26 Best Sights in Durban, Durban and KwaZulu-Natal

Herb Market

Fodor's choice

Southern Africa's largest and most extensive traditional medicine market, known locally as the Muti (traditional medicine, pronounced moo-tee) Market, has tables and tables filled with bunches of fresh and dried herbs, plant matter, and (controversially) animal bones, skin, and other parts, possibly including endangered species. The market also serves as a distinctive traditional-medicine facility, where sangomas (traditional healers) offer consultations to locals in a bustling, urban atmosphere. If you're feeling bold, you might wish to consult a sangoma on matters of health, wealth, or personal problems. Remember to always respect the traders and do not take photographs of people or the goods for sale, particularly any animal matter. If you are with a guide, ask them to negotiate picture-taking on your behalf, if you must—there's no guarantee though. Speaking of guides, you can hire one through Durban Tourism or book a comprehensive tour through Markets of Warwick that includes all the neighborhood's markets. 

KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts Gallery

Glenwood Fodor's choice

This arts complex, known as KZNSA, houses four exhibition areas, in addition to a crafts shop, the Durban Center for Photography, and a classy open-air cafe. The center does not have a particular focus but is committed to promoting emerging talent in the province. Exhibition media ranges from photos and paintings to video installations. The center's clean architectural lines and leafy setting, with ever-changing colorful murals on the exterior, make this a popular venue with Durban's trendy set, and it's a lovely place to cool off after a hot morning touring the town. The gallery and crafts shop support and promote local art, so it's worth seeking out for tasteful souvenirs. Local musicians are often given a platform on Friday nights.  The daytime-only restaurant is a wonderful child-friendly pit stop with affordable lunches such as prosciutto and mozzarella toasted sandwiches or no-frills beef burgers for under R65.

uShaka Beach

Beachfront Fodor's choice

In front of uShaka Marine World aquarium and water theme park this beach has small waves and calm conditions, making it great for families. Sand sculptors are often here, too, creating intricate artwork. Grassy banks offer an alternative to the sand (which isn't always as clean as the more central beaches), and the local surf school is busy all year round. A block inland, in the rejuvenated Point area, is the trendy Docklands hotel. Amenities: parking. Best for: swimming; walking.

Recommended Fodor's Video

uShaka Marine World

Beachfront Fodor's choice

This aquatic complex combines the uShaka Sea World aquarium and the uShaka Wet 'n Wild water park. The largest aquarium in the Southern Hemisphere, it has a capacity of nearly 6 million gallons of water, more than four times the size of Cape Town's aquarium. Enter through the side of a giant ship and walk down several stories to enter a "labyrinth of shipwrecks"—a jumble of five different fake but highly realistic wrecks, from an early-20th-century passenger cruiser to a steamship. Within this labyrinth are massive tanks, housing more than 350 species of fish and other sea life and the biggest variety of sharks in the world, including ragged-tooth and Zambezi (bull sharks). Try to catch the divers hand-feeding fish and rays in the morning. The complex includes dolphin, penguin, and seal shows, and a variety of reptiles and amphibians populate the Dangerous Creatures exhibit.

The extensive water park comprises slides, pools, and about 10 different water rides. The intensity ranges from toddler-friendly to adrenaline junkie. Durban's moderate winter temperatures make it an attraction pretty much year-round, though it's especially popular in summer. Right out front, the uShaka beach is also one of the best in the city with lifeguards on duty.  Avoid on public holidays, and call ahead during winter when hours may change.

Buy Tickets Now
1 King Shaka Ave., Durban, 4001, South Africa
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Sea World R157; Wet \'n Wild R157. Dangerous Creatures Exhibit R62, Children under 3 get in for free

BAT Centre

Victoria Embankment

This vibrant center (buoyed by a current contemporary revival) is abuzz with artists and musicians. Most days—and some nights—you can watch sculptors and painters at work, hear poetry readings, and see Africology (African teachings and traditions) dancers and musicians. The center is home to several small galleries that showcase the work of local artists. The center contains a coffee bar overlooking the bay and shops that sell an excellent selection of high-quality African crafts, including fabrics and ceramics.

