Ethiopia has gone through several capital cities before landing on today’s capital city Addis Ababa. Some of the country’s former capitals are Gondar, Debre Tabor, Magdala, and Entoto can be mentioned as the most recent ones before Addis Ababa.
Gondar city served as the country’s political center from the 16th century until the 18th century. The city was named as the political center of Ethiopia during the regime of Emperor Fasiledes. In the 18th century, during Emperor Tewodros II, the capital city was moved to Debre Tabor and then to Magdala. The immediate predecessor of the current capital is Entoto. Entoto used to be its own different city before being included in todays’ Addis Ababa area. The existing political center, Addis Ababa, came into existence and then became a center in the 19th century during the regime of Emperor Atse Menelik II. Addis Ababa was renowned as the capital city of Ethiopia in 1892.
History of Addis Ababa, The Capital of Ethiopia
Addis Ababa first came into existence in 1886. During that time, the royal family and the nobilities visited the area for its hot springs used for medicinal purposes. As historians tell first, the wife of Emperor Menelik, Empress Taytu, came around this area and fell in love with it for its beautiful land escape and blooming flowers, which will later result in changing the area’s name. In 1887 The Empress changed the place’s name from its former name to Addis Ababa, which means ”new flower” in Amharic.
After several visits, the Empress convinced the Emperor to build a place in the area and then move there. Hence a palace was built in 1892, and the royal family moved to this area and renounced Addis Ababa as the capital city of Ethiopia. Several nobilities moved to this newly founded area following the royal family’s move. But most importantly, the military troops had to make a move following the Emperor, which made everything better than the former capital Entoto. Since Entoto is located in a very high land area, it was challenging to find wood for a fire, and the extreme cold weather made it hard to live in the area.
In the first years, the city was practically a military camp until several merchants made their move following the royalties and the nobilities. This revived the area as a town; more people started dwelling. But with these changes happening, Addis Ababa was not yet granted to its people. Many uncertainties about how long it will continue serving as the capital. All these changed in 1907 when the land ownership charter was passed. By the year 1910, the city had around 70,000 permanent residents.
Addis Ababa has also served as the capital of Ethiopia during Italian East Africa from 1936 to 1941. There were several infrastructural growths like roads, hospitals, and schools.
After those five years, with the return of the Emperor then, Emperor Haile Selassie I did a lot of work was to reestablish the city as the capital of Ethiopia, which was very successful. In the coming years, Addis Ababa was known as the capital of Ethiopia, and the sitting headquarter of the OAU (Organization of African Unity), which will later be known to us as the AU (African Union).
From the year the city was founded until now, Addis Ababa has shown steady population growth, infrastructure construction, and a lot more modernization. Though there were hard times in between, such as protests and some historically heartbreaking massacres, where we lost an entire generation as a country, this city still holds up to tell the story of its people. During the past 130 years (1892 to 2022), all ups and downs have given Addis Ababa the color it has today.
In the following parts, we will explore every bit of this beautiful city, Addis Ababa.
Must see places in The Capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
The capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, has plenty of must-see places. We are going to explore some of the major ones:
The Ethiopian National Museum
The Ethiopian National Museum is located at the center of the city. It consists of several historical artifacts from different times, a vast range of fossils that tell the history of human origins, including the fossil of the first homo sapiens: Lucy, also known by the scientific name of Australopithecus afarensis. She is the oldest, most complete skeleton ever discovered, which is from three million years ago. Ardi, also known as Ardipithecus ramidus, is another old fossil found at the museum. She is a fossilized skeletal remains that is 4.4 million years old.
Merkato – The largest Open Air Market in Africa
Merkato is the largest street market in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Africa. It covers a vast area in the city and has almost everything a person could ever want to buy. Before, it used to be a place to purchase agricultural products such as coffee and different grains, but this has changed. Within Merkato, there are various marketplaces for almost everything, starting from electronics to home appliances, car spare parts to construction materials, from clothing items to different high-end cosmetics products. There is nothing you would go looking for and come back empty-handed. Hence, Merkato gets its name “ the hub of the market” when it comes to buying and selling, which makes it one of the must-see places in Addis Ababa.
The word Abrhot means enlightenment in Amharic. And its name implies it was built to restore and pass the rich history and wisdom the country (Ethiopia) has to the next generation and many more to come. The Abrhot library is a public library that is open to the public at any time. The library has a collection of different books, papers, and other publications. This library also has various book stores, meeting rooms, children’s reading areas, coffee shops, and cafeterias within the building complex. The Abrhot Library can hold around 2000 people at once and has a parking lot that can hold up to 115 cars at once. This library can be called one of the significant assets of the country, which is why it is one of the must-see places.
