Wrapped around a sheltered bay, Durban is a gateway to South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal and Drakensberg regions, but also a destination in its own right. Its multicultural population is bolstered by Zulus and the largest concentration of Indian descendants outside India, which is reflected in the city’s food and culture.
Tour the streets with a guide and you can sample Afro-Indian delicacies such as bunny chow (hollowed-out bread filled with curry), uncover a little of the city’s apartheid history and visit some of the contemporary galleries that have sprung up in the up-and-coming Glenwood district. And, down by the water, watch surfers tackling the waves from the city’s gold-sand beaches.
Fly into Durban and you can be exploring KwaZulu-Natal’s Battlefields or hiking in the Drakensberg within a few hours. But, spare two nights in the city and you’ll find that South Africa’s third-largest metropolis is more than just an entry point.
In its historic core, grand colonial villas with Victorian lacework balconies rub alongside Art Deco buildings and a wide range of restaurants, cafes and bars.
Contrast this with a stroll along the waterfront boardwalk, which is reminiscent of California, complete with surfers and street performers. You can also spend time on the long sweeps of golden sand, lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
To make the most of your time in Durban, we recommend spending a day touring the city with a local guide who can help unravel its past and present.
You begin with a visit to Africa’s oldest surviving botanical garden, which was established in 1849. Many of the plant species here are endemic to the country. Some, such as cycads and palms, have adapted to the tropical climate this part of South Africa experiences. You can visit the orchid house, wander around the spring-fed lake and see jacaranda trees that have been growing since the late-19th century.
Then, you’ll head to Glenwood, a district that has become a popular haunt of young artists. Walls are ablaze with punchy street art, and works still fresh from the easel hang in small contemporary galleries. You might get a chance to meet some of the people behind these pieces and ask them about what inspired them.
You’ll lunch in a local restaurant, where you can sample some of the fusion cuisine that has developed in Durban thanks to its mix of cultures.
You might try bunny chow, samosas or Bombay crush — a milkshake-style drink made with rose syrup, milk, tukmaria (basil) seeds and vanilla ice cream.
Seafood also plays a big part in the city’s food scene, particularly during the annual sardine migration that passes along its shores in June or July.
In the afternoon, you’ll hear about the impacts of apartheid on the city’s residents at the Kwa Muhle Museum. Nelson Mandela cast his first vote in Durban in 1994 in the country’s first all-race elections, and just an hour and a half outside the city you can visit the site where he was arrested.
As part of your tour, you can also visit the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The SkyCar ride takes you up the stadium arch to a 106-m (348-ft) high viewpoint overlooking the city and ocean.
Best time to visit Durban
The sub-tropical climate means summer (October to March) is hot, humid and wet. It’s best to visit outside this time, when it tends to be mild and sunny.
Suggested itineraries featuring Durban
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Durban, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Durban
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Durban
- Umhlanga Rocks 9 miles away
- The South Coast 39 miles away
- The Midlands 58 miles away
- The Drakensberg 101 miles away
- The Battlefields 106 miles away
- Spioenkop 123 miles away
- Hluhluwe-IMfolozi Game Reserve 140 miles away
- Port St Johns 151 miles away
- iSimangaliso Wetland Park 155 miles away
- Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve 158 miles away
- Lake St Lucia 159 miles away
- Phinda Private Game Reserve 165 miles away
- Lesotho 165 miles away
- Coffee Bay 185 miles away
- The Elephant Coast 225 miles away
- Eswatini 227 miles away
- East London 285 miles away