São Tomé is the capital city of São Tomé and Príncipe, and the largest city, travel hub and main commercial center in the country. It had a population of almost 72,000 in 2015, or over a third of the total population of the country. As it has the only international airport in the country, it plays an important role in the country's small tourism industry.
The city was founded in 1485 in the northeast of the island of São Tomé by Portuguese colonists, who wanted to explore the cultivation of sugar cane. Sao Tome retains much of the colonial architecture, with buildings dating from the 16th century, such as the Fort of São Sebastião, now the National Museum. It is in the city center that the main commercial activities take place.
When to go: December and January are the best for birding as birds adopt their bright breeding plumage. From mid-November to early February turtles nest on the beaches, and you can watch the eggs hatching 45 days later. Humpback whales, killer whales and dolphins can be seen off the northeast coast from August to October. Trekking is best in the dry season from June to September.
The city has a tropical humid climate, with temperatures between 27-31 ºC, and frequent precipitation.
During the dry season from June to September, be prepared for clear skies and a very strong, equatorial sun. There are two rainy seasons – the short rains in October and November and the long rains from February to May.
- 1 São Tomé International Airport (TMS IATA). STP Airways flies to Lisbon, TAAG flies to Luanda (Angola), TAP flies to Accra (Ghana) and Lisbon (Portugal) and Afrijet flies to Libreville (Gabon). There are also domestic flights to Príncipe airport
STP Airways is on the list of carriers banned from operating into the European Union, so its flights are operated by the Portuguese airline EuroAtlantic Airways.
Motorcycle, bicycle and car hire is available in the city center. The taxi rank is next to the Municipal Market.
Hire a scooter from the locals! They are friendly, and hotel staff will assist you with this. Cost is about US$20 per scooter.
- 1 Cathedral of São Tomé (Catedral de São Tomé). A Roman Catholic cathedral, parts of the building date back to the 15th century, but since then significant alterations have been done. Most recently in 1956, when the main facade was significantly changed.
- 2 Presidential Palace (Palácio Presidencial). Built in the mid-19th century as a governor's administrative center and expanded in 1954, the palace has served as the presidential residence since 1975. The palace is not open to the public and photography of the building is not permitted.
- 3 São Tomé National Museum. Located in the historic Fort of São Sebastião, this museum showcases life during the colonial era and also has a collection of local religious art.
- The coast of Ana Chaves Bay
- Avenida de 12 de Julho
- the Holy See Church
- The court building
- Independence Square
- Cascata de Sao Nicolau (Sao Nicolau Waterfall). To get there, you must have a 4x4 vehicle, and good footwear for slippery surfaces. A raincoat is recommended.
- Visit the Municipal Market
- Casa Museum Almada Negreiros, on the road to the Sao Nicolau waterfall - Roca da Saudade, ☏ . São Tomé cuisine. Also offers rooms with shared bath €65, with private bath €75.
- Chez Tete, Av. 12 Julho (on the outskirts of town: past the casino you turn right up a road and the right down a track), ☏ . Excellent grilled fish.
- O Pirata, Avenue San Gabriel, ☏ . Restaurant terrace looks over a beach with a shipwreck. English spoken.
- Cafe Camoes (in the centre of town), ☏ . M-Th 08:00-23:00, F Sa 08:00-01:00. Seafood. Local dishes. Bar services with petiscos (tapas). Good coffee and Wi-Fi.
- Cesar Cafe, Avenida 12 de Julho. Tu-Su 17:00-01:00. A drinks place facing the sea. Petiscos (like tapas), soups, live music on Saturdays. Nicely decorated with artifacts.
- Envy Bar STP, Rua Pascoal Amado (Rua Morta), ☏ . Tu W 18:00-00:00, Th-Sa 18:00-02:00. Nightclub where the rich and beautiful young things of STP sip pricey cocktails and dance to DJs.
- Sweet Guest House, Vila Dolores, ☏ . Clean and homey guest house 10-15 walk to the centre of town. A kitchen and lounge are available for meeting other travellers. Continental breakfast €7. Launderette next door. From €38.
- Hotel Central, Rua de Angola. One of the oldest hotels in the city. It's in the heart of the city and close to restaurants and markets. 14 rooms with AC, TV, mini fridge, kettle, and private bathroom. Daily lunch menus, and free Wi-Fi. From €45.
- 1 Pestana Miramar Hotel, Avenida Marginal 12 de Julho 69, ☏ . Luxury hotel, in front of Ana Chaves Bay, 2 minutes' walk from the beach. Several gardens, a swimming pool, a restaurant, two bars and free parking. Rooms have direct access to gardens with balconies overlooking the pool or sea and have Wi-Fi internet access. From €155.
- Omali Lodge, Praia Lagartos, ☏ . Boutique hotel with 30 rooms and suites around a pool. It has the only tennis court in the country, and there is a beach across the road . €185-350.
Safety is not an issue in São Tomé, though the roadway traffic is hazardous as in other parts of Africa. Violent crime in public is almost unheard of. However, with an increase in tourism there has been an increase in crime against tourists.
The Typhoid fever vaccine is not required of foreign visitors, but is advisable.
As a rule, establishments are open M-F 08:00-12:30 and 15:00-17:30. On Saturday they work from 08:00 to 13:00. The public sector operates from M-F from 07:00 to 15:30.
- Obo Natural Park (30 minutes from the city). Great hiking on several trails. You can stay overnight at the old plantations 'roças'. The lightest rainforest trek is the round trip to Lagoa Amelia, which takes about 4-5 hours. For longer treks, you must organise transport, guides, and accommodations. You can pick up guides from Bom Successo on the way. A 2-day and 2-night trek would be from Bom Successo to Roca Bombain, overnight in Roca Bombain, and then Bombain to Roca Sao Joao dos Angolares.
- Pico de Sao Tome: climbing this peak will take 2 days and and require physical fitness. The ground is tough and you need to be capable of about 8 hours hiking a day to complete it.
- The Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell) blowhole on the south side of São Tomé island: waves enter an underwater cave and, with nowhere to go, shoot straight up.
- Micondó, Inhamé and Jalé are some the island's finest beaches, and are usually inhabited only by the kingfishers and the giant crabs. Piscina offers calmer swimming where lava has created natural infinity pools lined with white sand.
- Ilhéu das Rolas, an island of beaches, straddles the Equator, and is the nearest land mass to 0°N 0°E.