My five favourite things to do in Durban

Posted by Jenna Van Schoor on 16 May 2012

For the last few months, I lived in an apartment in South Beach, Durban, just a block away from the beach. Every morning I woke up to the noisy honking, blaring and ‘tik-ka-dik/tik-a-dik’ of passing taxis. Sometimes at night when the wind wasn’t blowing I could hear the waves.

I’m not sure whether the wave noise came from the harbour, which I could see from my bedroom window, or from the beach, but either way, I can’t hear it anymore. I’ve had to move, but know that I will often think about Durban in the months ahead, and my favourite things to do there:

1. Walk on the promenade

I spent two weeks in a friend’s apartment in Montevideo, Uruguay, three years ago, and ever since then living next to some kind of promenade seemed to combine all the elements of an ideal lifestyle, for me anyway. While living in Cape Town, I managed to recreate this, kind of, with walks on the Sea Point promenade. But after living right next to the Durban beachfront, it just won’t be the same.

Durban’s revamped promenade is bigger, better and wider, and you can actually ride a bike along the paving, unlike in Sea Point, where the the painted yellow signs make their restrictions quite clear. Sadly, I only took out my rollerblades two weeks before I left, but I managed to get in several walks and two awesome Saturday mornings of sunshine and trying-not-to-bail into children on my blades, all the way from Addington to North Beach. When I managed to gain some momentum on flat, smooth paving, it was bliss.

2. Eat bunnies

People speak about bunny chows as authentically Durban, and it seems cliche, but they really are. I had reservations about eating half a loaf of white bread before, but after one or two bunnies at various curry houses, I just didn’t care anymore. Nutritious or not, there is just something indescribably satisfying about eating bread and curry with your hands- especially thanks to white bread’s unparalled absorbency.

There are good bunnies all over the city, but I have to say the best one, out of the very few that I tasted, was the pea and paneer quarter loaf from Jaipur Palace takeaway, just off the M4 North Coast Road. If you’re looking out for it, you won’t miss it.

3. Spend time in KwaMashu

My first proper visit to a township was on a day tour to KwaMashu and Inanda in 2010. When I visited the area again this year, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed learning about the area’s history (along the Inanda Heritage Route) and cruising through rural Mzinyathi. While drinking quartz at a road side shop, sitting on beer crates listening to Big Nuz, it felt like I was travelling again. It’s a feeling that feels just as exciting even in my own country, one I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of.

After eating shisanyama at Hlabisa Tavern (E936 Sigiya Road), also without cutlery, I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy boerewors, liver and phutu pap as much again either.

4. Sit for hours in Ike’s Bookstore

In true procrastinator style, I also only visited Ike’s Bookstore just before I was about to leave Durban. As someone who studies literature and has more than a mild interest in books, I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard about it before. The walls are covered in black permanent marker scrawl, with adoring messages from famous local authors, including Lewis Nkosi, and others that I didn’t have the attention span to read.

A rare mix of both used, new and carefully curated Africana, it’s a bookstore I’ll miss visiting for their intimate book launches (just one was enough to know) and sitting on a comfortable couch on the wraparound balcony overlooking the city.

5. Escape for afternoon coffee at Cafe Jiran

When I mention Cafe Jiran in North Beach to anyone who lives in Durban, they always make a comment about how slow the service is, and unfortunately this is true for the most part. But on quiet Saturday afternoons, especially on one when it was storming outside, it was the perfect retreat for me. I could read, and be left alone with good coffee and/or a selection of green tea. Even one with flowers in it.

It’s the first place I’ve ever been to where I could choose the origin of my cappuccino beans-¬†something I’m choosing to remember it for instead.


What are your favourite things to do in Durban? Let me know in the comment box below.

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