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Freetown Travel Guide

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Cotton Tree, Freetown ©

Freetown, the capital and largest city in Sierra Leone, earned its name when it was founded in 1792 as a colony for freed slaves. Starting with a population of around 500, thousands of former slaves immigrated there during the early 19th century. The British took control of the town in 1808, and used it as a naval base until the country's independence in 1961.

Any holiday in Freetown begins with a challenge, as Freetown International Airport is located across the estuary from the city and requires a ferry, hovercraft, or helicopter ride to cross. Once there, local shared taxis are a cheap (if adventurous) way to get around the city, although private cabs and hire cars are also available. 4x4s are necessary for any trips outside of the city.

Freetown doesn't get many tourists, so infrastructure is underdeveloped for foreign travellers; however, there are some wonderful attractions to visit, and often visitors will have the place to themselves. Historical Freetown can be discovered at the Sierra Leone Museum, the National Rail Museum, the Cape Sierra Leone Lighthouse, and the colonial stilt houses at Hill Station.

The Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is a must-see, located 40 minutes outside of town, however the trip must be planned in advance, as both a 4x4 and an appointment are necessary to visit.

One of the best things to do in Freetown, however, is to hit the beach. Beautiful and largely unspoilt, beaches such as Lunley and Lakka offer accommodation and good amenities, however the community-driven shops and restaurants at No. 2 River Beach are worth a visit, as well as the historical sites at Kent Beach.

Violent civil war in the 1990s took its toll, but today Freetown is working to regain its vibrancy, and the tourist industry is sure to grow as travellers find out about this hidden gem on the West African Coast.

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