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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Asmara attractions

1. Capitol Cinema


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

2. Asmara Piscina

0.15 MILES

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…

3. Odeon Cinema

0.21 MILES

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…

4. Opera House

0.28 MILES

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…

5. 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…

6. National Museum

0.34 MILES

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…

7. Villa Roma

0.37 MILES

Opposite the Africa Pension Hotel, the gleaming Villa Roma is reminiscent of a Roman villa with its marble staircases, louvred shutters, curving…

8. Catholic Cathedral

0.44 MILES

Strolling along Harnet Ave you'll be hard-pressed to miss Asmara's most iconic monument, the elaborate, brick-walled Catholic cathedral. Consecrated in…