Long Layover? How to spend 1 day in Addis Ababa

Feature page for 1 day in Addis Ababa

Wonder what to visit for 1 day in Addis Ababa during a long layover?

No worries, we have you covered.

In the previous, blog post we know that Ethiopian Airlines does provide free hotels for long layovers. Plus, it is also possible to do a less than 24-hour Addis Ababa layover visit.  Now, head to our top 3 what to visit in Addis Ababa for your connection stay.

What to visit in Addis Ababa: National Museum of Ethiopia

While it is impossible to visit all landmarks during your transit, the National Museum of Ethiopia should be the number one Addis Ababa to visit. It is also the icon that you can find in every city center Addis Ababa day tour.

Established in 1944, this museum has an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits. It is a museum full of archeological and anthropological treasures.

Most importantly, it is also where you can find Lucy, believed to be the oldest known human ancestor. It is the most complete early hominid skeleton discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 with history dating back to around 3.2 million years ago. Not only did it help scientists better understand the evolutions of human traits, but it also became the bucket list for travelers like me and you.

As a side note, the name Lucy is from the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” which was played during excavation.

In addition, the National Museum also contains traditional art, handicrafts, religious and royal artifacts, as well as displays of Ethiopia’s unique flora and fauna. You can probably spend 1 hour or more inside the museum.

If you want to understand Ethiopian or African culture more, there is another museum called the Ethnological Museum located on the main campus of Addis Ababa University.

What to visit in Addis Ababa: the Merkato (Mercato)

Merkato (or Mercato), is the largest open-air market not just in Ethiopia but African continent with over 16 square kilometers. Despite its size, an hour or so shall be more than enough for tourists like us.

Unlike Chatuchak Market in Thailand which is a souvenir paradise for tourists, Merkato is dedicated to local wholesale business. Although there are several shops selling souvenirs and local food, you would find most of them selling items like household appliances, textiles, or bulk spices not for tourists.

Despite that, it is a very adventurous experience to walk through the labyrinthine network of stalls and alleyways. It is also the place where you can take photos of the local life and bustling commercial center. Furthermore, it is also a great hub of cultural exchange for you to socialize with the locals.

Yet, you will need to be aware of the busy roads where vendors may bump into you and also potential pocket-picking.

What to visit in Addis Ababa: Entoto Park & St. Mary’s Church

3,200 meters above sea level, Mount Entoto is the highest peak in Addis Ababa. It used to be the residence of Emperor Menelik II but now it is open to the public. There you can have a panoramic view of the whole capital city. Due to its high altitude, the mountain is also the place for athletes training for the long run.

Inside the Entoto Park, you will see multiple café shops. Other than that there are also multiple nest-like buildings with the best Addis Ababa view for your IG photos. Also, don’t miss the I love Ethiopia sign at the entrance.

Around 5 minute walk from Entoto Park, you will reach another signature landmark of Addis Ababa – St.Mary’s Church (aka Entoto Maryam Church). The first impression of the church is its colorful exterior and merry-go-round-like structures. This makes an ideal scene for you to take an IGable photo.

Other than the fascinating exterior, Entoto Maryam Church also has a long history as one of the oldest Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Churches  in Ethiopia. It is also the burial place of Menelik and his wife Taytu. Other than the church, there is a museum nearby to features the residence of Emperor Menelik II and other royal materials.

What to visit in Addis Ababa: Coffee & Local Food

If you are looking for more landmarks, there are more museums and churches that you can find in Addis Ababa. However, the previous three items are the top 3 that you should do for your 1-day itinerary in Addis Ababa.

Note that our time could be very limited during the layover and you don’t want to miss the flight. So other than sightseeing, you would also want some local food and coffee (it’s Ethiopia). You will find a lot of coffee shops in the city center. “Tomoca” is probably the best and most famous one that you can go for.

As for the local food, you probably would only have one meal (or two) during your transit. For that, Injera, a flat soft, and spongy bread made from wheat is a must for you. Not only it is the national dish of Ethiopia. It is also the base for other Ethiopian dishes like Wat (Ethiopian curry), Beyainatu, and Tibs.

There are also other options like Tere Siga (raw meat) which I would not recommend. You don’t want to risk your stomach given you have a transit flight to catch.

Other than that you may also want to buy some local coffee beans from grocery shops or souvenirs from shopping malls.

Transportation for layover travel in Addis Ababa

Knowing what to visit in Addis Ababa is exciting. Yet, we will also need to plan for the transportation. There are multiple ways for transportation in Addis Ababa including bus, minibus, tram, and taxi.

While the previous three would be the cheapest way, it would not be best for our transit time in Addis Ababa. I would recommend you to use a taxi which is only around 100 Birr (2 USD) per ride for a point-to-point landmark visit. You can also consider renting a taxi for a half day for around 10 USD.

Alternatively, if you want to be more secure, you can also use a day tour for a transit visit to Addis Ababa. There are multiple options online and most of them would fit well for your connection time. I stayed in Addis Ababa for 14 hours and used this one from Viator which gave me great experience for the visit and also left enough time for me to rest in the free hotel.

Taxi is recommended for short stay in Addis Ababa
Taxi is recommended for short stay in Addis Ababa

Final word

Addis Ababa is definitely worth visiting given its landmarks and food culture. It is also perfect for long layover visits as a part of a greater African journey. After all, the best duration for an Addis Ababa visit is a day or two, so the layover tour is the perfect timing.

If you are visiting Addis Ababa second time (i.e. you have a long transit hour on your return flight), you can also check out some day tours that are more natural focus .

I hope you have a wonderful layover experience in Addis Ababa and please leave me a comment and share your journey with us.

Regulus K

A budget travel blogger passionate about exploring different destinations worldwide, while balancing a regular 9-to-5 job.

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