Windhoek is not your typical African city. A solid infrastructure and a relatively high level of cleanliness and efficiency give Windhoek quite a European feel. The eclectic mix of Namibian people and the abundant sunshine, however, remind you that you are indeed in southern Africa.
Windhoek is a small, laid-back and easily-navigable city too, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting it’s the country’s capital.
Windhoek is in the process of building its own identity on the structures left in place by the former German colonial powers. The traces of their rule are still present – Windhoek’s architecture is a heterogeneous mix of late 19th and early 20th century buildings like the Tintenpalast and new additions like the Independence Museum.
Perhaps above all, Windhoek is a good practical base from which to plan routes, shop and stock up on supplies, hire a car, or continue your journey beyond Namibia. Namibia’s capital has a number of bus services to South Africa, the Victoria Falls and other major cities in Southern Africa.
Hosea Kutako International Airport connects Windhoek to smaller airports and landing strips throughout the country. Hosea Kutako also welcomes the majority of Namibia’s overseas visitors.
Windhoek is more than just a practical stopover or travel hub. There are certainly more than enough reasons to linger here for a day or two.
A wealth of historic buildings and museums makes for an interesting tour of the city. The Namibia Crafts Centre is a must for those interested in gift shopping and local products. There is also a large shopping mall.
Windhoek also has Namibia’s highest concentration of international restaurants and cafes offering cuisine from Namibia, Germany and the rest of the world. There are some good watering holes and clubs around too for those wanting to experience the city’s nightlife.
Accommodation in Windhoek ranges from vibey backpackers to luxurious hotels in colonial castles.
It’s possible to take guided cultural tours into Katutura, one of the poor but vibrant townships that wrap around the city proper, and experience the food, music and culture of the local population.
Windhoek is also home to Namibia’s brewing industry and its most famous beer, which is named after the city. A visit to the brewery is a must.
Windhoek, which in English translates as “wind corner”, developed at the site of a permanent spring known to the indigenous pastoral communities, and then grew quickly from 1840 onwards, when Jonker Afrikaner settled and built a church here. But decades of sporadic fighting and wars with the Nama and Herero peoples followed until Windhoek was left in ruins and then essentially had to be “founded” a second time in 1890 by Schutztruppe Captain Curt von François.