As addictive as caffeine, Lagos is a sprawling city of bridges, creeks and rivers that link its island and mainland areas. A bursting-at-the-seams population and back history of shrewdly political, artistic and entrepreneurial characters has had an impact on the energetic rhythm of this West African metropolis. Whatever you choose to do on business in Lagos, the place will definitely leave you with a visually vibrant impression.
Where to stay: Depending on whether you’re more of a laid-back or strictly business traveller, Lagos offers a good selection of high, mid or more grassroots accommodation that suits all types of visits to the city. One of the relatively newer names that regularly crops up is The Wheatbaker in Ikoyi. A boutique hotel next to the upscale Banana Island neighbourhood, it’s a popular spot for quiet business meetings, dips in the hotel pool and intimate dinner dates.
The more rambunctious, sixteen-room Bogobiri Guest House, also in Ikoyi, is an afrocentrically-designed option that has done well to attract an eclectic crowd of international guests who tend to be more artistically minded. Popular with journalists, the venue is a good hangout for live music, culture and has a popular in-house restaurant that serves up wonderful, fresh breakfasts for guests.
Where to eat: To the new Lagos visitor, the city’s cosmopolitan restaurant scene often comes as a surprise. Everything from Mexican to Japanese, Italian or Lebanese food can be found on the Island or mainland. Of course, if your palette craves some authentic West African flavours, a perennial favourite is the restaurant at the Terra Kulture cultural centre in Victoria Island. Here, you’ll find platters of homemade Nigerian and continental cuisine in the food lounge, where well-spiced, authentic choices of pepper soup, jollof or white rice with chicken, beef or fish options share the menu with drinks such as palm wine, which is usually only found in bukkas (fast food canteens).
Café Royale is a well-established spin-off of its downstairs French-style patisserie Chocolate Royale. The larger, upstairs restaurant is a bright, glass-clad venue with a menu that includes large, refreshing salads as well as pizzas, pastas and burgers. A mini boutique – Pleasures – sits within the restaurant and has a small selection of jewellery and accessories.
Quiet solace between meetings can be pretty hard to find on business in Lagos, but there are a few cosy spaces, such as Ikoyi’s BC Garden Café, found at the back of the Omenka Gallery, overlooking the Lagos lagoon. A modest-sized venue with a lush garden area, its menu mainly consists of soups, finger foods, barbeques and a range of hot and cold drinks.
Where to go for evening drinks: No visit to Lagos would be complete without getting a panoramic, bird’s eye view of Lagos lagoon, and arguably the best spot for this is the Sky Restaurant and Lounge at the top of the Eko Hotel in Victoria Island. A perfect “˜date night’ venue, the bartenders will whip up a cocktail from their extensive list, ready for you to linger over while you cast your eye over the expansive layout of the Nigerian coast from this lofty, penthouse-style drinking spot.
In Ikoyi, the lounge bar at Ember Creek Waterfront is a lively place for drinks and parties, with a terrace, waterside seats and a pool.
Top Sights: For links with Lagos’s history, key landmarks such as Tafawa Balewa Square on Lagos Island are worth seeking out. Built in 1972 and named after Nigeria’s first prime minister, the site was once a horseracing track, and has huge concrete horses at the entrance gates as a nod to the past.
For those seeking an alternative type of culture, the art scene in Lagos has been steadily flourishing over the last few years. The African Artists’ Foundation in Ikoyi is a cavernous gallery space, as well as the HQ for the annual Lagos Photo Festival. Just down the road from there, the Nimbus art Gallery displays artwork by mainly African artists from a well designed space above the Bogobiri Guest House.
A welcome addition to the cultural scene is the Kalakuta Museum, once the home of music icon Fela Kuti, and now renovated to house a fascinating collection of his stage clothes, instruments as well as paintings and photographs that document his life.
Great gifts: Specialist wine stores are few and far between in Lagos, so for a romantic gift, XO Wines is a one-stop boutique store for high end brands, including global luxury bottles of Champagne and Cognac. Private, but very social wine tastings also take place at the venue throughout the year.
If you’re looking for something quirkier, the Jazzhole is perfect for music-based gifts, books and photography. A well-established hangout, a visit here might mean you’re lucky enough to witness a jam or rehearsal sessions by local musicians. For more mainstream and family-oriented choices, Quintessence is a gift shop where jewellery, crafts, books and toys are all piled high in a space that’s perfect for browsing.
Going local: Contemplative green spaces are hard to come by in this city, and although Freedom Park on Broad Street in Lagos Island is more of an outdoor events venue than a meditative public space, it’s a welcome patch of grass, ponds and sculptural architecture that offers a respite from the city. Once the site of Broad Street prison, the park re-opened as a public space in 2010 and is now a go-to spot for fashion and craft shows, live music events and even has a heritage museum. The park is also the site for the recently launched the Enye store – a one-stop shop for homemade art, customised African bedding, textiles and afro decorations.
Where to break curfew: If you’re in town in October, two major festivals to check out are the month-long Lagos Photo, which showcases the work of African or Africa-inspired photographers in various indoor and outdoor spaces throughout the city, and the annual Felabration festival of music and arts that celebrates the life of Nigeria’s biggest music icon.
Otherwise, if you want an anytime excuse to dance into the small hours, The New Afrika Shrine nightclub is the spiritual home of Fela Kuti, where bands and musicians (including Fela’s son Femi Kuti, when he’s in town) play live sets that regularly draw in locals and expats.
Virgin Atlantic operates daily direct flights to Lagos from London Heathrow. Book your business trip today.
Have you been on business in Lagos? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Nana Ocran