Durban is a sprawling city on the KwaZulu-Natal coast, flanked on either side by an almost unbroken chain of small seaside towns. Tourists come to relax on the beach, to surf the city's world-class waves or to sample its famous curry restaurants. Whatever it is that draws you to Durban, souvenirs are a great way to remember your stay after you get home. From Zulu crafts to contemporary art and South African fashion, the options are endless. In this article, we take a look at some of the best shopping destinations Durban has to offer.
The Golden Mile
At the center of Durban's urban sprawl lies the city's beating heart – the glitzy, sun-soaked Golden Mile beachfront. For those in search of a bargain, this is the perfect place to start your souvenir-shopping marathon. Market stalls line the beachfront promenade, where street vendors compete to sell wooden hippos and giraffes, Zulu beads, wire toys and woven reed baskets. Bartering is expected and a sense of humor is essential – as is keeping a keen eye on your possessions.
The family-friendly Amphitheatre Flea Market is held on the Golden Mile beachfront every Sunday, making this one of the best days to shop. The market's eclectic stalls specialize in African crafts (including intricate bead and woodwork) and mouthwatering Indian food.
For weekday markets, head to the city's Indian Quarter between Dr. Yusuf Dadoo Street and Dr. Pixley KaSeme Street. Huge numbers of Indians were imported to work in the Natal sugar cane plantations during the colonial era and many of their descendants still live in the area. There are two permanent markets: the Victoria Street Market, rebuilt in the old style after a fire in 1973, and the Oriental Bazaar. Both are bright with color and heady with the perfume of spices, and offer rich pickings for souvenir hunters and photographers alike.
Fine Arts and Crafts
While Durban isn't known for its commercial art galleries and craft centers, there are a few places worth visiting for more upscale artwork. The harbor-front BAT Centre offers an array of lively shops selling high-quality, locally produced crafts alongside South African music and books. Trendy cafés, exhibition spaces and live music venues can also be found here. Alternatively, the KZNSA Gallery is a membership gallery with over 100 years of history and a fascinating calendar of contemporary art exhibitions. It also has a lovely shop that sells design and craft from across the country.
The African Art Center on Florida Road is young by comparison at just over 50 years old. It is run as a non-profit organization providing support, training and sales for hundreds of disadvantaged local artists. Here, an extraordinary array of work ranges from antique bead and basketwork to funky painted clogs and designer jewelry, textiles and ceramics. In general, Florida Road is a great place to browse with a good range of boutiques that exude personality and flair; and plenty of cafés and bars in which to rest aching feet while celebrating your purchases.
As far as shopping malls are concerned, for most foreigners, the most convenient mall is also the city's oldest and smallest – 19th century The Workshop, housed in a former train shed near the convention center on Samora Machel Street. Other options in the surrounding area include La Lucia Mall and Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Umhlanga, The Pavilion Shopping Centre in Westville and the Musgrave Centre in Berea.
Out of Town
In the countryside and along the coast around Durban, there are plenty of places perfect for a shopping day trip. Inland, the Valley of a 1000 Hills is home to many small boutiques, craft galleries, artist's studios and bijou gift shops including the 1000 Hills Craft Village. It also has stunning views and several excellent guesthouses.
The city's surrounding suburbs also have around 70 discount outlet stores for companies that range from furniture and carpet sellers to sweet-makers and sports specialists. Some of the best known names include Adidas, Triumph, Playtex, and Levi's. Check locally for up-to-date listings.
This article was updated by Jessica Macdonald on May 17th 2019.