The Addis Ababa Bucket List

The only African Country not to be colonized, Ethiopia is a mystical land where ancient traditions and customs have been preserved to the present day. Stepping into the land of burnt faces (yep – that’s what ‘Ethiopia’ means) you quickly realize that despite Addis being the largest city in East Africa there’s something that separates this big city from any other big city. Addis still retains the exotic flavors of Ethiopia.


Breakfast would call for a caffeine fix and this would take you to a tiny little café well know among the locals for its excellent brew. The smell of the coffee here is guaranteed to convert non-believers and a sip will have them hooked for life. Try and not let your jaw hit the floor when you’re charged only 5 Birr (16 Birr = 1 USD) for a macchiato.


St. George’s Cathedral

St. George is a popular lager brewed in Ethiopia. Incidentally, there’s a Church bearing the same name as well. St. George’s Cathedral is octagonal with 3 main sections. The outermost is for worshippers with the men’s section separated from the women’s section. The mid section is meant for the distribution of communion on Sundays while the central portion is the ‘holy of holies’ meant only for priests and deacons. The walls of the ‘holy of holies’ boast of paintings of famous Ethiopian artists. The Church was burnt down by the Italians in the early 20th Century and subsequently restored.

Holy Trinity Cathedral

The Holy Trinity Cathedral is memorable for its numerous, beautiful stained glass windows all around the Church. Depicting scenes from the Bible these works of art look stunning at mid-day when the interior of the Church is illuminated only with the sun streaming through these stained glass mosaics. The Church is decorated on the outside with intricately carved figures of Angels and adorned with 2 gigantic domes. The crypt of the Church holds the tombs of Emperor Haile Selaise and his wife Empress Menan Asfaw that are set within huge granite stones armed with gigantic lion paws at the bottom.

Addis Ababa Restaurant

Hidden right next to the Piazza is the Addis Ababa Restaurant. Not much to look at from the outside, one you walk through the doors it feel like you’ve travelled back in time to what could possibly have been the 1950s. The ambience is as authentic as it gets and trying the home brewed ‘tej’ or honey wine is a must. If you’re a fan of Ethiopian food, this place is just what the doctor ordered. If not, you’ll be on a diet of bread and butter during your entire stay in Ethiopia. McDonalds has yet to chalk out an entry strategy.


Branded the largest open-air market in Africa, this market doesn’t have much to offer (for the regular tourist). As you can imagine, it is a huge market targeting ordinary citizens with regular boring stuff ranging from furniture, to PUAM shoes (make no mistake) to 5$ fake jeans. Of course holding onto your wallet with one hand and your cell phone with the other to deter pickpockets doesn’t give too much room to improvise on the shopping front. Walking through the narrow dusty streets is quite interesting but not as revelatory as expected.

National Museum

The museum is renowned for its Lucy exhibit. “Lucy” was found in Ethiopia and is the 4 million old fossilized remains of one of the earliest primates to walk upright on 2 feet. This museum’s collection ranges from a stereotypical broken pottery exhibit, to a relatively more thought provoking sketch of an early man. The lack of a museum coffee shop is conspicuous.

Ethnological Museum

All taxi drivers will tell you that this museum does not exist. Don’t believe them. Fight with them if necessary and get a ride to Addis Ababa University. Hidden in the midst of this old campus and housed within none other than Emperor Haile Selassie’s palace is the Ethnological museum. Segmented based on the stages of life, this museum sets out to introduce the various tribes of Ethiopia by describing tribal stories relating to birth, then working its way through adulthood, marriage and finally culminating in death. There is a section which may as well be classified the ‘looted by the British’ section since it only contains pictures of artifacts (you guessed it) looted by the British.


Once you’re done with exploring the city during the day, there’s no better way to kick back and relax than with a glass of tej at Habesha. Located in the centre of Addis, the restaurant offers seating under a massive tent. Don’t let the Ethiopian version of Stevie Wonder distract you from the food. The injera and ribs here are awe-inspiring and leave you with no doubt as to why this place is branded the best Ethiopian restaurant in Addis.

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One Comment on “The Addis Ababa Bucket List

  1. Nice list there Jason!

    Great blog overall … I will be following. Im curious to find out where you stayed when you visited Addis Ababa? Please email back as I have a few questions about providing services for backpackers there and would love to get your opinions. Thanks for your time.

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