Walking Tour of Addis Ababa with Nightjar Tours


Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia and at an altitude of 2355 m it is on a par with South American capitals like La Paz and Quito, and it is currently home to some four million people. It has not always been the capital city in the long history of Ethiopia, the few forerunners include Axum and Lalibela. In the 1880s Minilik, a powerful figure of the time had his administrative centre at Entoto, north of the present city, and chosen for its strategic position. This mountain site became increasingly difficult to provision, especially in firewood. In 1887 his Consort Empress Taitu found a lower lying area to the south with hot springs and settled there permanently, calling it Addis Ababa. He followed in 1889 on becoming Emperor Minilik II.

The modern city dates from this time developing with the building of the Emperor’s palace, celebratory monuments, the growth of public utilities and the solution to the perennial fuel problem of large Ethiopian communities by the introduction of the fast growing Australian eucalyptus tree. Following Emperors, in particular during the long reign of Haile Sillasse, added to the public institutions like the university, residential accommodation and infrastructure generally: the railway to the coast cemented the capital status. The Italian occupation (1936 - 1941), a traumatic period for the Ethiopians, left its mark as well as they segregated the community and, amongst other measures, provided a main market for Ethiopians only. This market (the Merkato) has developed into possibly the largest open air market in Africa, attracting thousands daily and is a trading centre for the whole of the country.

Our walking tour encompasses the areas known as Sidist Kilo, Arat Kilo, Gyorgis (St. George Cathedral area), Churchill Avenue and the Railway Station. During the tour there will be stops at the most significant places. The tour gives the historical background to the major monuments in Addis Ababa and an historical and current commentary on public institutions, landmarks and aspects of daily life along the route.

The walk is taken at an easy pace and will last about 3 ¾ hours - including a coffee break midway.

The programme
-9:00am- Meet your guide at Sidist Kilo at the entrance of Dibab Cafe and Restaurant exactly opposite to the main gate of the main campus of Addis Ababa University.

Here, first, we have an introductory talk about the tour. Second, we hear about the immediate area. At this spot we note there is a monument to the German political philosopher Karl Marx (1818-1883), erected in 1984; we will get an explanation why it is here. While viewing the imposing main gate of Addis Ababa University, we learn about the development of the main campus of the University from being simply Emperor Haile-Sillasse's palace to the present day.

We walk on to Yekatit 12 Square, where we stop to see the monument commemorating thousands of Ethiopians massacred by the Italians in 1937. This action, carried out by the Italian Fascists for days, starting on 19 February 1937 (which was the 12th day of the Ethiopian month of Yekatit). Erected in 1955, the Yekatit 12 monument was a gift from President Tito of Yugoslavia.

We walk on towards Arat Kilo with brief stops on the way to sight the residence of the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and then the first modern school in the city which was founded by Emperor Minilik II in 1907.

Arriving at Arat Kilo, we hear about the Victory Monument there which commemorates the Ethiopian victory over the Italians which ended their occupation of Ethiopia in 1941.

10.00am finds us on our way to Ras Mekonin Bridge, named after the father of Emperor Haile Sillasse. We will have a short diversion (for about 10 minutes) to visit a spring named after Ras Mekonin. On the way to the spring you see an Armenian church dedicated to St. George. Addis Ababa was home to a large Armenian community especially before the Italian occupation in 1936.

We move on to Emperor Minilik II Square near St. George’s Cathedral. The route from Ras Mekonin Bridge to the Minilik II Square is on gentle rising ground. In the square we see the equestrian statue of the Emperor, cast in Berlin by Carl Haertel and erected in 1930, gracing the square named after him. Minilik II was one of the most significant sovereigns of Ethiopia. Among other achievements he is famous for founding Addis Ababa in 1887 and defeating the Italians at the battle of Adwa in 1896. St. George’s Cathedral standing nearby was erected to mark that 1896 victory.

We move on to Abuna (Father) Petros Square. Abuna Petros was a high profile personality who had been playing an active role in the resistance against the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. He was executed on 30 July 1936.The statue in the square was erected in July 1946.

The next stop is at Emperor Tewodros II square on Churchill Avenue. On the way we spot landmarks such as the old post office which served as a business complex for Mohamedally and Company in 1930s. Mohamedally and Company was a flourishing Indian owned business in Ethiopia until the Italians closed it down in September 1937.

The square dedicated to Emperor Tewodros II (reigned 1855-1868) on Churchill Avenue is now graced by a replica of an enlarged version of the cannon the Emperor produced in 1860s as part of his bid to modernise his army.

At about this stage in the walk, around 11.00, we will stop for a quarter of an hour for a coffee/toilet break.

We move on to the Tiglachin Monument erected in 1984 to mark the 10th Anniversary of the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution.

This is an appropriate place to outline the course of the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution which marked the end of Haile Sillasse's rule and indeed the monarchy. It also ushered in fundamental political, economic and social changes in the country. Though initially popular, the revolution ended up being hijacked by the military junta, the Derg, which ruled the country to 1991.

At about 12.00 we arrive at our next point of interest, the National Theatre which used to be called Haile-Sillasse I Theatre until the 1974 revolution. Close to the Theatre we have a monument of a crowned lion, representing the Lion of Judea, the emblem of the Ethiopian monarchy. We hear about their origins, both being erected to mark the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of Haile Sillasse I (reigned 1930-1974).

Finally we walk to the Railway Station which has connected Addis Ababa with Djibouti since 1917. Here we hear about the importance of the railway in ensuring the permanency of Addis Ababa as the capital city and in facilitating modern transportation. We will finish the tour after any final questions and concluding remarks.

-The price for the walking tour programme is 1000 birr for 1-5 participants. For a group of 6 and above participants 200/person. This has to be paid in cash at the end of the tour.

- Participants need to be registered in advance by emailing to book places on the date they wish to join the tour.

- If possible, in your email, please include your cell phone number to enable us to let you of any specific joining instructions you may need.

-Please send your email to:
or call us at: +251 911335722.

-Times during the tour are approximate.

-Good walking shoes are recommended.

-We advise participants to be prepared for a sunny day during the dry season (September-May) which means a hat and sunscreen are essential. During the rainy season (June-August), though it is unlikely to rain all the time, we suggest be prepared with a rain coat and umbrella.

-For people who want to have some transport service either to the starting point or for dropping off at the end of the tour we can organize minivans. The price has to be negotiated in advance. Please let us know your requirements in your registration email.

Since the above porgramme has been launched, we have found out that many clients like to visit Addis Ababa's main market, Merkato (the largest market in Africa) as part of the Walking Tour of Addis Ababa. For interested clients, it is possible to incorporate the market in the tour.


Dear Dawit, Let me thank you for your masterful performance as tour guide; we learned far more about Ethiopia than we had expected.  Cordially,

M. Crawford Young
Professor Emeritus
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Mobile: +251 911 335722

P.O.Box:  30131, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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