Jewel-coloured fabrics, fragrant spices, slices of ripe fruit dripping with juice and the sound of traders crying their wares make the markets of Freetown a true feast for the senses. The vibrant centre of Sierra Leone's capital is just a 15-minute drive from our Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel Freetown, allowing visitors to stop by and soak up the buzzing ambience of the city each day before returning to the tranquillity of Lumley Beach. Although air-conditioned malls have slowly started popping up in the city, Freetown's traditional markets still offer the most exciting shopping experiences for tourists and locals alike.
At Freetown’s Big Market near Government Wharf, the focus is firmly on celebrating local arts and crafts. Here you’ll find racks heaving with colourful costumes, tables packed with intricately carved wooden statues, and massive displays of necklaces dripping with polished seashells and wooden beads. The ground floor of the market is renowned for its high quality homewares, crafted in traditional wicker and wooden styles.
History and groceries
King Jimmy Market, located in central Freetown, is one of the oldest markets in Sierra Leone and has a fascinating history. Vendors have been trading on this spot since the days when slave ships would dock in the nearby harbour, although the market's location eventually helped to establish the city as a refuge for freed slaves in 1787. The market is at its busiest on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, when traders arrive from Kaffu Bullom loaded with ripe fruits, smoked fish, and fufu – a doughy regional staple made with fermented cassava.
Garments and accessories
Victoria Park Market is where Freetown’s locals go to purchase expertly-tailored suits, jackets and dresses made from vibrant, colourful fabrics. You can also pick up a variety of accessories, from leather shoes to straw hats. Haggling is welcomed in the craft markets of Freetown, and Victoria Park is no exception. Begin with an offer of half what the vendor suggests, and then work your way up as they work their way down.
Lumely Arts and Craft Market
If you don't want to stray far from the beach, this popular market on Lumely Beach Road is perfect for picking up authentic artefacts including woodcarvings, fabrics and woven baskets. Started-up by indigenous women, the market aims to re-establish some of the ancient creative arts and thereby help promote the country's heritage.
Enjoy the street life
Stalls shaded by rainbow-coloured umbrellas line the roads while trucks carrying treats serve snacks to hungry shoppers on Kissy Street, one of the biggest street markets in the city. It's reliably packed with people browsing the wares on offer, which range from fresh fruit and vegetables to patterned textiles and local handicrafts.
Prepare to haggle and leave room in your suitcase because whatever you’re looking for, there’s a market for it in Freetown.