It's no coincidence that this capital city (pop. 1,153,000) is located where it is: Brazzaville is as far west as river traffic can go before it runs into the Congo Rapids. (The remainder of the journey to the mouth of the river has to be made by rail.) Brazzaville, which is directly across the Congo River from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, was known before the wars for its parklike setting, complete with mango and coral trees in both town and suburbs. Heavy fighting in and around the capital, however, has taken its toll. When things are more settled, Brazzaville is actually a somewhat sleepy town, except for all the economic activity along the river port. Things tend to pick up after the sun goes down—before the wars, Brazzaville was known for its nightlife and music.

Sights in town include pretty gardens, colorful markets, the Marien Ngouabi Museum (fascinating collection of masks), and the scenic Casa de Gaulle (built when the city was the African headquarters of the Free French resistance forces during World War II). Other draws when things settle down are the Basilica of St. Anne, the main mosque and the Palais du Peuple. The Congo Rapids make for a pleasant day trip—they're about 6 mi/10 km outside of town, and there are several restaurants nearby. When the situation is calmer, be sure to spend time in outlying areas, such as Poto Poto, where you can watch masks and other African handicrafts being made.

Note: Travel beyond Brazzaville is currently not advised.

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