Wondering where to stay in Durban? There is a multitude of factors to consider when choosing the best area to stay in Durban, as the city is a diverse and multicultural blend of neighborhoods and attractions. The city boasts an eclectic mix of Indian and African influences, while multiple cultural attractions dot the city center.
The coastal South African city of Durban is situated on the east coast of the country, hugging the Indian Ocean and offering visitors and locals alike miles of beautiful beaches and a vibrant city center that frequently hosts a number of events, markets, and festivals.
As one of the host cities during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Durban’s popular waterfront promenade underwent a large scale renovation and is also one of the best places to stay in Durban, especially for those looking for oceanfront beauty and an abundance of restaurants and shopping destinations.
While South Africa’s most famous wildlife park, Kruger National Park, is located nearly eight hours north of Durban, there are numerous wildlife-centric day trips that can be taken from the city. Approximately three hours north of the city, visitors can experience the natural wonders of Africa’s oldest game reserve, Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park.
The Dolphin Coast, just north of the airport, provides excellent dolphin watching opportunities. Durban is also the nearest major city to Lesotho, a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa on all of its borders; the breathtaking natural beauty of this region, including the Mkhomazi Wilderness Area, is the perfect backdrop for hiking and other outdoor activities.
Where to stay in Durban: Best areas to stay in Durban
Deciding where to stay in Durban can be challenging. With so many neighborhoods offering such varied experiences and price points, there are numerous options for all types of travelers.
1. Durban City Centre
Staying within a city’s downtown district is popular among travelers because it often provides reliable transportation options and proximity to most attractions within the area. Durban is no exception, and visitors can find a variety of affordable accommodations within the vibrant downtown area or even along one of the nearby beaches.
One of the most popular attractions in Durban, and also one of the easiest to access from the city center, is uShaka Marine World, a large theme park and aquarium located near the harbor.
The city is also home to multiple museums including the Natural Science Museum and the Phansi Museum, a treasure trove of cultural artifacts, housed in a British Colonial style villa known as the Roberts House.
The city center also boasts numerous restaurants and shops, ensuring visitors staying in the area do not need to travel far from their accommodations to experience the best the city has to offer.
Durban City Centre features abundant accommodation options, ranging from affordable hotels to vacation rentals. It is one of the best neighborhoods to stay in Durban for travelers who do not want to rent a car, but instead, utilize public transportation for those attractions beyond walking distance.
The most expensive properties within the city center are typically international hotel brands, while many of the local accommodation options offer great amenities at more budget-friendly rates.
City center accommodations include lodging within the central business district, as well as areas along North Beach and South Beach, both of which are very close to the center.
Although accommodations are not nearly as luxurious as those located further north in Umhlanga, staying in or near the city center is a good option for those planning to spend a lot of time at the beach.
2. Durban North
Despite the name, Durban North is not the farthest north of areas to stay in Durban, with the upscale Umhlaga neighborhood situated further up the coastline. The affluent area offers proximity to the city center while still retaining residential charm.
Attractions such as the Japanese Gardens and Umgeni River Bird Park are popular destinations for enjoying the great outdoors without traveling to the beach or city center.
The bird park is one of the world’s best, featuring over 800 birds in multiple walk-through aviaries, and on-site kiosks offer food and refreshments for visitors to take a break from photographing the multitude of exotic birds featured within.
The relatively quiet and family-oriented suburb offers a glimpse into everyday life in Durban, with a diverse array of excellent dining options — ranging from Greek to Portuguese cuisine — all popular among locals.
Shopping is also convenient at Kensington Square, a small shopping center featuring the Kensington Super Spar along with several smaller specialty stores.
Traditional accommodations like hotels are sparse in the Durban North area because the neighborhood is one of the most established suburbs in the region. Small and friendly, the area’s accommodations are a reflection of that description.
Upscale guesthouses and vacation rentals fit in nicely with the likewise upscale homes in this area, particularly the stately mansions lining the coastline. Although limited in number, the accommodation options available in this neighborhood tend to be comfortable and upscale, without a high price tag.
Noted for its world-class hotels and some of the best restaurants in Durban, Umhlanga is one of the most upscale areas to stay in Durban. This resort village hugs the stunning South African coastline and is home to a multitude of luxury hotels, many of which boast picturesque ocean views.
Although this neighborhood is located quite far from the city center, there is no shortage of activities, shopping opportunities, or dining options. The most expensive accommodation options are located close to the beach and are some of the most expensive options in the region.
Hotels, guest houses, and vacation rentals are all available, and many offer sweeping ocean views. Just inland, budget-conscious visitors will find lower nightly room rates at several upscale guest houses, without sacrificing proximity to Umhlanga’s buzzing restaurant scene.
For visitors wanting to travel south to Durban’s city center for many of the most popular museums and attractions, hiring a car or using taxis or rideshare services is the best way to get around.
Staying in this upscale neighborhood enables visitors to explore the beauty of South Africa’s South Coast. Rugged landscapes along the Indian Ocean are on display for individuals who visit Umhlanga Beach, while the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve offers more active travelers the opportunity to hike, picnic, and check out prehistoric remains.
