Must see attractions in Asmara

  • Top ChoiceSights in Asmara

    Tank Graveyard

    Part junkyard, part memorial, the ruins of military vehicles from around the country have been dragged to this open field in the years since heavy fighting ended, and make for poignant reflection on the damage done during decades of fighting. Local families have made their homes in a number of shipping containers in the centre of the area, which you'll need a permit from the Tourist Information Centre to enter, but wander (and photograph) at will apart from this area.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Asmara

    Opera House

    The Opera House, completed around 1920, is one of Asmara's most elegant early–20th-century buildings. It's free to have a look around during the resident cafe's opening hours. Or hang around and soak up the atmosphere over a coffee (nfa8; shockingly low quality by Asmara standards) or to use the on-site wi-fi (from nfa20 per hour).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Asmara

    Bowling Alley

    A block south of the Municipality Building, the Bowling Alley is one of the few genuine 1950s alleys left in the world. It was probably built for US servicemen when they were manning military bases in the region.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Fiat Tagliero Building

    A futurist departure from the art deco standard that defines most of the notable Italian-era buildings in Asmara, this former petrol station was constructed in the late 1930s to resemble an airplane and may be the single most-photographed structure in the city. It's on the northwestern side of the large intersection at Sematat Ave and Mereb St.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Medebar Market

    Duck up northeast to soak up the atmosphere of the Medebar Market. No doubt you'll be awestruck the minute you enter this mind-boggling place. It's an open-air workshop where absolutely everything is recycled: old tyres are made into sandals, corrugated iron is flattened and made into metal buckets, and olive tins from Italy are made into coffee pots and tiny scoopers.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Emba Derho

    This small village on the road to Keren is within the 25km limit from Asmara within which travellers can move freely without permits, and the foothills that surround it make for a nice wandering day trip. An archaeological dig near the village was the origin of a collection of metal beads, earthenware pottery and glassware, some of which is now on exhibit in the National Museum. Take bus 18 (nfa2) from the square in front of Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Villa Roma

    Opposite the Africa Pension Hotel, the gleaming Villa Roma is reminiscent of a Roman villa with its marble staircases, louvred shutters, curving balustrades and shady portico. It's currently the residence of the Italian ambassador, and so unfortunately closed to visitors (and photos).

  • Sights in Asmara

    Central Market

    North of Harnet Ave, the sprawling Central Market is one of Asmara's major attractions. The best time to visit is early on Saturday, when people come in from all over the surrounding region to sell home-grown produce.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral

    The Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral, just east of the centre, was built in 1938 and is a curious blend of Italian and Eritrean architecture. Its central block is flanked by large square towers.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Asmara Orthodox Cemetery

    A calm overgrown tract just outside the city centre; the quiet chapel on a hilltop above the cemetery also offers stunning views of the skyline.

  • Sights in Asmara

    National Museum

    Asmara's strong point are its buildings, rather than its museums, but it's also worth popping your head into the National Museum, west of the former Ghidei (Governor's) Palace. Cameras and cell phones must be left with the front-desk attendant.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Former Governor's Palace

    The best place to start exploring the city is at the Former Governor's Palace, which stands majestically at the western end of Harnet Ave. Built in 1897 by the first Italian governor, it was used by Haile Selassie during the Ethiopian occupation. Unfortunately, it is not currently possible to visit or to take photographs because it's an official building.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Great Mosque

    At the head of a large open square near the old market is the Great Mosque. Completed in 1938, this grand complex combines rationalist, classical and Islamic styles. The interior is only open to the faithful, but you're welcome to have a look in through the door.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Odeon Cinema

    Just off Harnet Ave near the EriTel building, the quirky Odeon Cinema and its attractive art deco exterior from the late 1930s is all but closed, so you'll have to be lucky enough to turn up when someone's around if you want to see the impressive interior.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Catholic Cathedral

    Strolling along Harnet Ave you'll be hard-pressed to miss Asmara's most iconic monument, the elaborate, brick-walled Catholic cathedral. Consecrated in 1923, it is thought to be one of the finest Lombard Romanesque–style churches outside Italy.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Italian Cemetery

    Final resting place to generations of Italians, this lovely little cemetery is still used by the few immigrant families that remain. It's uphill off Warsay St from Harbinyatat St, just beyond the hilltop St Michael's Church.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Asmara Piscina

    The 1940s Asmara Piscina is currently closed to swimmers, but there's nothing stopping you from badgering the attendant for a peek inside the modernist building that houses it.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Capitol Cinema

    This cinema building, now abandoned except for a few pool tables in a gallery off the lobby, was constructed in 1932.

  • Sights in Asmara

    Ministry of Education

    Adjacent to the elegant Opera House, the 1930s Italian-era Ministry of Education, with its massive stepped tower, is strikingly austere. Because it's a government building, be wary of taking photos.