Read more about Abrehot library here.
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Unity Park is one of the must-see places in Addis Ababa. It is one of a kind park as it serves as a park and a museum. The park is located within the palace compound and has different themes and sections.
The first section within unity park is the historical section covering different historical periods. There are separate buildings for almost every period covered. Some of these places even have very alive-looking statues of the emperors of that time within their premises. There are also different historical artifacts within this section, shining wisdom of their time and telling their stories to the coming generation.
Unity Park also has a zoo plus a small aquarium. It has different wild animals such as Lions, Giraffes, Zebras, birds, and a lot more. It consists of different breeds of indigenous birds that can’t be found in other countries. The area is a beautiful site. Accompanied by the birds’ singing voices for a minute, it can take you out of the city and its hustling life and get you immersed in nature.
The other section in unity park is the botanic garden. This park has a section dedicated to indigenous plants and plants dating back from different periods. The flower beddings in this area can make you think that you were in paradise for a second, with the various combinations of colors and scents from the flowers.
Last but not least, there are several coffee shops, restaurants, and resting areas in the park to rest after a long day of visiting the park. There are also various playgrounds designed for kids to enjoy the park while learning about their country.
Read more about Unity Park here.
Entoto park is located on one of the mountains around Addis Ababa, the Entoto Mount, and it takes its name from it. As fascinating and a beautiful sight it is, there was severe unavailability of infrastructures and transportation means. Entoto Mountain has been an area to visit during church days for the local people for a long time since there is an Ethiopian orthodox church in the area. Still, besides that, the site was underdeveloped up until a few years ago.
Now though, The Entoto Park has become one of the must-see places in Addis Ababa. The park is mainly designed as a hiking trail. But it also provides a bicycle trail for riding up the hiking routes. Along the way, Entoto park consists of different sports centers, entertainment centers, restaurants, and several coffee shops. These infrastructures are designed in a way people can enjoy their hiking activities.
Some of the mainly frequented activities at Entoto park are horseback riding and zip-lining. The Entoto park has several horse stalls to take a horse of your own choice and enjoy the back riding. There are also particular trainers for kids to enjoy the experience freely.
Besides these activities, there are cabins for rent where you can spend the night and wake up to a beautifully natural sound and surroundings.
Entoto park is also located at the highest point of Addis Ababa city. That means after a long hike, you can see the entire Addis Ababa city from the top of the mountain, which makes it a very rewarding experience. And hence, one of the must-see places in Addis Ababa.
Read more about Entoto Park here.
Friendship Park, is also known as Sheger park, is located at the center of Addis Ababa city, surrounded by many historical sites and commercial centers. The park is a piece of paradise full of astonishing scenery. It is a very colorful place, full of beautiful flower beddings and plants. Friendship Park also has one of the giant dancing water fountains in the city, creating a beautiful sight, especially at night with all the colorful lights. As soon as it opened, it became one of the hottest spots in the city for tourists and the people of Addis Ababa.
The park is an excellent place for romantic walks, family picnics, and even just for some self-time. There are several restaurants, coffee shops, and resting areas in the park. People also use the park for different occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, or other celebrations.
Friendship Park is an excellent gate away from city life for anyone. The walking trailers, the dancing fountains, the kid’s playground, the scenery. It is just a beautiful place, hence once again one of the must-see places in Addis Ababa.
Read more about Friendship Park here.
Best Hotels in The Capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
There are numerous hotels in Addis Ababa, ranging from the most luxurious five-star hotels to different affordable hotel residents in the city. Some of the most well-known hotels in Addis Ababa are:
Sheraton Addis, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Addis Ababa, sits on a hilltop overlooking the city, safely nestled between the National Palace and the prime minister’s residence.
The 5-star hotel in Ethiopia offers stunning views, acres of open space, and is 20 minutes from Bole International Airport. Boasting glittering pools with enchanting underwater music, an indulgent spa menu of soothing massages at Aqva Club, and several gourmet restaurants where guests dine and socialize.
The hotel has also hosted countless high-profile events, including Pan-African and African Union summits and New Year’s Eve celebrations with special performances by world-renowned artists.
Set in Addis Ababa, in a very close range from UNECA Conference Center, Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa offers accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool, and a fitness center. This 5-star hotel has a bar and a garden.
Popular points of interest near Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa include UN Conference Center, Unity Park, Meskel square, and Martyrs Museum.
According to the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel, it’s never been easier to mix travel, business, and leisure. Owned by Ethiopian Airlines, it is the most luxurious hotel in Ethiopia, located at the heart of Africa’s diplomatic hub Addis Ababa, just five minutes away from Bole International Airport. With the stunning rooms, you can enjoy spectacular city and airport views in all of the rooms.
