Durban, a cosmopolitan Queen, is sometimes unfairly passed over for her ‘cooler’ Capetonian cousin. But this isn’t fair; there’s a lot more to fun-loving Durbs (as she’s affectionately known) than meets the eye. In preparation for the World Cup in 2010 the city had a major makeover, with a sleek new stadium and a revamped beachfront. With a newfound confidence, the city is still justifiably showing off. It offers stylish cafes, wonderful cultural offerings and excellent shopping opportunities, much of which are clustered in fashionable areas within the suburbs.
South Africa’s third-largest city (known as eThekweni in Zulu), Durban also claims to be the country’s sporting capital. Thanks to its stadiums and venues, golf courses and a swathe of butter-yellow sand, it’s a great city for spectator sports and outdoor enthusiasts.
The downtown area – a buzzing, gritty grid comprising grandiose colonial buildings and fascinating art deco architecture – throbs to a distinctly African beat (but loses its shimmer when the sun goes down). For beach-lovers, the beachfront remains a city trademark for daytime activities.
Home to the largest concentration of people of Indian descent outside of India, Durban also boasts a distinctive Asian twang, with the marketplaces and streets of the Indian area teeming with the sights, sounds and scents of the subcontinent.
Best places to stay in Durban
South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland travel guide
Africa’s southernmost trio offers adventure, beach-bumming and everything in between, with lions roaring in the bushveld, vineyards climbing mountainsides, diverse African cultures and open roads through sublime scenery.
Both the food and crowd is ‘gourmet’ here – smart, fashionable and very nice. All meals – breakfasts, casual lunches and more formal dinners – are delectable. Imaginative dishes include the likes of calamari with quinoa and macadamia; produce is locally sourced, free range and organic, where possible.
Top things to do in South Africa
Best places to stay in South Africa
Southern Africa travel guide
Southern Africa rings with legend: the Okavango Delta, the Kalahari, Fish River Canyon, Kruger, Victoria Falls, Cape Town - these are just a few of the iconic destinations that unfurl African dreams.
South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland - Kwazulu-Natal (Chapter)
Rough and ready, smart and sophisticated, rural and rustic, there’s no doubting that KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is eclectic. It’s a region where glassy malls touch shabby suburbs, and action-packed adventurers ooze adrenaline while laid-back beach...
South Africa & Swazi Quest
The unvarnished grandeur of South Africa is on display in this comprehensive exploration of one of the continent’s most diverse and fascinating destinations. Africa’s incredible culture and wildlife is at a premium on this tour—from the coastal shores of Tsitsikamma to extensive game drives in Addo Elephant National Park and the famed Kruger.
Moses Mabhida Stadium
Durbanites are proud of their state-of-the-art stadium, constructed for the 2010 World Cup. Resembling a giant basket, it seats over 56,000 people, and its arch was inspired by the ‘Y’ in the country’s flag. Visitors can head up to the arch in a SkyCar , puff up on foot (550 steps) on an Adventure Walk or plunge off the 106m arch on the giant Big Swing .
Natal Sharks Board
This research institute is dedicated to studying sharks, specifically in relation to their danger to humans. There are audiovisual presentations and shark dissections at 9am and 2pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Natal Sharks Board boat tour
A fascinating trip is to accompany Natal Sharks Board personnel in their boat when they tag and release trapped sharks and other fish from the shark nets that protect Durban’s beachfront. Boats depart from Wilson’s Wharf, not to be confused with the head office, which is located in Umhlanga Rocks.
Kruger & Coast
Sample the best of three stunning southern African countries on an eye-popping tour like no other. From busy Johannesburg, travel into Kruger National Park for an out-of-this-world African safari and then into the Kingdom of Swaziland, with its friendly locals and verdant mountain ranges.