The sandstone Christuskirche is, despite its modest size and unimposing appearance, somewhat of the city's symbol. Designed by a prolific German architect, the church marks an important era in Namibian history, and remains an attractive location for locals to exchange vows in marriage.
For a closer look at Namibia's historic path to late independence in 1990, visit the Independence Memorial Museum housed inside an imposing modernist building in Windhoek's former colonial heart. The museum was designed by a North Korean construction company, involved in multiple construction projects across Africa, hence the socialist aesthetic. The top floor panoramic restaurant is worth a pit stop.
For a brush with spectacular nature and wildlife within a half hour drive from the Namibian capital, Daan Viljoen Game Reserve is hard to beat. Its vast expanses are inhabited by native animals such as zebra and antelope, along with a couple hundred indigenous bird species. The park is an excellent getaway for picnics and hiking.
The oldest surviving building of the Namibian capital was originally built to house the German colonial troops in the late 19th century, now going on to become a museum for Namibia's struggle for independence, as well as a historic landmark in itself. The controversial Reiterdenkmal, an alleged symbol of German dominance in the region, has been relocated from its original place opposite the Christuskirche into the yard of Alte Feste for storage.
A stone's throw from Windhoek's Christuskirche is the city's liveliest city park, attracting picnickers and lunch breakers from surrounding offices. Although no animals have called the park home for decades, it retains its original name from when it served as a public zoo. An elephant column serves as reminder of the location's past, when it was used as elephant hunting grounds nearly 5 millennia ago.
This privately owned nature reserve is a favourite for trekking (Tok Tokkie Trail is often the first pick) and camping trips, offering an experience distinctly different to that of the desert terrain of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. NamibRand is also home to the an International Dark Sky Reserve, recognised for the exceptional clarity of its skies, and offering near-unparalleled stargazing.
No journey to Namibia is complete without a substantial amount of time dedicated to the ancient desert lands of the Namib, known for its dramatic sand dunes and wondrous, arid landscapes. Within the park, two adjoining valleys of Sossusvlei and Deadvlei are a major tourist draw (dead trees rising dramatically from the white clay earth of the latter have been the subject of much photographic exploration), and standing at 80m tall Dune 45 is the one easiest to reach from Sesriem gate.
Accessible only by air, this remote part of the country is known to have claimed lives of both beasts and humans (hence the macabre name) - whale carcasses still line the coast, serving as a grim reminder of the once flourishing whaling industry. One of the biggest "attractions" here is the Dunedin Star, a British ship wrecked in the 1940s. At Cape Cross, the scenery changes: this lively oasis inhabited with hundreds of seals and sea lions frolicking jovially by the water.
A Windhoek dining essential, Joe’s Beerhouse is a venue wildly popular with visitors to Namibia, for both its stylised, casual ambience with a fireplace centrepiece and its extensive menu of local offerings, with a heavy emphasis on meat: to go all out, try the Bushman Sosatie with crocodile, zebra (!), kudu, oryx and springbok cuts with mango-chilli sauce.
Windhoek is more than its tourist-favoured European core: the Katutura Township makes for an enlightening day of exploration, albeit doing so is recommended as part of a guided tour. While here, make some time for a meal at the Xwama Traditional Restaurant, serving some fascinating offerings, the likes of steamed goat head or "irresistable" Mopone worms.
As is the case with many European restaurants in Windhoek, Sardinia Blue Olive doesn't exclusively serve Italian (that's not to say their seafood and pizza aren't delicious!), but changes it up with dishes like Malay chicken curry and oxtail soup. Prices are reasonable despite the sophisticated ambience.
Centrally located at the Windhoek Zoo Park, Cafe Balalaika (also known as "Zoo Cafe") is a pleasant spot to grab lunch on a day out on the town. Seating available on the outdoor terrace. By night, the cafe takes on more of a bar vibe, with beer on tap, live music and karaoke.
