Photo of Durban

About Durban

Durban is the vibrant and colourful third-largest city of South Africa. Known for its sweeping golden beaches, laid-back atmosphere, street food, raving nightlife and burgeoning street art scene, it is a happening place that is often overlooked by the likes of Cape Town and Johannesburg. 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. The best places to stay in Durban tend to reflect the city's laid-back vibe.

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. While much of the waterfront was revamped during the period leading up to the 2010 World Cup, the area still retains its raw, unrefined charm. 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.

Durban is 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

  • Beaches: 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.
  • Museums: 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.
  • Aquariums: 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...

Durban is an infinitely fun city defined by its beautiful beaches and animated art scene. While often overlooked by cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg, it is fast becoming the coolest place to be in South Africa. If you don't want to miss out, check out our collection of the best places to stay in Durban.

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.

For a boutique stay

  • The Concierge is a relaxed and friendly property with rooms spread across four chic bungalows. The novelty foodie café set in an old shipping container is a fun addition and the location is very central.

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.

For an apartment or villa

  • If you would rather a self-catered option why not browse through the options on our online partner's website Booking.com which has a wide range of villas and apartments in the nearby area.

Travel information

  • Durban has 320 days of sunshine a year, so weather wise, there is never really a bad time to go. The winters in South Africa are the hottest, with temperatures averaging at around 24 degrees while in the summer, they average at around 18 degrees. The best time to go is probably during the summer when there is less rain and the weather is more clement.
  • Fly to King Shaka International Airport, Durban's leading airport.
  • If you want to rent a car, contact our online partner Rentalcars.

Still not sure?

Best Hotels in Durban

  • aha Avondale Boutique Hotel 17 rooms from £58

    Durban

    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
    Check prices
  • Essenwood House 6 rooms from £67

    Durban (Berea)

    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
    Check prices
  • The Benjamin 41 rooms from £71

    Durban

    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
    Check prices
  • Endless Horizons 10 rooms from £81

    Durban

    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
    Check prices
  • Quarters Hotel 25 rooms from £105

    Durban

    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
    Check prices
  • The Concierge 12 rooms from £94

    Durban (Greyville,)

    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
    Check prices
  • Teremok Marine 8 rooms from £210

    Durban

    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.

    City Style  -  Skipping distance from Durban's vibrant centre, this is a very trendy stay
    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
    Check prices