2,300 meters above sea level, may require some adjustment, especially for those sensitive to changes in elevation.

In terms of transportation, taxis are a convenient way to get around the city, and ride-hailing apps like RIDE, similar to Uber, are also in operation for getting from place to place. Keep in mind that traffic congestion can be heavy during peak hours, so it’s wise to plan your days accordingly.

The official currency of Ethiopia is the Ethiopian birr (ETB) and is ready for exchange at banks and currency exchange offices throughout the city. While English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas such as Addis Ababa, Amharic serves as the country’s official language. Learning a few basic phrases in Amharic can enhance your interactions with locals and enrich your experience in navigating the busy streets of Addis Ababa.

In Addis Ababa, like in any busy city, it’s important to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. While the city is generally safe for tourists, it’s advisable to exercise caution, particularly in crowded areas and at night. Keep your belongings secure and avoid displaying valuables openly to deter potential pickpockets. When using public transportation opt for reputable companies or licensed drivers and negotiate fares beforehand to avoid disputes. By staying aware and taking common-sense precautions, you can minimise risks and enjoy all that Addis Ababa has to offer with peace of mind.

Landmarks and Attractions

Addis Ababa is dotted with sites that offer insight into Ethiopia’s past and present, alongside enjoyable days out, treating visitors to experiences that highlight the city’s unique blend of tradition and innovation.

Mount Entoto is a prominent mountain which overlooks the city. Rising to an elevation of approximately 3,200 metres, this mountain offers panoramic views of Addis Ababa and the surrounding countryside. It is not only a popular destination for nature enthusiasts but also holds historical significance as the site of Menelik II’s imperial palace and the origin of Addis Ababa’s founding. The mountain can be accessed by vehicle or by hiking trails which also offer opportunities to explore its forests and various historic sites.

Mercato, considered to be one of Africa’s largest open-air markets, sells any product you could wish to buy. Though tricky to navigate, this market has a lively atmosphere and is a great way to experience Ethiopian culture whilst in Addis Ababa. While exploring the city’s markets and shops, bargaining is a common practice, but it’s important to do so respectfully and with a smile.

Addis Fine Art is a leading contemporary art gallery which specialises in promoting the work of both emerging and established artists from Ethiopia and the diaspora. The gallery has work from a large roster of artists working across various mediums, including paintings, sculptures and photography, and is a must visit location when in Addias Ababa.

Since it opened in Addias Ababa in 1936, The National Museum of Ethiopia has been collecting all kinds of items that tell stories about the country’s past. One of the most famous attractions at this museum is Lucy, a skeleton that’s millions of years old, but  there’s more than just Lucy here. You can see ancient tools, coins, books and much more at this museum, making it the perfect place to go to learn about Ethiopia and it’s past.

Where To Eat in Addis Ababa

When it comes to experiencing the vibrant flavours of Ethiopian cuisine, the options are endless. Ethiopia has something to satisfy every palate, and here are three must-visit destinations to visit when for food after a long day exploring Addis Ababa.

Tucked away in the streets of Addis Ababa, Yod Abyssinia offers both a meal a cultural with experience. Visitors can experience classic Ethiopian dishes such as doro wat (spicy chicken stew) and kitfo (minced raw beef), served with injera and accompanied by traditional music and dance performances. It’s the perfect place to dive headfirst into Ethiopian culture while satisfying your hunger.

For a taste of authentic Ethiopian cuisine in a cosier setting, look no further than Habesha 2000. Located in the centre of Addis Ababa, this welcoming restaurant serves a range of traditional dishes.

No visit to Ethiopia is complete without experiencing the time-honoured tradition of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, known as “Buna”. At Tomoca Coffee, renowned for its commitment to quality coffee, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the meticulous process of roasting, grinding, and brewing coffee, all done with intense precision and care. Whether you’re a coffee enthusiast or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, Tomoca Coffee offers a memorable visit into the heart of Ethiopian hospitality.

If you want to explore the vibrant city of Addis Ababa, let Absolute Ethiopia be your guide. Book now!