DurbanSouth African Durban has to be one of the continent's most appealing cities, especially after the 2010 World Cup breathed new life into the area by revamping the waterfront; the splendid Moses Mabhida Stadium remains one of Durban's primary attractions to date. Durban moves to the beat of gqom, its own home-grown music genre, which is slowly making its way onto global charts from South Africa's sunny, tropical melting pot of eclectic cultural influences.
The CityThird in population to only Cape Town and Johannesburg, Durban (or Durbs, as the city is often casually referred to) is known for its mix of African, colonial European and Indian influences. The local Indian community outnumbers any other outside of India, to which the neighbourhoods of Phoenix, Chatsworth and Tongaat with their Indian eateries and shops serve as testament. The northern suburbs are known as the refined home of resort hotels and fine dining restaurants, Umlazi and KwaMashu are African-dominated, while the Durban downtown brings bits of them all together forging a heterogeneous representation of Africa itself. With first-class beaches stretching all along Durban’s coastline, it is, perhaps, little surprise that much of local recreation centers around water sports – surfing in particular. Places like South Beach and New Pier see the highest concentration of surfers, although nearly anywhere along the Golden Mile (as well as a few beaches both north and south of the central area) delivers good waves, especially so in February, the surfing high season. Durban also boasts thriving nightlife and cultural scenes – places like the BAT Center strive to support local creatives and provide a platform for them to showcase artistic work, and evenings see local bars fill up with buzzing guests, who later head on to Durban’s gqom-playing clubs to dance to the genre’s infectious rhythms late into the night.
Do & See
Durban's offerings extend far beyond beaches to a plethora of cultural pursuits, from historic homes-turned-museums of colonial sugar barons (think the Campbell Collections) to hip, grassroots art spaces taken over by young local talents (such as the BAT centre). Durban is home to an impressive marine theme park called uShaka, and frequently plays hosts to major cultural events, such as performances by its very own KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and Playhouse Company, as well as international events such as the Mamas (MTV Africa Music Awards).
Indian influence is strong on the local dining scene (Durban's favourite dish is the "bunny chow" – a hollow bread loaf filled with spicy curry), with multiple Indian restaurants spread out across Durban, peaking in concentration in the Indian quarter. Fine dining establishments dot North Durban, while fabled South African steaks are to be searched for in Florida Road (Durban's thoroughfare and popular entertainment hub) and beyond.
Coffee culture is on the rise in Durban, with an increasing number of coffee shops springing up year after year. The city's colonial past still shows in the high tea offered at upscale hotels, such as The Royal Hotel. Here's a list of the best cafes in Durban:
Bars & Nightlife
Birthplace of the gqom music genre, Durban is known for its lively nightlife, most of which happens outside the downtown area in the city's many suburbs. That being said, some entertainment is available with the city limits, too – try the Suncoast Casino (an entertainment complex whose offerings extend beyond gambling) or catch a show at Durban's reputable Playhouse Company theatre. Here are some of the best bars and nightclubs in Durban:
Shopping opportunities abound across Durban, and street-side vendors who sell their goods right off the ground are relatively common. For a taste of quintessential Durban head to Victoria Street and shop around at its well-known Indian market, selling all manner of trinkets and spices. There are quite a few boutiques selling work of local artisans across Durban – the 8 Morrison Street complex and African Art Centre are two locations absolutely not to be missed.