Information supplied by ‘Ethiopia: The Bradt Travel Guide’ by Philip Briggs.
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The capital of Ethiopia lies in the central highlands at an altitude of 2400m, making it the third highest capital in the world.
Climatically, Addis is a highly encouraging introduction to Ethiopia, with comfortable temperatures all day long dispelling any lingering preconceptions about searing deserts. Some may find Addis a bit overwhelming at first due to the large numbers of beggars and street children, but don’t let first impressions put you off.


Emperor Menelik II founded the modern city in 1887 and gave it the name Addis Ababa (‘New Flower’). His choice of site was one that held strong traditional significance as the Entoto Hills that surround Addis Ababa have long been a centre of Shoan politics.

How to get there

Bole International Airport is located 5km from the city centre and taxis can be hired through the NTO kiosk in the airport building. Minibuses also run between the airport and the city centre and are a cheaper alternative.

Ethiopian Airlines flies from most of the major towns in Ethiopia to Addis, buses regularly run to the capital and it is also possible to travel by rail to Addis Ababa on the railway line which runs from Djibouti and via Dire Dawa and Awash.

Addis Street

Sheraton Hotel in Addis

Where to stay

The Queen of Sheba Hotel on Haile Gebre Selassie Road offers large s/d suites with lounges.

The National Hotel, positioned near the UN Headquarters, has rooms  with satellite television and access to the Ghion Hotel‘s swimming pool. The National is affiliated to the Ghion, which is slightly more expensive. For both hotels email [email protected]

The Itegue Taitu Hotel in the Piazza, the oldest hotel in Addis, offers high-ceilinged rooms complete with period furnishings at excellent value – there are large ensuite rooms or cheaper rooms out the back.

The private Hawi Hotel along the Debre Zeit Road has en-suite rooms with double beds. It also has a pleasant restaurant, bar and coffee lounge, and is right on a minibus route.

If you’re looking for budget accommodation there are a numerous dollar-a-night places, but for somewhere a bit smarter try the Tinkesh Hotel or Desta Pension.

If keeping to a budget is not a worry, then you may consider the Addis Hilton or indeed the beautiful Sheraton Hotel, the most expensive hotel in Addis.

Where to eat

Locating an inexpensive meal in Addis is easy. Most government hotels have reasonable restaurants serving mainly Western dishes such as roast meat and steak, and there are also several private restaurants specialising in Italian influenced dishes or local cuisine.

For western food the slightly pricey Castelli’s Restaurant, in the Piazza, specialises in Italian dishes and seafood. The Oroscopo Restaurant (around the corner from the Piazza) and Hong Kong Restaurant (behind the National Theatre) offer reasonably priced Italian and Chinese food respectively.

Good value Ethiopian restaurants in traditional settings include the Karamara Restaurant and Habesha, both on Bole Road. Both have traditional live music most evenings.

For snacks there are dozens of pastry shops, many of which serve savoury mini-pizzas and spicy hamburgers in addition to the usual cakes, biscuits and fruit juices. Soul Kid Patisserie is strategically placed opposite the British Council, and has an unbeatable range of pastries.


The Holy Trinity Cathedral

What to see and do

Firstly a word of caution. Addis Ababa is a large city, its streets are generally unsignposted, and many of its features go by more than two or even three names, with the name shown on most maps differing from the one in common use.

The area known as the Piazza lies north of the city centre. It is a busy shopping area, with many budget hotels and restaurants, especially along Adwa Avenue. About 1km west of the Piazza, the Mercato is a tight grid of streets centred around what is reputedly the largest market in Africa. Barter hard and be wary of pickpockets.

There are several interesting museums in Addis, most notably the National Museum, which is probably the best of its type anywhere in Africa, and which contains the skull of ‘Lucy’ who lived around 3.5 million years ago. Since November 2000 the Holy Trinity Cathedral, with its lavish interior, is the final resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie. At walking distance from the capital is the Washa Mikael church, a roofless rock hewn church which has been excavated entirely from below the ground, and its enclosure is reached via a short tunnel through the rock.

Addis and its environs have more than enough to keep a curious traveller going for a week, something you couldn’t say of too many African capitals.

Where to go from Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa lies at the centre of an area rich in places of interest, most of which can be visited either as day trips from the capital or else as a preliminary to travels further afield.

The main string of attractions lies on the road to Nazret, a large town about 100km south-east of Addis and a useful springboard to most parts of east and southern Ethiopia. Attractions along the Nazret Road include wonderful birdwatching at the Akaki Wetlands and a field of seven crater lakes at Debre Zeit.

A second cluster of attractions lies around Melka Awash, where you could in a day visit an ancient rock hewn church and a field of mysterious medieval engraved tomb-markers. Furthermore, to the north of Addis lies the Durba waterfall, one of the highest in the country, while to the west there is the Ambo hot-spring resort.

Bus station near the rail station

If you wish to get further away, Ethiopian Airline’s internal flights leave from Bole International Airport. The two main bus stations in Addis are the Autobus Terra near Mercato and the smaller terminal near the railway station on Ras Mekonin Avenue. It is also possible to travel out of Addis by rail on the line which serves Djibouti, which is mainly of interest if you are heading to Dire Dawa or Harar, the walled Muslim city, in the far east of the country.

Points of information

  • Medical – There are plenty of GPs in the city centre and the Piazza area. All doctors speak passable English and most have in-house laboratories able to perform most straightforward blood, stool or urine tests. For any tests that an ordinary GP is unable to do, visit the excellent laboratory on Ras Desta Damtew Road opposite the Gandhi Hospital, or else the Black Lion Hospital near the Immigration Department. Pharmacists in Addis are generally well-stocked and helpful.
  • Safety – Addis Ababa is one of the worst cities in sub-Saharan Africa when it comes to casual theft and cons, but violent crime of the sort you get in Nairobi is apparently quite unusual. Nonetheless, pickpockets are a major threat to travellers, and few people will spend long in Addis without having an attempt made on them. Stick to lit roads and do not carry around large amounts of cash.
  • Shopping – Most shops and offices close for an hour or two sometime between 12.00 and 14.00 – there is little point in trying to get anything done during these hours.
  • Metro – As of the 21st of September 2015 Addis now boasts sub-Saharan Africa’s first urban light rail system. Though incomplete, it offers one a cheap and comfortable way to traverse the city.
  • Flights – Wherever you are in Ethiopia it is vital that you re-confirm all flights with Ethiopian Airlines at least 48 hours before departure. Also, internal flights have been known to leave earlier than scheduled, so get to the airport with sufficient time to spare.

Why Ethiopia?

You may also be interested to find out why we believe education is so important and why that’s our focus. You can also learn about Link Ethiopia’s approach to changing lives through education. How are we doing? You can explore our results, see our completed projects and hear from students who have benefited from our work. If you’d like to be part of this journey, get involved!