Brazzaville, founded in the 1800s, is the capital of the Republic of Congo. Sitting on the mighty Congo River in the southeast corner of the country, it is a quieter capital than the one that sits right across the wide river: the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital of Kinshasa.

Even prior to the past civil unrest, Brazzaville was a thriving and modern metropolis with a cultural scene that still takes cues from the French. Moroccan and Lebanese influences are also present in local culinary offerings, signaling that expatriates are returning to the city in the wake of the past conflicts. The city is defined by quaint cafes, mid-century architecture, and a plethora of markets brimming with carvings, paintings, and other crafts produced by local artisans. Piles of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables are also on display.

Brazzaville has a slower pace and is less populated. The riverside embankment provides views of the Congo River while travelers dine on plaintains or a pineapple smoothie. Sip on some fresh coffee with a croissant in one of the cafes.

At the bar Le Main Bleu, see well dressed men in colorful, tailored suits, and congregate for an evening of drinks and dancing to the lively local music that incorporates the bongos.

Churches and mosques co-mingle in Brazzaville. The Basilique Saint Anne built in 1979 by a French architect who liked to fuse Western and local building techniques. The dazzling green roof and copper doors welcome the residents in dressed in beautiful printed textiles.

Learn about the local history at the Musee National du Congo which is free for visitors. Exhibits mingle tribal masks and artifacts with the colonial history of the area.

Tree-lined boulevards and pastel-colored colonial buildings add pops of color to Brazzaville. This is often the starting point of a journey further north for travelers wanting to witness the primates and remote wilderness of the national park to the north of the country which is far less developed.