Durban is a vibrant coastal city located in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Known for its stunning beaches and year-round warm climate, it’s a haven for sun-seekers and water sports enthusiasts.
The city is a melting pot of cultures, offering a unique blend of African, Indian, and European influences. From the bustling markets of Warwick Triangle to the serene temples in the suburbs, Durban is a feast for the senses.
For adventure seekers, the nearby Drakensberg Mountains provide an excellent backdrop for hiking, while the uShaka Marine World offers a world-class aquarium and water park. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or explore the great outdoors, Durban has something for everyone.
Table of Contents
Attractions & Things to do in Durban
1. uShaka Marine World
uShaka Marine World is a must-visit when you’re in Durban. This entertainment hub consists of a water park, an aquarium, a shopping area, and dining options. The aquarium is one of the largest in the world, offering a unique underground viewing gallery where you can get close and personal with sharks, rays, and other marine life.
Travel Tip: Arrive early to take full advantage of all the park’s offerings, and don’t forget sunscreen for a day at the water park.
2. Durban Botanic Gardens
The Durban Botanic Gardens are the oldest surviving botanic gardens in Africa, established in 1849. A visit here provides an opportunity to see an array of exotic and indigenous plants, including a variety of orchids, ferns, and cycads. The gardens also feature an Orchid House and a scenic lake that’s perfect for picnics.
Travel Tip: Consider visiting during one of the garden’s live music events or seasonal flower shows for an added experience.
3. Moses Mabhida Stadium
The Moses Mabhida Stadium is an architectural marvel, known for its iconic arch and panoramic views of Durban. Originally built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the stadium now hosts a variety of events and offers adventurous activities like the SkyCar and the Big Swing.
Travel Tip: For the best views, take a ride in the SkyCar to the top of the arch early in the morning or late afternoon when the light is perfect for photography.
4. Golden Mile Beachfront
Golden Mile is a stretch of beachfront that offers a scenic promenade, high-rise hotels, and plenty of restaurants and shops. The area is particularly popular for surfing, jogging, and people-watching. It’s the perfect place to spend a relaxed day by the sea.
Travel Tip: The beach can get crowded on weekends and holidays, so consider visiting on a weekday for a more peaceful experience.
5. Umgeni River Bird Park
Situated on the banks of the Umgeni River, this bird park houses an impressive collection of over 800 birds from around the world. With its lush tropical landscaping and waterfalls, it provides a unique setting for bird-watching. Don’t miss the free-flight bird show, a hit among visitors of all ages.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, as the park involves some walking on hilly terrain.
6. The Victoria Street Market
The Victoria Street Market is a bustling bazaar offering a range of goods, from spices and fresh produce to arts and crafts. The market is a great place to immerse yourself in Durban’s multicultural atmosphere and perhaps pick up some unique souvenirs.
Travel Tip: Bargaining is expected, especially for non-food items, so don’t hesitate to negotiate prices.
7. Durban Natural Science Museum
Located in Durban’s City Hall, the Natural Science Museum is home to an array of fascinating exhibits, including a life-size T-Rex model. The museum offers insightful information about South African and world history, geology, and natural science.
Travel Tip: Admission is usually free, but donations are encouraged to support this educational institution.
8. Suncoast Casino
If you’re feeling lucky or simply want a night out, the Suncoast Casino offers a glamorous setting with a variety of games, restaurants, and even a private beach. The complex often hosts live entertainment, making it more than just a gaming venue.
Travel Tip: Keep an eye on your budget and remember that casinos are for entertainment; it’s not a guarantee to win money.
9. Mitchell Park Zoo
Originally an ostrich farm, Mitchell Park Zoo is now home to a variety of animals, including antelopes, monkeys, and birds. It’s a great place for a family outing, complete with a playground and picnic spots.
Travel Tip: It’s a relatively small zoo, so a couple of hours should suffice for your visit.
10. Wilson’s Wharf
For a scenic and leisurely outing, Wilson’s Wharf offers an array of dining options with a view. Situated in Durban’s harbor, the area provides stunning vistas, especially at sunset. It’s a great place to enjoy some seafood while watching the boats go by.
Travel Tip: Weekends often feature live music; make a reservation if you’re planning on dining during peak times.
Unique Activities in Durban
1. Sani Pass and Lesotho by 4WD Vehicle
Experience the breathtaking beauty of the Sani Pass and explore the majestic landscapes of Lesotho with a 4WD vehicle. This tour takes you on an unforgettable journey through rugged terrains and picturesque views.
Day Trips from Durban
1. Drakensberg Mountains
The Drakensberg Mountains offer awe-inspiring landscapes, perfect for hiking, horseback riding, and bird-watching. The area is about a 2.5-hour drive from Durban.
Travel Tip: If you’re planning to hike, make sure you check the weather forecast and carry adequate supplies.
