- For other places with the same name, see Saint Louis (disambiguation).
Saint-Louis is a city and a world heritage site on the Grande Cote in Northern Senegal, at the mouth of Senegal River which serves as the border with Mauritania. With some 176,000 inhabitants, it's the country's eigth largest city.
The city of Saint-Louis is about 260 km north of Dakar on the coast and spreads across the mainland (Sor), Île de N’Dar (the Island), and the Langue de Barbarie Peninsula. The mainland is connected to the historical island, which is just 2 km long and 400 m wide, via the Pont Faidherbe Bridge, which was rebuilt in 2011.
The Île de N’Dar is linked to the Langue de Barbarie Peninsula via the Pont Mustapha Malick Gaye Bridge; the peninsula is home to the beautiful beaches of the Hydrobase as well as part of Langue de Barbarie National Park. Also accessible from Saint-Louis are the Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj and the Réserve Spéciale de Faune de Guembeul.
Saint-Louis was founded in 1659 as a fortification and was known as St-Louis-du-Fort to distinguish it from other places with the same name in the French Empire. The area had already earlier been an important trading point, but the island where the colonial city was founded was uninhabited as natives thought it was haunted.
During the age of colonization, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the town changed hands between the French and British a couple of times, and became one of the most important cities in West Africa, both culturally, economically and politically. It served as the capital of French West Africa until 1902, and capital of French Mauritania until 1957. Today Saint-Louis is more of a regional center, but the world heritage-listed old town reflects its glorious past.
Saint-Louis has an airport, but there are no flights as of February 2020. The nearest major airport is the one in Dakar.
If you have your own car, from Dakar take Route N2 all the way to Saint-Louis. It is approximately 260 km from Dakar.
At Dakar Airport you can hire a car with or without a guide/driver. Prices with a guide start at roughly CFA 20,000 per day and increase depending on quality of the vehicle.
The easiest way to get to Saint-Louis from Dakar is in a sept-place, which is a seven-passenger station wagon. They leave from the main station in Dakar (also called Pompier). You wait at the station for the car to be full, which means the rest of the passengers are heading for Saint-Louis as well, so it's a direct trip. The going rate is about 5000 CFA. To rent out an entire sept-place it should cost about CFA 33,000-35,000.
Mini cars (vans) from Gare Pompier in Dakar to St. Louis (tourists on a tight budget): mini cars cost CFA3,500 from Dakar to St. Louis and you would have to pay a small amount for baggage (CFA 100-500 maximum for most suitcases or bags). Carry valuable items with you personally – not in baggage which will be carried elsewhere. Sometimes things of value inside can go missing. Also prepare yourself for a long day. These cars have a top cruising speed of about 50 km/h and make frequent stops.
Ndiaga Ndiaye (pronounced jegg-in-jaay) (big white Mercedes buses) from Gare Pompier in Dakar to St. Louis (Tourists on a tight, tight budget): Ndiaga Ndiaye cost CFA 2,500 from Dakar to St. Louis and you will have to pay a small amount for baggage (CFA 100-500 maximum for most suitcases or bags). Carry valuable items with you personally – not in baggage which will be carried elsewhere. Sometimes things of value inside can go missing. Also prepare yourself for a long day. These buses have a top cruising speed of about 50 km/h and make frequent stops. They can also take several hours to depart considering that they fill all the seats before departure. Always look inside and count the seats which are open before paying for your pass. Operators often lie about how many seats are left in order to get more clients and you could end up waiting for hours at the gare, which is not always pleasant.
You should be able to get a personal taxi from Dakar airport to St. Louis or Mouit for around CFA 60,000 depending on the condition of the taxi and negotiation skills. (4 people maximum.)
Although there are tracks and a colonial railway station, trains have not served Saint-Louis since around 2003.
By public transport
You can usually count on taxis fares in Saint-Louis to be a solid fixed rate of 500 CFA. From the garage (gare routiere) to downtown or at night expect to pay 600 CFA. There is a fairly decent "car rapide" public transport system that shouldn't cost more than 100 CFA for your average stretch. On the Island of Ndar, there are calesh rides designed for site-seeing tourists. However, most of the historic city is easily accessible by foot.