Bluff Beaches


South of Durban's harbor, these beaches offer a less crowded alternative to the more central city beaches, although it can get rough at times, with big waves. Brighton Beach and Anstey’s Beach are popular surf spots, with southerly surf swells breaking on the rocky reef below. Cave Rock at low tide is a paradise for anyone who enjoys exploring rock pools; at high tide it's a wave ride for the fearless. Amenities: lifeguards. Best for: surfing; swimming.

Marine Dr., Durban, South Africa

Campbell Collections


Amid bustling, suburban Berea, Muckleneuk is a tranquil Cape Dutch home in a leafy garden. It was built in 1914 upon the retirement of Sir Marshall Campbell, a wealthy sugar baron and philanthropist who lived here with his wife, Ellen, and daughter, Killie. Today it is administered as a museum by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and is furnished in similar style to when the Campbells lived here, with some excellent pieces of the family's Cape Dutch furniture. In addition to the William Campbell Furniture Museum (William was the son of Sir Marshall) there is an extensive collection of works by early European traveler artists, such as Angas, and paintings by prominent 20th-century Black South African artists, including Gerard Bhengu, Daniel Rakgoathe, and Trevor Makhoba. The Mashu Museum of Ethnology displays the best collection of traditional Zulu glass beadwork in the country, plus African utensils, like tightly woven wicker beer pots, carvings, masks, pottery, and musical instruments. There are also weapons dating from the Bambatha Uprising of 1906, during which Blacks in Natal rebelled against a poll tax and were brutally put down. Paintings of African tribespeople in traditional dress by artist Barbara Tyrrell, who traveled around South Africa from the 1940s to 1960s gathering valuable anthropological data, add vitality to the collection. The Killie Campbell Africana Library, open to the public, is a treasure trove of historical information on KwaZulu-Natal. It includes the papers of James Stuart, a magistrate and explorer during the early 20th century; the recorded oral tradition of hundreds of Zulus; a collection of pamphlets produced by the Colenso family in their struggle for the recognition of the rights of the Zulu people; and a good collection of 19th-century works relating to game hunting.

220 Gladys Mazibuko [Marriott] Rd., Durban, 4001, South Africa
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Muckleneuk daily tours R20 (reservations essential); library free, Bring exact cash

City Hall

City Centre

Built in 1910 in Edwardian neo-baroque style, the hall looks as if it has been shipped straight from the United Kingdom column by column—hardly surprising, since it's an exact copy of Belfast City Hall. The main pediment carries sculptures representing Britannia, Unity, and Patriotism, and allegorical sculptures of the arts, music, and literature adorn the exterior. City Hall houses not only the mayor's parlor and other government offices, but also the Durban Art Gallery, the Natural Science Museum, and the City Library. Ask the guard to let you in to see the huge theater's ornate molding and grand parterre boxes, or join an official tour run by City of Durban.

Durban Art Gallery

City Centre

A vibrant, contemporary mix of local, southern African, and international work is presented here, though the main focus is on work from KwaZulu-Natal. Exhibits have included the cultural diversity of art and craft from KwaZulu-Natal and the rest of South Africa. Look out, too, for the traditional, patterned hlabisa baskets, regularly displayed at the gallery. Exhibits change every few months.

Durban Botanic Gardens


Opposite the Greyville Racecourse, Africa's oldest surviving botanical garden is a delightful 150-year-old oasis of greenery interlaced with walking paths, fountains, and ponds. The gardens' orchid house and collection of rare cycads are renowned. The Garden of the Senses caters to the blind, and there's a lovely tea garden where you can take a load off your feet and settle back with a cup of hot tea and cakes—crumpets with "the works" are the best in town. On weekends it's a popular place for wedding photographs. During the Music at the Lake events, which happen on some Sundays, various musical acts perform in the gardens (additional fee) and people take along picnics.

