Cotonou Cathedral

Travel to Cotonou – Benin’s Largest City

Cotonou is Benin’s economic capital as well as its largest city. The city lies in the southeast of the country, between the Atlantic Ocean and Nokoué Lake. The city is home to many government buildings and therefore it is Benin’s de facto capital, even though the official capital is Porto-Novo. The city is also a major port. Places of interest here include mosques and cathedrals.

The name ‘Cotonou’ means ‘the mouth of the river of death’ in the Fon language. At the beginning of the 19th century, Cotonou (then spelled Kotonou) was merely a small fishing village. Originally dominated by the Kingdom of Dahomey, in 1851 the French made a treaty with the Dahomean King Ghezo that allowed them to establish a trading post at Cotonou. During the reign of Glele, his successor (1858-89), the territory was ceded to France by a treaty signed on May 19, 1868. In 1883, the French navy occupied the city to prevent British conquest of the area. After Glele’s death in 1889, his son Behanzin tried, unsuccessfully, to challenge the treaty. From then on, the town developed quickly to become the largest harbour in the region.

The main attractions here include a cathedral, a mosque and the market. Cotonou Cathedral or Notre Dame des Apotres is a Roman Catholic cathedral which is located near the Ancien Pont Bridge. The cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cotonou and it is recognisable by its distinct burgundy and white striped tiled architecture. Other places of interest are Cotonou Central Mosque, Ancien Pont Bridge and Dantokpa Market.

Simply tour the city taking in the sights of the cathedral and mosque or meet the locals at the busy Dantokpa Market.

  • Admire the beautiful red and white tiled cathedral.
  • Shop for stunning African textiles at the local market.
  • Tour the sights of the city including the mosque, cathedral and university.


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