Abuja is the capital city of Nigeria, which is located in its center. Building Abuja according to plan started in the 1980s. It officially became Nigeria’s capital on 12th December 1991, replacing Lagos, which is regarded as its commercial capital and its most populous city.
Abuja’s identity is conspicuously defined by Aso Rock, a 400-metre tall monolith left by water-erosion. Some other interesting attractions in the city are the National Ecumenical Centre, the National Mosque, the Zuma Rock, the IBB Golf Course with wonderful shopping centres, restaurants and fun clubs around the city. The other areas of the city extend to the south of the rock. Abuja is known for being the best purpose-built city in Africa as well as being one of the wealthiest and most expensive.
Here are the five amazing places every tourist needs to visit in Abuja. With a lot of activities happening in the capital city, these five might seem like the ones with some serenity, and if you enjoy nature and would love to escape the hullaboo often associated with urban areas in the country, you might find these five places in Abuja very interesting.
Millennium Park, Abuja
It is the largest public park in Abuja and is within the Maitama District of the city. It is located close to the nucleus of the presidential and administrative buildings in the city.
A river in its main rectilinear axis divides the park into two sides.
One side of the park is dedicated to its uncontaminated nature. With a system of terraces at different levels are located Nigeria’s mountain vegetation, savanna, deciduous forest, rain forest and brushwood as well as greenhouses for butterflies and tropical birds.
On the other side, corresponding to the main entrance from the road, is dedicated to the scientific knowledge of the natural environment. This part of the park has a very traditional and rigid Italian style garden layout. A rectilinear path completely paved with Roman white travertine brings the public into its green areas. A series of fountains run alongside this white path refreshing the public during the hottest days. This park, conceived and designed by the Italian architect, Manfredi Nicoletti
, has quickly become one of the main attractions of the city of Abuja bringing thousands of people together each day.
National Children’s Park and Zoo
The National Children’s Park and Zoo is located in Asokoro District behind the Presidential Villa. It sits under the shadow of nearby Aso Rock. For animal lovers, there is plenty of wildlife to admire here, with attractions including camels, crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, ostriches, tortoises, wild cats and zebras.
Domestic animals are also housed in the zoo, making it a great attraction for younger children too. In fact, playgrounds and other fun activities for kids along ‘Toddler’s Lane’ make this an ideal place to while away an afternoon or enjoy a picnic.
The Lake Cafe is also close by should you require a hot snack or a freshly made milkshake. It is opened daily from 9 am to 6 pm. Admission to this park requires some fee.
Abuja Arts and Craft Village
Arts and Craft Village lies at the heart of the city, flanked on either sides by magnificent monuments – Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre on the right and Silverbird Entertainment Centre on the left.
With the Sheraton Hotel as a backdrop for the Art and Craft Village, it presents you the opportunity to see and buy some of Nigeria’s art and craft works that represent the country’s culture.
The shops are thatch-roofed huts with walls made from red earth (clay). From little sculpted ‘warrior and horse’ statuettes, beaded necklaces and bracelets, African traditional masks, traditional leather bags, tie & dye (Adire) clothes to mention a few, you’ll find this a safe shopping spot for local arts and crafts.
If you are a fan of wooden and bronze sculptures and leather artifacts, you will love it. Food and drink stalls are also available.
National Arboretum Abuja
Adjoining the mini-park located at the National Park along the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Expressway, Abuja.
The arboretum was established to play significant roles in conservation of genetic resources for research, educational, medicinal and other scientific purposes.
Comfortable concrete seats have been provided within the arboretum for visitors’ relaxation, meditation and quiet study of the environment.
The purpose of the Arboretum is to maintain the forest and other plant life within it in their original natural condition. Birdwatchers can check out different species of birds within the city.
You may have lived in Abuja for decades without a hint that this lake exists. But it is massive. It lies behind the Presidential Villa, sprawling towards Nassarawa State.
It is not well developed for tourism but is accessible through the Abuja Park and Zoo or through some other less known routes from Udoma Street in Aso Rock.
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This article was first published on 24th January 2014 and updated on February 3rd, 2014 at 3:56 pm