Photo of Durban

About Durban

Known as eThekweni in Zulu, Durban, South Africa's third-largest city has a lot more to offer than many might first expect. Sometimes dismissed for its trendier cousin, Cape Town, "Durbs" as the locals call it, is a smaller, friendlier, seaside city, with a melting pot of culture-rich enough to satiate even the most ardent traveller's palette. Ideal for a lazy beach holiday spent bathing in sunshine or surfing in the warm azure sea, Durban is an infinitely cool city with a lot of heart and soul. Following a major makeover during the build-up to the 2010 Football World Cup, including a total revamp of its promenade and inner-city areas has given a facelift to some of its less touristy areas. Some of Durban’s best neighbourhoods include the revival areas of Station Drive Precinct and Rivertown District, both previously no-go areas, they have been reformed and now include craft breweries and beer halls, independent restaurants and cafés, host live music performances, and plenty of boutique clothing stores. Whilst the neighbourhoods of Umhlanga and Glenwood have always been quietly cool and upmarket. Our collection of best places to stay in Durban showcas the best in boutique, heritage, and foodie stays, that this vibrant city has to offer.

There is a reason why one million South Africans descend upon Durban every summer: its beaches. The Golden Mile, stretching along the coastline, is a mecca for surfers due to the warmth of the bright blue waters and the mania of its rollers. Many of the world's most famous surfboard companies started in Durban and you can find their workshops strewn along the Golden Mile. All along the promenade, you will find Zulu crafts being sold and if the day is too scorchingly hot for walking, you can hire a Zulu rickshaw and trundle along past the picturesque sand art installations of castles, rhinos and skeletons.

A city alive with art, owing, perhaps, to her cosmopolitan demographic. Holding the largest concentration of Indians outside the subcontinent, much of the city has a distinctly Asian feel. Gandhi himself worked here as a young lawyer in the early 20th century and established a printing press outside of the city to campaign for the rights of Indian people after being thrown off a whites-only train car. Sprayed along the walls are Zulu-inspired street murals, and you can book tours to take you around the most impressive pieces of public art found in the city. In places like the African Art Centre, you can buy locally-made crafts while along Helen Joseph Road there are a lot of independent retailers selling objet d'art, artworks and bric-a-brac. If you're looking for a truly unique experience, head down to the market at Warwick Triangle where you will find all sorts of interesting herbal remedies!

If you like art galleries, particularly ones that cater to unknown local artists, then Durban is the place for you. In institutions like the Museum of Art and Kwazulu-Natal Society of Arts, you will find the best of Durban's art hanging on the walls. The nightlife is spectacular too. Durban has a booming and roaringly-fun nightlife and is the beating-heart and home of the "gqom" electronic music scene. In the early morning, you will likely see the young pouring out of nightclubs buzzing with life, heading to the street food vendors for some "Bunny Chow" - the classic Durban go-to snack - hollowed-out bread filled with chicken or beef curry.

What not to miss

  • Every July, the city plays host to the Durban International Film Festival, showcasing work from artists around the country and the world.

  • Embark on a walking tour of some of the city's hidden historical sites including Brook Street Ceremony and the markets of Warwick.

  • Visit the trendy Morning Trade Market, hosted every Sunday at Station Drive Precinct, where local producers and artisans sell their wares.The KwaMuhle Museum is an important reminder of South Africa's painful and marred apartheid history.

  • The waters of the Golden Mile are hugely popular with surfers and its’ bright, pristine beaches are ideal for lounging on with a good book. Scattered all across the beaches are sand art installations, from castles to rhinos, and lovely little bars and vendors are peppered all around. Luckily the beaches are protected by shark nets, so beachgoers can feel extra safe while swimming in the warm blue waters.

  • Durban's bay and extensive harbour is home to acres of mangrove, making up Bayhead Natural Heritage Site. A great spot for bird spotting.

  • Coedmore Castle is a beautiful historic homestead, built in 1875 and situated right in the centre of the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve.

  • If you like street art, then Durban will certainly appeal. Book tours to see the spectacular works of graffiti artists sprayed all over the city. In terms of galleries, Durban is plentiful. Durban's Museum of Art, located in the neo-Baroque City Hall, has excellent examples of regional African art, and places like Artspace, the Bat Centre and the Kwazulu-Natal Society of Arts host wonderful contemporary works.

  • Home to several nature reserves, the Bluff Nature Reserve and Burman Bush, are also well worth a visit. Home to some superb birdlife.

  • Atop The Point, a trendy place of high-end apartments that was once associated with prostitution and gangland disputes, is Ushaka Marine World, a waterpark and aquarium that makes for a terrific afternoon outing. After seeing their great variety of marine life, book a table at the Cargo Hold Restaurant, located in the belly of the shark tank…

  • A couple of kilometres north of town, Durban Country Club is one of the best courses in town.

  • Durban's Botanical Gardens host a prime display of some of South Africa's flora and fauna.

Our collection of the best places to stay in Durban reflect the city's laid-back vibe and cultural heritage.

The best places to stay in Durban

For Value

  • Essenwood House is a charming guesthouse offering six rooms, set in a beautiful tropical garden complete with an outdoor pool and a spacious veranda. Ideal for couples looking to retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.

  • With superb dining, a difficult to beat location, and well-appointed rooms, Aha Avondale Boutique Hotel is the best value in town.

For a boutique stay

  • Boasting trendy modern interiors, which make the most of sea views Endless Horizons is an excellent example of a low-key boutique hotel.

