Must see attractions in Addis Ababa

  • Top ChoiceSights in Addis Ababa

    Ethnological Museum

    Set within Haile Selassie’s former palace, and surrounded by the beautiful gardens and fountains of the university’s main campus, is the enthralling Ethnological Museum. Even if you’re not a museum fan, this one is worth a bit of your time – it’s easily one of the finest museums in Africa, showing the full sweep of Ethiopia's cultural and social history across two floors.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Addis Ababa

    National Museum

    The collection on show at the National Museum is ranked among the most important in sub-Saharan Africa, but sadly many of its exhibits are poorly labelled, lit and displayed. Far and away the highlight is the palaeontological exhibition in the basement, the home of world-famous Lucy. Her 1974 discovery in the Afar region of northwestern Ethiopia changed our understanding of human origins forever. This section is well labelled in English, so if your time is limited spend most of it here.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Holy Trinity Cathedral

    This massive and ornate cathedral is the second-most important place of worship in Ethiopia (ranking behind the Old Church of St Mary of Zion in Aksum). It’s also the celebrated final resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife Empress Menen Asfaw. Their massive Aksumite-style granite tombs sit inside and are a sight indeed. The solemnity of the interior design contrasts sharply with highly the charged emotions of many pilgrims. It's a fascinating place.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Addis Ababa

    'Red Terror' Martyrs Memorial Museum

    ‘As if I bore them all in one night, they slew them in a single night.’ These were the words spoken by the mother of four teenage children all killed on the same day by the Derg, as she officially opened the small but powerful ‘Red Terror’ Martyrs Memorial Museum in 2010. Over a couple of rooms the museum reveals the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie and the horrors of life under Mengistu’s Derg regime.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Washa Mikael Church

    The Washa Mikael Church is a few kilometres east of Addis Ababa's town centre. Though local priests date it back to the 3rd century AD, it most probably dates back to the 12th century. If you’re mad and not planning to visit the churches at Lalibela or Tigray in the north, this is definitely worth a peek as an example of the extraordinary rock-hewn architecture that Ethiopia is so famous for. Unfortunately, from July to October it’s usually flooded with rainwater.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Addis Ababa

    St George Cathedral & Museum

    Commissioned by Emperor Menelik II to commemorate his stunning 1896 defeat of the Italians in Adwa, and dedicated to St George (Ethiopia’s patron saint), whose icon was carried into the battle, this Piazza cathedral is one of Addis' most beautiful churches. The grey stone exterior is easily outdone by the interior’s flashes of colour and art. Sections of ceiling glow sky-blue and boast gilded stars, while the outer walls of the innermost shrine are covered in paintings and mosaics by the renowned Afewerk Tekle.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Merkato

    Wading into the market chaos known as Merkato, just west of Addis' centre, can be as rewarding as it is exasperating. You may find the most eloquent aroma wafting from precious incense. You may also find that your wallet has been stolen and that you’ve got stinky excrement on your shoe. Some people say it’s the largest market in Africa, but as its exact boundaries are as shady as some of its characters, this is a little hard to verify.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Lion of Judah Monument

    Long the symbol of Ethiopia’s monarchy, the Lion of Judah is ubiquitous throughout the country – and although images of the almighty animal abound in Addis Ababa, it’s the storied history of the Lion of Judah Monument that makes this statue significant.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Bete Maryam Mausoleum

    The Bete Maryam Mausoleum is located just south of Menelik’s palace and offers what could be an enchantingly eerie experience for travellers (were it not for security personnel at every turn). If you're lucky, after the priest has rolled up the carpet and pried open the large metal door in the floor, you will descend into the thick air of the creepy crypt. There you find four elaborate marble tombs of Empress Taitu, Emperor Menelik, Empress Zewditu and Princess Tsehai Haile Selassie.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Afewerk Tekle’s Home & Studio

    A member of several international academies and with a drawer full of international decorations – about 100 at last count, including the British Order of Merit – Afewerk Tekle is considered among Africa’s greatest artists. His former home and studio was closed to the public after his death in 2012. Renovations were still taking place as of late 2016, but we were assured that there are still plans to reopen…one day.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Derg Monument

    The towering Derg Monument is one of the more poignant reminders of the country’s painful communist rule. Topped by a massive red star and emblazoned with a golden hammer and sickle, the cement obelisklike structure climbs skyward in front of Black Lion Hospital.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Institute of Ethiopian Studies

    Inside the grounds of Addis Ababa University, this institute boasts the world’s best collection of books in English on Ethiopia. It’s free for a half-day’s casual use. If you're having trouble finding it, ask at the ticket office for the Ethnological Museum.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Entoto Panoramic Viewpoint

    High on Entoto Mountain, there’s a terrific but windy panoramic view of Ethiopia's modern capital spread out below through the towering eucalyptus trees.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Africa Hall

    Built in 1961 by Emperor Haile Selassie, Africa Hall (near Meskal Sq) is the seat of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The Italian-designed building isn’t very interesting, apart from the friezelike motifs that represent traditional Ethiopian shamma (shawl) borders. It’s well worth a visit, but this is only possible by prior appointment (call the number above). You’ll need to bring your passport and they generally prefer it if you visit as part of a group.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Yekatit 12 Monument

    Rising dramatically from the roundabout Siddist Kilo is this moving monument, dedicated to the thousands of innocent Ethiopians killed by the Italians as retribution for the attempt on Viceroy Graziani’s life on 19 February 1937. ‘Yekatit 12’ is a date in the Ethiopian calendar roughly equivalent to 19 February.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Addis Ababa Museum

    Despite only being founded on Addis' centenary in 1986, the Addis Ababa Museum is the city’s scruffiest museum. That said, perusing candid portraits of the redoubtable Empress Taitu, rakish Lij Iyasu and the very beautiful Empress Zewditu, along with pictures of the capital in its infancy, is still worth an hour or so. It’s unbelievable that the raucous city outside was nothing more than tents on a hill just over a century ago.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Natural History Museum

    Unless you've a particular interest in Ethiopia's animals and birdlife, this is more a case of rainy day tourism. Go eye to eye with a bloated leopard – sometimes the stuffers just don’t know when to stop stuffing! – and other stuffed wildlife, but sadly there's neither Ethiopian wolf nor lion. Of most interest are the bird specimens – reportedly around 40% of the country's 862 species are represented here.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Entoto Maryam Church

    The octagonal Entoto Maryam Church hosted Menelik’s coronation, but sadly for a church of such historical significance, the only time you can catch a glimpse of the interior is during Sunday Mass, and even then, casual visitors (as opposed to genuine worshipers) are not welcome. Down the hill on the back side of the building are the remains of Menelik's rather modest palace.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Entoto Maryam Museum

    This rather dusty museum has the usual collection of royal garments, valuable coins, ceremonial drums, poor lighting and bored-looking attendants, but there are some highlights. These include the royal bed and royal crown once used by Menelik II.

  • Sights in Addis Ababa

    Kidane Mehret Church

    The unremarkable new church on this site is far less interesting than the reconstructed original, complete with Aksumite architectural traces, alongside it.