Durban is famed for its golden beaches and sub-tropical climate, but that’s not all there is to South Africa’s city of sunshine. Named “the coolest city in South Africa” by CNN, Durban is a diverse city offering an abundance of things to do and places to see. From trendy cafés and fun-filled leisure activities, to an intriguing cultural heritage and amazing shopping opportunities, Durban definitely has something for everyone.
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Try First Car Rental’s guide to the Top 10 things to do in Durban:
- Explore the Golden Mile: Experience the vibrancy of Durban from the iconic Golden Mile. The four-mile long beach borders Durban city centre from Blue Lagoon just north of the city to Addington Beach and Durban Harbour in the south. Here you’ll get a taste of Durban’s charm, from colourful rickshaws, to waterparks, surfers, kite boarders, sand sculptures and numerous Blue Flag beaches. The brick-paved promenade stretching along the entire Golden Mile makes it ideal for walking, jogging or cycling, while soaking up the warm Indian Ocean breeze and Durban sunshine.
- Visit Africa’s oldest botanic gardens: Established in 1849, Durban’s Botanic Gardens are the oldest botanical gardens in Africa and Durban’s oldest public institution. Take a stroll through the stunning grounds while discovering hundreds of indigenous and exotic plant collections from sub-tropical climates. In the grounds there’s also a herbarium, an orchid house, a garden for the blind and a charity tea garden. The Gardens are open seven days a week with regular weekly activities and events taking place, including concerts and Victorian tea parties.
- Shop till you drop: Durban offers many different shopping experiences, from world-class malls to exotic street markets. The modern, open-plan design of Gateway Theatre of Shopping and Wavehouse in Umhlanga is ideal for a relaxing, effortless and fun retail experience. Grab a bargain in one of the street markets in and around the city or visit the Indian district in downtown Durban for a huge selection of goods from the East as well as spices and curry powders. For boutique shopping, make sure to visit the Stables Lifestyle Market, which is open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and the Essenwood Market on Saturday.
- Discover the Moses Mabhida Stadium: The iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium is definitely a must-see for anyone visiting Durban. This architectural masterpiece was built for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup and now also offers a variety of activities, including the sky car that whisks visitors up the stadium’s arch to a viewing platform at its peak, with stunning 360° views of Durban and the ocean. If your heart, lungs and nerves are up to it, then tackle the Big Rush Big Swing ? the world’s only stadium swing and the biggest swing of any kind anywhere. The swing launches people 106m above the pitch and travels in a gut-wrenching 220m arc under the stadium arch.
- Encounter the ocean at uShaka Marine World: uShaka Marine World is one of Durban’s prime attractions, offering non-stop adventure for the young and old alike. Discover the wonders of the ocean at Sea World, the largest aquarium in the southern hemisphere, with underground viewing galleries that travel 500 meters through a series of four ship wrecks. Get up, close and personal with dolphins, sharks and other sea creatures in the Animal Encounters complex. Wet ‘n Wild, uShaka’s world-class water park, offers a variety of exhilarating entertainment, including free-fall slides, super tubes and rafting.
- Go on a Durban city walkabout: Discover the historical side of Durban by going on a guided walking tour through the city centre. Choose from two tours: The Oriental Walkabout where you’ll learn about Durban’s ties to the East, visiting landmarks such as the Juma Musjid Mosque and the Victoria Street Market, and the Historical Walkabout, visiting iconic buildings such as the City Hall, which was built in the early 1900s in classic neo-Baroque-style architecture. Walking not your style? Hop in your rental car and download First Car Rental’s City Guide App and travel to Durban’s top attractions.
- Learn about sharks: KwaZulu-Natal is the only coastal province in South Africa that uses shark safety gear such as nets and drum lines to protect swimmers, surfers and body boarders from shark attacks and the KZN Sharks Board is the organisation in charge of maintaining this gear. The Board also plays a vital role in researching shark behaviour, feeding and breeding, with a research centre on site. Visitors can go on an early morning boat trip to learn about how the Board maintains the safety gear, or learn all about sharks in the educational audio-visual lectures conducted at the Board’s headquarters in Umhlanga.
- Eat out at the revolving restaurant: Take in the extraordinary views while having a bite to eat at the legendary Roma Revolving Restaurant, located on the 32nd floor of the John Ross House and overlooking the whole of Durban and surrounding areas. The revolving restaurant is the third of its kind in the world and the only genuine revolving restaurant in the southern hemisphere. Roma has a speed control mechanism that allows a revolution of anything between 60 and 90 minutes. The restaurant is fully licensed and specialises in Italian cuisine.
- Challenge yourself at Giba Gorge MTB Park: Just outside of Durban you’ll find the Giba Gorge MTB Park, an off-road cycling venue where BMX, downhill and mountain-bike enthusiasts can test their skills on various tracks, each designed to challenge riders of a specific level. Mountain bikers can choose from three routes, ranging from 10.2km to 6.7km, while BMXers can try out dirt jumps that are considered some of the best in South Africa. Facilities at the site include a restaurant, picnic and camping sites, toilets, showers and ample parking. Other activities include hiking trails through the Giba Gorge.
- Get cultured: Durban attracts some of South Africa’s top artists and is home to a number of leading art galleries. These include KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood, which hosts installations and performance art events, and the Durban Art Gallery located inside the City Hall, featuring a diverse range of artwork dating as far back as the 15th century right up to the present. You can also check out artSPACE Durban on Millar Road, which showcases contemporary pieces by South African and international artists, and the African Art Centre on Florida Road, which is dedicated to supporting unemployed artists and craftspeople by allowing them to sell their artwork at the gallery.
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