Set on the banks of the Congo River, Brazzaville is the Republic of Congo’s capital city. To avoid confusion with its similarly named and larger neighbour (the Democratic Republic of the Congo), the Republic of Congo is sometimes referred to as Congo-Brazzaville (as opposed to Congo-Kinshasa). Congo-Kinshasa has its capital city (Kinshasa) on the opposite bank of the Congo River; so close are the two capitals that the residents can see each other across the water. However, neighbourly visits require a journey by boat as there is no road bridge between the cities.
Brazzaville was founded in 1880 on the site of a small village by the Franco-Italian explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza who signed a treaty of protection with a local chief. Today, this important ferry port is home to just over a third of Congo-Brazzaville’s population. Rubber, wood and agricultural products are the main trading commodities; on the busy waterfront, traders haggle over prices and organise the onward transportation of goods to the seaport at Pointe Noire.
Congo-Brazzaville’s French colonial past is still evident today; French is the national language and there are several large buildings which were constructed under colonial rule. Parts of the city still have a French feel about them with tree-lined boulevards and buildings which date back to French colonial times. Two of the most notable are St Anne’s Basilica (a large Catholic church) and the impressive Palace of the People.