1840 (first time) | 1890 (second time)
The gateway to Namibia
Windhoek is a laid-back and easily navigable city with a small-town charm. You would be forgiven for forgetting it’s the country’s capital. But most importantly, Windhoek is a good practical base from which to plan routes, hire a car and go shopping for supplies. This makes Windhoek the ideal place to start your journey.
Windhoek: Namibia's Capital City
Windhoek is not your typical African city. A solid infrastructure and a relatively high level of efficiency give Windhoek an almost European feel. The eclectic mix of Namibian people and the abundant sunshine, however, remind you that you are indeed in southern Africa.
The first foundation of Windhoek is traced back to 1840, when the leader of the Oorlam tribe, Captain Jonker Afrikaner and his people, settled in the area and he named it Windhoek. He was attracted to the region primarily because the permanent hot spring which was an all-important source of water to his people, their horses and their livestock. Their settlement grew rapidly, with other former inhabitants of the Cape Colony as well as missionaries moving to Windhoek. A stone church was built, which could house over 500 people, and fruit trees were planted. However, sporadic fighting and wars with the Nama and Herero peoples continued until Windhoek was eventually left in ruins. In 1890 Windhoek was “founded” for a second time by the German Schutztruppe Captain Curt von François, as the administrative capital of what was then called German South-West Africa.
Windhoek again began to grow and soon became the most important city in the colony with an influx of settlers arriving, buildings sprouting up and shops opening. The influence of this early time can still be seen in the architecture of some of Windhoek’s most prominent buildings. The perfect examples of this, are the three medieval style castles which were built and can still be seen today. The most famous of the three castles, the Heinitzburg is now an upmarket hotel with an excellent restaurant. After World War I, the South African national government was given the mandate to govern the territory by the then League of Nations. The South African government subsequently implemented their policy of apartheid and the struggle for independence and political rights for the local people intensified. In 1990, Namibia finally achieved its independence, multiparty democracy was installed and the new majority government implemented a policy of national reconciliation.
Today Windhoek represents a bustling, multiracial city that is continually growing. The significant development of the tourism industry has resulted in many new restaurants and accommodations opening, both within the city and on its outskirts. Windhoek has Namibia’s highest concentration of international restaurants and cafes offering cuisine from Namibia, Germany, Portugal, Italy, as well as other parts of the world. One of its most famous restaurants is undeniably Joe’s Beerhouse. A Windhoek institution, Joe’s is an eclectic restaurant that must be visited to fully appreciate. There are some good watering holes and bars around too for anyone keen to experience the city’s nightlife.
Accommodation in Windhoek ranges from lively backpackers and charming bed and breakfasts to luxurious hotels. There even is a vibey campsite with a beer garden in the city. On the cities outskirts you will find accommodation options which provide you with more of an ‘out-in-the-bush’ experience. This includes popular guest farms and lodges, both of which can provide you with your Windhoek safari encounters.
By maintaining its small-town charm, despite the fact that it is by far Namibia’s largest (and arguably only) city, Windhoek has a way of endearing itself to all those who take the time to get to know it. It is not only a practical stop, but your visit to Namibia’s capital can be a really enjoyable and interesting one too.
Hosea Kutako International Airport
Is one of Namibia’s most important transport hubs as it connects Windhoek to the rest of the world, as well as various smaller airports and landing strips throughout the country.
Windhoek translated into English means ‘Windy Corner’, but there is some debate as to why this name was chosen by Jonker Afrikaner in 1840. It is most likely in reference to the farm in South Africa where he was born and is not weather-related.
Windhoek is also home to Namibia’s brewing industry. Its most famous beer is a lager named after the city and is brewed according to the German “Purity Law” (Reinheitsgebot) of 1516.
In Windhoek, you will experience colonial history and modern life side by side. This is the historical railway station.
Lodges like GocheGanas in the surrounding farmlands welcome day visitors from Windhoek to relax by the pool, go on hikes, or visit the restaurant and bar.
