Summer 2010 will see South Africa stage football’s greatest show: the FIFA World Cup. The games will be held in nine cities including Durban. The city has been pouring millions of rand into new infrastructure including a state-of-the-art football ground, The Durban Stadium, which will seat no fewer than 70,000 fans.
But there’s more to South Africa’s third largest city than the FIFA World Cup Finals. Local resident, Heather Reed, reveals why South Africa’s seaside playground rivals Cape Town as the Rainbow Nation’s most popular tourist destination…
Name: Heather Reed
Occupation: Resource Planner
Are you a local girl?
I am indeed; I am a born and bred ‘Durbanite.’
What’s it like to live in Durban?
It’s lovely with an enviable climate; think mild winters and gorgeous, hot summers – we get to spend Christmas on the beach. Despite being South Africa’s third largest city, Durban maintains a small town feel; everyone knows everyone and the pace of life is slower. In short, it’s an ideal destination for newlyweds or anyone with a family.
What is your favourite thing about Durban?
The beautiful weather and the warm sea (Cape Town’s waters are cold enough to keep even the keenest of swimmers out of the water).
Why should we visit Durban?
Durban is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city where you can play (check out the Golden Mile) and shop (the Gateway Shopping Mall is one of the biggest in Africa) to your heart’s desire. But Durban is also a great destination in which to relax and get back to nature; some of the best ‘Big Five’ game reserves are but a short drive away as well as subtropical marine reefs and the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park World Heritage Site. Factor in the UKhahlamba Drakensberg Park (also a World Heritage Site and one of the highest mountain ranges in Africa) and an abundance of beautiful beaches and Durban has a lot to be proud of!
How long do we, ideally, need?
For Durban proper, I’d say one week. This gives you plenty of time to visit the UShaka Aquarium, taste traditional cuisine, take a township tour, double your stash of rand in Sibaya Casino and hit the bars and beaches!
How can tell you locals from our readers?
Tourists dress differently – they are usually much smarter in suits and pants etc. By contrast, Durbanites dress more casually in beach baggies. Of course, there are some tourists who do adopt the beach look but they always go for overkill: labelled surfer clothing, body boards, buckets, towels and umbrellas!
Head to Roma Revolving Restaurant where you can enjoy delicious Italian dishes while feasting your eyes on the scintillating skyline of Durban at night.
There are also dazzling views of Durban to be had from the top of the Moses Mabhida Soccer Stadium, which can be reached by foot or by cable car, and from the Pot & Kettle coffee shop in the Valley of 1000 Hills.
The 9th Avenue Bistro celebrates the fresh and the seasonal: start with a spicy Thai prawn cake tossed in sesame ginger and roast jalapeño aioli, or a spectacular range of seafood that includes Alaskan crab on corn panna cotta. For mains, dine on crispy duck served with sweet potato and butternut mash and a cinnamon orange demi-glaze.
If you’re a fan of fish, check out the Cape Town Fish Market which has an extensive seafood menu and sushi bar.
Finally Primi Piatti is the place to head if you’re in a hurry – the service is fast and the food (pasta, pizza and poultry) is always fantastic.
Cape Union Mart has clothes for every purpose – whether you are trekking over the Drakensberg or heading down to the beach for a mid morning swim.
For all other needs, Woolworths is where’s it at. A household name throughout South Africa, Woolworths sells food, fashion, beauty, home ware, digital products and more.
Where should we stay?
Durban boasts a number of Bed and Breakfasts which add not only add a personal touch to your trip (the hosts can offer hints and tips on tonnes of attractions), but are also much more affordable than the hotel ‘chain gang’.
Any insider tips?
While Durban is considered a safer city than its northern neighbour, Johannesburg, be sure to leave any valuables in a safe box at your hotel/bed and breakfast and avoid walking around after dark. Eagle Taxis and Mozzie Cabs are two names worth knowing: both are reliable forms of transport.
Anything else to add?
For a big night out, Billy the Bums is an awesome cocktail and restaurant bar with outdoor seating. Alternatively try Joe Kools – a waterside venue where you can eat, drink and party until the early hours. Aim to end your evening at Clapham Grand, which plays pop all night long, or over at The Origin. Recently renovated, the dance floors at The Origin Nightclub cater to all music tastes: house, rave and RnB blare out until dawn.