Durban, located on the eastern coast of South Africa, is a popular tourist destination known for its warm climate, beautiful beaches, and diverse cultural experiences. Whether you are travelling with family, friends, or solo, Durban has something for everyone. In this article, we will explore the top tourist attractions, lesser-known attractions, free attractions, best way to plan your route, best time to visit, festivals and events, and more.
Top Tourist Attractions in Durban
uShaka Marine World
This popular theme park is home to an aquarium, water park, and restaurant complex. You can get up close and personal with sea creatures such as sharks, dolphins, and penguins.
Moses Mabhida Stadium
This stadium is an iconic landmark in Durban, known for its arch that offers stunning views of the city. Visitors can take a cable car ride to the top of the arch, or try the adrenaline-pumping Big Swing or Bungee Jump.
Durban Botanic Gardens
This botanical garden is one of the oldest in Africa, featuring a variety of indigenous and exotic plant species. Visitors can take a guided tour, relax in the picnic areas, or attend concerts and events that take place in the gardens.
This stretch of golden sand is a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing. The promenade also features restaurants, cafes, and entertainment options.
Victoria Street Market
This bustling market is a must-visit for anyone interested in local crafts, spices, and cuisine. You can find everything from traditional Zulu beadwork to Indian spices and textiles.
Durban City Hall
This historic building, constructed in 1910, is an architectural gem in the heart of Durban. Visitors can take guided tours of the building and its surrounding gardens.
The Valley of 1000 Hills
This scenic valley is located just outside of Durban and is a popular destination for hiking, wildlife spotting, and cultural experiences. Visitors can enjoy Zulu dancing, visit a traditional homestead, or take a scenic drive through the valley.
Lesser-known Attractions in Durban
This museum documents the history of apartheid and its impact on the city of Durban. Visitors can learn about the struggles of the oppressed, and the resistance movements that fought against oppression.
Burman Bush Nature Reserve
This nature reserve is a hidden gem in the heart of Durban, offering hiking trails, bird watching, and picnic areas.
Durban Natural Science Museum
This museum showcases the natural history of the region, including dinosaur fossils, African wildlife, and indigenous plants.
Stainbank Nature Reserve
This nature reserve is located in the suburb of Queensburgh and offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and bird watching opportunities.
Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve
This nature reserve is located on the northern side of Durban and offers a unique ecosystem of mangrove trees, estuaries, and bird life.
Free Attractions in Durban
The beaches in Durban are free and open to the public, offering a range of activities such as swimming, surfing, and sunbathing.
This iconic lighthouse is free to visit and offers stunning views of the Indian Ocean.
Durban Botanic Gardens
Admission to the botanical gardens is free, although some guided tours may require a fee.
Durban City Hall
Visitors can explore the gardens and exterior of the building for free, while guided tours of the interior require a fee.
What are some museums or historical sites in Durban?
Durban has a rich and diverse history, with a number of museums and historical sites that are worth visiting. One of the most popular museums in Durban is the KwaMuhle Museum, which tells the story of the city’s apartheid history. The museum is located in the former Native Administration Department building, which was used by the apartheid government to control and oppress black people. The exhibits at the museum include photographs, documents, and artifacts that illustrate the struggles and resistance of black South Africans during the apartheid era.
Another museum that is worth visiting is the Durban Natural Science Museum, which is located in the city center. The museum has a large collection of natural history specimens, including fossils, insects, and reptiles, as well as exhibits on human evolution and biodiversity. The museum also has a planetarium that offers shows on astronomy and space.
For those interested in Durban’s maritime history, the Port Natal Maritime Museum is a must-visit. The museum is located in the old Port Captain’s office, and has exhibits on the history of the port and its role in the development of Durban. There are also displays on shipwrecks, navigational instruments, and the life of sailors at sea.
Are there any cultural festivals or events in Durban that celebrate the city’s history and heritage?
Yes, Durban hosts a number of cultural festivals and events throughout the year that celebrate the city’s history and heritage. One of the most popular events is the Durban International Film Festival, which takes place in July and showcases films from around the world. The festival has been running for over 40 years and attracts filmmakers and movie buffs from all over.
