Welcome to Windhoek, Namibia!
Windhoek stands out amongst Namibian cities as one of the most “Western”-influenced capitals in the country, and even throughout Africa. This can divide opinion, with some seeing its modern style as an oasis of calm and a breath of fresh air, from some of the more challenging aspects of sub-Saharan travel, while others see it as a little inauthentic. Windhoek is definitely more groomed than many other places, but it is no less delightful for it, and there are some wonderful experiences to be had and sights to see if you know where to look.
Tourists stick to the beaten track, but a worldwide local looks for undiscovered gems and under-the-radar experiences. This is an insider’s guide of the lesser-known delights, of Windhoek.
Where to Begin
Windhoek revels in its German heritage, and the town center is a joyous display of beautiful pastel-colored buildings, tidy Germanic houses, and remarkable neo-baroque cathedrals. The gorgeous Art Nouveau Christuskirche is a must-see, and the calm, serenity of Parliament Gardens, just next door, is well worth visiting after a day strolling around the city center.
Worldwide Local Tip: Pay careful attention to the Windhoek skyline and you might see a rather bizarre sight, in the form of a medieval-style castle! Sanderburg, Heinitzburg, and Schwerinsburg are three curious, yet intriguing structures owned, designed, and built at the beginning of the 20th century by the architect William Sander. Two are now private buildings, but Heinitzburg is a restaurant, as well as one of the best hotels in Windhoek, that’s worth seeking out.
Visit a Windhoek Museum
Windhoek’s cultural heritage is interesting stuff, and the city is full of great museums celebrating and exploring its history. The Alte-Feste is Windhoek’s oldest building, originally the garrison for the German Schutztruppe colonial military, and now a brilliant national museum. The Independence Memorial Museum is another fantastic spot, offering a deep dive into Namibia’s liberation struggle.
Worldwide Local Tip: For something a little more quirky, try the Trans-Namib Transport Museum. A tiny place tucked away inside the beautiful Cape Dutch-style TransNamib Train Station, the museum is a quirky look at Namibia’s transport history. Understandably, focusing on the railway, it also has exhibitions on Namibia’s maritime and airways history and is an eccentric attraction.
Eat Like a Local
When night falls, Windhoek comes alive, and there is a buzzing and vibrant atmosphere to this lovely city. The dining scene is genuinely excellent, with gourmet options like Leo’s at the Castle, more down-to-earth eateries like the Angolan Portuguese delights of O Portuga, or the traditional Namibian stylings of Pepata. And don’t miss out on a glass of the delicious Windhoek beer!
Worldwide Local Tip: For a genuine taste of local life in Namibia, you have to try kapana. Head to the Katura district, in Windhoek, for delectable slices of grilled meat, chopped in front of you by machete-wielding chefs. Street food doesn’t come much more authentic than this.
Have an Amazing Time in Windhoek!
While many tourists just use the city for Windhoek Airport, as convenient a transport hub for exploring Namibia, it is a charming and rewarding city that offers far more. As a worldwide local you’ll get the most out of your trip with local favorites, by enjoying the best sights and sounds this excellent city has to offer.