[Updated 18 March 2021]
It’s official, the rest of the world finally woke up to what Durbanites knew all along – Durban is cool. The New York Times featured Durban as 7th on its 52 places to go to back in 2015. A little bit Rio, a little bit Miami, eThekwini (the local name for Durbs) is in a class of her own.
Here are 55 things to do in Durban for under R250:
1. Johnny’s Rotis
Also known at Sunrise Chip ‘N Ranch, Johnny’s Rotis is an institution. You haven’t been to Durban if you haven’t eaten the triple cheese and chip roti with mutton gravy after a night out. They’re open 24/7.
2. Try a spicy pineapple at the Spice Emporium
A trip to Durban wouldn’t be complete without trying out the hot dishes that form part of the city’s famed reputation! One of the most unconventional treats you must taste is a spicy pineapple from the Spice Emporium. Besides the mix of sweet and hot, you’ll also find a huge stock of spices at the emporium.
3. Walk on the sky at Moses Mabhida Stadium
Built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the enormous stadium has many adrenaline-inducing activities on offer. The Sky Car, a single cabin that runs up steel tracks on the northern arch of the stadium and is designed to roll down the arch under its own gravity (in case of load shedding), has a 106-metre vantage point. Then there’s a Big Sky Walk along the arch of the stadium (don’t look down!) or a beach glide on a segway for those seeking a more serene adventure.
Looking for a place to stay? Check out the best hotels in Durban.
4. Conquer the waves at WavePark Gateway
The WavePark at Gateway flaunts some great waves. Tear things up on the Flow rider or for something a little tamer have a go on the Supertube rides (perfect for keeping the kids busy in the school holidays).
5. Afro’s Chicken
This afro-chic beach-side takeaway spot is right on the promenade. The food is simple and delicious and comes in two flavours- hot is chili, koel is lemony. Burger meals start at just 60 bucks.
Also read: Top 10 Durban restaurants & cafes
6. The Chairman
This sophisticated hole-in-the-wall jazz bar is a well-kept secret. The space wouldn’t be out of place in Buenos Aires or Catalonia. Expect to find good music and an inviting ambience. You can also look forward to exceptional cocktail blends, such as Surrender Your Booty and delicious bar snacks like their Coco-Cola beef ribs.
7. Go Godzilla at Mini Town
The perfect place to practice your Godzilla destroying eThekwini pose, Mini Town is fun for kids and grown-ups too.
8. Mitchell Park Zoo
Much-beloved by Durban parents, the Mitchell Park Zoo is where kids can explore the grounds that used to be an ostrich farm but now houses crocodiles, buck, meerkats, cranes, flamingoes, wallabies, monkeys and tortoises. There’s also the Blue Zoo tea garden for coffee and cake. Find out more from the knowledgeable Zoologist.
9. Nostalgia at Fun World
Though a little scruffy these days, Fun World is a beach amusement park with tons of nostalgic value. Founded in the 1930s by Arthur Thornton, Durban Fun World started out as a miniature steam train ride. The cableway was added in 1970 and still offers a great view of the city. Entrance is free and you can buy affordable tickets at the kiosk for the rides.
10. Join Durban’s edition of ‘First Thursdays’
Experience a creative overflow in the Station Drive Precinct. Admire wonderful street artworks, enjoy the entertainment with live music and join a free Bollywood dance class! There are also flea markets, art exhibitions and occasional salsa sessions. Make sure you’re near the Station Drive Precinct on the first Thursday of each month from 18:00.
11. Surf’s up
Grab a board and do as the locals do on Addington Beach. There are plenty of surf shops to book a private or group lesson.
12. Faith47 murals
Faith 47 is a South-African born street artist with a strong sense of social justice. You can find her work in countries all over the world including Sweden, Scotland, the USA and China. Visit Warwick Junction in central Durban for a closer look at her murals, including life-like portraits of the traders on columns adjacent to the Early Morning Market.
13. Rivertown Beerhall
The Rivertown Beerhall is an eThekwini Municipality initiative that started with the activation and naming of the area during the UIA 2014 Durban Architecture Congress. It was built in 1914, and opened again on 3rd August to 10th August 2014, 100 years on. Grab a beer and enjoy live music in this historical space. They aren’t open every day so visit their Facebook page to check ahead of time.
14. KZNSA Gallery
This modern, airy building is an inviting space. Along with upcoming and experimental artists, the gallery has an extensive collection of well-known South African artists such as Penny Siopis and Isaac Sithole. Enjoy a snack in the gallery café which spills out into the garden. Entrance is free.
15. Wilson’s Wharf
The place to see Durban Harbour, the busiest port in Africa, in action. You’ll get a glimpse of luxury yachts, racing boats, hulking tankers, trawlers and tiny optimist sailing boats as they go by. At Wilson’s Wharf there are many restaurants and fast-food spots to choose from and the flickering lights on the water at night are particularly atmospheric.