By bike or scooter
To see more of Saint-Louis, why not rent a scooter or a bicycle, this is a great way to cover more ground and to explore some places that you might not be able to reach on foot. Located on the corner of Rue Blanchot and Quai Roume on the island. Scooters are available for 10,000 CFA/day and bikes for 5,000 CFA/day.
Saint-Louis was founded in 1659 and named after the French King Louis XIV in the 1700s, it is the oldest city to be created by Europeans on the western coast of Africa and served as the capital of Senegal from 1872 to 1957. It played an important cultural and economic role in the whole of West Africa, a stroll around the Ville (as the cab drivers know it as) quickly reveals the French colonial influence.
Many of the buildings hold their old character with many brightly colored buildings and beautiful balconies to be seen all around the island. The island was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2000. Be sure to stop into the Syndicat d’Initiative of Saint-Louis in the Governance building opposite the bridge and pick up the urban walk they have mapped out.
- 1 Musée de l’Aéropostale Jean Mermoz, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Open Monday through Saturday. This museum has displays about the colonial airmail service that played a role in the development of Saint-Louis as well as an exhibit about the pilot Jean Mermoz. The entrance fee is 2000 CFA.
- 2 Grand Mosque of Saint-Louis (Grande Mosquée de Saint-Louis). A beautiful but rather low-key mosque that features a colonial-style architecture. The two minarets features both a clock and a ringing bell.
- 3 Saint Louis Cathedral. The oldest functioning church in West Africa, this Roman Catholic church was opened in 1828.
- 4 Faidherbe Bridge. As boats were insufficient to handle traffic between Saint-Louis island and the mainland, a bridge opened in 1865 and named after the colonial administrator Louis Faidherbe. With the introduction of rail traffic across the bridge, it too became insufficient and the current bigger one was opened in 1897, but it inherited the name of the older bridge. There's a myth that the bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel – it's not, though his company indeed came second in the bidding process.
- 5 Guet N'Dar. Walk to Guet Ndar, the fishing village that is located on the Langue de Barberie and watch the fisherman bring in their catch. If you're lucky, you might get a great deal on seafood. Dozens of trucks wait to buy up the fish (for as little as 500 CFA a crate) and transport them into the interior as far as Kaolack, Tambacounda and Mali. Local people carry the fish in baskets on their neck and on their heads. Women can be found smoking and drying fish next to the beach in vast cauldrons. Nearby very colorful pirogues are always under construction. It is possible to see nearly every stage from the first carvings to the final painting. If you walk into the residential district of Guet Ndar, you will see thousands of people trying to live their lives squeezed in a tiny area. The scene is very colorful and lively, but when you walk along the beach you will see the effects of overcrowding in the squalid sanitary conditions and insufficient trash disposal. There is a decent-sized market in Guet Ndar, somewhat smaller than the larger Sor market two bridges away.
Langue de Barbarie Peninsula
On the Langue de Barbarie Peninsula you can check out the fishing village of Guet N’Dar and watch the bustling fish market and catch glimpses of the colorful pirogues that are used for fishing. Further down on the Guet N’Dar is the fisherman cemetery and past that is the Hydrobase, a great place to spend a day at the beach. Occupying the very south end of the Peninsula is part of Langue de Barbarie National Park which is home to a variety of bird species.
There are two main tour operators that offer tours in and around the Saint-Louis area and northern Senegal, Sahel Decouverte and Saint Louis Jeunesse Voyages. Contact either of these for their offerings but some of the different daily tours include, a tour of the Island, the Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj, the Parc National de Langue de Barbarie and also a boat ride along the Senegal River to see mangrove trees. If you have more time there are longer trips available and it is best to contact the agencies below for the most up to date offerings. Another good resource is the Syndicat d’Initiative which also has a smaller offering of tours.
- Sahel Decouverte – Agence de Voyages, ☏ .