Durban Natural Science Museum

City Centre

Despite its small size, this museum provides an excellent introduction to Africa's numerous wild mammals (the displays include a stuffed elephant and leopard, as well as smaller mammals like wild dogs and vervet monkeys), plants, birds, reptiles, and insects. It's a great place to bring the kids or to familiarize yourself with the local wildlife before heading up to the game parks in northern KwaZulu-Natal. At one popular gallery, the KwaNunu Insect Arcade, giant insect replicas adorn the wall; another, the bird gallery, showcases a variety of stuffed birds, including flamingos, ostriches, eagles, and penguins. Then there's the enormous Tyrannosaurus dinosaur dominating the exhibition. There are exciting, temporary art exhibitions next door.

234 Anton Lembede [Smith] St., Durban, 4001, South Africa
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day

Farewell Square

City Centre

In the heart of Durban, the square (also known as Luthuli Square) is a lovely shady plaza bordered by some of the city's most historic buildings, including City Hall, the Central Post Office, and the Royal Hotel. Walkways lined with stately palms and flower beds crisscross the square and lead to monuments honoring some of Natal's important historic figures. The square stands on the site of the first European encampment in Natal, established by Francis Farewell and Henry Fynn in 1824 as a trading station to purchase ivory from the Zulus. A statue representing Peace honors the Durban volunteers who died during the Second South African War (1899–1902), also known as the Boer War or Anglo-Boer War. The Cenotaph, a large stone obelisk, commemorates the South African dead from the two world wars. In the same block is the Old Court House Museum, one of the city's oldest buildings. Apart from the historic attractions, it's an energetic, bustling part of the city center, with street stands selling inexpensive flowers, clothes, and food for the locals. You'll really feel the vibe of the city here.  Pay attention to your valuables while walking in the square.

Bounded by Anton Lembede [Smith], Dr. Pixley Kaseme [West], and Dorothy Nyembe [Gardiner] Sts. and the Church St. pedestrian mall, Durban, 4001, South Africa

Florida Road

City Centre

Florida Road leads a double life. By day, shoppers and tourists stroll up and down the tree-lined avenue, browsing art galleries and boutiques and indulging in lazy lunches; by night it transforms into a neon-lighted nightclub, where hordes of young and not-so-young revelers overflow from restaurants, lounges, and bars.

The thing that sets Florida Road apart is its historic character, with fine Edwardian architecture, well-preserved historic buildings, and half a dozen churches creating a timeless atmosphere that attracts the city’s trendy set to meet and eat. Don't miss the hundreds of locks that adorn the fence at Mandela Legacy Park.

Since the strip is only about 0.8 km (less than ½ mile) long, you can enjoy it on foot in fine weather, but Mynah buses pass regularly, so there’s transportation if you need it, and taxis are another option. The city has erected detailed and well-marked boards for walkers to navigate the city's most popular areas, including Florida Road and surrounds.

Florida Rd., Durban, South Africa

Golden Mile


From Vetch’s Pier in the south to Suncoast in the north, the Golden Mile is a series of golden, sandy beaches divided by piers. Beaches are cleaned regularly, and each has a beach report board warning of bluebottles, jellyfish, strong currents, or dangerous conditions. Bodyboarders favor North Beach, and New Pier and Bay are preferred surfing spots. Swimmers should remain between the flags or beacons and away from the sides of piers, where strong currents wash straight out to sea. Chairs and umbrellas can be rented. Just off the sand, popular beachfront hotels like the Edward, Blue Waters, Elangeni, Belaire, Tropicana, and Garden Court jostle for visitors’ favor. Rent a bicycle, Segway, or go-kart from a few points along the beachfront and fully enjoy the promenade when you tire of sunbathing. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking; showers; toilets. Best for: surfing; swimming.

O. R. Tambo Parade, Durban, South Africa

Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding


This magnificent lotus-shaped temple, opened in 1985, is at the heart of activities run by the city's International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Gold-tinted windows add a glow to the interior, floored with imported Italian marble and intricate artwork. Colorful laser drawings depicting the life of the Hindu god Krishna cover the ceiling, and statues of Krishna and his consort Radha are elaborately dressed in traditional Indian attire. Love fests and traditional singing and dancing take place on Sunday (1:30–5) and all are welcome. You need to remove your shoes when entering the temple.

