No matter if you are a Lagosian in search of something for the weekend or a newcomer to Africa’s most populous city, culture vulture and editor of Time Out Lagos, Nana Ocran, unlocks a magical labyrinth; the city they lovingly call Las Gidi
Arik Air operates flights to and from Lagos from 32 destinations including London, Johannesburg, New York, Luanda and Accra.
January to April are the hottest times to go, with the rainy season usually kicking in from May to July and sometimes August. The dry season takes place in November and December.
ed or yellow taxis, lively okadas (passenger motorbikes), humming keke marwas (motorised tuk tuks), groaning public buses, private cars and relentless pedestrian traffic mean you’re in Lagos. A bubbling metropolis, this former Nigerian capital offers a visual and oral cacophony of sights and sounds that will leave an imprint on your memory, long after your visit is over. Far from being a tranquil idyll, it’s a city that’s not for the fainthearted, although you can always find a quiet retreat in the form of a tucked away café, an after hours bar, and these days, even a peaceful green space – which is not that easy to find in this town. However, with the Lagos lagoon as another main feature, you could literally push the boat out and spend a bit of ‘you’ time at one of the city’s beach retreats.
Lagos by area
Originally a series of islands separated by creeks, the lay of the land in Lagos now includes the large Mainland area where most of the city’s residents live. It’s here that the Nollywood film industry is based, with many producers and directors having offices in Surulere, with a fair number of location shots being filmed in and around the area. It’s over on Lagos Island that most of the city’s historical buildings are – or at least they were. In reality, you’ll have to scout pretty hard to find some of the remnants of the past, with buildings such as the Cuban Lodge (40 Odulami Street), with its fusion of British and Brazilian architecture located close to the Water House (12 Kakawa Street) and Vaughan House (29 Kakawa Street). Once the properties of freed slaves, these venues still stand but are pretty much used as commercial properties, rather than cultural heritage sites. Victoria Island (or VI) is the commercial hub of Lagos, and it’s here that amongst the tall buildings a lot of the newest nightclubs now seem to spring up. If you cross Falomo bridge, you can kick back in the affluent Ikoyi or you can go to the increasingly well-heeled area of Lekki where many a new housing development has sprung up.
Despite the fact that such a sprawling city only has a handful of bona fide galleries and museums, there’s been quite an exciting movement in contemporary art in Lagos over the last few years. In Ikoyi especially, creative hubs include The Nimbus Art Centre, which has a dedicated space above the Bogobiri Guest House (9 Maitama Sule Street, behind Falomo Shopping Centre, 01 474 7421), and the nearby African Artists’ Foundation (Raymond Njoku Street, Ikoyi, 0806 245 1371), which is also the headquarters of the annual Lagos Photo exhibition. Monoliths such as the National Gallery of Modern Art (Entrance B of the National Theatre, Iganmu, 0802 729 3440) are now being eclipsed by the newer galleries, as these are now the places that young and dynamic artists and photographers from all over Nigeria are honing their craft and gaining international recognition through the help of savvy Lagos-based curators or patrons. The Mainland is also gaining ground as an alternative arts hub, mainly due to the work of the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA,Lagos, 9 McEwen St, Sabo, Yaba 0702 836 7106, www.ccalagos.org) and the in-house Video Art Network (Van,Lagos) that highlights the work of New Media artists.
Nigeria doesn’t play when it comes to its literary output. It has a long history of renowned writers and poets and Lagos has been a potent source of inspiration for many of them. Still something of a modern day classic is Every Day is for The Thief by writer, art historian and street photographer, Teju Cole. A slim volume it lays out the ups and downs of the city as it’s negotiated by a young man visiting his hometown after a long absence. Odio Ofeimun’s Lagos of the Poets outlines what it’s like to be ‘Lagosed’ in a city that pulls no emotional punches, while newer books focusing on one of Lagos’s eternally best-known former residents (Fela Kuti) include This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore, and even a new Kindle ebook, Finding Fela: My Strange Journey to Meet the Afrobeat King in Lagos by cult writer, Dan Dinello. Best places for searching out new or classic titles are Glendora Books (0803 304 7091, www.glendorabooks.net), Quintessence (01 870 6371/01 269 4680/ www.quintessenceltd.com) and The Jazzhole (01895 3498).
Lagos is a city of cliques and fads, so as quickly as one club shuts down, another one – usually bigger and brighter – will spring up in its place. That, or a mere change of management might be the difference between a resounding success or a pitiful failure. One of the go-to places of the moment is Chrome in VI (82 Adetokunbo Ademola Street, VI, 0803 400 1145, chromelagos.com). The restaurant-cum-club scene is a strong one and De Marquee (Mega Plaza, 4th Floor Rooftop, 14 Idowu Martins Street, VI, 0803 088 9696, www.demarquee.com) with its high ceilings, white flowing curtains and terraced area is a persistent favourite, but for something refreshingly quirky, you could try the African Sports Bar at the Oriental Hotel (3 Ozumba Mbadiwe, Lekki Epe Expressway, 01 280 6600) where a regular Friday night set by African rock band, Dabyna, takes the air guitar genre to another level.
