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Côte d'Ivoire's economic engine is strapped between lagoons and waterways, overlooking the crested waves of the Atlantic. At first glimpse, you wonder if these shiny skyscrapers can really be West Africa, but once you walk around Abidjan's neighborhoods, local life comes alive and the city's vibrant tropical mood is revealed.

Abidjan is a challenging city to move around – it's vast and connected by mini-motorways – and you'll have to get in the swing of hailing taxis, negotiating fares and buzzing down the busy roads in order to get from one spot to another. But each neighborhood's distinct feel gives you an insight into the vast scope of Abidjan's character and contradiction; it's quite common for sharp luxury to exist right next to painful poverty.

Make sure to dip into the markets, street-food stops, art galleries and a sleek bar or two.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Abidjan.