Things to Do Post-event in Addis Ababa

July 10, 2024

by Mahider Tadesse & Sofeeyah Lloyd

You’re traveling to Addis Ababa for a conference – lucky you! 

Ethiopia’s capital is one of the most intriguing cities in the world. But you’ll need to plan ahead to make the most of your time here. Especially as you probably only have a few days post-conference to see everything. 

So, we’ve polled the Hallpax to create a quick itinerary that will give a quick taste of Addis and (if you have time) the rest of Ethiopia in as little time as possible.

Enjoy!

 

Food And Drink

Ethiopian food and coffee are world-renowned – and now you get to experience them straight from the source!

You could spend years in Addis and only scratch the surface of the food scene here, so for now, we’ll focus on the best culinary experiences when you have limited time. 

 

Visit Tomoca Coffee

Immerse yourself in Ethiopia’s rich coffee culture with a visit to Tomoca Coffee, a cornerstone of Addis Ababa’s café scene since 1953. Here, every cup is a history lesson, with beans sourced from Ethiopia’s finest regions. Savor the diverse flavors while enjoying the traditional ambiance and perhaps a glimpse of the ceremonial preparation. 

The original branch from 1953 is still open in Piassa, but you’ll find locations across the city. 

 
Eat Out At The Best Restaurants

Check out these 10 restaurants to sample the best Ethiopian and international dining in Addis Ababa. 

  • Kategna Restaurant: One of the best places to sample traditional Ethiopian dishes, especially injera with a variety of ‘wats’ (stews).
  • Taitu Hotel and Restaurant: Ethiopia’s first hotel, built in the early 20th century, offers traditional Ethiopian meals in a historic setting.
  • Makush Art Gallery & Italian Restaurant: Combines delicious Italian food with a gallery showcasing local art, offering a unique dining experience.
  • Lucy Restaurant: A surprisingly good eatery in the National Museum, offering Ethiopian and international dishes.
  • Totot Traditional Food Hall: Known for its succulent kitfo (a traditional dish made from raw minced beef) and other Ethiopian delicacies.
  • Effoi Pizza: If you’re craving Italian, this spot offers some of the best pizzas in town, reflecting the Italian influence on Ethiopian cuisine.
  • Mama’s Kitchen: A contemporary restaurant that blends Ethiopian flavors with international dishes, often accompanied by live music performances.
  • Diamond Hotel Restaurant: Located in the Diamond Hotel, this upscale restaurant offers international and local dishes with top-notch service.
  • Rodeo Restaurant: For a fusion experience, Rodeo offers Tex-Mex cuisine in the heart of Addis.
  • Black Rose Bar: Located in Bole, this spot provides a sophisticated setting to enjoy international cuisine with a touch of Ethiopian flavors.

 

Take a Food Tour

To explore the tastes of Addis Ababa while learning more about life in the city, check out Go Addis Food Tours. 

The tour starts at 4pm and lasts 3-4 hours, with maximum 12 people per tour. You’ll be taken to seven restaurants in one neighborhood, from quaint, lesser-known gems to high-end restaurants. Each location showcases its specialty, allowing you to savor their best dishes while your guide shares the stories and traditions behind them.

 

Explore Addis Ababa

It’s not just food and coffee!

Addis Ababa is a huge and surprisingly interesting city, with so many areas and attractions to explore. 

Everything listed below is a small sample to give you a taste of the city. Most can be visited as part of an organized city tour or explored on your own schedule with the help of a private drive or taxis. 

 

Visit a Museum
  • National Museum of Ethiopia: Home to world-renowned artifacts, including the famous fossil “Lucy”, this museum offers a rich journey through Ethiopia’s ancient and recent history.
  • Ethnological Museum: Located within the Addis Ababa University, it provides a deep dive into the diverse cultures and ethnic groups of Ethiopia.
  • Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum: This museum provides insights into the brutal Derg regime period, paying tribute to its victims.
  • Zoma Museum Mekanisa: An immersive experience, this contemporary museum merges architecture, art, and ecology, reflecting the essence of Ethiopian heritage.

 

Visit a Cathedral
  • St. George’s Cathedral: An iconic octagonal structure with a rich history and a small museum displaying religious artifacts.
  • Holy Trinity Cathedral: A stunning piece of architecture, a religious landmark, and a historical site commemorating Ethiopia’s liberation from Italian occupation.
  • Medhane Alem Cathedral: One of the largest cathedrals in Africa, and a center of spiritual significance for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.
 
Music and Cultural Experiences
  • Yod Abyssinia Traditional Restaurant: Offers a lively showcase of Ethiopian music and dance and a wide selection of traditional dishes.
  • Fendika Azmari Bet: Known for its authentic Azmari performances, this venue provides a rustic and intimate setting for experiencing traditional Ethiopian folk music.
  • 2000 Habesha Cultural Restaurant: Delivers an extensive cultural program featuring music and dances from various Ethiopian ethnic groups in a grand setting.
  • Elilly International Hotel: Hosts cultural music shows in its luxurious space, often coupled with gourmet dining for a high-end experience.
  • African Jazz Village: The go-to spot for jazz lovers, combining local tunes with the universal language of jazz in a cozy atmosphere.
  • Hager Fikir Theatre: As the oldest theater in Ethiopia, it’s the heart of performing arts in Addis, presenting traditional plays and musicals.
 
Sightseeing Throughout The City
  • Meskel Square: The city’s main gathering place, it’s often the center for public events, festivals, and parades.
  • Piassa neighborhood: A bustling historical quarter offering a glimpse into the past with its old-world charm, Italian-era architecture, and delightful shops and cafes.
  • Unity Park: A symbol of national pride and unity, Unity Park is located within the Grand Palace compound and showcases Ethiopia’s rich cultural heritage and biodiversity, inviting visitors to walk through beautifully landscaped gardens and historical buildings.

