Libreville, French for "free town", was established in 1848 after a French ship operating out of Fort d'Aumale (named after the then youngest son of the King of France, Duke of Aumale) captured the Portuguese slave ship "Eliziz" in 1846 on route to Brazil and took the 260 freed slaves initially to Goree Island in Senegal. The French later took thirty of these freed slaves and used them to help build a new Catholic village at Libreville broadening the scope of the military fort of Fort d'Aumale which was abandoned in 1850 to a wider settlement by 1852. Over the next few years the embryonic community was swelled by other former slaves, much to the frustration of the indigenous Mpongwe population who had inhabited the area for about 2,000 years.
The town quickly became a popular trading port for many nations including the Germans, British and Americans and held the status of being the chief port of French Equatorial Africa until the end of the Second World War. Following independence from France in 1960, Libreville remained Gabon's capital and today has a population of some 845,000 (2021). It is seen as one of sub-Saharan Africa's most prosperous cities with a vibrant ship building industry (the country's most important export) as well as brewing and lumber industries. Libreville also exports wood, rubber and cocoa through its port on the north bank of the Estuaire de Gabon that takes produce down the Komo River and into Gulf of Guinea mainly from Owendo, some nine miles upriver from Libreville itself.
Popular tourist attractions in Libreville include the Museum of Art and Culture (Musee des Arts et Traditions du Gabon) where Gabonese traditions of dance, songs, myths, and poetry are explored in a series of exhibits. The majestic Palais Presidentiel (built by President Bongo in the 1970s) is also worth a look, but a look is all you can get as visitors are not allowed inside; St. Michel Church's is known for its 31 feet tall, wooden carved columns which are said to have been carved by a blind man and, of course, the city's seaside boulevard which has a wide grass path along the bay featuring many unique sculptures. Nearby Pointe Denis Beach is also popular with tousists for its beaches, swimming, snorkeling, boating and more. There are also city tours by bus although these are VERY expensive. Find out more about Libreville in the video below.
Libreville Profile: Volunteer in Gabon
Libreville Profile: Libreville City Map
Libreville Profile: Gabon News
Libreville Profile: Gabon Country Profile
Details of current volunteer work
opportunities in each of the
countries of Africa.
Discover all about Africa, its tourist
attractions, history, people, culture
and daily life there.
A treasure trove of African
resources from webcams to
free downloads and news.