Celebrate your heritage around the globe. (Photo: Getty Images)

Black Travel

6 Destinations for Exploring Black Culture Around the World

Travelers have the unique opportunity to learn about diverse cultures born of the African diaspora while crisscrossing the globe. Its influence is present in almost every destination around the world.

So Marriott Bonvoy Traveler checked in with Black travel influencers, journalists and business owners to find out which destinations provide travelers with the most transformative cultural experiences rooted in Black culture.

Here’s a list of six of their favorite picks to add to your travel bucket list. As always, check for travel restrictions, closures and advisories before planning your trip.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Street in Amsterdam along the canal in the late afternoon.
Take a stroll along Amsterdam’s storied canals. (Photo: Getty Images)

Amsterdam may not be the first place people would conjure as a hub for Black culture. And yet. “There are so many Black people there, including Surinamese, Guyanese and Arubans,” says Martinique Lewis, president of the Black Travel Alliance and author of the ABC Travel Green Book. “It has some of the richest Black history in the world.”

She’s right. Book a Black Heritage Tour to learn how people of African descent have impacted Amsterdam as far back as the 16th century. At this time, the first Black community of men, women and children lived among the city’s wealthiest merchants.

Plus there’s plenty of Black history to explore on your own. Ride a bike to Nelson Mandela Park, visit the Slavery Monument to commemorate the end of slavery in the Netherlands, and flip through more than 3,000 books about Black Dutch writers and scientists at The Black Archives.

Amsterdam is home to more than 20 Black-owned businesses, including Labyrinth, where you can dine on soul food while listening to spoken word. Or stop by fashion brand Daily Paper’s flagship store to browse curated collections, art books and more.

Harlem, New York

From 1916 to 1970, waves of African Americans moved from the rural U.S. South to different regions of the country. This Great Migration created a surge in Black residents in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, sparking a cultural renaissance.

“It’s the most iconic Black enclave in the United States that celebrates the culture of the African diaspora,” says Candacy Taylor, a cultural documentarian and author of Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America. “[Harlem] hosts the largest African American Day Parade in America and a varied and vibrant collection of historic landmarks, parks, shops, restaurants, nightclubs and magnificent 19th-century architecture.”

Notable fixtures in the neighborhood include the Apollo Theater, where legendarily critical crowds are known to have booed now-famous performers, such as Prince. Art lovers will enjoy a stroll through Studio Museum to view work from artists of African descent.

Bibliophiles can take a tour of the townhouse where Black author and poet Langston Hughes lived for the last two decades of his life. And if it’s Black history you seek, visit the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg is the closest one can get to real-life Wakanda: It’s edgy, progressive, cosmopolitan and happens to be the richest city on the continent,” says travel and lifestyle journalist Travis Levius.

Levius recommends a visit to a shisa nyama, a barbecue (or braai) where people grill meat in an open fire while locals sway to DJs or live performances. Moja Café, Busy Corner and Bafokeng Corner are a few recommended shisa nyamas in Johannesburg.

Joburg’s historical landmarks include the Apartheid Museum, which captures South Africa’s struggle for racial equality and democracy through hundreds of artifacts and chilling personal stories. Soweto, the Mandela Museum and shopping in the vibrant Maboneng Precinct also offer travelers a taste of local African culture.

Paris, France

View of the Eiffel Tower from Tocadero Square.
Be yourself in Paris. (Photo: Getty Images)

Since the 19th century, Paris has been a haven for African Americans trying to escape racism. Author and poet Langston Hughes described it best, “Paris. … There you can be whatever you want to be. Totally yourself.”

Hughes and other famous Black celebrities traveled more than 3,000 miles to escape inequality in America, and they received a warm welcome in the City of Light. “This revelation made Paris an exceptional place and one I would recommend to anyone interested in an authentic exploration of Black culture,” says Erick Prince, a travel journalist and founder of MinorityNomad.com.

In Paris, book a walking tour with Entrée to Black Paris or Walking the Spirit Tours to discover African Diaspora connections and influences on Parisian landmarks and culture.

See where Black author James Baldwin led a march in support of Dr. King’s March on Washington in 1963. Walk in the footsteps of Black writers, such as African American author Richard Wright. Get the deets about French writer Alexandre Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, and his Black ancestors.

Relive the Roaring ’20s with a stroll through the Black Montmartre community where entertainer Josephine Baker and jazz saxophonist Sidney Bechet lived.

Houston, Texas

It isn’t just Beyoncé’s hometown. Houston also has its share Black cultural sites. A social hub for the city’s local African American community, Emancipation Park commemorates Juneteenth, the day news finally arrived that President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Other must-see stops include Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, where artifacts date back to the American Revolution, and the Eldorado Ballroom, where James Brown, Ray Charles, Tina Turner and other music legends performed.

According to Kerwin McKenzie, travel hacker and blogger for Passrider.com, one way to discover Houston’s Black history is to visit the 200-year-old College Memorial Park Cemetery, once divided into separate burial places for white or Black residents.

“There are many stories about the Black cemetery that are just never told,” says McKenzie. “Have your phone ready to Google the names of the people you see on the headstones.”

Continue your tour with a visit to Olivewood Cemetery, the first African American Cemetery in Houston and the final resting place for more than 4,000 African American Houstonians, including freed slaves.

Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

View of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
Take in the historical architecture. (Photo: Getty Images)

This coastal city was Brazil’s first capital, and more than 80 percent of its population is of African descent.

“Salvador and the state of Bahia serve as the birthplace of typically ‘Brazilian’ cultural markers: the martial art of capoeira; the syncretic religion of Candomblé … ; the samba de roda … ; and feijoada … Brazil’s national dish,” says Ernest White II, journalist and producer of the TV docuseries FLY BROTHER with Ernest White II on PBS.

No trip here is complete without strolling along the cobblestone streets of Salvador’s historic quarter, Pelourinho. Despite its dark past as a center for human trafficking and chattel slavery in the 16th century, the district has become a popular hub filled with restaurants and nightlife.

“The vibrant color, inescapable music and scrumptious food of Pelourinho speaks to the human ability to rise above suffering and thrive in the face of it,” said White.