Durban is the fast becoming South Africa’s coolest destination. The country’s third largest city, it’s a thriving metropolis on the edge of the Indian Ocean and home to a vibrant multicultural community. Not as well-trodden by travellers as Cape Town, Durban underwent extensive renovation preceding the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which took place here. Visit The Oyster Box and you’ll soon fall in love with the city’s mix of eclectic culture, great food and drink and lively nightlife.
What to See
Moses Mabhida Stadium: Purpose built for the FIFA World Cup in 2010, the distinctive stadium has its own funicular which takes visitors to a viewing platform at the top of the arch, providing fantastic views of the city and coastline. The more adventurous can climb the 500 steps for a leisurely 20-minute walk to the top of the south side of the building, or have a go on the Big Rush Big Swing that sees visitors to bungee-style jump over the pitch and has been officially named the world’s tallest swing by the Guinness Book of Records since 2011.
Victoria Street Market: Durban has the largest Indian community outside of India so it’s little wonder that the city is home to an excellent selection of Indian restaurants as well as bazaar-style markets. One such bazaar is Victoria Market, which first opened in the 1870s and then moved to its current location around 1910. Visit for a sensory overload of spice stalls, incense and silks that presents a good opportunity to pick up some souvenirs.
Durban Botanical Gardens: Established in 1849, the Durban Botanical Gardens are the oldest Botanic Gardens in Africa and it’s worth visiting for the collection of prehistoric cycads as well as the assortment of colourful birds that are found here. Don’t leave without treating yourself to scones with jam and cream in the tea room.
Where to Shop
8 Morrison Street: Located in Rivertown Precinct and built as part of the city’s regeneration scheme, Eight Morrison Street is home to some of Durban’s coolest independent boutiques. Check out Artisan, a contemporary gallery and Mi Africa, a quirky décor store.
I HEART Market: A monthly market that takes place at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, visit I Heart Market for its range of handmade African clothing and accessories. Expect to pick up individual pieces such as beaded or sterling silver jewellery and vintage homeware.
Shoppe: Shoppe champions locally made products, from works of art to lighting fixtures and handmade textiles. Owner Sonia Vosloo has a fantastic eye and is always adding new and desirable South African made products to the store’s offering.
Where to Eat
The Grill Room: The ultra-glamorous Grill Room has been one of Durban’s most exclusive restaurants for over 70 years. The menu mixes signature dishes, created by Red Carnation Hotels founder Bea Tollman, with contemporary plates inspired by international flavours. Take your pick of appetizers from the 1920s Hors d’Oeuvres Trolley and tuck into starters such as truffle risotto with an umami demi glaze or flame grilled oysters. Mains like Bengali Styled Seafood Curry and Venison and Lamb Duo combine knockout present with out of this world flavour.
Distillery 031: This Station Drive bar and restaurant is known for making its own spirits, including gin, vodka, absinthe and cahaca, but the food offering is as much of an attraction as the delicious cocktails. Diners go wild for the restaurant’s interpretation of arancini, Truffled Biltong Mac ‘n Chini, as well as the Pineapple Bacon Jam Burger, Cauliflower Katsu and Chili Poutine. Be sure to leave room for the miso ice cream with salt caramel and Oreo crumbs.
The Ocean Terrace: Look out across the Indian Ocean as you dine al fresco at The Ocean Terrace. The restaurant serves an extensive Bistro-style menu with a focus on freshly caught seafood, but visitors flock here for the famous Curry Buffet, an authentic offering of aromatic Indian dishes like Butter Chicken, Beef Vindaloo and Durban Traditional Lamb Curry. What’s more, the curries are accompanied by a staggering away of condiments, from tomato and onion sambals to rotis and grated mango pickle.
Lucky Shaker: One of Durban’s coolest cocktail bars, Lucky Shaker prides itself on serving up seasonal drinks in fun and innovative ways, like the Walk In The Woods, a summery cooler made with mint, grapefruit, lemon, apple and green tea gin. The cocktail menu ranges from fruity to bold and highlights include the Kingston Clipper, a blend of Bourbon, rum, buttered-toast syrup, IPA, pineapple and bitters, or the punchy Wise Guy, a heady combination of Irish whiskey, raisin and smoked tea.
Rainbow Restaurant: An iconic live music haunt in Durban since 1981, this lively venue has hosted many top jazz musicians. Regular live music events and a high spirited atmosphere make this a must visit for those wanting to experience local culture.
The Lighthouse Bar: Perfectly positioned for views of the Umhlanga lighthouse and surrounding coastline, this opulently decorated Lighthouse Bar at The Oyster Box hosts live music every Wednesday-Friday, and its killer range of signature cocktails includes the Umhlanga Schling, which is made using cane sugar and spirits, both local Durban ingredients.
From fragrant spice markets to contemporary design boutiques, explore the best that Durban has to offer from the comfort of the city’s best-loved hotel, The Oyster Box.
Image Credits: Lead image © iStock/THEGIFT777. Lighthouse Bar terrace © Red Carnation Hotels.Spice market © iStock/hadynyah. Shoppe interior © Shoppe. Oyster Box curry buffet © Red Carnation Hotels. Rainbow Restaurant © Rainbow Restaurant.