Well, we’ve already mentioned Nollywood, but we’re bigging it up again. Having eclipsed the Nigerian (and much of the African) film market, the ease of online streaming means these straight-to-video productions can be watched by just about anyone, anywhere in the world. With notoriously quick fire turnover, it can be hard to keep up with the latest releases, but the deliciously convoluted and soap operatic plots involving wives, mistresses, players, preachers, romantics and ruffians have easily become must-watch fodder for even the most discerning movie watchers. The few cinemas that do exist in Lagos occasionally show Nollywood films alongside the usual Hollywood blockbusters. These are the Genesis Deluxe Cinema (first floor, Palms Shopping Centre, off British International School Way, Lekki, 01 813 1267) and Silverbird Cinema (133 Ahmadu Bello Way, VI, 01 270 1411).
Food & drink
What with such a huge number of expats and returnees to Lagos, African food (at least the type you’d eat in a restaurant) almost takes a backseat to the diverse amount of delicacies you can find in this city. From Chinese, to French, to Mexican, Japanese or Fusion, there’s a dish for pretty much every palette and every pocket to match. No one would say that dining out in Lagos is cheap, but you can choose from budget to mid or extravagant dining since the café, restaurant and restaurant bar and hotel culture is huge. Perhaps the best African options are at VI’s Yellow Chilli (27 Oju Olobun Close, off Bishop Oluwole Street, VI, 0803 307 1804) for high-end Nigerian cooking, and Terra Kulture (1376 Tiamiyu Savage Street, VI, 01 270 0599) for West African buffets, while Café Royale (Plot 267a, Etim Inyang Crescent, VI, 01 271 4165) probably has the biggest and freshest salads in town.
You can’t mention Lagos and music without throwing in a strong reference to Afrobeat and the sounds and rhythms of Fela Kuti and all his contemporaries. Victor Uwaifo, Fatai Rolling Dollar, Victor Olaiya, Tony Allen and scores of others were pioneers when it came to the blend of traditional Yoruba music, jazz, highlife, soul, funk and raw vocal talent. The music’s upheld at Fela’s ‘spiritual home’ The New Afrika Shrine (Pepple Street, Agidingbi, Ikeja, 01 793 1877) where the music ¬– often performed by Fela’s son Femi – is the backdrop to much of the hip life that’s favoured by Sauce Kid, Naeto C, Sasha P and other young guns.
It’s almost wall to wall malls in Lagos, which is fine if you like one-stop shopping, but it’s always good to find a unique or one-off spot if you can. A relatively new (and niche shop) is Retrospectve (2 Aderibigbe Street, Ikate, Surulere, off Alhaji Masha, 0813 699 5448), in Surulere on the Mainland. A boutique specialising in vintage and retro wear, fingers crossed that it will spawn a whole new market for classy back-in-the-day pieces for guys and gals. Still, we can’t knock mall shopping and the best places to head to for clothes, gadgets, food, music, magazines or cosmetics are the Ikota Shopping Centre (Victoria Garden City, Lekki, 01 731 7513), The Palms (Lekki Expressway, off British International School Way, Lekki, 01 271 4491) and Silverbird Galleria (133 Ahmadu Bello Way, 01 270 1411).
Hotels & Guesthouses
Finding a place to stay in Lagos isn’t hard, but it’s not always cheap. If you want your naira to stretch in this town, you should opt for hotels or guest houses that offer special cut-price deals at weekends – and many of them will if you ask – particularly during the rainy season (May to July) or during August when things wind down. The main trick, however is to find a quiet hotel (not easy in Lagos) – or at least a venue with a muted generator. Still, depending on your preference, you can go for a luxury stay at the less-than-a-year-old Radisson Blu (Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, VI, 01 461 0125, radissonblu.com) where you can pick from one of the 170 rooms on offer and hang out at the huge terrace, which overlooks Lagos lagoon. Equally smart is the Eko Hotel and Suites (Plot 1415, Adetokunbo Ademola St, Victoria Island; 01 262 4600, ekohotels.com) a huge complex that’s spread over three sites overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Kuramo lagoon. On Victoria Island, there’s also the Federal Palace Hotel and Casino (+27 11 780 7810, suninternational.com). It’s one of the best places to spend a scorching day off. It’s lovely large pool overlooks the lagoon.
Did you know?
Former Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney recorded his third solo album, Band On The Run in an EMI studio in Lagos in August to September 1973.
London-based artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE, grew up in Lagos from age three to sixteen.
In 1960, Chinua Achebe dedicated his second novel, No Longer at Ease, about a civil servant who gets tainted by corruption in Lagos, to his then girlfriend, Christie Okoli. She later became his wife.
Nigerian model Oluchi Onweagba grew up in the suburbs of Lagos with her two brothers and sisters.
Governor Fashola is set to create a museum dedicated to Lagos’s most famous musician, Fela Kuti. The predicted date is 2014.
International footballer Obafemi Martins was born in Lagos in 1984.
An annual music and cultural event that takes place each October to coincide with the birthday of musical icon Fela Kuti. felabration.net
Follow the costumed dancers and decorated floats in April, as they parade through the streets of Lagos Island, Ikoyi and Victoria Island before ending at Tafawa Balewa Square for a grand parade.
Exhibitions by amateur and professional African and non-African photographers take place all over town in this annual October event. lagosphoto.blogspot.com
Lagos Jazz Series
Every November this music event takes place in four open air venues around the city, and attracts an international palette of performers. lagosjazzseries.com