Welcome to Windhoek, Namibia’s historical capital city and a charming mix of German architecture and modern skyscrapers, city slickness and African rhythm. Located smack bang in the middle of the country, it’s a perfect stopover point for travellers either beginning or ending their Namibian adventure and we’re pretty sure that you’ll find yourself here at some stage. Now, we’re not claiming that the city is any competition for Namibia’s star attractions (Etosha, Sossusvlei, Damaraland…we could go on but we won’t!) but there are plenty of options for those looking to while away 24 hours in Windhoek– and here they are.
Get back to nature
You can’t spend 24 hours in Windhoek without at least a little dose of flora and fauna! Daan Viljoen Nature Reserve, located about 20 minutes from the town centre, is a great place to start and wild animals roam the lush grounds in the shadow of the city buildings. Rise with the sun and get there early to make the most of the morning light, and if you fancy escaping your vehicle, make the most of the hiking and mountain biking trails. Closer to home are the National Botanical Research Gardens, a 12-hectare sanctuary that’s a hop, skip and jump from the parliament buildings. The gardens were originally designed to showcase and preserve flora from Windhoek’s immediate surrounds but have now been expanded to include unique species from all over the country, and a stroll around is a peaceful way to start the day.
Some retail therapy
The best shopping opportunity if you’ve only got 24 hours in Windhoek is undoubtedly the Namibia Craft Centre (NCC). Run by registered charity the Omba Arts Trust, the centre creates employment for Namibia’s marginalised communities (the Bushmen primarily) and currently supports a network of almost 800 craft producers. It’s a buzzing, vibrant place and you’ll find plenty to make you part with your cash from fabrics and baskets to jewellery and leather accessories, all made in Namibia. Save some time to pop up to the mezzanine-level Omba Gallery too; the exhibitions showcase talented young Namibian artists and painters, and the works are stunning.
Get healthy at Klara’s Market Place
Just next door to the NCC is foodie hotspot Klara’s Market Place. Opened in 2017, the emphasis is firmly on local Namibian produce – but we’re not talking great hunks of steak and beer on tap (although the meat is pretty special if you’re looking for something to take away and braai). Instead, the shelves at Klara’s are stocked with basil and olive ciabatta and fresh croissant from Le Pain Cafe, tastebud tingling chocolate tartlets and fruit cakes and from Bread’n’Butter, and a range of juices, bursting with the freshest fruits and veggies from local farms. Inside, the décor is cool, sleek and modern, rather like a modern-day green grocer, and there are plenty of tables from which to watch the world go by – the perfect spot for lunch if you’re spending 24 hours in Windhoek we say.
A walking tour of the city
Windhoek is clean, well-organised and easy to navigate (thank you, German street planning!) and walking is one of the best ways to see the highlights. Handily, Klara’s is located on Independence Avenue, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, and we highly recommend a wander up to Zoo Park, a leafy oasis filled with office workers and visitors nibbling pastries (join them with your Klara’s take away if you fancy). Then, keep your eyes peeled for the Gathemann Building, one of three colonial-era buildings on Independence designed by famous architect Willi Sander and a little further on, the impressive Post Office building. A right turn down Daniel Manumava Street will reveal a quirky little German-inspired house, nestled between the office buildings, and the gardens of the old presidential estate, and at the top of Luderitz Street, you’ll see the famous Kudu statue – we’ll leave it to you to decide whether it resembles the real thing or not!
A spot of culture
If you’ve found your way to the kudu, you’re only a few steps away from Robert Mugabe Avenue, home to both the Independence Memorial Museum and the National Art Gallery. Both are worthy of a look-in, the museum for a deep dive into Namibia’s history from the German occupation up to independence in 1990, and the art gallery for a good browse through the works of local Namibian artists or a quiet moment in the peaceful reference library. Just outside the museum is one of Windhoek’s most famous sights, the Christus Kirche. It might be plonked in the middle of a roundabout but the church’s curved gables, red sandstone walls and elements of Neo Gothic and Art Noveau are beautiful – and definitely worthy of its prominent position on Windhoek’s postcard collection!
Sundowners overlooking the city
Take a taxi out to Klein Windhoek, one of the city’s most affable neighbourhoods, and book table number 1 on the terrace at Hotel Thule. The glitzy homes of the suburb are built on a steep hill and the hotel occupies the prime, cherry-on-top position, affording visitors to the terrace panoramic vistas of the city, the savannah stretching beyond and of course, picture-perfect African sunsets. Other spectacular spots for sundowners include the Skybar at the Hilton Hotel in town and, if you’re staying further afield, The River Crossing Lodge on the outskirts of the city.
Sample Namibian cuisine
Just about every guide to Windhoek will tell you that Joe’s Beerhouse is the place to go for dinner and it’s packed with jovial locals and curious tourists almost every night of the week. It’s a well-loved institution where flame-grilled fillets and glorious German beers steal the show, a great place to end your 24 hours in Windhoek. Otherwise, head to the Stellenbosch Wine Bar and Bistro for thin-crust pizzas and a good selection of South African grapes. It might not be local cuisine, but the food is tasty and the al-fresco courtyard is pretty and welcoming. If you’re visiting in winter, get there early, order a large glass of red and nab a spot by the fire – or the pizza oven for that matter!
Where to stay
The Olive Exclusive
One of Windhoek’s best guest houses, The Olive Exclusive is an in-demand hideaway in a leafy suburb of the city. With a cool swimming pool and super-stylish bedrooms, it’s exactly the sort of place you want to stay on a stopover, but be warned – it gets booked up very quickly!
Uber-luxurious (and uber-lovely!), Omaanda is the latest hotel on the Windhoek scene. Located between the international airport and the city on a game reserve in the making, it’s peaceful and tranquil and comes with a host of added extras, 4-course dinners and all!
A boutique guesthouse with only five rooms, Villa Violet is a real home-from-home. The décor is cosy and homely but outside, there’s a swimming pool and plenty of shaded sun loungers to keep you cool in the Namibian heat.