Things To Do in Durban CentralThe Workshop
Where? 99 Aliwal Street, Durban, 4001, KwZulu Natal.
When? Monday to Friday from 08h30 to 17h00
Saturday from 09h00 to 17h00
Sundays and Public Holidays from 10h00 to 16h00.
How? Call +27 (0)31 304-9894
How much? Free to browse
In 1986, the old Durban railway workshop got a makeover. The historical building, originally constructed in 1860, was skilfully transformed into a huge shopping centre that was unanimously adopted by Durbanites and became one of the most popular shopping haunts.
The re-establishment of the former station as one of the city’s most buzzing places managed to retain the building’s colonial character - the original iron girders sustain a vaulted glass roof of the country’s first theme shopping mall and much of the aesthetics of the old railway workshop remained. But over time the Workshop lost its footing as a major upmarket niche centre as most of Durban’s CBD moved to the nether regions of Umhlanga, and the perception of the Workshop as unsafe, due to its position in an area marked by crime, had its effect on the centre.
Then came a marketing campaign that drew on the building’s value as a former railway workshop, to restore interest in the building and change the opinions of visitors to the Workshop. A ‘railway platform’ within the centre gave ‘passengers’ a chance to journey through Europe, India and Africa, allowing the Workshop tenants to display their culinary skills and merchandise, attracting shoppers back to the centre. The campaign won an award and was considered highly successful.
The Workshop provides a free shuttle service to and from any destination within the CBD, which adds to the attraction. That and the array of shops that include African arts and curio shops, smaller trendy clothing boutiques, and a strong Indian influence in the form of the heady smells of spices and pretty Indian fabrics.