Though officially the capital, Porto-Novo is effectively the nation’s second city after Cotonou. It lies on the coast above the Gulf of Guinea on a lagoon in the southeast of the country.
The city came into being during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, probably as a kingdom capital of the Adja people. It received its current name from the Portuguese who established trading posts later in the seventeenth century. Porto-Novo soon became a thriving slave trading centre, supplying the Americas and a small kingdom developed around the port.
Fearing British expansionism from their base in southern Nigeria, Porto-Novo permitted French intervention in 1863. It became capital of Dahomey (a province of French West Africa equating to modern Benin) in the early years of the twentieth century. Dahomey made a peaceful transition to independence in 1960 and Porto-Novo was declared the national capital.
The city has road and rail connections with...