Durban is one of South Africa’s culturally blended cities. It delivers the beach, the bush and the Berg (mountain ranges) in one location. Located on the country’s east coast, Durban is the largest city of the KwaZulu-Natal province, overlooking the Indian Ocean.

While cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town get all the attention, Durban has its own unique flavor and worth a visit. Its tropical climate makes it an ideal destination throughout most of the year. With Indian, African and European influences, Durban is where you’ll find great food, art, architecture and activities.

Here are the top attractions to visit during a stay to Durban.

Phansi Museum

exhibit of traditional attire at the Phansi Museum in Durban
Photo credit: Simone Cheri

The Phansi Museum is an amazing place to start your Durban adventures. Pronounced ‘punzi,’ meaning ‘below’ or ‘beneath’ in isiZulu, ‘Phansi’ is the place beneath, where the ancestral spirits dwell. The cultural site houses art and artifacts that are central to life in the region from personal style to housekeeping.

Phumzile Nkosi, the museum’s hostess and tour guide, is the true gem of this experience. Nkosi, a descendant of Swazi Royalty, provides color and context to an already vibrant culture. Through guided tours and personal stories, she shares a firsthand account of the differences between village life and city life through the lens of signature clothing, everyday tools and goods.

Tours can last between 20 minutes and an hour, depending on the time available.

PheZulu Cultural Experience

women of the Gasa tribe at the PheZulu cutural experience
Photo credit: @phezulu_safari_park / Instagram

For an immersive South African experience, visit PheZulu village to feel the rhythm of Africa. Located inside the PheZulu Safari Park, the village welcomes visitors into its space to explore Zulu culture.

From traditional beehive-shaped thatched huts to local beliefs and rituals, you’ll spend time with members of the Gasa clan. Zulu dancing shows take place daily, except Tuesdays, where dancers dress in traditional garb, showing off their skills with grace, agility and humor.

In addition to the cultural village, the safari park also offers game drives for wildlife spotting. A reptile park, a restaurant, self-catering chalets, and a bed and breakfast are also on the safari’s property. To get there, book a tour or hire a private car to make the 45-minute drive from Durban’s city center.

The Oyster Box Hotel

Oyster Box Hotel interior - team room - Attractions in Durban
Photo Credit: Simone Cheri

The Oyster Box Hotel is where luxury meets the sea in Durban. It’s where celebrities, like Naomi Campbell and Royal family members, stay while in Durban. Khloe Kardashian and French Montana also came here for vacation during their brief stint as a couple.

Located on Umhlanga’s beachfront, the hotel overlooks the Indian Ocean and an iconic lighthouse on the property. The 75-year-old property has an old-world feel, initially starting as a tea garden that grew into a hotel. Renovated at the turn of the century, every guest room is decorated with curated furniture and artworks, making the most of its tropical setting.

Dine at one of two on-site restaurants or indulge in the curry buffet which offers at least 11 curries daily, including meat, fish and vegetarian options. The Palm Court at The Oyster Box serves a lavish High Tea experience, along with a buffet of sweet and savory treats.

Nelson Mandela Capture Site

model car inside Nelson Mandela Capture Site Museum
Photo credit: Simone Cheri

Located about an hour from Durban, this museum is very unassuming upon arrival in the middle of the countryside. However, this site holds a significant role in the history of South Africa, as it relates to the capture and arrest of its most prominent figure: Nelson Mandela.

The historical landmark comprises a massive steel sculpture and visitor center honoring Mandela’s legacy. Acknowledging the 50th anniversary of his capture, the interactive steel sculpture is the largest of its kind in South Africa. An immersive visitor center features a 360-degree film screen, along with hundreds of historical artifacts and photographs. At the entrance, there’s also a replica of the Austin Westminster that Mandela was driving in when he was arrested on Aug. 5, 1962.

Howick Falls

view of Howick Falls - Attractions in Durban
Photo Credit: Simone Cheri

En route to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, a visit to Howick Falls is a must. Howick Falls is a natural waterfall on the Umgeni (or Mngeni) River, northwest of Pietermaritzburg. Towering 364 feet, the second-tallest waterfall in South Africa is a sacred site for Zulu people. Local legend tells the story of a serpent-like creature said to live at the bottom of the falls called the Inkanyamba.

Located in the town of Howick, the area offers opportunities to hike and explore along the river, which feeds the falls. In addition to three walking trails, abseiling, rock climbing and boating activities are available for the adventurous.

Weekends are the best time to visit the falls when craft vendors are aplenty and grilled foods are sold. Viewing this magnificent landscape is free, which is good news for those looking to explore on a budget.

Hit One of Several Beaches

Durban Cityscape with the surf of the Indian ocean
Photo Credit: THEGIFT777

A highlight of visiting Durban is the numerous beaches available to enjoy. The city’s Golden Mile is a popular stretch of beachfront in the city with a promenade that runs alongside the coast. North Beach, the Bay of Plenty, Addington Beach and South Beach make up the Golden Mile and are some of the best beaches in Durban. Swimmers, surfers and sun lovers can all find their perfect beach in this area.

Umhlanga Rocks Beach is another popular seaside destination. Stretching more than 120 miles, it is where you’ll find The Oyster Box Hotel, along with high-end condominiums, resorts, lodges and B&Bs. Umhlanga offers a bit of refuge from the busier parts of the city. It offers peaceful vibes on the Indian Ocean.