Jumah Mosque

Indian District

Built in 1927 in a style that combines Islamic and colonial features, this is the second-largest mosque in the Southern Hemisphere (the biggest sits in Johannesburg). Its colonnaded verandahs, gold-domed minaret, and turrets give the surrounding (not-so-gleaming) streets much of their character. Tours (the only way to visit) are free and can be arranged through the Islamic Propagation Center, in a room at the entrance of the mosque, or through the Durban Tourism offices. 

If you plan to go inside, dress modestly: women should bring scarves to cover their heads and shoulders and skirts should extend to the ankles; men should not wear shorts. It's a good idea to keep a kikoi (a lightweight African sarong readily available in local markets) in your bag to use as a skirt or scarf. Men can use them, too, to cover bare legs. You'll have to take off your shoes as you enter, so wear socks if you don't want to go barefoot. No tours are offered during Islamic holidays, including Ramadan, which varies but lasts a whole month in the latter part of the year.

Dr Yusaf Dadoo [Grey] St. at Denis Hurley [Queen] St., Durban, 4001, South Africa
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free

Kendra Hall and Ekta Mandir


One of the most easily accessible and opulent temples in the city, the Kendra, next to the Durban Botanic Gardens, opened in 2001 after two years of intricate work by sculptors in India. The structure is unmistakably Eastern, with golden domes that tower above a palm tree supported by ornately decorated columns and arches that give the temple an East-meets-West look. Inside are two halls: a small one on the ground level and a larger one upstairs, which is a popular venue for weddings and leads to the temple. Huge statues of Hindu gods, notably Ganesha, Krishna, and Rama, are garlanded and clothed in exquisite Indian fabric. You can join an early morning or evening prayer daily at 6:30 am and 6:30 pm.

KwaMuhle Museum

City Centre

Pronounced kwa-moosh-le (with a light e, as in hen), this small museum, housed in what used to be the notorious Department of Native Affairs, tells of Durban's apartheid history. During apartheid the department was responsible for administering the movement of Black people in and out of the city, dealing with the dreaded passes that Blacks had to carry at all times, and generally overseeing the oppressive laws that plagued the Black population. Ironically, the name means "place of the good one," Kwa meaning "place of" and "Muhle" meaning "good one" (after J. S. Marwick, the benevolent manager of the municipal native affairs department from 1916 to 1920). Exhibits provide the often heartbreaking background on this period through old photographs and documents, replicas of passbooks, and lifelike models of people involved in the pass system, including shebeen (informal bar) queens, who had to apply for permits to sell alcohol at a time of prohibition.

130 Bram Fischer [Ordnance] Rd., Durban, 4001, South Africa
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day

Madressa Arcade

Indian District

There's a Kiplingesque quality to this thoroughfare, recalling the bazaars of the East. Built in 1927, it's little more than a narrow, winding alley perfumed by spices and thronged with traders plying a mishmash of drab goods. You can buy everything from cheap plastic trinkets to household utensils and recordings of Indian music. Bursts of color—from bright yellow fabric to dark red spices—create a refreshing and photogenic sight. You can buy striking costume jewelry that would cost three times as much at major shopping centers. Leave large bags and valuables at your hotel to browse unencumbered.

Entrances on Denis Hurley [Queen] and Cathedral Sts., Durban, 4001, South Africa

Mitchell Park


The magnificent rose garden, colorful floral displays, and leafy lawns here are a real treat on a hot summer day. Attached to the park is a small zoo, named after Sir Charles Mitchell, an early governor of Natal. It was opened at the turn of the 19th century, and the Aldabra tortoises that were donated to the park in the early 1900s—now massive—are still in residence. There are also small mammals, reptiles, tropical fish, and birds in large aviaries. The park has a popular playground. 