  • As quaint as anything, The Benjamin's adorable rooms, beautifully presented dining, as immaculate gardens make it a superb boutique stay.

For Luxury

  • The last word in beachfront luxury, the Oyster Box Hotel is an elegant property offering a state-of-the-art spa and a choice of top quality bars and restaurants.

  • Arguably Durban's finest boutique offering, Teremok Marine's colourful rooms and unique design mean it stands out from the crowd.

For foodies

  • Trendy, fun, and boasting a superb restaurant, The Concierge has an excellent location, right in the heart of town. Popular with families too.
  • With its elegant Victorian facade, Quarters Hotel provides period accommodation, just a stone's throw from Durban's 'dining district'.

For total relaxation

  • Located midway between Durban and Johannesburg, aha Alpine Heath Resort provides a relaxing stay for excellent value.

Travel information

  • Durban has 320 days of sunshine a year, so weather-wise, there is never really a bad time to go. Enjoying a temperate climate year-round, ranging from between lows of 20°C and highs of 30°C, the best time to go is probably during the summer when there is less rain and the weather is more clement, though January to March witness the highest rainfall.

  • King Shaka International Airport is approximately a thirty-minute drive from town - taxis can be booked easily.

  • If you want to rent a car, contact our online partner Rentalcars.

Still not sure?

  • Widen the net to include our recommendations in KwaZulu-Natal.

  • Or contact one of our gurus for advice.

Best Hotels in Durban

  • aha Avondale Boutique Hotel Durban 17 rooms from £58

    Delightful hotel, one of our top picks in Durban. Each of its 17 rooms is decorated in a traditional, country casuals style. Dining is superb with your choice of eggs to order, fresh fruits and juices, and great coffee. There's a spa, plus you're walking distance from many attractions.

    Local exploring  -  A charming hotel within easy reach of Durban's attractions
    Great walks  -  Through Durban Botanic Gardens is just over 1 km away
    Local markets  -  Victoria Street Market
    Spa
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  • Essenwood House Durban (Berea) 6 rooms from £67

    The perfect place to while away a relaxing stay in Durban. With a smart breakfast room, homely living room and cosy bedrooms it makes for a very comfortable stay. Relax on private verandahs, al fresco lounge areas or by the outdoor pool. A perfect little find along the gateway to the safari route.

    Value chic  -  Incredible value for such period charm and great location
    Sights nearby  -  Durban's CBD is an easy drive
    Swimming Pool  -  Outdoor pool
    Views  -  Great views from hotel
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  • The Benjamin Durban 41 rooms from £71

    A delightful hotel just ten minutes drive from Durban beach. Each of the 41 rooms is decorated in a homely style, boasting pretty garden views, tea and coffee making facilities, and luxurious en suite bathrooms. There's an inviting pool, where you can enjoy tea and cakes out on the terrace.

    City Style  -  A homely stay, excellently located within easy reach of town
    Great walks  -  Through Durban Botanical gardens
    Sights nearby  -  uShaka Marine World is 4 km away
    Swimming Pool  -  Outdoor pool
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  • Endless Horizons Durban 10 rooms from £81

    Modern boutique hotel boasts stylish interiors within a charming Durban neighbourhood. Each of the ten rooms is decorated with quirky prints and contemporary style. There is an inviting pool on the sunny terrace with far reaching views. A hearty buffet breakfast with Full English to order is served.

    City Style  -  Stylish boutique hotel within easy reach of Durban's bustling centre
    Sailing  -  Boat trips through Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve
    Restrictions on children  -  Children above the age of 12 are welcome
    Great walks  -  To Umhlanga lighthouse
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  • Quarters Hotel Durban 25 rooms from £105

    This inviting Victorian hotel provides a very stylish stay. Located amidst what is known as Durban's "dining district" it is walking distance from some of the city's finest restaurants. Each of the rooms boasts its own private terrace and features enormous sleigh beds and stylish en suites.

    Local exploring  -  Stylish Victorian hotel located amidst Durban 'dining district'
    Great walks  -  Explore Durban's Botanical Gardens, just a few minutes walk away
    Sights nearby  -  Durban's beach - take a stroll along Marine Parade
    Traditional
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  • The Concierge Durban (Greyville,) 12 rooms from £95

    A relaxed and friendly boutique hotel, with rooms spread across four chic bungalows, and a novelty foodie café set in an old shipping container. Unwind in the pretty garden or access the neighbouring park to relax during the heat of the day. A chic spot in a very central location.

    Foodies  -  Great for foodies, with restaurants and street-food stands serving everything from the best curries to succulent barbecued meat
    Local exploring  -  This central location is perfect for exploring this vibrant, multicultural port city
    Surfing  -  Beach lovers have golden sands and warm seas to enjoy, as well as excellent surfing possibilities
    Sights nearby  -  Visit the nearby Durban Botanic Gardens or the Hare Krishna Temple
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  • Teremok Marine Durban 8 rooms from £210

    This colourful and quirky owner-managed boutique hotel provides a true home away from home with bags of style for its guests. Each of the rooms is individually decorated with mix and match wallpaper and fabrics. Sea views, an inviting pool, plus you're walking distance from the action.

    Local exploring  -  Skipping distance from Umhlanga Rocks, one of Durban's most upmarket neighbourhoods, guests can explore on foot.
    Kayaking  -  Kayaking and boat trips through Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve
    Sights nearby  -  Umhlanga Rocks Beach is under 1 km away
    Great walks  -  Umhlanga's Promenade is within 500 m
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