Things to see & do in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

Durban is a vibrant modern city of 4.5 million people, the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal and the second largest in South Africa after Jo’burg.
It stretches from the Umhlanga Rocks district in the north to the Aliwal Shoal in the south and stretches ten kms inland to the Valley of a Thousand Hills. The city is still growing fast and its port is one of the ten largest in the world.
Durban’s beautiful, sandy beaches offer safe swimming in temperate waters and sub-tropical weather with sunshine guaranteed virtually all year round. In recent years the beachfront has been extensively restored with clean streets leading into the heart of the city, reliable and regular public transport, high quality shopping malls, theatre and entertainment.
The city’s cosmopolitan population is made of Zulus - the largest African contingent - Afrikaners, Portuguese, Italian, Greek and Germans. It is also home to the largest Indian population outside the Indian subcontinent.

This has led to an eclectic fusion of cultures and architectural styles blending skyscrapers with traditional rickshaws, bunny chows and Indian markets.

Durban and its suburbs are hilly, with very few flat areas. The city has a wide spread of architectural influences from the neo-Baroque City Hall, the golden-domed Jumma Musjid mosque in Grey Street, art deco buildings along the sea-front, Victorian townhouses and glass-fronted modern skyscrapers. The Edwardian City Hall built in 1910 is modelled on the city hall in Belfast and houses the Natural Science Museum, the main library and the Durban Art Gallery. Nearby is Durban’s old railway station, now known as Tourist Junction, from where tours of the city depart.
Mark Mgobhozi
Mark Mgobhozi, Durban
"Durban is a tropical city with beautiful beaches that are very safe and family-friendly." [2:53]

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Top highlights in Durban

Golden Mile

Looking out over the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean, Durban’s ‘Golden Mile’ (actually 6kms) stretches along the beachfront punctuated by activity parks, pools, fountains, walkways, gardens and market stalls.

South Beach, on the Golden Mile, is ideal for swimming, especially for children as it is protected from wind and waves by a breakwater. All of Durban’s beaches are shark-netted.

Victoria Market

The city’s distinctive Asian atmosphere is most evident in the bustling Victoria Market, first opened in the 1870s. Its exotic mix of saris, food and spices, incense and Indian music mixed with African curios are sold from more than 170 stalls with a fish market in the basement.

Umhlanga Rocks

Umhlanga, the buzzing residential, commercial and resort suburb in north Durban, developed originally from a nearby seaside town and its wide, sandy beaches are now lined with exclusive hotels and apartment blocks.
The area is distinctive for its famous lighthouse while its Gateway Shopping Centre is one of the biggest shopping malls in the country.

Umlazi Township

South Africa’s second largest township after Soweto has a population of more than 750,000 and is developing fast with investment in schools, infrastructure and housing. Visitors to Durban can enjoy guided tours of the area and Umlazi has accommodation ranging from b&b to guesthouses as well as top class restaurants and typical township cuisine.

Ndumo Game Reserve

Ndumo Game Reserve near the Tembe Elephant Park on the Mozambique border is best known for its bird life with the highest bird count in South Africa (around 430 species). Its habitats include pans with yellow fever trees, thick bush wetlands and reedbeds as well as acacia savannah and sand forest. The reserve is home to black and white rhino, hippopotamus nyala, bushbuck, impala, red duiker, suni, and a very large population of crocodiles.

Best time to go to Durban

Durban has a subtropical climate with sunshine for at least 320 days a year. Temperatures range between 11°C and 23°C during the winter months of June, July and August but can reach 28°C with high humidity during the summer months of December, January and February.
Photo credits: [Page banner: Captureson] [Durban coastline: Michael Jansen] [Umhlanga Rocks and lighthouse: landagent]