Without the allure of Cape Town or the proximity to game parks of Johannesburg, Durban is so often overlooked on trips through South Africa. If not for a National Geographic article from several years ago, I would have entirely missed it myself— thankfully, I obsessed over that article, dog-earing it and jotting notes down so that one day I could visit this incredible city, with the largest Indian population outside of India, to enjoy its curry, beaches, and inimitable culture. While in Durban, here were just a few of our favourites.
Lounge about on the Golden Mile
Possibly the biggest draw for South Africans to Durban is the beaches. Set on the Indian Ocean (so plenty warm) and covered in golden sand, it’s hard to escape the appeal and even harder to resist taking a dip. We visited the beach on a Sunday during school holidays, though, so the crowds were positively out of hand and we didn’t spend more than a few hours hanging around. Despite all the people, it was still a beautiful spot, framed with little curio shops, restaurants, and cafes, and I’m eager to make another visit to this expansive seaside.
Explore the bustling Victoria Street Market
For a touch of shopping and just an all around experience, visit the enormous Victoria Street Markets in downtown Durban. Two floors are occupied by beaded jewellery, wood animals, hats, dresses, Indian spices, home goods, artwork, and honestly more than I can even list. The prices are shockingly low, so expect to come home with a dozen pairs of earrings (no regrets) and quite a few stories.
Brave the hectic city centre
Although it may not be the big city you think of when someone mentions South Africa, Durban still has a vibrant (and sometimes even overwhelming) city centre filled with people, vehicular mayhem, and plenty of cheap shops selling everything from wigs to electronics. The experience is well worth the stress of driving in and parking, but perhaps the smartest option would be to just Uber in. If you’re extremely adventurous, hop in one of the city taxis: little minibuses that drive as if the rules of the road are a mere suggestion (our time in the taxi did not last long). Despite the chaos of actually getting into the city, it is an adventure beyond compare and an absolutely essential part of the Durban experience.
Gorge yourself on curry and bunny chow
The quintessential Durban experience, despite all of my other excited remarks, really is just eating— dig into the phenomenal and authentic Indian curries and indulge in the Durban-style curry in a bread bowl, bunny chow. This dish, often just referred to as “a bunny”, is the entire reason I wanted to visit in the first place and I am delighted to report not an ounce of disappointed. Read more about the best food in Durban in this post.