16. Tour of Warwick Junction
Take a guided tour through the nine markets in central Durban to get a feel for the pulse of the city. The Markets of Warwick Tour takes you through Victoria Street Market, the Impepho and Lime Market, Brook Street Market, Bead Market, Herb Market, Music Bridge Market, Berea Street Market, the Bovine Head Market and the Early morning or ‘Mother’ Market, which hosts over 640 stalls with vendors selling fresh produce, flowers, spices and live poultry. In the Bovine Market, cow heads are collected by trolley operators from local butcheries. The cooked meat is then presented on wooden chopping boards with condiments for customers to eat.
17. The Golden Mile
The Golden Mile runs roughly from South Beach (uShaka Marine World) to Suncoast Casino in a perfect gilded stretch of sea and sun. Longer than a mile, it’s the best place to do an early morning beach run, rollerblade or cycle à la Ipanema Beach. Or, you could rent a bike for an hour or two from Xpression on the Beach.
Also read: Top 10 beaches in Cape Town and Durban
18. Grab a cold one at Wahooz
Stop in at this Hawaiian-vibe beach-side restaurant at uShaka Marine World for a beer among the palm trees. Enjoy the laidback atmosphere and fresh, tasty meals.
19. Umgeni River Bird Park
Kids will love the Umgeni River Bird Park – they have 900 birds from 180 species in the park, a free-flight bird show, restaurant and playground.
20. Durban Natural Science Museum
On the first floor of the magnificent Durban City Hall, this trove of dinosaurs, fossils and taxidermied predators will enchant both kids and grown-ups. Entrance is free.
21. Sunset catamaran cruise
Watch the powerful east coast sun set over tropical Durban aboard a catamaran sundowner cruise. Hakuna Matata Charters offer half-hour and one-hour sunset cruises, and the boats can be rented for private functions too.
22. Alayam Hindu Temple
This beautiful temple is well worth a visit. Make sure to observe the intricate carvings of Ganesha, Shiva and Vishnu on the temple facade. The antique doors that lead to the cellar were salvaged from a temple built on the banks of the Umbilo River in 1875, which was later destroyed by floods. Remember to dress respectably.
23. Have lunch at parc
Make sure you head to this café in Glenwood when you’d like to take a break from exploring Durban’s city centre. You’ll find some tasty Mediterranean-inspired specials and a chilled-out vibe. Just what you need after experiencing the rush of the city’s urban scenes.
24. Bay of Plenty for a quick swim
The best thing about Durban is that, winter or summer, it’s always a good idea to kick off your slops and leap into that beautifully warm sea. The Bay of Plenty, at the heart of the beachfront, also offers good surf conditions and beach volleyball.
25. The Sardine Run
Nearly every year between June and July, billions of sardines travel along the east coast of South Africa attracting an abundance of dolphins, whales and sharks. If you are lucky enough to see the sardine run while in Durban it will be worth renting a boat to get a closer look. For a less pricey option, hire a kayak from Ocean Ventures uShaka. You’ll launch in front of uShaka and paddle to the Vetjies Reef, past the shark nets and out to the limestone reef where there’s a 1940s shipwreck. If you’re exceptionally lucky and the timing is right, you’ll catch the hundreds of dolphins tailing the sardine run.
26. Freedom Café
This bright space is brilliant for an all-day breakfast. Do pop in to their famous Chocolate & Cheesecake Bar to sinfully indulge in their delicious treats.
27. KwaMuhle Museum
Once the Native Administration Department, step through the copper-covered entrance doors to find a post-apartheid museum documenting the history experienced by all of Durban’s residents. The photographs and artefacts on display portray a city in search of an identity within a new political context. Entrance is free.
28. Visit the world’s rarest plant at Durban Botanical Gardens
The Durban Botanical Gardens boasts the rarest cycad collection in the world. Cycads, have been around before the dinosaurs and have survived three mass extinction events although they are in danger of extinction today. Wood’s Cycad is reputed to be the world’s rarest plant. You can find it growing peacefully near the old reservoir. The orchid collection and palm grove are also worth visiting. Entrance to the gardens is free. Attend one of the concerts at the lake which take place throughout the year. Read up on the concert schedule and buy tickets.
29. Roma Revolving Restaurant
Enjoy the kitsch but fun seventies dining atmosphere of the Roma Revolving restaurant on the 32nd floor of the John Ross building. The Roma is the only revolving restaurant in the southern hemisphere. You’ll be privy to an incredible rotating view 105 metres up in the air while eating hearty Italian food. If you’re not hungry, head to Gino’s Bar one floor above for drinks in the sky.
30. Skate park fun
Have exhilarating fun at the beachfront skate park in front of the Bay of Plenty- entrance is free. Your other option is WavePark in Umhlanga.
31. Hop aboard a Ricksha Bus
Take a three-hour whirl around Durban on the top deck of a Ricksha bus. It’s practically always blazingly sunny so enjoy the sun on your face as you pass all of Durban’s major attractions. There are two tours per day, seven days a week. The morning tour starts at 09:00 and ends at midday and the afternoon tour starts at 13:00 and ends at 16:00. They accept cash only.
32. Little Gujarat
Arguably the most authentic and affordable Indian food in the city, Little Gujarat offers a feast of delicious vegetarian bunny chows, samoosas, pakoras, bhajis, roti breads, rice and pickles.
