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South Africa: The new urban cool of Durban

New direct flights from the UK have put Durban on the map as South Africa’s gateway city. But its host of new openings offer plenty of reason to stick around

By Amelia Duggan
Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:21 BST
Surfing in Durban
Surfing in Durban
Photograph by Picfair

Durban, South Africa’s under-sung beachfront city, is finally having its moment in the sun; although, with some 320 days of blue skies a year, it’s arguably had a fair few of those already. For the price of a return ticket with British Airways (direct from £599), travellers can plant a parasol on the Golden Mile and discover the up-and-coming charms of this port city. In just a few years, Durban’s shabby Station Drive Precinct has blossomed with offbeat boutique shops; a flurry of new openings has reinvigorated its Florida Road high street; and a multi-million-pound regeneration is breathing new life into the dilapidated Point Waterfront. Durban’s always been hot; now it’s finding its cool.

The lunch spot: Falafel Fundi
For Middle Eastern soul food with a Durban fusion twist, order a pillowy Indian roti wrap with crunchy, colourful salads and homemade falafel in Saar Ben Hamoo’s new cafe. The charismatic chef gained a devoted following with his market stall, and put down permanent roots on the Florida Road last year, thanking his family’s falafel recipe for his success.

The tour: Beset Durban
Four friends, one mission: to get Durbanites to fall in love with their own city. The gang organises a free monthly tour of an overlooked part of Durban, using local experts and their unique brand of pizzazz to bring local history to life. Sign up to the mailing list to learn more. Fitness fanatics can also joint the Beset team on their 5km runs along the promenade each Monday at 5.30am.

The hidden gem: The Chairman
A diamond in the rough, this fancy jazz bar stands amid ruins on the most rundown block of the Point neighbourhood. Owner Ndabo Langa has cultivated the moody vibe of a speakeasy: plush armchairs, eclectic light fittings, taxidermy, and come weekends, the best live bands and DJs around.

The ’hood: Station Drive
Homegrown creatives have transformed this once-crummy warehouse district into a hive of hipster enterprise. There’s lots to discover in this part of town, but a special mentions go to bar-cum-microbrewery Station 43, and Momenti Gelato, whose ‘lab’ sells ice cream flavours made with local ingredients like Golden Turmeric Coconut. Visit on the first Thursday of the month, when galleries, shops and bars stay open late and throng with people looking for a good time, or for the weekly Morning Trade market on Sundays in The Plant. 


Published in the April 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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