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Cape Verde > Pictures and travelogues > The Plateau of Praia in Santiago Island

Pictures from Praia in Santiago Island, Cape Verde: the Plateau, Albuquerque Square, the Cultural Center, and the National Lyceum.

Albuquerque Square on the Plateau in Praia
Alexandre Albuquerque Square on the Plateau in Praia in Santiago Island, Cape Verde.

Santiago is the largest island (991 km²) and by far the most populous (almost 300,000 inhabitants) of the Cape Verde archipelago. Like Maio, Fogo and Brava, Santiago Island is part of the Sotavento (leeward) Islands which are located in the southern area of the archipelago.

The city of Praia is located to the south of Santiago Island. Praia is the administrative and economic capital of the country. The historic center of the city lies on a promontory, called the Plateau, which includes the Palace of the President of the country, a military garrison, the Court, the Hospital Agostinho Neto, a large market, the offices of several administrations, banks, shops and the National Lyceum.

Albuquerque Square is the main square in the Plateau. You find there among others the Our Lady of Grace (Nossa Senhora da Graça) Cathedral and a bandstand. The President's Palace, the Casa do Cidadão, and the headquarters of TACV airlines are set up only a few meters away from the square.

The Quartel Jaime Mota (military barracks dating from 1826, therefore one of the oldest colonial buildings of the island) and the statue of Diogo Gomes are also situated near the square. There are some plans to convert parts of the Quartel into a museum. Diogo Gomes is the Portuguese navigator who discovered Santiago in 1460. His statue at the southern end of the Plateau overlooks the sea and the islet of Santa Maria.

Peinture capverdienne
Cape Verdean painting on display at the Cultural Center on the Plateau in Praia (Santiago Island, Cape Verde). 

The Palácio da Cultura Ildo Lobo (Cultural center of Praia) is also located around Albuquerque Square on the Plateau.

The square of  May 10 (also called Praça Luis de Camões or Pracinha da Escola Grande)  is located on the Plateau a little further in the direction of the hospital, near the small Ethnographic Museum. Cultural events are held occasionally in that square.

Domingos Ramos Lyceum  (formerly National Lyceum) is the main secondary school in Praia, Santiago Island (Cape Verde).
The first secondary school in Praia was founded in 1861. However, it closed later on due to lack of support from the colonial power. The school opened the doors again in 1960, about 100 years after its foundation, under the name of Adriano Moreira Lyceum.

Since the independence of the country in July 1975, the school has been named after Domingos Ramos, a hero of the war of liberation. It is currently located in the eponymous square at the northern end of the Plateau. In the meantime, other secondary schools opened in Praia.

Outside of the Plateau, the main tourist area of Praia is the residential district of Prainha where the small Prainha beach and several hotels are located. The National Assembly and several foreign embassies (however, the embassy of the United States is situated on the Plateau) are also located in the district of Prainha. Quebra Canela with a larger beach and a shopping center lies a bit farther.

Gamboa Beach (also called Santa Maria Beach because it is just in front of the uninhabited islet of Santa Maria) is located between the Plateau and Prainha. The port of Praia is situated just on the other side of the Bay. It is planned to build a hotel-casino on the islet of Santa Maria. The beach of Santa Maria gives its name to the city ("Praia" means beach in Portuguese).

Praia is the main business travel destination to Cape Verde. Tourists who are looking for beach holidays and water sports (windsurfing, kitesurfing and more) in Cape Verde prefer usually to stay in other islands of the Cape Verde archipelago such as Sal or Boa Vista because these islands offer more facilities for beach holidaymakers.

Tourists visit Santiago Island mainly to discover the own assets (historical, cultural and natural attractions) of the largest island of the archipelago. Among others, the first capital of the Portuguese colonial era, Ribeira Grande, now called Cidade Velha ("old city"), is located only a few kilometers away from Praia.

In addition, Santiago is connected by air to 5 other islands of the archipelago so that Praia is a convenient stopover when tourists plan to visit the other islands of the country, especially the islands that are not served by international flights (Fogo, Maio, and to some extent São Vicente).


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Pictures from Praia in Santiago Island, Cape Verde: the Plateau, Albuquerque Square, the Cultural Center, and the National Lyceum