There are numerous restaurants and bars in Windhoek to enjoy the local life and local cuisine of Namibia.
WHEN TO GO
Best time to go to Windhoek
Windhoek has a great climate and can be visited throughout the year. The winter is very dry, with cold temperatures at night and during the early morning hours before things start warming up nicely during the day. The summers are hot, often humid and afternoon showers can bring much needed rainfall. Windhoekers are at their happiest when it is raining, so if it does rain during your visit, you should take some pleasure from the fact that the locals are rejoicing.
Dry seasonMay to November
Pleasant daytime temperatures and dry conditions
Rainy SeasonDecember to April
Hot, often humid, and possible sporadic thundershowers
Why to go
Getting "prepped" for a tremendous Namibian adventure
Windhoek is the logistical hub of Namibia and the perfect place to get everything you may need for your journey. You will find shopping malls, car rental companies and various off-road adventure outfitters. It also offers a wealth of historic buildings, museums, and good restaurants too, giving you more than enough reasons to linger for a day or two.
Joe’s Beerhouse is certainly no longer an insider tip, but still one of the best restaurant recommendations I can give. It's got character and personality, seriously good comfort food and of course cold drinks. It's a Windhoek institution, give it a try!Alexandra | Namibia Travel Expert
Go on a city tour
See Windhoek’s most notable landmarks.
Go on a Katutura cultural tour
Experience a part of Windhoek often forgotten.
Visit the Craft Centre
A must for those interested in souvenirs and local products.
Explore the surrounding area
On day trips you can explore the surrounding farmlands and relax at places such as GocheGanas.
Things to do
Explore Namibia's capital city
Windhoek is more than just a convenient stopover. The city has an interesting story to tell and can be explored on a guided city tour or on a guided cultural tour of Katutura, taking you to one of the city’s poorer but vibrant townships.
- Go on a city tour
- A Katutura cultural tour
- Visit the Craft Centre
- Explore the surrounding area
Overlooking Windhoek, the church is one of Windhoek’s main landmarks.
Old Fort (Alte Feste)
The second founding of Windhoek in 1890 is directly linked to the building of this fort.
Parliament Building (Ink Palace)
The parliament’s garden is especially beautiful when the jacarandas are in blossom.
THINGS TO SEE IN WINDHOEK
A changing city
Windhoek is in the process of building its own identity on the structures left in place by the former colonial powers. With traces of their rule still present – Windhoek’s architecture is a heterogeneous mix of late 19th and early 20th century structures and modern buildings which give it a more contemporary feel.
Where to stay in Windhoek
The Elegant Guesthouse
Immanuel Wilderness Lodge
Etango Ranch Guest Farm
Windhoek is conveniently located pretty much in the centre of Namibia. This is one of the reasons why it is the ideal starting point for your travels through Namibia. The international airport is only a short distance from the city and is the place where the majority of Namibia’s overseas visitors are welcomed to the country.
- Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo) 460 km | 5 hours’ drive
- Sossusvlei 350 km | 4-5 hours’ drive
- Fish River Canyon 660 km | 7-8 hours’ drive
- Kalahari (Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch) 300 km | 4-5 hours’ drive
- Caprivi / Zambezi Region 900 km | 10 hours’ drive
- Damaraland (Twyfelfontein) 410 km | 5-6 hours’ drive
Namibia Highlights in Style
Places Windhoek, Okonjima, Onguma & Ongava Reserves, Twyfelfontein, Erongo Mountains, Swakopmund, Namib Desert, NamibRand Nature Reserve
NAD 71,500 per person
The Best of Namibia
Places Windhoek, Kalahari, Fish River Canyon, Luderitz, Tiras Mountains, Namib Desert, Swakopmund, Ugab Valley, Etosha National Park, Waterberg Plateau
NAD 44,500 per person
Footprints in Namibia
Places Waterberg, Etosha, Ugab Valley, Damaraland, Swakopmund, Sossusvlei, Namib Naukluft Park, Windhoek
NAD 58,000 per person
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