Diving is a popular activity in the area, and visitors staying in Umhlanga will find themselves ideally located for diving excursions. The Umhlanga Promenade is also a popular attraction in its own right, featuring a lighthouse as well as providing an excellent preview of the multitude of oceanfront restaurants in the neighborhood.
The low-key hip neighborhood of Glenwood is a green suburban retreat featuring stunning views of the Durban harbor and an eclectic array of eateries, many of which feature global cuisine and vegetarian options.
Yogis and art lovers will adore the numerous art galleries and yoga studios lining the streets, while bold graffiti adds a gritty beauty to many of the streets crisscrossing this neighborhood; in fact, the graffiti is such a draw that several graffiti tours now exist throughout the city, leading visitors to some of the most impressive works of art in town.
Glenwood is one of the best areas to stay in Durban for visitors who appreciate the artsy vibe that radiates through the neighborhood.
Glenwood accommodations are unfortunately few and far between, but visitors who dig the vibe will find that guest houses are the primary type of lodging. Most are on the small side, offering breakfast as part of the rate, allowing guests to interact with hosts and other visitors each morning before setting out on their travels.
With several parks dotting the area, including Bulwer Park and Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve, visitors staying in Glenwood are never far from a great spot to picnic or relax outdoors. Located south of Durban’s city center, the area also provides easy access to Durban Point, South Beach, and several universities.
See also: Where to stay in Cape Town
Intimate and charming guesthouses are the primary type of accommodation within the neighborhood of Musgrave, a centrally-located suburb just west of Durban’s city center.
Architectural gems make this one of the best neighborhoods to stay in Durban for art and history lovers. Spacious Victorian and Edwardian homes share the space with stylish Art Deco buildings featuring bold colors and geometric Cubist designs.
Musgrave is fairly close to the city center and all of its museums and attractions, and it features good public transportation for locals and travelers alike. This can be very advantageous in a city where hiring a car can be necessary for those staying in the suburbs.
It is also an affordable option and one that is popular among travelers seeking more personable interactions with their guesthouse hosts.
With popular attractions a short distance from Musgrave, the neighborhood is ideal for those who prefer a quiet retreat while remaining close to the city.
Restaurants and shopping options are plentiful; the monthly Night Market features artisan food, handmade local crafts, and a variety of activities and performances, while the Musgrave Centre is the city’s oldest shopping complex.
Another popular attraction located within the neighborhood is the Durban Botanic Gardens. Established in 1849, it’s the oldest remaining botanic garden in Africa and features a tea garden, an orchid house, and a butterfly garden, among other attractions.
The star of the trendy Morningside neighborhood is Florida Road, a tree-lined stretch of thoroughfare featuring a host of coffee shops, specialty stores, art galleries, and restaurants, many of which are housed in or adjacent to stunningly restored Edwardian and Victorian architecture.
Quaint cafes with outdoor seating allow visitors to enjoy a cup of coffee and a small plate while appreciating the architectural beauty of the area.
Morningside is one of the best places to stay in Durban for visitors who plan to party all night, thanks to a bustling nightlife scene on Florida Street.
With abundant shops featuring local artists, including the African Art Centre, the neighborhood is also an ideal base for visitors looking to shop local while mingling with a young and hip crowd.
Originally an ostrich farm, the Mitchell Park Zoo is a small animal park located in the Morningside neighborhood, a quiet spot for a short outdoor excursion while exploring the city. Also located in the neighborhood is the Moses Mabhida Stadium, an impressive multi-use facility that hosted games during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
It continues to host events ranging from cricket to bungee jumping, as well as various concerts and festivals. For those traveling to the city specifically for one of these events, Morningside is the ideal neighborhood in which to stay.
Visitors will find that several guesthouses and lodges are located throughout the neighborhood, many of which feature a trendy boutique atmosphere. On the outskirts of Morningside, several hotels and boutique guesthouses are situated between nearby Windermere and Essenwood, both of which are slightly closer to Durban Beach.
7. Airport Area
For some individuals, Durban is a stopover on the way to other parts of South Africa, including those heading north towards Kruger National Park, or west towards Cape Town. For travelers with early flights, staying near the airport is the best option when deciding where to stay in Durban.
In addition to being convenient to the airport, the area also offers proximity to Tongaat Beach and a stretch of coastline known as the Dolphin Coast, where dolphin sightings are common. The natural beauty of the area attracts a number of visitors looking for a relaxing beach vacation.
The neighborhoods nearest the airport — La Mercy and Umdloti — offer waterfront accommodations with a relaxed resort feel, a short drive from Durban’s northern hotspot, Umhlanga.
Many of the restaurants near Durban’s airport are located along the waterfront, alongside the most popular guesthouses and vacation homes. Accommodation options in the area are luxurious, and many are an extension of the holiday village of Umhlanga, just south of the airport.
Visitors planning to travel south to the many attractions within the city while staying in this area will benefit from renting a car. While most properties charge rates that would be considered on the high end for Durban, the ocean views and beach access make it worth it for those hoping to enjoy an idyllic beach holiday.