Hidden in plain sight just off Independence Avenue, the cafe is a reliable local favourite for lunch and breakfast. The menu features casual European foods, such as salads and toasted sandwiches, but also serves much-loved Asian-style noodles. All things but one are a forte: the cafe is closed for business on weekends.
Sweet and savoury waffles, good coffee, and, of course, ice cream and frozen yogurt are what this cosy central joint is all about. The selling point are the spectacular ice creams, crafted at an organic dairy farm in eastern Namibia. It's a huge hit with the locals, making Cramer's one of the places to witness life in Windhoek as it unfolds.
The shopping hot spot of the city centre is the pedestrian Post Street Mall, a collection of individual vendors and stores, with some of Windhoek's largest shopping centres within arm's reach (Wernhil Park is among the most attractive). Do not miss the display of meteorites collected after a meteor shower over the town of Gibeon.
To hunt down those authentically Namibian souvenirs, pay a visit to the possibly absolute best place to find them: the Old Breweries Market complex, with a collection of stalls selling all things Namibian from artisan jewellery to fashion by upcoming designers and various crafts. Do not miss the on-site Namibian Crafts Centre and its adjacent cafe.
This well-established upper-end department store is run by fourth-generation Namibians of German descent. Stocking fashion, decor items, and authentic Namibian products (drop by the Windhoek shop), Wecke & Voigts is hard to miss. Apres-shopping, grab lunch at the on-site cafe.
If you are planning to visit any of Namibia's spectacular national parks, remember that an entry permit is required, and a daily fee needs to be paid to the Ministry of the Environment and Tourism. Permits are issued at the MET office in Windhoek, which is located inside the Phillip Troskie Bulding (+264 61 284 2111), or may be purchased at park gates in most cases. Permits for Brandberg are issued separately by the National Heritage Council located at 54 Robert Mugabe Ave. Accommodation on national park grounds is best booked well in advance, as it may be in short supply during peak season. Bookings can be done online or in person at the Namibia Wildlife Resorts office at Erkrath Building, 189 Independence Ave. For self-guided tours, 4x4 trucks (four-wheelers) offer the most flexibility in terms of exploring some of the more rugged terrain and venturing onto unpaved roads.
Citizens of multiple countries in Western Europe, North America, Russia & CIS, Southern Africa, as well as Australia and Japan (and more) do not require a visa to enter Namibia for a period of up to 90 days. Everyone entering Namibia must hold a passport valid for at least 6 months. Citizens of most Eastern European countries, Asia, Middle East and South America will require a visa. To learn more about the documentation needed to obtain a visa, contact a consulate closest to you.
Travellers intending to spend the majority of their stay in Windhoek can plan the trip for nearly any time of year. However, if you plan to include Namibian destinations further afield into your itinerary, consider April and May, when temperatures are moderate and rainfall relatively low. Juny, July and August are the driest months of the year, whereas December through February are characterised by greater precipitation, and are also the best months for bird-watching enthusiasts.
The Hosea Kutakos International Airport is Namibia's primary air hub. It is located around 40 km away from Windhoek, so allow for enough time to reach the city. Although public transportation to and from the airport does exist, most visitors will be better off pre-booking a private transfer, as these tend to cost just as much, but are plenty more reliable and efficient. That said, prices offered by individual suppliers may vary greatly, so shop around before deciding on a provider. Taxis are also available just outside the arrivals area.
Although public buses do run in Windhoek, the easier way to get around is by means of either a shared or private taxi. Shared taxis are used widely by locals, and can be flagged down anywhere along Independence Ave (it's easiest to get one by the Gustav Voigts Centre in Independence Ave, known as Windhoek's unofficial transportation hub). Announce your destination to the driver, who will let you know whether it lies en route - you might have to catch the next one otherwise. Prices depend on how far our your destination lies, but are extremely affordable either way.
Taxis can be hired off the street (many tend to cluster along Independence Ave, especially by the corner next to Zoo Park), fares are either metered or need to be agreed on in advance. There are plenty of taxi companies offering private taxi transfers upon phone order. Windhoek City Cab