Namibia’s capital is a small relaxed town of approximately 200,000 population in a valley flanked by the Auas and Eros mountains in the exact centre of Namibia. It is a well-organised and tidy city, with German and South African architecture and town planning, now overlaid with a modern African culture. It is a city of many contrasts. Modern skyscrapers blend with historic buildings dating from the turn of the century; African drums and wood carvings from the north displayed on pavements vie with elegant shops offering sophisticated Swakara garments and Namibian gemstones, set in individually-designed pieces of jewellery. While some shops display clothing, silver and glassware imported from Europe, others offer casual and colourful clothes from West Africa.
Windhoek's sidewalk cafés are a special feature, where Namibian-style breakfasts known as Frühschoppen can be enjoyed with a glass of chilled, sparkling wine or draught beer. Namibia's excellent range of locally brewed beers can be savoured at several traditional beer gardens. In addition to steak houses and coffee bars selling snacks, the city has a wide range of á la carte restaurants serving international cuisine, including German, French, Korean, Italian, Spanish, African, Greek, Portuguese and Chinese.
The main street is Independence Avenue, previously Kaiser Street. The Post Street Mall has a large number of shops and boutiques, and is a favoured spot for street vendors selling rural art, African-style clothing, curios and jewellery. There are several interesting historic buildings built by the German between 1890 and 1913, including the Railway Station, the Alte Feste, Gathemann House, the Turnhalle and the Tintinpalast which today houses the National Assembly and the National Council.
The ‘old location’ was the township for black people on the western outskirts of the former ‘white’ Windhoek. In the late 1950’s, the old location was demolished and the people forcibly moved to the newly-established Katutura and Khomasdal townships. The cemetery, which was upgraded after independence, is situated on Hochland Road. We can arrange a half-day visit to Katutura township.
Our accommodation section features several nice places to stay in Windhoek itself. We particularly recommend Olive Grove and the Heinitzberg Hotel.
Okonjima & the Africat Foundation
If you don’t want a night in town, head straight out to Okonjima, just two or three hours north on the road to Etosha. It is the home of the conservation charity, Africat Foundation. The Africat Foundation works to conserve Namibia's big cats by working with farmers (farmers are their worst enemy), to protect them and by relocating and rescuing animals, especially leopard and cheetah. Okonjima often provides extraordinary opportunities for observing and photographing these beautiful animals, though, of course, sightings cannot be guaranteed.
Rescued cheetahs no longer stroll across Okonjima's lawns. With the increasing number of lodges holding cheetahs and other wild animals in captivity for entertainment purposes, Okonjima decided to set an example to discourage this practice and by withdrawing the cheetahs from the lawn in front of the lodge.
See our accommodation section for information on the range of lodges at Okonjima.
Towering 200 meters above the surrounding landscape, this massive flat-topped sandstone plateau is Namibia’s Lost World. Its isolation has made it an ideal refuge for Namibia’s endangered species, including rhino, buffalo, sable and roan antelope. It is a fantastic landscape of sheer cliffs, ravines, springs, woodland and grassland; a nature-lover’s paradise with many walking and hiking trails. Over 200 bird species have been recorded, including black eagle. There is a government rest camp here, Bernabe de la Bat, which is currently being upgraded, and the private Waterberg Wilderness Lodge. Either place would make a good beginning or end to your Namibian self-drive adventure.
Read more about Windhoek & Central Namibia