Another popular event is the Durban July, which is a horse racing event that takes place in July. The event is known for its high fashion and glamorous parties, and is a social highlight of the year in Durban.
For those interested in traditional Zulu culture, the annual Reed Dance is a must-see event. The Reed Dance takes place in September and is a celebration of the coming of age of young Zulu girls. The girls gather at the royal palace of the Zulu king and present reeds to him, which are used to repair the palace. The event is a colorful and lively celebration of Zulu culture, and is a great way to experience the local traditions of Durban.
What is the best way to learn about the history of Durban?
The best way to learn about the history of Durban is to visit the city’s museums and historical sites. There are a number of museums that offer exhibits on the city’s history, including the KwaMuhle Museum, the Durban Natural Science Museum, and the Port Natal Maritime Museum. These museums offer a wealth of information on the city’s past, and are a great way to learn about the struggles and triumphs of the people of Durban.
Another way to learn about the history of Durban is to take a guided tour of the city. There are a number of tour operators that offer historical tours of Durban, including walking tours of the city center and bus tours of the surrounding areas. These tours offer a comprehensive overview of the city’s history and are a great way to learn about the city’s culture and heritage.
Are there any cultural landmarks that are free to visit in Durban?
Yes, there are a number of cultural landmarks in Durban that are free to visit. One of the most popular landmarks is the Victoria Street Market, which is a vibrant and colorful market that sells traditional African crafts, clothing, and food. The market is a great place to experience the local culture of Durban, and is a must-visit for anyone interested in African art and cuisine.
What should I do if I feel unsafe or threatened in Durban?
Durban is a relatively safe city, but like any major urban area, it’s important to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. There are a few areas that are known to be less safe than others, including the downtown area at night and certain parts of the beachfront. It’s best to avoid these areas if possible, especially if you’re alone.
If you do feel unsafe or threatened, it’s important to seek help. The emergency phone number in Durban is 10111, which will connect you to the police. There are also several tourist police stations throughout the city, which are staffed by officers who are trained to assist visitors. These stations are located at major tourist attractions and along the beachfront.
It’s also a good idea to be aware of common scams and tourist traps in Durban, such as pickpocketing and fake tour guides. If you’re approached by someone who seems suspicious, it’s best to be cautious and avoid giving out personal information or money.
Are there any vaccinations or health precautions I should take before travelling to Durban?
It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor or travel clinic before travelling to Durban or any other destination. Some vaccines or medications may be recommended or required depending on your individual health status and travel plans.
In general, it’s recommended that all travellers to South Africa be up to date on routine vaccinations such as measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), tetanus, and influenza. Depending on your activities and the areas you’ll be visiting, other vaccines may be recommended as well, such as hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and rabies.
In addition to vaccinations, there are a few other health precautions to keep in mind when travelling to Durban. Malaria is a concern in some parts of South Africa, but Durban is considered a low-risk area. However, if you plan to travel to other parts of the country, it’s important to take appropriate precautions such as taking anti-malarial medication and using insect repellent.
Waterborne illnesses such as cholera and hepatitis A can also be a concern in some areas of South Africa, but Durban has a well-developed water and sanitation system, and tap water is generally safe to drink. However, it’s always a good idea to stick to bottled or filtered water when travelling, especially if you have a sensitive stomach.
What is the emergency phone number in Durban?
The emergency phone number in Durban is 10111. This number will connect you to the police, and is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In case of a medical emergency, you can call 10177 to be connected to an ambulance.
What are some outdoor activities to do in Durban?
Durban is a city that is blessed with a warm climate and beautiful natural surroundings, making it an ideal destination for outdoor activities. Whether you’re looking to hike, bike, swim, or surf, there’s something for everyone in Durban.
One of the most popular outdoor activities in Durban is surfing, and there are several beaches that are perfect for catching waves. Some of the best spots for surfing include North Beach, Dairy Beach, and Addington Beach. If you’re new to surfing, there are plenty of surf schools and rentals that can help you get started.
