Top 8 Things to Do in Windhoek, Namibia

Evening view over Windhoek, Windhoek, Namibia, Africa

Jan Greune / LOOK-foto / Getty Images

If you’re planning a trip to Namibia, most likely your vacation will begin and end in the capital, Windhoek, home of Hosea Kutako International Airport. For many visitors, Windhoek is simply a point of entry—a place to meet up with your tour guide or pick up your rental car. However, it’s worth planning an extra night or two in this capital city, as it's home to some interesting sights, like a historical church and an artisan's marketplace. The surrounding region also provides an opportunity to take in the local flora and fauna, either at the Botanic Gardens or the local game reserve.

01 of 08

Feed the Giraffes at Voigtland Guesthouse

Giraffe feeding in Africa

Murtala Baba / Getty Images

Voigtland Windhoek, Rural, Namibia
Phone +264 62 540 419

Situated between Windhoek and the airport, Voigtland Guesthouse is not your average vacation accommodation. The guesthouse was built in the 1900s and is set into a hillside, surrounded by gardens, trees, and expansive lawns. It's the activities here that make a stay at Voightland unique, however, as you can schedule a high tea enjoyed with giraffes sitting just feet away. You can also book a time to feed the on-site giraffes, tour the guesthouse's cattle farm, and hike and mountain bike the property's extensive trail system.

The luxurious rooms here offer en suite bathrooms, complete with modern African decor. There's an on-site wellness spa that offers a menu of massage options, game drives into the antelope range can be arranged, and you can rent a quad bike for a spin around the savanah.

02 of 08

Sip a Drink on the Balcony of Love

View from the Balcony of Love

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Independence Memorial Museum, Windhuk, Namibia
Phone +264 61 276 800

At the top of the Independence Memorial Museum (which we'll discuss in detail later) sits the "Balcony of Love," offering magnificent views of the city. On this level of the museum, you can enjoy one of three balconies and visit the bar for a drink and the restaurant for a bite to eat (although it might not be the best food you'll have in Namibia). It's a great place to go for a bird's eye view of the city's iconic German Lutheran Church. From here, you can also see the oldest standing building in Windhoek, Alte Feste, which once served as a German Fort during the time of colonization, but is now closed to the public. In the courtyard of Alte Feste sits a controversial statue of a German corporal on a horse (reminiscent of German oppression), which can only be viewed from the Balcony of Love.

03 of 08

Admire the Architecture at Christuskirche (Christ Church)

Christ Church in Windhoek

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

C3JP+VVQ, Robert Mugabe Ave, Windhoek, Namibia
Phone +264 61 236 002

Christuskirche (or Christ Church) is the focal point of the rotaries used to access Windhoek's parliament buildings on Robert Mugabe Avenue. Windhoek’s German Lutheran congregation began construction of the church in 1907 and completed and consecrated it three years later, making it the oldest Lutheran church in Namibia. Designed by German engineer Gottlieb Redecker, the church's unique blend of neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque architecture makes this national monument the city’s most recognizable landmark. Building plans necessitated the construction of a railway line to bring in local sandstone from the Avis Dam. Other materials came from much further away, like the Italian Carrara marble used for the portico. A German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm, also donated three of the church’s stained-glass windows.

The church opens for German-language services at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Otherwise, you can request a guided tour by emailing the church office.

04 of 08

Buy Local Art at Namibia Craft Center

Zebra statues at the Namibia Craft Center

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

C3GM+XFG, 40 Tal Street, Windhoek, Namibia
Phone +264 61 242 222

Located near the center of town in the Old Breweries Complex, the Namibia Craft Center is your one-stop shop for authentic souvenirs. Admittedly, the prices are higher than that of roadside stalls, however, the covered market is safe, clean, and community-minded. There are more than 40 independent shops, and, together, they provide around 4,000 jobs for artists living in the country’s most remote areas. Amidst a cornucopia of colorful stalls, you’ll find traditional Namibian crafts, like hand-carved tree roots, copper jewelry, and silk scarves. There’s a bookstore, and several leatherworks shops, as well as freshly prepared meals at the Craft Café. Specializing in locally-sourced Namibian produce, this restaurant is a favorite of visitors and residents alike who are looking for a vibrant breakfast or lunch spot.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Take a Bike Ride in Katutura Township