- Saint-Louis JV, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Office de Tourisme / Syndicat d’Initiative, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 1 [dead link] Institut Français, Avenue Jean Mermoz, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 08:30-12:30 and 15:00-18:00; Sa 08:30-16:00. Here you will find a café, library and often times there are concerts, films and art exhibitions. Pick up the monthly program brochure at the center, one of the hotels around Saint-Louis or the Syndicat d’Initiative.
- Saint-Louis International Jazz Festival. This annual event generally occurs in late April or early May for about a week (Feb 2019). This internationally renowned event attracts jazz musicians and visitors from around the world and is the most important jazz festival in Africa. The events of the festival take place all over town. Dates and programs can be found online.
- Les Fanals. This festival is held each year between Christmas and New Years and is a night parade of lanterns, lit from within by candlelight that resemble carnival floats and are accompanied by songs and drums. This historic procession is unique to Saint-Louis and was initiated by the signares, who in colonial times were the colonists’ prestigious wives.
For those that are staying longer, classes in Wolof and French can be taken at the French Cultural Center, see the contact information above.
Saint-Louis offers a lot by way of shopping, you can check out the large market on the mainland as well as a smaller market on Guet N’Dar which if you look hard enough you can find boutiques filled with fabric down the side streets or you can check out any number of the small shops on the island to get your fix of locally made items and other tourist type offerings. Boutiques selling everything from water and candy to ice cream and basic staples can be found on just about every block as well throughout all of Saint-Louis.
There are many boutiques on the island that sell locally made items, such as clothing, wood carvings, jewelry, post cards and many other Senegalese crafts. Check out Chez Adja Sokho Creations where the owner serves as designer and then has the designs made in Saint-Louis, located on Rue Blanchot and Rue Blaise Diagne. Also visit the fair trade shop of Keur Fall where the items in the store come from one of fifteen villages in the Diourbel region that make up an association called Ndem, the store is located on the Quai Roume. Another nice place to shop is the Galerie N’Dar, Cadeau and Souvenir Mama Africa, on Rue Blaise Diagne. You will also find an Artisanal Village on the main land of the Rue De La Corniche, be prepared to bargain when you visit here and be prepared to be hassled.
Supplies & provisions
A boutique can be found on nearly every block, you will find the boutiques stocked with snacks, sodas, and other beverages but for those looking to do some cooking themselves check out Exotica and D.S.K. Mini Prix both located on the Island on the Rue Khalifa Ababacar Sy both of which offer a larger selection of Western foods.
Fuel can be purchased at any one of the gas stations on the mainland. You will find gas stations along the Rue de la Corniche as you come into Saint-Louis from the south. There is also an Oil Libya off the Route N2 as you head north out of town and there are many stations along the Avenue General de Gaulle as well.
The market runs daily up the Avenue General de Gaulle and offers vegetables, fruit, clothing, fabric, you can pretty much find anything you need here, including used clothing that comes from America and Europe, keep your eyes open for a chance to find some cast off t-shirts that are always good for a laugh. Wander down any of the side streets from the main market and you will find additional fabric stores, clothing stores, tailors and boutiques. Check out the smaller, less hectic market on Guet N’Dar just as you cross over the bridge, a walk down the side streets from the market reveals boutiques stuffed to the brim with different fabrics and tailors hard at work.
Given that Saint-Louis is a hot destination for French-speaking tourists and a home to many foreign-born residents, the offerings are plentiful on the island for food and drink. You can stop at any one of the unassuming Tangana shacks for Senegalese food or a simple sandwich which can be found in great numbers on both the Mainland or the Island or check out some of the restaurants and bars listed below for something a little different. Also don't be afraid to stop at one of the many sandwich stands set up on the street or any of the other street foods. You can also drink a cup of Nescafe or Cafe Touba for under 100 CFA at many places along the street. In general you will find that it is cheaper to have a drink on the main land as opposed to the Island.