Just an hour’s drive from Durban, Pietermaritzburg is known for its colonial architecture and lush gardens. The town serves as a quiet getaway with a focus on history and nature.
Travel Tip: The Natal Museum in Pietermaritzburg is worth a visit for those interested in South African culture and history.
3. Isimangaliso Wetland Park
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a biodiversity hotspot and offers a unique mix of ecosystems. Here, you can experience everything from coral reefs and sandy beaches to wetlands and woodlands. It’s around a 3-hour drive from Durban.
Travel Tip: Take a guided boat tour to see hippos and crocodiles in their natural habitat.
Where to stay in Durban
Durban, a vibrant city in South Africa, offers a plethora of hotel options catering to a diverse range of travelers. Whether you’re looking for luxury, budget-friendly options, or something in between, Durban has a hotel to fit your needs. With its scenic ocean views and bustling city life, Durban’s hotels provide a perfect blend of comfort and convenience.
1. Best Reviewed Hotel
Blue Waters Hotel (★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: Opposite Durban’s famous beachfront, Blue Waters Hotel is within walking distance of the Suncoast Casino and the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium.
- Price: €46.38 per night
- Rating: 8.2 (Very good)
2. Most Luxurious Hotel
Belaire Suites Hotel (★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: Located right on Durban’s North Beach, Belaire Suites Hotel offers rooms with free WiFi. Durban Station is 1 km away, and the on-site Café Jiran serves award-winning coffee.
- Price: €43.68 per night
- Rating: 8.7 (Fabulous)
3. Budget Hotel
Parade Hotel (★ ★ ★)
- Description: Offering beautiful views of the Indian Ocean, Parade Hotel provides affordable accommodation.
- Price: €24.23 per night
- Rating: 7.8 (Good)
4. Hotel for Family
aha Gateway Hotel Umhlanga (★ ★ ★)
- Description: A rooftop pool is behind aha Gateway Hotel – Umhlanga’s characteristic green ‘screen’ surrounding the front of the building. This eco-friendly hotel is attached to the Gateway Theatre of Shopping.
- Price: €70.51 per night
- Rating: 8.4 (Very good)
5. Hotel for Couples
Holiday Inn Express Durban – Umhlanga (★ ★ ★)
- Description: Located in Umhlanga Ridge, Holiday Inn Express Durban-Umhlanga is just 900 metres from Gateway Theatre of Shopping. La Lucia Ridge offices are a 2-minute drive away.
- Price: €59.20 per night
- Rating: 8.3 (Very good)
6. Hotel for Solo Travellers
Gooderson Tropicana Hotel (★ ★ ★)
- Description: Located on Durban’s Golden Mile beachfront and close to the railway station, Gooderson Tropicana Hotel offers affordable comfort in a central location.
- Price: €42.03 per night
- Rating: 7.6 (Good)
Did you know? Facts about Durban
- Durban is the third most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg and Cape Town.
- It is the largest city in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
- The city was one of the host cities of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
- Durban has a rich ethnically diverse population, with large Zulu, White, and Indian/Asian populations.
- The city has a humid subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers and warm, quite dry winters.
- Durban is located on the east coast of South Africa, looking out upon the Indian Ocean.
- The city has a natural harbour, Durban Harbour, which is the busiest port in South Africa and the 4th-busiest in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Durban has the highest number of dollar millionaires added per year of any South African city.
- Sugar refining is one of Durban’s main industries.
- The city has a number of informal and semi-formal street vendors, with the Warwick Junction Precinct being home to a number of street markets.
FAQ about Durban
What is the best time to visit Durban?
The best time to visit Durban is during its winter months, from May to August, when the weather is warm and dry.
Is Durban safe for tourists?
Like any other major city, Durban has its share of crime. However, if you take the usual precautions, such as not walking alone at night, not displaying wealth, and being aware of your surroundings, you should be fine.
What are the must-visit places in Durban?
Some must-visit places in Durban include the Durban beachfront, uShaka Marine World, Moses Mabhida Stadium, and the Durban Botanic Gardens.
What are the popular activities to do in Durban?
Popular activities in Durban include surfing, visiting the beach, exploring the city’s cultural attractions, and trying the local cuisine.
What is the local cuisine like in Durban?
Durban has a diverse culinary scene, with influences from its Zulu, Indian, and colonial heritage. Some local specialties include bunny chow, a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry, and shisa nyama, a barbecue meal that is a popular social activity.
What is the main language spoken in Durban?
The main language spoken in Durban is Zulu, followed by English.
What is the currency used in Durban?
The currency used in Durban is the South African Rand (ZAR).
Do I need a visa to visit Durban?
Visa requirements for South Africa vary by country. It is best to check with your local South African embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date information.