Mindelo is Cape Verde’s cultural capital and has, by far, the most attractive city centre in the Cape Verde Islands. The charming colonial buildings, cobbled streets, numerous cafés and restaurants and great night-life make Mindelo a great place to visit. While the centre is lively and attractive, the outskirts of the city are less so with half-finished and un-rendered breeze block buildings demonstrating the economic reality for most Cape-Verdeans.
As the educational and cultural centre of the islands, Mindelo has produced many of the Island’s important cultural and political figures. Perhaps the most famous Cape Verdean, Cesária Évora (Cape Verde’s grammy-winning singer), was born and raised here adding to Mindelo’s reputation as the cultural capital of Cape Verde.
Mindelo (sometimes referred to as Porto Grande) rose to prominence in the 19th century when the British established a coaling station to supply steam ships. The natural harbour is a volcanic crater, whose walls have been eroded away be the sea on one side, offering calm sheltered waters in a strategic location in the Atlantic. In its heyday, Mindelo supplied thousands of ships with coal every year. The colony was the location of a switching station for the first transatlantic telegraph cable, had a Royal Mail station and as if to underline the British influence, even has (a somewhat modest) Golf Course. The 1911 edition of the encyclopaedia Britannica claims that 90% of the population understood English.
With the end of steam-powered ships (and the need for coal), Mindelo’s importance declined and the port used nowadays by visiting Cruise Ships and Cargo vessels that supply the islands with imported goods.