- 1 Bar La Source. This is a great neighborhood bar and restaurant where you can sit out back in the large garden and order warthog brochettes from the grill as well as Senegalese dishes. They also have some of the cheapest and coldest beer in Saint-Louis. It's off the Rue De La Corniche, down the street from the Pharmacy Malang Lyss.
- 2 Aux Délices Du Fleuve, Rue Blanchot. Known as the original patisserie of Saint-Louis, they serve pastries, omelets, pizza, desserts (try the chocolate ice cream or a piece of cake) and hot drinks. They also have Wi-Fi if you need to get online. Prices for the pastries start at 400 CFA. It's off the Rue Blanchot & Quai Roume.
- 3 Nice Burger. This small restaurant with quick service on Avenue Malick Gaye offers hamburgers, chawarmas, sandwiches, fatayas, pizzas and rotisserie chicken dishes. They also offer a Senegalese plate of the day. Prices range from 300 CFA for more of a snack to 6,500 CFA for a whole rotisserie chicken served with fries, in a tasty onion sauce along with a basket of bread, absolutely delicious!
- 4 Contango Pizza Express, Rue Abdoulaye Seck, ☏ . This small restaurant doesn’t look like much when passing by, but a stop here guarantees a delicious pizza with prices starting at 2500 CFA. If you’re not in the mood for pizza try a hamburger. Chat with the friendly owner who hails from Lebanon.
- 5 La Linguère, 195 Rue Khalifa Ababacar, ☏ . Stop in this restaurant for a great plate of Yassa Poulet or your choice of many other Senegalese dishes, the prices start at 1500 CFA. The brochettes are also an appetizing option. Smaller dishes start at 1000 CFA and fish and meat dishes start at 2500 CFA.
- 6 La Saigonnaise, ☏ . This Vietnamese restaurant sits in a great location right at the northern tip of the island at the Place de Liège. The food is wonderful and full of flavor and spice and is a welcome change from some of the other restaurants. Prices range from 2500 CFA for starters to 4800 CFA for some of the main dishes.
- 7 La Kora chez Peggy, Ave Blaise Diagne, ☏ . This restaurant and bar with WiFi has a nice selection of drinks which range in price from 1,000 CFA for a beer to 4,000 CFA for some of the house cocktails. The menu features French dishes, starting at 3000 CFA, and a small selection of deserts with the menu changing weekly. You can dine outdoors on the inviting patio or sit inside in the lounge. It's on the rue Blaise Diage.
- 8 Restaurant Bou El Mogdad, Quai Roume. When this historic ship docs here every other weekend on the Saint Louis River you can either have dinner, starting at 3000 CFA or just go for a drink and listen to live jazz music on Saturday night. Check with the agency Sahel Decouverte to confirm when the boat will be docked.
- 9 La Résidence, 159 rue Blaise Diagne. Satisfy your craving for beef with one of the best steaks in Saint-Louis at La Résidence Hotel, with prices starting at 3200 CFA. Also check out the menu of the day which is a little pricier, the cost, 8000 CFA but you will get a starter, entrée and dessert.
- 10 Le Ponton (Sindone), Quai Henni Jay. It's out on a dock right on the river at the Hotel Sindone. It serves some of the best food in Saint-Louis and a great steak. It is expensive: meals run 4000-6000 CFA.
- 11 Flamingo, 150 Rue Bisson (It's on the Quai Roume.). It's right on the river, it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat or a drink and you can swim in the pool for 4000 CFA, they have the only pool on the island that is not inside a hotel. The food is a little pricey, with entrees starting at 4000 CFA but a swim in the pool could be worth it.
- 1 Iguane Café, Rue Abdoulaye Seck. A popular night club in Saint-Louis, come here to dance until the wee hours of the morning.
- 2 L'embuscade, Rue Abdoulaye Seck. Try some of the creative house made cocktails or just go for a cold beer and listen to live music, also stop in during the day for a bite to eat.
- 3 Le Comptoir. This large bar, located in a renovated historic building, serves up a great cheeseburger and offers sandwiches as well. Grab a drink and while you’re at it play pool here too. Located along the water on the Quai Roume.
