• Stories and Events
    Stories and Events

Tracing Liberia’s Past through Monrovia’s Must-See Historical Sites

Posted on Thu February 8, 2024.

Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, holds many interesting sites for history lovers. Whether you are in Monrovia for a few days or call it home, there are many historical sights to fill your spare time. As Liberia is the oldest republic in Africa, several monuments and museums are dedicated to the country’s unique founding. Many new bustling locations in Monrovia are also worth checking out, as they are making history of their own. This guide will point you towards some of the best historical sites in Monrovia, old and new.

Providence Island
(address: Providence Island, Monrovia, Liberia)

Visitors to Providence Island can learn about the importance of the little island to the history of Liberia and West Africa. The island was a former trade post for the Portuguese and local inhabitants, and was a site of departure for those who were forcibly removed and enslaved in the Americas. 

The island is also where freed enslaved people arrived from the United States in the 1820s. Today, a few signs of its past remain, including an ancient water well and an old landing dock. Furthermore, visitors can view the foundations of original settlements inhabited by the formerly enslaved African Americans and replications of the original houses. Visitors can also see one of the country's oldest cotton trees (250 years old) and a metal tree constructed as a testament to freedom and the ability to resolve conflicts as a nation.

Visiting Providence Island is a bit tricky as you must get approval and book ahead of time through the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) to enter the island. Otherwise, you will not be able to enter the locked gates to the stairs that lead from the Gabriel Tucker Bridge to the little island. You can contact MICAT or arrange a tour through a tour company such as Visit Mama Liberia Today.

Providence Island, Liberia; Photo credit: Solimar International

Liberian National Museum
(address: 858W+M85, Monrovia, Liberia)

Not far from Providence Island, the Liberian National Museum is a great place to learn about the country's history. Visit this phenomenal little museum, which operates in the former Liberian Supreme Court building! One item on display is a 250-year-old dining room table given to Liberia's first President, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, by Queen Victoria. 

On the first floor, the museum displays art and artifacts from the numerous indigenous ethnic groups of Liberia. The exhibit offers a look at everyday items, such as quilts, baskets, and bags, as well as rarer ceremonial objects not often seen outside of their usage in rituals. The museum also holds one of its most notable exhibits on the second floor, Waves of Time. 

This exhibit explores the fascinating, tumultuous, and inspiring history of Africa's oldest republic. In a blend of history, the exhibition "reveals the triumphs and travails of freedom-seeking people in all their beauty and pathos, creativity and pain, trying to make themselves and their country healthy and whole." The museum is open from 10am-4pm every day except Sunday and tours are available! 

 Liberian National Museum; Photo credit: Solimar International

Joseph Jenkins Roberts Monument
(address: 859P+XH9, Monrovia, Liberia)

After visiting Providence Island and walking through the National Museum, head to one of the highest points in Monrovia to see the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Monument. The Joseph Jenkins Roberts Monument is a testament to the world’s first African American President. JJ Roberts was elected the first President of Liberia in 1848. The monument depicts JJ Roberts in bronze, and a relief plaque is inscribed with stories about the former President. The monument depicts his life in the US state of Virginia, his journey to Liberia, and his two terms as President of Liberia.

From the JJ Roberts Monument, visitors can enjoy views of the city and the neighboring historic Ducor Hotel. Now in ruins, the Ducor Hotel was once an iconic hotel in Monrovia and was known for its grand architecture and famous guests. The Ducor Hotel was abandoned and fell into disrepair during LIberia’s civil wars. It is now fenced off but visitors can peer in through the gates to see the grandeur still evident in its ruins. 

View from the JJ Roberts Monument, Photo credit: Solimar International

Centennial Pavilion
(address: 858W+M85, Monrovia, Liberia)

Constructed in 1947, the Centennial Pavilion was created to commemorate the country’s first 100 years. The grounds hold a monument to former Liberian President, William V.S. Tubman. Most notably, the Centennial Pavilion is the location of all Liberian Presidential Inaugurations! For more information of all the important events that have happened at the Centennial Pavilion, tours can be booked of the property. The pavilion also hosts an event every July 26th, which is the day commemorated in Liberia as the day of independence. As it is right next to the Liberian National Museum, a stopover in the Centennial Pavilion is a must-do to learn more about the important events that have occurred under its roof.

Centennial Pavilion; Photographer: Solimar International

Waterside Market
(address: 85CV+J7V, Monrovia, Liberia)

Waterside Market is a bustling community spot that is always lively during the day. A gathering spot for various vendors, there is a wide variety of places to buy food, drink, traditional cloth, clothing, and trinkets. The market is full of vibrant colors from the various clothing and decorations for sale. 

While this may not be entirely a historical site, it is a great way to understand the culture of Liberia and its people. If nothing else, you’ll certainly gain an understanding of the history of Liberia’s most famous local foods! As this market can be quite overwhelming, go with a group and do not bring more than what you need to buy a few items.

Waterside Market vendor; Photographer: Solimar International

Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex (SKD) & Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS)
(SKD address: 774X+Q5W, Mills Center, Liberia)
(ATS address: 855W+C6F, United Nations Drive, Monrovia)

For sports history fans, the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex (SKD) and the Antoinette Tubman Stadium are fascinating visits. The SKD is the largest stadium in Liberia and is the home of the Liberian National Football Team. While the Antoinette Tubman Stadium is in Monrovia, the SKD is just outside the city limits. 

The Antoinette Tubman Stadium is named after First Lady Antoinette Tubman, the wife of President William Tubman. The stadium can hold up to 10,000 spectators. The seats are close to the actual field, creating an intimate viewing experience. The stadium is a multi-purpose stadium and, most notably, is used by the Liberian National Football Team when they aren’t playing at the SKD. The stadium is also where local team Liberian Football Club won their first game in the Confederation of African Football Champions League in 2018, beating Al-Hilal from Sudan. If you’re lucky enough to attend a game at the stadium, enjoy getting swept up in the roar of the crowd as fans cheer on their team. Tickets for the games can be bought at the stadium.

There are so many fascinating historical sites in Monrovia. If you have a few days in Monrovia or if you live there, check out these sites, learn more about Liberia, and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city along the way.

Want to learn more?

If you are interested in learning more about travel, history, and culture in Liberia, follow Enjoy Liberia Travel on Instagram and Facebook

Instagram: @enjoy_liberia_travel

Facebook: @enjoyliberiatravel