KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsDurban City Hall
Where? Anton Lembede Street, Durban Central, Durban, 4000, KwaZulu Natal
Although the area that is today known as Durban has been inhabited by human beings for tens of thousands of years, it was only when Portuguese Explorer, Vasco Da Gama, ‘discovered’ it in 1497 that it was really put on the map, both literally and figuratively speaking. The city itself had its beginnings in 1824, when British settlers claimed the area now known as Farewell Square. It was in 1835 that it was declared a formal town, and was named Durban, after the governor of the Cape Colony at the time, Sir Benjamin d’Urban. Thanks to its history – both ancient and colonial – as well as the cultures that have melded together to form one of the busiest and most diverse cities in South Africa, Durban is a must-see for travellers from around the world.
Buildings like the Durban City Hall are integral parts of preserving this history and exploring the depth and breadth of the South Africa of today. The City Hall was completed in 1910, when the original building (subsequently converted to the main post office) had become too small to accommodate the growing Durban society and city centre.
The City Hall was designed by architect Stanley Hudson, and boasts a distinctly bold, dramatic style that has been dubbed Neo-Baroque. It is exaggerated and oozes grandeur as it stands tall over the hundreds of thousands of tourists that come to admire its scale and elegance every year.
Within the walls of the Durban City Hall are a number of other important and interesting finds. These include the municipal chambers, an auditorium, the Durban Art Gallery (showcasing a number of African pieces as well as those that have a distinctive European influence), Natural Science Museum (home to a dodo skeleton and a real Egyptian mummy) and a public library. The outside of the City Hall is bedecked with sculptures that represent different facets of modern South Africa; including art, music, literature and industry. So, the City Hall is about more than being a remnant of the architecture of old. It is also about providing modern residents and international visitors with practical resources and a fascinating context.
Because of its prime positioning, the City Hall is situated in the heart of many of the cultural and historical attractions of Durban. In fact, there is a veritable buzz around it that is exciting, inviting and quite irresistible, even for the locals.
The City Hall is located opposite the flea market and in front of the Royal Hotel. The Durban Playhouse and Prince’s Theatre are also nearby, and provide fantastic opportunities to get a real taste of modern and classic African culture. In addition, visitors are encouraged to couple their visit to the City Hall with an amble over to the Durban Post Office, Medwood Gardens (a serene spot in the heart of the metropolis) and the Old Durban Railway Station, which dates back to 1892 and has a fabulous Victorian air about it. Conveniently, just north of the city centre is the King Shaka International Airport.