Like most cities, Durban has developed around the geographic features of the area. Durban is bordered in the south by the Bluff, a range of green clad hills separating the sea from Durban Bay, and stretches northwards beyond the Umgeni River to the highlands of Durban North. Inland lies Berea, a ridge of hills encircling the flat, central part of the city. The coasts to the north and south of Durban enjoy beautiful beaches and warm water. Surfing is one of the main activities on the many beaches, though angling and boating activities are also very popular.
As a coastal city, Durban is constantly affected by the warm sea current flowing down its shoreline. The Agulhas Current travels southward down the KwaZulu-Natal shoreline, and is one of the most powerful currents in the world. It also makes the humidity levels of the area high. The climate is tropical most of the year, with the summer thunderstorms bringing a slight relief from the humid atmosphere that prevails. The hills above the city are more temperate. The vegetation on the coastal regions is very abundant and tropical, and visitors to the area will see an amazing range of plants, trees, and flowers not found in other parts of South Africa.
Metropolitan Durban, or eThekweni in Zulu, is the largest, most vibrant city on the East Coast of South Africa. There is a harbor and an international airport, both conveniently located close to the city. The city center bustles during the day and you will find yourself at the heart of a truly African city amidst museums and civic buildings of colonial heritage, such as the Old Fort and City Hall with its Natural Science Museum and Durban Art Gallery . At night, the city center empties and can be unsafe, as each community returns to its distinct suburb. Durban is a "cultural curry" of different communities, with many people of British, Indian or Zulu heritage. You can find out more about the city's origins as well as the struggle against apartheid at the Kwa Muhle museum. The colonial heritage and distinctly African pulse of the city are concentrated in the small area between Aliwal and Gardiner streets and on the parallel roads of Smith, West and Pine (the Tourist Information office is situated on Pine Road)
The Harbor is the ninth largest in the world (over 4,500 acres) and the most important in South Africa. At its mouth there are two piers - the Point to the north, at the far end of the Golden Mile, and the Bluff to the south. The Bluff is a 4km long, narrow spit, which shelters the Bay. On the city center side of the Bay is the long Victoria Embankment where you will find memorials and museums, including the Da Gama Clock and Albert Park. This is also an important area for the creative spirit of Durban, as it contains the BAT Centre community theater, and the Catalina Theatre , which is a more standard theater producing works by local writers. The Harbor is also a great place to take a cruise or just view the boats.
The Golden Mile extends along the Marine Parade with Snell Parade to the north and Erskine Parade to the south. The major attractions are the beaches, which contrast well with the strong skyline. The main beaches are Battery Beach , North Beach , South Beach (which has a family theatre) and Addington, all of which employ lifesavers. Umhlanga, to the north of Durban, and Amanzimtoti, to the south, continue this long stretch of beaches and resorts. Along the ocean, a public promenade stretches from Durban's harbor area in the south, right along the edge of the city and the sea to the natural boundary of the Umgeni River in the north. All along this beach-front are public attractions, good surfing, a funfair, and a great range of hotels.
There are also restaurants, entertainment and amenities galore, including the new Moses Mabhida Stadium near the river, but beyond the beach-front development the area can become somewhat seedy and should be treated with caution after dark. The uShaka Marine World is an established attraction and includes over 1,000 fish, with sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins too. The oft-photographed Zulu and Rickshaw Men can be found nearby.
To the eastern side of the center is the Indian Quarter, found along Grey Street running north from West Street. The Jumah Mosque , found in this area, is reportedly the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Be sure to go to the Victoria Street Market . This area has also become home to Zulu herbalists selling muti, and vendors of these supplies for traditional medicine and rituals congregate at Russell Street Extension.
On the ridge to the west of the city is the suburb of Berea. Berea is home to several places of note. The popular Musgrave Center , a shopping and entertainment emporium, and the Botanical Gardens (established 1849) are highly recommended. Some distance beyond Berea, on the eastern edges of the city, is the high-end residential area called Kloof, which is worth a drive around if only to see how lovely such an area can be. After Kloof, Botha's Hill extends along the Valley of the 1,000 Hills, a place of spectacular views.
On the northern side of the city are the Umgeni River mouth and the swanky area of Durban North. The river is home to several nature reserves and animal sanctuaries, including the Burman Bush Nature Reserve , which contains several walking trails and interesting vegetation. Just north of the city is Umhlanga, a popular holiday area noted for its fine beaches, surrounding environment, and excellent leisure and shopping centers. While there, check out the Shark's Board , where you can view dissected sharks during a fascinating tour of the research facility.
Durban is a mix of different cultures, each with its own cuisine. Together, they compose the many-flavored culinary experience of this city. Durban's position on the coast of the Indian Ocean and its history of immigration and colonization by many groups has contributed to a culinary tradition rich in Indian curries and fresh seafood. African influences remain, but are less heavily felt than the Indian and English influences. As a large port city, Durban also has many examples of world cuisine, including several Italian and French restaurants, along with Asian restaurants and more. There are a few good bars of note, but generally drinking is confined to Irish pub chains, hotel bars and clubs around the Golden Mile area.
The city center has many dining options, most of them quite unique. The Royal Hotel has a number of restaurants, providing a conveniently located culinary experience the center of town. Ulundi serves Indian food and curries in an elegant, colonial-style atmosphere. For a quick bite to eat or a pick-me-up, check out the Royal Coffee Shoppe , also in the Royal Hotel. In the harbor area, try some Italian food at Roma on Victoria Embankment. The harbor also has some bars and cafes that make for an interesting night out. Try Zack's cafe, which has typical coffee drinks, plus food and cocktails. There's also an open mic night, so you can hear the latest Durban talent while you enjoy your drink.
The Golden Mile has a huge number of restaurants and bars, most of which are in hotels or connected to them. For a nice Indian meal and live Indian music, go to the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza's Jewel of India restaurant. If you're looking for some European food, the Victoria Bar and Restaurant serves unpretentious Portuguese seafood and has great drinks. For a taste of Cuba and a nice glass of wine, head to Havana Grill & Wine Bar , where the focus is on cigars, food, and Cuban style.
With a large concentration of bars and pubs, the Golden Mile is one of the best places to go for a night out. Surfers tend to frequent Joe Cool's , a well-known beachfront bar and restaurant with pool tables, but there are many other options available.
The suburbs around Durban have much to offer, including sights, attractive housing and some hotels, and many different types of restaurants. There are several Indian and Pakistani restaurants in Berea and other nearby suburbs. For great North and South Indian cuisine, try Berea's Amaravathi Palki , or The Gulzar in Greyville which serve tandoori, curries, and other favorites. Families dining out should try the Mustang Spur , for a big salad bar and lots of choices in a child-friendly setting. Another option is Coimbra's , in Berea's Umbilo area, which serves Portuguese food and has live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
Near the Berea area, in Windermere, there's a trendy cafe and restaurant called Beanbag Bohemia . Housed in a 19th-century building, Beanbag has become a Durban institution, serving good food and drinks in a fun atmosphere.
One of the local treats in Durban is seafood from the Indian Ocean, such as langoustines or prawns from Mozambique. If you're in North Durban, try the Riverside Cafe , located in the Riverside Hotel . This restaurant serves very tasty food, including chicken satay and fried prawns, and there's a nice view of the Umgeni river.
Whatever area of the city you are in, Durban's many restaurants are sure to tempt you with exotic flavors and enticing aromas. Go ahead, embark on a culinary adventure!