- 1 Auberge de la Jeunesse L'Atlantide, Rue Khalifa Ababacar Sy, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Situated in a quiet residential neighborhood on the north end of the island off the Rue Bouet and Avenue Mermoz, this modest hostel is clean, quiet and comfortable and is sure to be a great place to stay that is easy on the wallet. Some of the rooms even have views of the tree lined Avenue Mermoz and there is a nice courtyard at the center of the hostel with a long table in which to swap stories with other travelers and have a cold soda. Beds start from 6,250 CFA including breakfast (baguette, jam, tea/coffee). Free Wi-Fi.
- 2 Auberge Café des Arts, Quai Giraud, Quartier Nord, ☏ , ✉ aubergecafédesarts@yahoo.fr. Check-out: Before Noon. The owner of the iconic plum-colored, colonial Café des Arts, Awa, makes you feel right at home. There are four rooms with a shower and bathroom and a dormitory for five. A great place to stay with a large group of people and those visiting on a shoestring budget. The auberge has WiFi and a rooftop terrace overlooking the Senegal River. 6,000 CFA for dorm bed/15,000 CFA for double/18,000 CFA triple.
Langue de Barbarie Peninsula
- 3 Auberge Du Pelican, Hydrobase, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This small hostel situated right off the Route De Hydrobase, offers the chance to stay in huts that back right up to the ocean or in the small rooms and studios in the main part of the hostel. The rooms are small yet comfortable and the owner a great host and a pleasure to talk to. There is a bar and restaurant at the top of the main building of the hostel that has a beautiful panoramic view of both the ocean and the river. Stay here and you will be sure to come away feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. Hut for 2: 7,000 CFA – 3rd person add 2,500 CFA, double 10,000 CFA – 1 or 2 people, studio 20,000 CFA – 1 or 2 people.
- 4 Camping-Ocean, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. This campground next to the Hotel Dior along the Route de Hydrobase allows visitors to camp as well as the chance to stay in a hut, the beach is located right behind the campground and offers a great place to stay and relax and unwind. If you left the tent at home they are available to rent. There is also a small bar that serves as the reception desk. Hotel does not have A/C, fans, generator, hot water, but has water. Has mosquito nets and electricity. Reception speaks French. 2,500 CFA per person for camping, 6,000 CFA per 2-person hut, 7,000 CFA 3-person hut.
- 5 Hotel Dior, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This small hotel with 20 comfortable rooms sits between the river and the beach and is a great option for those with smaller budgets that want to stay on the Route de Hydrobase. The hotel also has meeting facilities, pool, and a nice bar and restaurant. Breakfast is also included with the price of the room. Hotel has A/C, fans, generator, hot water, electricity and no mosquito nets. Reception speaks French and English. Single 27,600 CFA, double 40,600 CFA, includes breakfast.
- 6 [dead link] Résid Hotel Diamarek, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. This small hotel with friendly staff is situated along the Route de Hydrobase and also right on the beach of the Langue de Barbarie Peninsula, set in a garden of 2½ acres the hotel offers basic rooms and lovely bungalows along the ocean. Hotel has A/C, fans, generator, hot water, electricity, and no mosquito nets. Reception speaks French and English. 27,500 CFA for the rooms to 67,500 CFA for the bungalows.
- 7 Hotel Mermoz, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This tranquil seaside oasis sits right on the beach and features a spa and pool. The hotel even offers child care for those parents who just need a break from the kids. Once the kids are in child care go horseback riding for 5,000 CFA or even take part in the various water sports that are offered by the hotel. Also a sure bet is the restaurant which serves up delicious seafood and other offerings. It's on the Route de Hydrobase. Hotel does not have A/C or fans, has a generator, hot water, electricity, mosquito nets. Reception speaks French and English. Hotel has fans, A/C, a generator, hot water, electricity, mosquito nets. Reception speaks French, English, Spanish and Italian. Prices vary for the season but prices for a standard room in the low season range from single 13,200 CFA to quad 53,500 CFA for a superior room in the high season.