Katutura Township

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

To the north of Windhoek city center lies Katutura township, a district with an unhappy history. The word katutura loosely translated in native Herero means “the place where people do not want to live.” This meaning dates back to the 1950s, when Black residents living in the Windhoek suburbs were forcibly relocated to Katutura under apartheid law. Once here, they paid high rent for barely habitable homes and commuted long distances to inner-city jobs. Today, 60 percent of Windhoek’s population still lives in Katutura.

Poverty is rife, but the township is a center of vibrant culture, and a visit to the area gives you a glimpse into the lives of Namibia’s urban people. One of the safest and least divisive ways to experience township life is on a bicycle tour with respected company Katu Tours. On the 3.5-hour excursion, you will meet Katutura’s residents, while purchasing local crafts and tasting traditional Kapana (grilled meat) at the township’s lively marketplace.

06 of 08

Learn About Apartheid at the Independence Memorial Museum

Paintings in the Independence Memorial Museum

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Independence Memorial Museum, Windhuk, Namibia
Phone +264 61 276 800

The Independence Memorial Museum houses an impressive range of paintings, artifacts, and informative displays telling the story of the struggle for racial freedom. In front of the museum, there are two important statues—one of the first President of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, and the Genocide Memorial, which commemorates the atrocities carried out against native Namibians by German troops in the early twentieth century. Admission to the museum is free and it's open seven days a week.

Combine your visit with a tour of the National Museum of Namibia next door, which includes fascinating displays about Namibia’s San rock paintings. Debriefing yourself on the artwork is especially worthwhile if you’re planning a trip to sites like Twyfelfontein and Spitzkoppe, where you can see the paintings in situ. The building that houses the National Museum is also of interest, as it was originally an old German fort, dating back to 1890.

07 of 08

Go Birding at the National Botanic Garden of Namibia

Plants in Namibia's National Botanic Garden

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Sam Nujoma Dr, Windhoek, Namibia

Located off Sam Nujoma Avenue, the National Botanic Garden of Namibia spans 30 acres and gives you a good introduction to the country’s natural beauty. This isn’t your typical botanical garden, though. Instead of landscaped lawns and exotic flowerbeds, this garden exists largely in its natural state—both to conserve water, and also to also showcase Namibia’s incredible indigenous flora. As a result, the grounds may seem parched in the winter, even though there’s beauty to be found all year round. Keep an eye out for desert-adapted species, including aloe, succulents, acacias, and a beautiful quiver tree forest. Information boards can be found along the garden’s self-guided trails, and you can pick up bird and plant lists from the garden's reception.

This site is a worthwhile destination for birders, providing a home to 75 species, many of which are attracted by the garden’s dam. Indigenous wildlife also thrives here, including the charismatic rock hyrax, or dassie. The garden is open Monday to Friday, and admission is free.

08 of 08

Take a Tour of Daan Viljoen Game Reserve

Running Oryx

Mint Images - Frans Lanting / Getty Images

FXGC+2G6, Windhoek, Namibia
Phone +264 83 323 2444

Those with a full day to spare should pay a visit to the Daan Viljoen Game Reserve. Located 15 miles from Windhoek's center, it can’t be beaten for its close-to-the-capital convenience. There are no large predators in this park, which means visitors can safely explore it on foot (via two well-marked hiking trails), on a mountain bike, or in a vehicle along the park’s off-road route.

The draw of this park is its ungulate species, including the desert-adapted oryx, steenbok, and klipspringer, as well as well-known African animals, like giraffe and zebra. The reserve is also a popular birding destination, with over 200 resident species. Scan the trees for endemics like the Rüppell’s parrot, and near-endemics, like the Monteiro’s hornbill. If you feel like extending your stay, check out the Sun Karros lodge with its chalets, restaurants, and swimming pools.

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Top 8 Things to Do in Windhoek, Namibia