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AFCON 2023: What to do in Abidjan, the hub of Africa Cup of Nations 2023

With three World Cup appearances to their name and eight podium finishes at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Ivory Coast is one of African football’s great powerhouses. 

Despite their success, they are not accustomed to welcoming the football world to their shores, having only ever hosted one major tournament – Afcon 1984.

Forty years on, the 1992 and 2015 champions will finally enjoy host nation status again when AFCON 2023 rolls into town in January and February, with the 24-team tournament spread across six stadiums in five cities.

From Korhogo in the north, Bouaké and Yamoussoukro in the centre and San-Pédro and Abidjan in the south, the whole country will be showcased to the world.

Abidjan: The hub of AFCON 2023

AFCON 2023 may be spread around Ivory Coast, but much of the focus for visitors and viewers alike will be on Abidjan.

Located on the country’s southern coastline, it is the economic centre of Ivory Coast and by far the biggest city, boasting an estimated population of 5.69 million whereas the second largest city – Bouaké – is home to just 740,000.

It may not be the capital city – that honour falls to Yamoussoukro – but Abidjan is very much the place to be in Ivory Coast, and that is the case for AFCON 2023 as well.

Abidjan is the only host city to have two stadiums at the tournament; the 60,000-seater Alassane Ouattara Stadium and the 33,000-capacity Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium, also known as Le Félicia.

The opening match between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau will be played at Alassane Ouattara Stadium on 13 January, as will the final almost a month later on 11 February.

Some of the continent’s biggest names, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Egypt and Ghana, will be based in Abidjan early on as the entirety of Groups A and B will be played there, as will eight of the 16 knockout stage matches.

Home to the country’s main international airport and the bulk of its modern hotels, Abidjan will provide a base for the majority of those travelling to the country for the tournament. 

Not exactly the first name that comes to tourists’ minds when picking a destination, what is there to see and do in and around Abidjan?

What to do in Abidjan, Ivory Coast

1 – Banco National Park

Want to visit a tropical forest in the morning and a football match in the evening? Well, you are in luck, as Abidjan is one of few places in the world where this is possible.

Banco National Park is the only primary dense tropical forest located in the heart of an urban environment in the whole of Africa, located in the northwest of Abidjan.

Home to various species of birds and monkeys plus many rare flora and fauna, Banco National Park gives fans visiting AFCON 2023 the option of a true African wildlife adventure without having to leave the main city.

Entrance to the park costs around $10, plus guided tours and visits as part of wider Abidjan tours are available. Another wildlife option just outside the city is Parc Dahlia Fleur, while nature reserves featuring leopards, elephants and hippos are dotted around Ivory Coast.

2 & 3 – Abidjan’s religious sites

Opened in 1985, St Paul’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Abidjan is one of the country’s main churches in a country which is roughly 40% Christian.

The exterior design is rather striking, with the curved roof of the main building supporting the 70m-high external tower in the shape of a cross. On the inside, beautiful stained glass windows depict biblical scenes with a distinctly local flavour – featuring African animals and landscapes.

Should a fan find themselves in Yamoussoukro during AFCON, they must visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, recognised by Guinness as the largest church in the world.

Like other countries in West Africa, Ivory Coast also has a large Muslim population; the main Mosque in the city is the Great Salam du Plateau.

Located in the modern district of Plateau, it took several years to complete and was finally opened in 2012. Its most beautiful features are the bold blue dome and entrance, while the blue colour dominates the design of the interior.

4. Treichville Market

Another must-have experience in West Africa is to delve into the hustle and bustle of a busy market. 

The Market is the beating heart of the Treichville district, where locals and tourists alike come to buy anything from crafts, souvenirs and jewellery to fresh food and livestock. 

The ideal chance for you to test your bartering skills!

5 – Bassam Beach

After all the haggling, sightseeing and football, you will need a chance to relax. Fortunately, Abidjan has got you covered – it is not called the Ivory Coast for nothing!

The city has a large port in the Treichville district, but a few kilometres down the coast is the stunning Bassam Beach. 

Tranquil and unspoilt, Bassam is the ideal location to bask in the tropical sun and while away the hours, so much so you may forget there is a major city hosting an international football tournament just a stone’s throw away.

What else can Abidjan offer?

Abidjan boasts some of the most vibrant nightlife in the whole of Africa, plus a wide variety of restaurants offering local and international cuisine.

Culture vultures can explore the Museum of Contemporary Culture, Museum of Ivory Coast Civilisations and the Cécile Fakhoury art gallery. There are also shopping malls and cinemas.

Fans looking to tick off another ground while in the city can head to Stade Robert Champroux, the 10,000-capacity home of three Ivory Coast Premier League teams which is also used for Rugby Union.

Anthony Tomas

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