Another popular outdoor activity in Durban is hiking, and there are several trails and nature reserves in the area that are worth exploring. One of the most popular trails is the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve, which offers stunning views of the Indian Ocean and a variety of plant and animal species.
What should I pack depending on the time of year I visit Durban?
When visiting Durban, it is important to pack according to the time of year. During the summer months (December to February), the temperatures can get very hot, so it is important to pack lightweight clothing, sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. During the winter months (June to August), the temperatures can get chilly, especially in the evenings, so it is important to pack warmer clothing like a jacket or sweater.
What are some popular restaurants in Durban?
Durban is known for its diverse cuisine, which reflects the city’s multicultural population.
The Oyster Box
This iconic hotel offers a range of dining options, including the elegant Grill Room, the casual Ocean Terrace, and the trendy Chukka Bar.
This African-themed restaurant serves traditional dishes like bobotie and boerewors, and offers a unique dining experience with live music and face painting.
The Cargo Hold
This restaurant is located in a shipwreck-themed setting, with views of the Indian Ocean. It offers a seafood-focused menu, including fresh sushi.
This Asian-inspired restaurant offers a range of dishes, from sushi to stir-fry, and allows customers to create their own dishes.
This steakhouse is known for its high-quality meat and offers a range of cuts, including fillet, sirloin, and rib-eye.
What are some of the best restaurants for seafood in Durban?
Durban is a seafood lover’s paradise, with fresh seafood available at many restaurants. Here are some of the best restaurants for seafood in Durban:
The Fish Shop
This restaurant offers a range of seafood dishes, including fresh fish, calamari, and prawns. Customers can choose their fish and have it grilled or fried to perfection.
Finest at Sea
This seafood restaurant offers a range of dishes, including sushi, fish and chips, and seafood platters. Customers can also purchase fresh seafood to take home.
This restaurant, located at the Oyster Box hotel, offers a seafood-focused menu with views of the Indian Ocean. Dishes include prawns, calamari, and seafood curry.
The Grill Room
This restaurant, also located at the Oyster Box hotel, offers a range of dishes, including seafood platters with oysters, prawns, and crayfish.
Are there any vegetarian or vegan restaurants in Durban?
Yes, Durban has a range of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, including:
House of Curries
This Indian restaurant offers a range of vegetarian and vegan dishes, including chana masala, paneer tikka, and aloo gobi.
This vegan restaurant offers a range of dishes, including burgers, wraps, and salads, all made with plant-based ingredients.
KZNSA Gallery Cafe
This cafe, located in an art gallery, offers vegetarian and vegan dishes, including sandwiches, salads, and smoothie bowls.
This health store and cafe offers a range of vegetarian and vegan dishes, including falafel wraps, quinoa salads, and smoothies.
What is the dress code for restaurants in Durban?
The dress code for restaurants in Durban varies depending on the restaurant. Some restaurants, particularly those located in hotels, have a smart-casual dress code, while others are more relaxed. It is always a good idea to check the dress code before making a reservation.
Another way to experience the history and culture of Durban is by attending the annual Durban International Film Festival, which takes place in July. This festival showcases a diverse range of films from around the world, including African cinema, and provides an opportunity for visitors to engage with filmmakers and industry professionals.
For those interested in architecture and design, the Victoria Street Market is a must-visit destination. This bustling indoor market is known for its ornate Moorish-style architecture and is home to a wide range of stalls selling traditional Indian clothing, spices, and souvenirs.
For a glimpse into the city’s colonial past, the Old Court House Museum is a must-visit. This beautifully preserved building was originally built in the late 1800s and served as Durban’s courthouse for over a century. Today, visitors can explore its halls and galleries to learn more about the city’s history and the role that the courthouse played in its development.
Guided tours of cultural landmarks are available in Durban and are highly recommended for visitors who want to learn more about the city’s rich heritage. Some of the best tour companies in Durban include Durban Day Tours, Zulu Destinations, and Durban Experience Tours.
Durban is a vibrant and diverse city with something to offer for every type of traveler. From its stunning beaches and outdoor activities to its rich history and cultural landmarks, there is no shortage of things to see and do in Durban. So whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, be sure to put Durban on your list of must-visit destinations in South Africa.