The Ethiopian skylight hotel also provides three luxurious restaurants – Ethiopian Ta’em Cultural Restaurant, TaiChi, the most famous Chinese Restaurant in East Africa, and All-Day Dining Restaurant heighten your cuisine experience.
They also have outstanding facilities such as a Health Club, Fitness Center, outdoor heated swimming pool, Thai spa and massage, pool bar, mini-golf courses, and beauty salon.
Hilton Addis is situated in the heart of the city of Addis Ababa. The famous Lalibela Cross Church inspires this landmark hotel in Ethiopia.
Expansive gardens also surround the hotel. And each of the guest rooms provides a balcony with an excellent view of this magnificent garden, mountains in the city, and the city’s skylines. Hilton Addis also provides fitness centers, tennis courts, swimming pools, and mini-golf courses. In Addition, the hotel has a variety of restaurants ranging from the traditional cuisines of Ethiopia to different western dishes.
Hilton Addis is also conveniently located close to Bole International Airport. It is situated across from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Palace, and significant ministries and is only five minutes from the ECA conference center. It also provides 24hrs bank services.
During your stay at the Elilly hotel, they provide you with authentic hospitality expected from a five-star luxury hotel. The property also offers city views and a year-round outdoor pool.
Elilly International Hotel is offering international standard five-star services emphasizing the quality of modern hospitality to all Ethiopians and international visitors.
The Hotel also offers a complimentary/free sauna and steam bath, swimming pool, and gymnasium. This property is located short of attractions such as UN Conference Center Addis Ababa.
The Best Western Plus Addis Ababa is a hotel ideally located in the heart of the commercial and entertainment district of Addis Ababa, the bustling capital city of Ethiopia.
The hotel has different guest rooms with a great view of the city’s recreational areas, including a fitness center and a swimming pool. It also provides restaurant services ranging from different cuisines.
The hotel has nearby attractions such as business centers, religious centers, restaurants, bars, and Bole International Airport are all within walking distance of the hotel.
Radisson Blu Hotel in Addis Ababa is centrally located within Ethiopia’s capital city, right beside the United Nations Compound and 6 kilometers from Bole International Airport. The hotel is also a short distance from the city’s main points of interest, such as the Imperial Palace, Meskel Square, and Holy Trinity Cathedral.
The hotel has a terrace, spa center, bar and guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant. The hotel provides different restaurants under their respective cuisines, French bistro fare from our on-site restaurant being the most famous one. Radisson blu also has a bar which is a signature to the hotel, and it is well known for its refreshing cocktails.
Intercontinental (InterLuxury hotel) hotel is a five-star luxury hotel in Addis Ababa placed at the heart of Kazzanchis. The building accommodates 152 luxurious rooms, an open-air lobby, rooftop swimming pool, all day and specialty restaurants, bars, night club, health club, meeting, and conference rooms, business center, tour and travel office, FOREX office and souvenir shops, and all the services to make your visit and stay pleasant.
Traditional Cuisines Restaurants in The Capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
After visiting Addis Ababa, it would be a shame not to try the area’s specialty or traditional food. Besides the hotels mentioned above, there are several different restaurants in Addis Ababa with traditional cuisine specialties. Some of the most well-known restaurants in traditional food specialization are :
It is a renowned restaurant with Ethiopian cultural food and a live band with various singers and traditional dancers. This place is a beautiful site for anyone wanting to experience the authenticity of the culture.
2000 Habesha is the other very known cultural restaurant found in Addis Ababa. It is a great way to experience the culture of Ethiopia. The food comes buffet style, but you can also order. You can hear beautiful music and see different dances from different country areas. It is the first place to visit in Ethiopia.
Totot restaurant offers traditional cuisine from various Ethiopian cultures, the specialty being “Kitfo”, which was the gourmet dish of the South Western area of Ethiopia. It is a highly recommended place to visit to experience authentic Ethiopian food. The place also offers a nice show in the evenings and is open up to midnight and the traditional coffee ceremony of Ethiopia.
The capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, has a long history. Addis Ababa has come a long way from the time it was formed back in 1892 till now. And within the city has preserved all the past and has managed to tell its story. Addis Ababa has been through it all, from being formed in the 19th century to all the different emperors, the severing political center for both Ethiopia and Africa, and the center of other international organizations.
With the increasing infrastructures and construction such as the museums and parks mentioned above, the various hotels, and other accommodations not discussed here, Addis Ababa is ready more than any time to show and tell its story. The country’s rich culture can be seen in the different areas of the city without losing its touch. From the cultural cuisines to the coffee ceremony and much more, we can proudly say Addis Ababa is the literal embodiment of big Ethiopia. Hence the capital.
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