Durban is a sprawling city spread out along the KwaZulu-Natal shore, flanked on either side by an almost unbroken chain of small seaside towns. At the centre of this urban sprawl lies the city's heart - the glitzy, sun-soaked, bustling 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.
For a more traditional market experience, try family-friendly Amphitheatre Flea Market. Held at the gardens on Snell Promenade each Sunday, the market's eclectic stalls specialise in African crafts (including intricate bead and woodwork) and mouthwatering Indian food. On Saturdays, Essenwood Craft Marketoffers another excellent alternative. Held in Berea Park, this market offers fashion, food, art and decor, all spread out beneath the shade of the park's picnic-perfect trees.
For weekday markets, head down to the city's Indian Quarter, between north 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 both souvenir hunters and photographers.
Fine Arts and Crafts
While Durban isn't known for its commercial art galleries and craft centres, 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 also share space 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 organisation 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 jewellery, 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 - the 19th century 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 ranging from furniture and carpet sellers to sweetmakers and sports specialists. Some of the best known names include Adidas (sports clothing), Triumph and Playtex (lingerie), and Levi's. Check locally for up-to-date listings.
This article was updated by Jessica Macdonald on January 9th 2017.