With its balmy subtropical climate, golden sandy beaches, and general picture-perfect good looks, there’s a lot to recommend Durban. But that’s only part of this South African coastal city’s appeal. Durban has a wealth of cultural riches to share, from world-class museum collections to heritage sites of great significance. To fully appreciate the soul of this city, take a tour of Durban and its many cultural attractions next time you visit us at our beachfront Oyster Box Hotel.
Inanda Heritage Route
North of Durban, the Inanda Heritage Route (which traces its way through the valley of the same name) is a tribute to local, national, and human history. Taking in sights as varied as the printing press which was used to print Ghandi’s liberation newspaper, the Indian Opinion, and Inanda Seminary, the first secondary school for African girls, this route – which starts in Phoenix Settlement and ends at Ebuhleni – should feature on any cultural tour of Durban.
Durban City Hall
A city hall might not be the first place you’d go for culture. In fact, it’s the kind of place most would happily avoid, both at home and abroad. But that’s not the case in Durban. The classic neo-Baroque building, built in the early 20th century, is a thing of beauty and contains within it the Natural Science Museum (highlights include a dodo skeleton and an ancient mummy) and the Durban Art Gallery, which showcases a whole host of local and international artworks.
Old Court House Museum
Close to City Hall, the Old Court House Museum offers exhibits that display the fashions, trades, and stores of Durban’s many cultures. A visit here also lets you stand in the footsteps of a young Mahatma Ghandi who, as a lawyer, would often come here during his time in the city.
Old House Museum
The Old House Museum, featuring a recreation of the 19th century home of the Robinsons (a prominent family in Durban), is also worth visiting for a window into how the city’s first elite lived, not to mention the original paintings of Durban in the 1800s, which are hanging on the walls.
Named for the assemblage of artistic artefacts belonging to Dr Killie Campbell and her father Sir Marshall Campbell, the Campbell Collections are a testament to the history and culture of the region. Housed in the neo-Cape, Dutch-style building that the Campbell’s lived in, this important collection, which features art, books, and photos, among other pieces, is now under the stewardship of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
An incredible museum of African arts and crafts, the Phansi Museum showcases a wide variety of artistic works from Ndebele blankets and Zulu beadwork to milk pails and fertility dolls. Many objects from the 4,000-item strong collection have been exhibited abroad to great acclaim. Make sure to visit the life-size marionette room, one of the museum’s most popular attractions.
An important stop on our cultural tour of Durban, the KwaMuhle Museum is a tribute to the city’s history – a respectful, edifying reflection on the fight for freedom and the struggles during, and leading up to, the terrible period of apartheid. In its own words, the KwaMuhle Museum is “about power and powerlessness and the struggle for human dignity by ordinary people.” Found within the building of the former Department of Native Affairs (the body tasked with enforcing the apartheid laws), this museum is a potent and poignant reminder of the fragility and strength of both hate and hope.
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