 

Hangout in Bole

Bole is Addis Ababa’s “downtown” – home to many excellent restaurants, hotels, boutique stores, coffee shops, and similar attractions. 

Conveniently, the center of Bole is one long road, Namibia St. and most businesses are contracted here. So you can walk up and down the street, popping into anything that takes your fancy. 

My personal favorites are: 

  • Tutto Gelato: Delicious ice cream popular with young Ethiopians and families. 
  • DIR ena MAG: A lively cafe and boutique fashion store. 
  • Tiru’s Traditional Coffee Shop: Exactly what it sounds like!
  • Tomoca Coffee: The Bole branch of Addis’s oldest coffee shop chain. 
  • Shifta: Arty restaurant and live music spot a few minutes from Namibia St. 

 

Shopping

The first thing you’ll notice about Ethiopia is how common traditional dress, fashion, and textiles are here. 

Then, you’re probably going to want to buy some. 

The markets and shops below offer the right balance between high-quality souvenirs and authentic shopping experiences in Addis Ababa. 

  • Merkato: Africa’s largest open-air market, a vibrant place to witness the local trade, buy souvenirs, and immerse oneself in daily Ethiopian life.
  • Shola Market: Less intense and much smaller than Merkato, but just as enjoyable. 
  • Shiro Meda: Shiro Meda is the go-to place for traditional Ethiopian clothing, including beautifully embroidered dresses and woven shawls.
  • Salem’s Design: For those interested in high-quality, contemporary Ethiopian fashion and home decor, Salem’s Design offers a curated selection of beautiful products
 

Traveling Throughout Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in the world. 

Traveling here has also become much easier in recent years, so areas that were once cut off from the outside world are now accessible via short flights and good roads. 

Depending on how much time you have, these are my favorite places to visit in Ethiopia. 

Day Trips

If you’re short on time, but still want to see Ethiopia beyond its biggest city, these quick day trips are easy to organize and lots of fun. 

  • Mount Entoto: The highest peak overlooking Addis Ababa, with panoramic city views, is also home to the historic Entoto Maryam Church.
  • Debre Libanos Monastery: An hour’s drive from Addis Ababa, this monastery is a significant religious center with a stunning church and breathtaking views of the Ethiopian Highlands.
  • Blue Nile Gorge: Known as the ‘Grand Canyon of Ethiopia’, a drive to this magnificent natural wonder offers a dramatic landscape and the chance to spot diverse wildlife.
  • Adadi Maryam: A journey to these rock-hewn churches, roughly a 2.5-hour drive from Addis, provides insight into Ethiopia’s ancient ecclesiastical architecture and history.
  • Menagesha Suba Forest Park: Located about an hour’s drive from Addis, it is one of the oldest protected natural areas with endemic flora and fauna, perfect for hiking and bird-watching.
  • Tiya Stelae Fields: A UNESCO World Heritage site around two hours away, these ancient megaliths hold mysteries of past civilizations and are a must-visit for history enthusiasts.
  • Awash National Park: Approximately a 3.5-hour drive to the east, this park features a spectacular waterfall, hot springs, and a chance to see wildlife like gazelles and oryx.
  • Wenchi Crater Lake: About a 3-hour drive from Addis, it’s an idyllic spot for hiking, horseback riding, and boat trips on the crater lake with stunning mountainous scenery.
  • Sodere Resort: Roughly a 2-hour drive from the capital, visitors can relax in therapeutic hot springs and enjoy a lush resort setting.
  • Lake Ziway: A 2.5-hour drive south of Addis, this lake is famous for its birdlife, monastic islands, and a relaxing ambiance by the water.

 

Longer Getaways

If you have 2-3 extra days – or even a couple of weeks! – in Ethiopia, there are plenty of spectacular national parks, historic cities, and natural wonders to visit throughout. 

Even better, most are accessible via a short flight from the capital. Come back to our blogs to learn more in our upcoming blog on the best day trips in Ethiopia.

 

  • Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches: Often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” these churches carved from solid rock in the 12th century are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Simien Mountains National Park: A breathtaking landscape of towering peaks, deep valleys, and sharp precipices, it’s home to unique wildlife like the Gelada baboon and Ethiopian wolf.
  • Lake Tana and Blue Nile Falls: Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake, dotted with historic monasteries. The nearby Blue Nile Falls are often called the “African Niagara.”
  • Aksum: The ancient city is known for its obelisks, ruins of the Queen of Sheba’s palace, and the Church of St. Mary of Zion, where the Ark of the Covenant is said to reside.
  • Harar Jugol: The old walled city in eastern Ethiopia is considered the fourth holiest city in Islam and is known for its unique architecture and the “Hyena Men” of Harar.
  • Omo Valley: Home to various indigenous tribes such as the Hamar, Mursi, and Karo, it provides a glimpse into the rich ethnic tapestry of Ethiopia.
  • Bale Mountains National Park: A haven for hikers and wildlife enthusiasts, this park houses the Ethiopian wolf, mountain nyala, and myriad bird species.
  • Danakil Depression: One of the hottest places on Earth, it’s a surreal landscape of lava lakes, colorful sulfur springs, and salt flats.
  • Gondar: The “Camelot of Africa”, Gondar is famous for its medieval castles and the Debre Birhan Selassie Church with its angel-covered ceilings.

 

Conclusion

That’s it!

The best of Addis Ababa and Ethiopia – all accessible with a couple of free days. 

But if you’re coming for a conference, don’t forget practical considerations like visas and accommodation. We have guides for both coming soon. So, bookmark this page and return any time you need advice on Addis. As always, please get in touch for all your event planning needs.

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