Knowing Lagos

Knowing Lagos: Island vs Mainland

If you were to describe Lagos, what would you say? Would Magnificent bridges, foamy beaches, colourful people, interesting nightlife, and exquisite cuisine be at the top of your list? 

Beyond the beautiful islands and the fine estates, Lagos has a unique story that you might not know. This is a city with double faces. Geographically divided by water bodies, Lagos has two sides: the Mainland and the Island. 

These ‘lands’ accommodates the same people but there is a contrast. The lifestyle they support, the cultures they promote and the economic opportunities they offer are miles apart. The city lives up to its name as the economic hub of the nation. Still, some areas offer more opportunities and amenities that suits your needs. 

Your ability to maximize a trip to Lagos depends on your knowledge of the city and the beauty of its districts. Let’s delve into the contrasting city of Lagos based on the following contexts:

Knowing Lagos: Island vs Mainland

  1. Historical Context
  2. Geography and Layout
  3. Economic Activities
  4. Living Conditions and Real Estate
  5. Culture and Lifestyle
  6. Transportation and Accessibility

Knowing Lagos: Island vs Mainland

1. Historical Context

Since the Colonial era, Lagos has gradually experienced a face lift though it was initially influenced by the Europeans. In the 1900s when this piece of land was discovered, the natives only lived on the Island. Therefore the Portuguese, British and Brazilians resided in the Island. Since it doubled as the port and center of trade between the Westerners and natives, the island gradually experienced development.

The development of the island caused a ripple effect. People from other regions started visiting it, leading to overpopulation and housing issues. So, the quest for more living quarters caused people to start moving to the mainland. As the mainland developed, it attracted more investors, industries and residents. Commercial hubs, airports, malls and many more are in the mainland. Eventually, it was dubbed ‘the heart of Lagos’.

2. Geography and Layout

Due to Western influence and its role in industrialization, Lagos Island has a dense urban population. Its residents are mostly the elite of society. The island is connected to water bodies which flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Areas like Victoria Island, Ikoyi also support water travel, trendy entertainments, and top companies.

In contrast, the mainland’s land mass gives more flexibility with space. It is not as densely populated as the island and it’s a fine blend of several zones: residential, industrial, markets and entertainment. For instance, the City’s capital, Ikeja is a commercial hub, entertainment hotspot and also a residential area. 

3. Economic Activities

Lagos, was once the capital of Nigeria. So, it hosted the headquarters of many corporations, companies, banks and even the Nigerian Stock Exchange. A drive through the island will reveal several offices, luxury hotels and high-end institutions. They boost the economy and create employment.

This is the reason for the infamous Lagos traffic. Most island workers live on the mainland; so, the island experiences a huge influx of staff members every morning.

The mainland also contributes to the economy of the city. While you may not find many headquarters on this land, companies, banks and industries are still common sights. You will find the international and domestic airports in Ikeja. While the tech hub, major markets and other important areas are at Yaba, Balogun, Ikeja, Surulere, Ojo and several other regions.

4. Living Conditions and Real Estate

Life on the island features luxurious residential areas, polished estates and modern amenities. The elite lifestyle promises reliable electricity, stable water supply, and proximity to the best entertainment centers. Yet, these luxuries come with a steep price: high cost of living.

The cost of living in the mainland is more Budget-friendly. From spacious apartments to quiet neighborhoods, the mainland offers affordable housing with basic amenities. Areas like Ikeja, Surulere have more upscale infrastructures while Agege, Oshodi, Ogba offers basic amenities and affordable accomodations.

Another downside to staying on the mainland is the unstable amenities. For instance, the erratic power supply which affects the water supply is challenging. In certain communities, the noise of neighbours and traffic may be unpleasant.

5. Culture and Lifestyle

Whether you are on the island or the mainland, you are still in Lagos and Lagosians love a good party. So, expect premium entertainment and vibrant events. 

The Island holds the cultural heritage of Lagos state. Political and entertainment landmarks also cover this area. It is the place for art exhibits, rallies, concerts, fashion shows and many events. Since the island offers more luxury and continental dishes, most foreigners prefer to stay and conduct their business on the island.  

Venues like Tinubu Square, MUSON Center, Terra Kulture host conferences, fashion shows, exhibits and even political rallies. Clubs, bars and other nightlife entertainment are also available.

Life on the mainland celebrates the local culture of the people. However, its residents are more diverse, coming from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Street festivals featuring Afrobeat, Fuji and other indigenous music styles are common. Clubs, lounges, restaurants cater to a large clientele. Yet, their services are tailored to meet specific needs. 

6. Knowing Lagos: Transportation and Accessibility

Like any major metropolis, Lagos faces the challenge of overpopulation which has affected its transportation network and even housing. 

The constant migration from the mainland to the island during rush hours often causes traffic congestion. Road transport has easily been a challenge in this area. Although the use of ferries and BRT buses would reduce travel time and improve convenience, the vehicles can’t cater to the dense population. 

Transportation on the mainland features buses, registered taxis, tricycles and motorcycles. Yet they have little to no effect on the traffic congestion. This is because of the large population and road blockages due to road constructions on several major roads.

The government is positive that the development of Rail Transit will reduce congestion by linking the mainland to the island.


The Island and mainland of Lagos are like two peas in a pod: unique yet connected. Each of them offer certain luxuries and advantages but you have to compare their pros and cons. While the island offers affluent living and top level facilities, the mainland gives you a more affordable and flexible lifestyle.  However, the high cost of living and unstable amenities may act as deterrents. 

Yet, this adds character to the City, giving you a rich blend of the urban and traditional. Also showing the ups and downs of modern West Africa. 

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