- 8 Sunu Keur, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. On the north end of the island off the Quai Giraud, Sunu Keur is right on the Senegal River. Eight of the rooms offer views of the Senegal River, with balconies and there is a lovely patio in the center of the hotel with tables and chairs at which you can sit after a long day of exploring and enjoy mint tea, hibiscus punch or a drink served from the bar. Double 28,000 CFA, triple 30,000 CFA.
- 9 Hotel Du Palais, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. In a great location, opposite the Palais de Justice and close to the governance and an easy walk to the restaurants and bars in the area, this hotel is sure to make you feel right at home. The rooms are decorated simply but are clean and comfortable. There is also a bar that opens up into the street as well as a patisserie that serves delicious pastries and tasty coffee. Single 16,800-25,000 CFA, double 20,000-35,000 CFA, including breakfast.
- 10 Hotel De La Tour, Avenue Blaise Diagne, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. With clean and comfortable rooms in a good location right in the heart of the island on the corner of Rue Blanchot and Av Blaise Dagne, this hotel is a great place to stay for those looking for a more modest budget friendly hotel on the island. The hotel also has a restaurant and breakfast is included with the price of the room. Hotel has A/C, a generator, hot water, electricity, fans and no mosquito nets. Reception speaks French and some English. Single 22,600 CFA, double 31,200 CFA, triple 35,700 CFA, breakfast included.
- 11 Hotel de la Poste, ☏ . The classic hotel of Saint-Louis. This is where pilots flying mail from South America and Africa spent their nights during stop-overs. Jean Mermoz, the most famous French aviator in the inter-war period spent his last night here before disappearing over the Atlantic in 1936. All rooms have air conditioning and free WiFi. The onsite restaurant offers great views over the mouth of Senegal river. Rooms from 30,600 CFA.
- 12 Hotel Sindone, Quai Henni Jay, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. On the south end of the Island on the Quai Henri Jay right along the river, which many of the rooms face, this hotel retains its colonial architecture and also has a restaurant situated right on the river so bring your appetite because their restaurant serves a delicious steak. Hotel does not have A/C or fans, has a generator, hot water, electricity, mosquito nets. Reception speaks French and English. WiFi is available. Single or double 30,600-59,200 CFA.
- 13 [dead link] La Maison Rose, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. This beautiful hotel sits on the Sur le Quai Roume, in a restored old colonial building and has seven rooms and nine suites. The rooms are decorated nicely and some even have nice views of the river and the Pont Faidherbe Bridge. There is also a restaurant that sits on the roof top of the hotel. It offers panoramic views of the city, anf a terrace where you can relax and buy a drink and enjoy a view of the bridge. Single 59,000 CFA, double 71,000 CFA, suites 82,500-130,000 CFA.
There are two Catholic churches in Saint-Louis, one on the island and another on Sor.
- Centre Hospitalier Regional (Boulevard Abdoulaye Mar Diop-En Ville), ☏ . The hospital is open 24/7.
- Consulat de Belgique, ☏ .
- Parc National de la Langue de Barbarie - Located just 18 km (11 miles) south of Saint Louis in the region of Gandiol, the park is home to over 160 different species of bird as well as other animals and is a great place for nature lovers, sightseers, photographers and bird watchers to visit. The park offers tours by boat, or explore on bike or by foot. There is a monthly bird count that visitors to the park can participate in that happens towards the end of each month, contact the park for details.
- Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj - Located in the Senegal River Delta, this bird sanctuary is home to some 1.5 million birds covering 16,000 hectares and here you will find a wide variety of bird species. It is easy for bird lovers to take a day trip to the park and visit the third largest bird sanctuary in the world. The park is most easily accessible with an organized tour group which can be arranged through one of the agencies listed under the activities section. It was dedicated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981.
- Réserve Spéciale de Faune de Guembeul - This natural reserve is home to many bird species, mammals and reptiles as well as to the African Spurred Tortoise and is about 10km south of Saint-Louis.