Windhoek and Surrounds
Namibia’s capital and biggest city is also the gateway to the country. While Namibia is famous for big game safaris and desert landscapes, Windhoek is certainly part of the Namibian experience. Situated close to the geographic centre of the country, Windhoek is unique among African cities as it blends African rhythm with the smoothly operating infrastructure and architecture of European cities. Almost all of Namibia’s tourism is funnelled through the capital. While city with a population of only 280 000 is a convenient stopover for most, the historical monuments, Namibian culture and recent developments such as the Independence Museum and the Hilton Windhoek are turning Windhoek into a tourist attraction in its own right.
Namibia’s culture and history is concentrated in its capital, giving visitor’s a glimpse at the bigger picture. Long before foreign settlers arrived in Southern Africa, what is now Windhoek was known as Ai-gams – the Nama word for firewater or steam – as many hot springs are found in this area. The name Windhoek introduced by Nama captain Jan Jonker Afrikaner, who gave it the name of his birthplace in the Cape: Winterhoek. Under German colonial rule the city was known as Windhuk and then changed to the name it carries today.
Many sites around Windhoek tell of the cultural diversity and turbulent history of Namibia. Traces of the German colonial rule still abound in street names and architecture. The Alte Feste, the Tintenpalast, Christuskirche, the old train station and the Reiterdenkmal are all witnesses of a time when Windhoek was the administrative base of the Schutztruppe. On the other hand the Namibia Craft Centre, the National Museum of Namibia, the National Art Gallery, the Owela Museum, Heroes’ Acre and the newly erected Independence Museum will give visitors a variety of opportunities to learn about local culture and history.
What to do in Windhoek
Windhoek offers a harsh contrast to the desolate landscapes and pristine wilderness of Namibia. The central location and an abundance of shopping facilities and restaurants makes for a convenient dose of civilization before or after you head into the wilderness. The shopping and the sights are centred around Independence Avenue, which separates Windhoek from North to South. Windhoek’s museums and historical sites are all within walking distance from Independence Avenue and can be seen within a day. Take a day or two extra to relax in the National Botanical Garden of Namibia, to discover the shopping centres and restaurants or to visit some of the attractions out of town such as the township of Katutura, the hot springs or the nearby Daan Viljoen and Hardap Game Parks.