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Explore the cities in Benin you can't miss while traveling

by Luz Prada | June 15, 2020
girl dancing traditional Beninese dance

The cities in Benin are not too big, with the largest being Cotonou with a population of 670,000 people and the capital, Porto-Novo. The list for Benin major cities also includes Parakou and Godomey with a little over 250,000 people each.

The small country of Benin in Africa is perhaps one of the least known nations in the continent. That is probably due to its small size and its location between other bigger countries such as Nigeria or Ghana in an area often perceived as tumultuous.

Cradle of the Voodoo arts and epicentre of the African slave trade of the last centuries, the country has a rich history and a lot to offer to tourists and visitors from all around the world. These Benin cities are a truly unspoiled jewel of central Africa.

However, before traveling, you should know that you will need an e-Visa Benin. Thanks to our online system, you can apply easily and in 5 minutes or less through The e-Visa enables you to visit Benin for up to 30 days and it saves you the trouble of visiting the embassy.

elephant and trees in Benin countryside

Where is Benin located?

Benin is located in western Africa in the Guinea Gulf. Its neighbouring countries are Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria. Since it is under the Guinean climatic zone, its climate is hot and humid all year long.

Benin has two rainy seasons, April to July and September to November; and two dry seasons from December to April and from July to September. Dry seasons are most recommended for tourists since rain can be quite harsh and the country’s infrastructures are often damaged due to storms and bad weather during the rainy season.

Map of Benin and the Benin cities

Which are the major cities in Benin?

With a tourism industry that is just starting to develop and a great mix of attractions, Benin offers tourists a chance to explore Africa in a way that almost no other countries allow due to tourism exploitation. Its amazing natural parks and wildlife reserves, as well as its rich history and vibrant culture, are only some of the main things that draw visitors to cities in Benin.

Benin cities are smaller than other cities in Africa and they allow tourists to get a real feeling of how locals live in central Africa. Expect big crowds everywhere as well as intense traffic and noisy streets, a common characteristic of most African cities.

But also, be prepared to experience a beautiful celebration of life wherever you go as cities in Benin are filled with colour, life, and new sensorial experiences that will make you love Africa. Cities in Benin have amazing markets, which are one of the most remarkable and interesting experiences for visitors and tourists.

Cotonou, one of the key cities in Benin

Cotonou is not the capital of Benin but it is the largest of the cities in Benin by far. Its more than 670,000 people give this city a vibrant atmosphere that offers a wide variety of things to do for tourists.

One of the largest markets in Cotonou, and one of the largest of all cities in Benin, is the Dantokpa market. This is the perfect place to get lost in the chaotic mix of electronics, household items, food, and spices to enjoy a true African market while you try new fruits and flavours.

If you’re looking for art and handcrafted items to take home as souvenirs, the Artisanal Center will meet all your expectations. For African contemporary art, you can’t miss the Foundation Zinsou, one of the best cultural centres displaying works of art from local and regional artists.

Another market that attracts a lot of attention among visitors is the Voodoo Fetish Market. Although it might be harder to find, the experience is worth it as it offers a rather bizarre and obscure look to the real world of the Voodoo arts, not recommended for the light-hearted.

Benin’s capital city: Porto Novo

If Cotonou is the bustling center of Benin, its capital, Porto Novo, is quite the opposite. While still busy and crowded, it offers a more laid-back atmosphere with smaller markets and plenty of cultural attractions, but it's still one of the major cities in Benin that no traveler can miss.

The Ethnographic Museum of Porto Novo, as well as the Museé da Silva, will help visitors to better understand the intense colonial history of cities in Benin and their influences.

The Royal Palace and Gardens are two of the must-see colonial spots to understand the colonial history of this city of Benin.

Great Mosque of Porto Novo

One of Benin’s most cultural cities: Ouidah

If you’re looking for a more culturally charged experience in a calmer and much smaller city, Ouidah is a place you can’t miss! Its Museum of History will help you understand Benin’s Voodoo history and African slavery history.

But not everything is about history in Ouidah, wander through the south of the city for some of the most stunning beaches in the country.

Abomey: Benin’s ancient kingdom city

Dahomey was a kingdom that occupied much of present Benin. The kingdom lasted for 300 hundred years before it was made a French colony at the beginning of the 20th century. The Abomey Royal Palaces constitute one of the most important archaeological sites of western Africa and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site with high historical value.

fisherman on a boat in Benin Africa

Are Benin cities safe?

Yes, Benin is one of the safest countries in Western Africa. It enjoys political stability under democracy and the cities are generally safe destinations for tourists compared to other countries in the region.

Although travellers are recommended to stay vigilant while in public places, safety in Benin is less of a concern compared to other African nations.

Pickpocketing and petty crimes are common, especially in tourist areas around the major cities in Benin. Fraud and scams have been reported before. To avoid these, it is important to stay in safe areas and to always ask for trusted means of transportation at your hotel. Use hotel resources for money exchange and other similar services.

Violent crime and attacks can occur in the region, however, these are not the most common actions towards tourists and most people are very friendly and helpful.