Nightlife in São Tomé is limited; with only a few establishments in the capital staying open long enough for visitors to catch a couple of drinks with friends. Luckily, the same cannot be said for the dining options in the country, which are plentiful and diverse. There are many local establishments which are worth a try, but there are also several international restaurants which add variety to the mix. Visitors should not miss out on sampling the local favorite, feijoada, a tasty beef, pork, and bean stew that has been served here since the island’s period of Portuguese rule.
São Tomé e Príncipe Bars and Pubbing
There really isn’t much nightlife on any of São Tomé’s islands, with most establishments closing shortly after most restaurants have had their dinner rush. Most of the fun takes place at restaurants, which host live music nights or simply keep their doors open later than usual so locals and travelers alike can have a few drinks before heading home. Even though there isn’t a large drinking culture in the country, beer and other alcoholic beverages can be purchased almost everywhere at relatively low prices.
Even though São Tomé has no British heritage, this hasn’t stopped at least one traditional English style pub popping up. The Blue Lagoon (Rua Damao Sinecia, São Tomé, City Center) is a local drinking hole that is a favorite with locals and tourists alike. The atmosphere here is relaxed and the barkeep offers everything from locally-brewed beers to Portuguese Vinho Verde.
A similar establishment to The Blue Lagoon, but one that is definitely less pub-like, is Papa Figo (Ave Kwame N’Kruma, São Tomé, City Center). During the day, this venue is a normal restaurant but at night, it keeps its doors open and serves up rounds of beer and whiskey. Meals are served into the night as well for those who feel like a snack.
Perhaps the largest expat hangout in the country, Café e Companhia(São Tomé, City Center) has become the place to be and to be seen. Known colloquially as MJ’s, the bar is a great place to knock back a few drinks and meet some new people. The highlight of the week is the live music jazz night which takes place on Thursday.
São Tomé e Príncipe Dining and Cuisine
Travelers should be warned that when dining in São Tomé, most local dishes are spicy to the point of perspiration and that non-spicy dishes need to be specifically requested. There are, however, also many international options available for travelers looking for home comforts, mostly in the capital. Tipping at both local and international restaurants is not customary.
The best place to try the local cuisine is at Mionda (Angolares Bay). Located near St John Plantation, this little place has a rustic charm. But don’t let its looks deceive you - Mionda serves up great local dishes bursting with flavor and the freshest seafood, caught and prepared right before your eyes.
Located right next to the Pestana Hotel, O Pirata (Avenida Marginal 12 de Julho, 851, São Tomé) is a São Toméan favorite. Known mostly for serving up the best egg-and-bacon breakfasts in town, O Pirata offers its patrons a wide range of international cuisines. But the best part of the restaurant is perhaps its location, right next to the beautiful ocean.
For a taste of the finer things that São Tomé has to offer, head to the wonderful Plantation in St John (São João dos Angolares) which is a stylish restaurant that offers gourmet meals served in multiple courses. A sophisticated and upscale atmosphere prevails. Reservations are essential as seats fill up quickly.
Travelers with a sweet tooth will love Padaria Moderna (Rua do Municipio, City Center, São Tomé City). This humble little establishment is one of the best bakeries on the island, offering customers such sweet treats as croissants, Danishes, and delicious cakes. There are also a few savory options on offer.