33. Watch a horse race at Greyville Racecourse
This racecourse is often associated with the Durban July, one of South Africa’s biggest horse races and a major fashion event. On any other day though, you can get free entry to watch the races (except during major race days)! The Greyville Racecourse offers a picnic area where you can relax, with plenty of food outlets. If golfing tickles your fancy, you can play a round at the Royal Durban Golf Course, in the centre of the track.
34. Durban International Film Festival
This film festival is an unmissable event on Durban’s annual calendar. It’s one of the oldest of its kind in southern Africa. Catch it from mid- to late-July. The festival also serves as a launch pad for Wavescape, a film and music festival celebrating a mutual love of surfing and ocean culture.
35. Florida Road shopping
In between stopping in at the many greats cafés, bars and restaurants on Durban’s glam dame Florida Road) there’s the beautiful emporium of wooden and ceramic homeware at Cécile & Boyds. For a throwback to the 90s, visit Art Film Co, a discerning DVD rental store, where you can find curated DVDs.
Also, be sure not to miss the burgers at Dropkick Murphy’s!
36. Relax with a gondola boat ride
You’ll catch wonderful views of the city of Durban with a gondola boat ride courtesy of Zulumoon Gondolas. This boat ride is an ideal way to celebrate a special occasion and is perfect for romantic experiences or a refreshing activity for the family.
37. Beachwood mangroves
This mangrove reserve is a national monument and contains three species of rare mangroves – black, red and white. Walk along the sturdy wooden platforms to catch a glimpse of mudskippers, fiddler crabs and rare kingfishers among the muddy water and white sand.
38. Dine with sharks at uShaka Marine World
The fifth largest aquarium in the world, the building of uShaka was pivotal in the revitalization of the Point area. Expect water rides, penguin, seal and dolphin shows, sharks circling you as you eat dinner, a dangerous creatures section and an extensive shopping walk.
Also read: Durban Hotels and Experiences
39. House of Curries
Famous for their tender lamb curry, mini-bunny chows and spicy bean curry, House of Curries is an old favourite on Florida Road. Relaxed Durban vaab for days. You can choose a main course for under R100.
40. Go ice skating
Durban’s Ice Rink got a revamp recently and is bigger and better. This is one of the city’s most exceptional activities. During these sessions, you can also test your skills with a 7-metre indoor climbing wall for only R20.
41. Lekker vibes at Nev the Barber
Nev offers a slick haircut with attitude, “kiff cuts, laka vibes” is the idea behind this punchy Glenwood barbershop. You’ll see posters up with zingers like “vibe the vibe” and “waai from here”. Right next door is the much-loved Corner Café where you can munch a panini and drink a flat white. And the good news is that Nev is opening another spot in Umhlanga.
42. Take a steam train through the Valley of 1000 Hills
Tucked in the verdant Valley of 1000 Hills is the village of Inchanga. Catch a steam train from Kloof to Inchanga’s small Victorian station in the rolling hills of Kwa Zulu and back again. There are trains on the first and last Sunday of every month, seats fill up quickly so book in advance. Avid photographers will enjoy the early-morning curling smoke shots over the dramatic rolling hills. Stop in for a pint at Stoker’s Arms in Kloof.
43. Giba Gorge Biking
For adrenaline lovers, Giba Gorge boasts a Supercross, BMX and cycle track. There are also calmer spots for picnics with space for kids to run around. If you don’t have bicycles and helmets you can rent them from the independently run “Yolo Cycles” within the park.
44. Inanda Mountain
Drive 50 mins out of the CBD to Inanda Mountain for Durban’s most incredible view. The road ends practically at the edge of the cliffs that plunge down to Inanda Dam. Photographers and birders will appreciate the Lanner falcons and banded Harrier hawks that ride the thermals every morning.
45. Mzinyathi Falls and Rasta Caves
A 20-minute drive from Gateway, Mzinyathi falls is relatively unknown. The dramatic sandstone amphitheatre makes this a popular rock climbing spot. In summer after heavy rain, the falls have an impressive volume. The Rastafarian caves are a sacred place where Rastafarians who work in the city during the week come on the weekends. The path to these caves is quite difficult to find, contact the Green Corridor to arrange a tour to the caves, falls and surrounding area.
46. Virginia Nature Reserve
The Virginia Nature Reserve in Durban North provides a 38-hectare respite from the suburbs. It has winding paths of coastal scrub filled with Natal figs, hibiscus, grey duiker, spotted genet and dwarf mongooses. It’s a great spot for bird watching. Give yourself a good two hours to ramble around.
47. Umhlanga Pier – the most beautiful pier in the world
CNN has crowned Umhlanga Pier the most beautiful pier in the world. The whale-bone skeleton structure is striking and the favourite of sunset Instagrammers. The pier also performs an important function as an extension of an underground culvert that helps disperse excess stormwater into the sea.
Now that you have more to add to your list of things to do in this popular South African city, pack your bags and book cheap flights to Durban! What do you love most about Durbs? Share your favourite things to do in Durban in the comments below.
Featured image on top courtesy of @awharvard via Instagram
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