If you want to enjoy a nice bustling atmosphere, you should definitely visit the city of Mindelo. The city is the colorful capital of the island of Sao Vicente. Its musical and architectural heritage has established Mindelo’s reputation as the cultural city of Cape Verde. Here you will find nice restaurants, old colonial buildings, nice old streets, lots of live music, festivals and art. The port city inspired many well-known intellectuals, musicians and artists. Because of all the live music, the carnival and other music festivals, Sao Vicente is also called the Rio de Janeiro of Cape Verde.
Mindelo is the second largest city in Cape Verde after Praia, the capital of the Cape Verde islands. The city was founded in 1793 by the Portuguese and has about 70,000 – 80,000 inhabitants today. Mindelo is beautifully situated in a large bay surrounded by hills and mountain Monte Cara. The historic center of Mindelo is compact and located near the bay and the harbor. Visitors get a clear idea of the city and it is easy to discover on foot.
Mindelo breathes art and culture. This is important for the local population, but it also attracts many visitors from abroad. In 1810 Cape Verde could open up to the rest of the world through an agreement between the Portuguese and English (Cape Verde was a colony of Portugal). The port became of crucial importance for international ships for supplies and overseas communications. For example, it became a coal depot for the British East India Company (1838) and it became an important communication center for the British due to the presence of a under water communication cable (1884). 1,500 ships docked annually. This made the city more and more important and economy flourished. Many contacts were made and this had a major impact on the rich art and culture of Mindelo. The colonial history and Portuguese and English architecture add to the feeling of the rich culture. In 2002/2003 Mindelo was the cultural capital of the Portuguese speaking world. Today Mindelo is considered the cultural city of Cape Verde within the Cape Verde archipelago.
Music from the heart
Mindelo is the place where you can hear Cape Verde’s traditional music everywhere. You don’t just hear live music when you sit in a restaurant or cafe. Even if you stroll through the streets, there is a great change you will hear wonderful Cape Verdean music somewhere. It is not without reason that the carnival and the accompanying music are a great spectacle in Mindelo and it is one of the best tropical carnivals in the world.
For Cape Verdeans, music is a very important part of their lives. The music styles that you often hear are the funaná and the morna. The morna is the national style of music and has been added to the World Heritage List for Immaterial Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. This emphasizes the value it has. World star Cesária Évora was the queen of the morna and she came from Mindelo. Her music is still widely played in Mindelo and the rest of the Cape Verde islands.
The center of Mindelo
The center of Mindelo is compact and well organized. The center of Mindelo is located exactly behind the bay where the pedestrian boulevard with shops is situated. The road from the boulevard is called Avenida Marginal (also called Avenida Praia). The marina where many sailing boats are moored is centrally located. Opposite the marina, the Rua Libertad d’Africa road enters the city. Between this street, the boulevard and the two squares Praca Amilcar Cabral and Praca Estrela are most of the sights of interest for visitors.
If you are looking for nice bars, nightclubs or nice restaurants where they play live music, the old streets around the square where the church Nosa Senhora da Luz is located are a good place. There is always something going on here. Furthermore, the Rue Loberdada D’Africa (previously called: Rua de Lisboa) is also a nice street full of nice cafes and restaurants.
These are our top sights of Mindelo. Recommended by travelers and locals.
On the boulevard by the bay is Pont d ‘Agua, a modern marina complex (2009) with many sailing boats. Here you can stroll, watch boats and enjoy the waterfront. A little further in the bay you have Club Pesca Desportiva. This is also a marina with special boats that fish for large species such as tuna. On the edge of this marina is the seaport of Sao Vicente where container ships moor and ferries to the other islands leave.
Laginha city beach
Praia da Laginha is Mindelo’s city beach. The beach is located just next to the seaport where also the ferries leave. It is a short ten minutes walk from the center. The beach is beautifully white, the sea is calm and azure blue. There are a number of modern beach clubs with all kinds of facilities. On the boulevard / road are even more restaurants and cafes where you can relax. Laginha beach is perfect for a relaxing dip in the wonderful water and to enjoy the sun.
Palacio do Povo
This beautiful governor’s palace is the most famous building in the center. It is colored pink and is located on Rua Lisboa. Cannot be missed. The building dates from the end of the 19th century and was renovated in 1934. The palace is partly a cultural center. It houses a museum where you can view interesting exhibitions. The Palacio do Povo partly also serves as a courthouse for the Cape Verdean Supreme Court.
Torre de Belem
A landmark on the boulevard is the Torre de Belem, a replica of the same tower that stands in Lisbon (Portugal). However, it is smaller and simpler than the original tower in Lisbon. The tower formerly was the governor’s residence, but currently houses a small museum showing the history of the harbor. The Torre de Belem is located near the fish market (Mercado de Peixe) at the south side of the boulevard.
Mercado de Peixe
Mercado de Peixe is Mindelo’s fish market. The fish market is located just past the Torre de Belem. Many fish species swim in the ocean around Cape Verde. There are fish of all shapes and sizes at the fish market. Think of giant tunas, swordfish, moray eels and squid. This atmosphere at the market is vibrant and it is fun to visit. The best time to do this is in the morning, when there is the most activity.
Fortim del Rei
Fortim del Rei means the king’s fortress. This small fort stands at the bottom of the hill near the marina and sea port. Ferries to Santo Antao also leave from here. The fort towers above the center and cannot be missed. The building dates back to 1852 and was built to protect the city of Mindelo. It was a prison from the 1930s and is currently empty. It is dilapidated and is being restored. From the location of the fort you have a beautiful view over the bay and Mindelo.
The square which the church Nosa Senhora da Luz and the surrounding streets are part of the oldest part of Mindelo. It is a nice place to stroll, shop or enjoy the shade of the palms that line the square. In the evening you can go to the streets for dinner or to enjoy a drink in a café.The Prace Amilicar Cabral is a large square with many shops and hotels. Concerts are regulary held during Carnival, this is a good spot to watch the festivities. The square is particularly lively at night and is popular with the younger generation of Mindelo.
In Mindelo you can visit many beautiful old colonial buildings. The former customs office from 1858 is a good example. The Centro Cultural do Mindelo is currently located there. You can find this building at the large roundabout on the boulevard. Near the former customs office is another beautiful colonial building. The French cultural center is located here. Another example of a beautiful colonial building is the Mercado Municipal (vegetable market). This building is located at the south side of Rua Liberdada D’Africa in the center of Mindelo.
Travel to and from Mindelo
Mindelo is approximately 10 kilometers from Sao Vicente International Airport. The international and national flight connections are excellent. A taxi from Cesária Évora Airport International (VXE) will cost approximately between 1,000 – 1,500 CVE. Mindelo is also the large harbor from where ferries depart to the various other islands of Cape Verde. From Mindelo it is an hour by ferry to the neighboring island of Santo Antao.
The city of Mindelo is best discovered on foot. Due to the central location of the most beautiful sights, restaurants and hotels, walking is the fastest way. Another faster alternative is to take a taxi. If you take a taxi, make sure you agree on a price in advance or use the taxi meter. Taxi drivers also expect a small tip.