Bordered by Innes, Nimmo, and Ferndale Rds., and Havelock Crescent, Durban, 4001, South Africa
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Gardens free; zoo R13 adults, R11 children

Suncoast Casino & Entertainment World


Part of the rejuvenation of Durban's Golden Mile, this casino is done in the art-deco style for which Durban is famous. Colorful lights make it a nighttime landmark, but it's established itself as a daytime hot spot as well. There are deck chairs beneath umbrellas on a grassy sundeck and a pretty beach. A paved walkway dotted with benches is a pleasant place to sit and watch cyclists, inline skaters, and joggers. Fairly regularly there's a band playing directly in front of the complex on weekends, with amphitheater-like stairs where you can sit and enjoy the show.

Tourist Junction

City Centre

The city's principal tourist information outlet occupies Durban's old train station, an attractive brick building constructed in 1894 in Flemish Revival style. The "NGR" above the main entrance stands for Natal Government Railways. KwaZulu-Natal tourism authority also has a large office here, so it's a good place to pick up pamphlets and information about the city and province.

160 Monty Naicker Rd. [Pine St.], Durban, 4001, South Africa
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Weekdays 8–4:30

Umbilo Shree Ambalavaanar Alayam Temple

Cato Manor

One of Durban's most spectacular Hindu shrines is in Cato Manor. The temple's facade is adorned with brightly painted representations of the Hindu gods, notably Ganesha, Shiva, and Vishnu. The magnificent doors leading to the cellar were salvaged from a temple built in 1875 on the banks of the Umbilo River and subsequently destroyed by floods. The culmination of a long fast results in the carrying of "kavadi," a sacrifice in honor of Lord Murugan, held annually in March, where unshod fire walkers cross beds of burning, glowing coals. There are no set visiting hours. The kavadi-carrying devotees, often adorned in pins and needles walking in a deeply meditative state known as "trance," draw huge crowds of spectators and well-wishers. If the temple is open you'll be welcome to go inside; if not, the exterior of the building is still worth seeing.

Umgeni River Bird Park

Durban North

Ranked among the world's best, this bird park shelters beneath high cliffs next to the Umgeni River and has various walk-through aviaries containing more than 800 birds. The variety of birds, both exotic and indigenous, is astonishing. You'll be able to take close-up photographs of macaws, giant Asian hornbills, toucans, pheasants, flamingos, and three crane species, including the blue crane, South Africa's national bird. Try to time your visit to take in the free-flight bird show, which is a delight for both children and adults. Drinks and light lunches are available at the park's kiosk.

Victoria Street Market

Indian District

Masses of enormous fish and prawns lie tightly packed on beds of ice while vendors competing for your attention shout their respective prices. In the meat section, goat and sheep heads are stacked into neat piles (a spectacle for those with iron stomachs), and butchers slice and dice every cut of meat imaginable. The noise is deafening. In an adjacent building—where all the tour buses pull up—you'll discover a number of curio shops whose proprietors are willing to bargain over wood and stone carvings, beadwork, and basketry. You'll also find shops selling spices with creative names like Mother-in-Law's Revenge and Exterminator, recordings of African music, and Indian fabrics. The current structures stand on the site of an original, much-loved market, a ramshackle collection of wooden shacks that burned down during the years of Nationalist rule.  Go with a guide and make a visit to Joe's Corner shop or to the Thirupathi Spices Shop where Sanusha Moodliar, the shop's charismatic heir, will prepare you the freshest spice packs to take home (as she did for Gordon Ramsay). It's not cheap, but it's worth it. 

Denis Hurley [Queen] St. at Jospeh Nduli [Russell] St., Durban, 4001, South Africa
Sights Details
Rate Includes: R100 per person for a guided tour, Minimum three people

Wilson's Wharf

Maydon Wharf

On the edge of the harbor, this pleasant, privately developed section of waterfront is a lovely place to while away a few hours, soaking up the atmosphere, admiring the harbor view, and maybe having a meal or drink at one of the open-air restaurants on the expansive wooden deck. In addition to restaurants and fast-food outlets, there are boat rentals, sightseeing cruises (try Sarie Marais Pleasure Cruises or Isle of Capri), and a small market with stands selling local crafts or cheaper trinkets from India and China.