"He who does not know Mindelo, does not know Cape Verde" sang Manuel de Novas in one of these famous mornas. It is also here that Cesaria Evora, the "barefoot diva", was born and died. Mindelo is the cultural capital of the country: cosmopolitan, festive and artistic. The town began to take off in the 19th century when an English firm set up a coal depot there. The port then becomes an ideal stopover on the way to Brazil. At the end of the 19th century, 1,500 ships anchored there every year, and trade flourished. The competition starts between Mindelo and Praia, but it is finally Praia that will be chosen to become the administrative capital of Cape Verde. Mindelo loses economic opportunities but cultivates its artistic fibre, which becomes a springboard for tourism. It is also with the creation of a telegraphic centre between Europe and Brazil and the passage of many sailors that the port will create its international reputation, sometimes festive, sometimes licentious. Geographically, the city is set in a bay. It is well-structured, with spacious squares, wide avenues and lively, animated neighbourhoods. A little "British" touch, with these preserved colonial buildings, gives it an extra charm. Also look out for the sobrados, typical Portuguese buildings. Not to be missed in Mindelo: the replica of the tower of Belém at the end of the esplanade (free exhibitions), and the Governor's Palace which will dazzle you with its shades of pink and yellow (it is unfortunately not open to the public). Behind the palace is the high school (liceu), in the former garrison. Also pass through the oldest square in the town, Praçinha de Igreja ("little church square"). Not to be missed: the Lisboa street evoked in many songs, where you will find bars and restaurants. Finally, Amilcar Cabral Square is the meeting place for night owls. The nerve centre of the evenings, it is also the heart of the festivities during the carnival. Other typical and warm places: the markets of Mindelo. The one with the fish is the most picturesque. In a pleasant hustle and bustle, you can observe impressive specimens of tuna, a wide variety of fish and typical facies: marked and chiselled faces, intense glances, rocky voices... It is even more striking in women, wearing brightly coloured scarves and often wearing a pipe. Beautiful murals depict the daily life of Cape Verdeans. All along this avenue, the small buildings have kept their colonial aspect and a general renovation with the development of a small public square would give even more charm to this place which deserves to be so lively at night. Equipped with piano bars, restaurants, ice-cream parlours, games rooms, tree-lined pedestrian walkways and benches facing the sea, this avenue, which stretches to Laginha beach, is an ideal route for a nice stroll. The small vegetable market, located in a high building with beautiful architecture, can be seen in a bird's eye view from the two floors, occupied by a shopping mall. The market in Praça Estrela ("Plaza de l'Etoile") hosts a huge bazaar where everything is sold: clothes, shoes, cameras, radios, ointments, body and hair creams... Most of the stands are run by West African traders (Senegal, Mali, Guinea...) and Cape Verdean mamas. You will see interesting azulejos, the famous Portuguese blue ceramic paintings. Finally, go to the brand new marina where restaurants and shops are located and you can even enjoy the swimming pool (for a few escudos). Mindelo is therefore the cradle of Cape Verdean culture, its artistic center. This small country is full of artists of all kinds: singers and musicians of course but also painters, sculptors, poets... You can go through the small national handicraft centre behind the Amilcar Cabral square. It provides an opportunity for artists to exhibit their weaving creations, including batik, as well as basketry, paintings, ship models and reproductions of art brut: vehicles made from cans, in the spirit of African creations.

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