Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Accra
Better known by locals as Old Accra, the Ga-Mashie district of the city is home base for Ghana’s Ga people, the original settlers of the capital. This relatively small geographic area is rich with national culture, history and heritage, including Ussher Town and James Town. These densely populated fishing villages may be economically deprived, but their iconic structures from the colonial era and kinetic energy make Ga-Mashie a destination for travellers.
The district lies between the Densu River and the Chemmu lagoon, just north of the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors can explore the bustling fishing villages, where men are taught to weave nets and hallow canoes by hand. Or visit with the artisans, carpenters, masons and tailors who while away the day using ancient methods and long-perfected techniques. An afternoon in Ga-Mashie puts travelers in touch with Ghana’s age-old traditions, right next to its thriving new economy.
After being enslaved in the western world, a group of about 70 Tabom people returned from Brazil to their home country of Ghana in the late 1800s. Upon arrival they built this empire-era house as an homage to their rich heritage, difficult past and unique traditions. Today, travelers can visit this site where returning families reestablished themselves as members of the community, and learned local languages and traditions, despite speaking only Portuguese.
The home, with its fertile plots of mangoes and cassava, also serves as a museum, with halls that display artifacts and images from the past, as well as outline the impact of the Tabom people on modern-day Ghana. These once oppressed people returned to Ghana with skills and stories, and introduced the art of irrigation, architecture, blacksmithing and tailoring to the residents of Accra.
Built by the British in 1673, the now decaying Fort James serves as a reminder of former colonial rule. The trading post operated as a prison until 2008, when local investigators discovered the structure, which was built to house just 50 people, was actually holding more than 1,000—sometimes 90 inmates to a single room.
Today the defunct penitentiary attracts visitors looking to learn about the nation’s past and explore the haunting life of those who were convicted, but due to human rights concerns, Fort James no longer serves as a functional Accra prison.