Antananarivo Madagascar is a unique city unlike any in Africa. Founded during the 1600s, it has a lengthy history and rich heritage and though today its people strive to bring it closer to modernity, original charms are still present along with plenty of interesting attractions. The city thrives, moving to the beat of its own drum, a mix of both old and new. Just 95 miles inland from the eastern coast, Antananarivo is situated atop a steep ridge, a location which once made it simple to defend against attackers sailing in on the Indian Ocean.
The name, meaning “city of 1,000,” alludes to the soldiers believed to have safeguarded the city when it was first inaugurated, during the period when King Andrianjaka ruled. The French took control of the city and Madagascar the country in the late 1800s and acted quickly to expand the city, with dozens of newly constructed roads and buildings. It wasn’t until 1960 that the country took back control, seizing control from the French in 1960.
Today, the population of Antananarivo Madagscar, also called “Tana” for short, stands at around 1.5 million people. Thousands visit each year, mostly there to visit Madagascar national parks and stroll along the scenic tree-lined Avenue of Baobabs. There are many points of interest to visit including several nature reserves where rich, endemic wildlife species exist, the Queen’s Palace, Ambohimanga Royal Hill, and the Prime Minister’s residence.
Tana also offers up steep, stair-pierced hills, rice paddies, old churches and quaint cobble stone streets giving way to lively, colorful markets locally called ‘zomas’. Independence Square in the center of town is a good place to find some interesting shopping stops, restaurants, and architecture. Original wooden homes mix with French Colonial construction and contemporary office buildings, creating an eclectic look. A walk around mixed with an taxi ride or two is the best way to explore; head to the upper pat of town by cab and take a walk around the area. A common site in developing areas, Antananarivo Madagascar features scores of modern restaurants, cafes, and shops interspersed with a large amount of poverty. You will find a variety of excellent hotels in the city.