Swakopmund

Travel Guide Africa Namibia Swakopmund

edit

Introduction

School kids in Swakopmund

School kids in Swakopmund

© TDL

Swakopmund is Namibia's premier beachside location and one of the larger settlements in the country (bear in mind this is Namibia so that equals just under 30,000 inhabitants). It's sometimes called even more German than Germany itself and there are indeed some influences regarding architecture, food and drinks. The town itself is fairly attractive for Namibian standards, but if the common fog comes in from the Atlantic Ocean, things suddenly look a bit boring, even the brightly pained houses. Most visitors to Swakopmund spend very little time hanging about the town however, rather they come for the plethora of activities available in the local area. It is a bit of an adventure traveller's mecca and as such attracts a lot of backpackers and overlanders.

Top

edit

History

The first European explorers of the area, Dutchmen Sebastian van Reenen and Pieter Pienaar described the area in 1793 as one with lush vegetation and elephants and rhinos. Nowadays the area can be described as ocean on one side and desert on the other, with some shrubs as the only natural vegetation.

About a century after the Dutch exploration, the area was a colony of the German Empire, and was chosen as a second port for German Southwest Africa after Lüderitz. The architects decided that Swakopmund should resemble the German homeland as much as possible, wherefore the city now looks as it does. The boom period of the city continued until the outbreak of World War I. This interrupted the construction of the massive pier, nowadays one of the city's main sights. After the war, the colony became a League of Nations mandate, later a de facto part of South Africa and Swakopmund mostly a city in decline.

Since the independence of Namibia in 1990, the city has established itself as a resort town. It's the fourth most populous city in the country, and popular among domestic and German vacationers.

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

Architecture

Much of the downtown is built in early 20th-century German style.

  • Woermannhaus, Bismarck Street. A German half-timbered house in the colors of the desert with a 25m high tower and arcaded inner yard. Built by the German trading company Woermann in 1905 as their headquarters for German Southwest Africa. In 1972 the building was declared a national historic landmark and nowadays it functions as a public library.
  • Swakopmund Jetty. Jutting 300m out in the Atlantic Ocean. Originally it was smaller and built out of wood. Later on, the current concrete jetty was built, but after WWI it fell into disuse. Renovated in 2005, it is a popular attraction, especially for viewing the sunset.
  • Old railway station and casino, Bahnhof Street. Built in the Wilhelminian style in 1902 as a railway station for the new line to Windhoek, it nowadays hosts the Swakopmund Hotel, exhibition centre and casino.
  • Altes Gefängnis. Built in 1909, it still functions as a prison. However, it's built in the same style as much as the rest of downtown (much prettier than a modern prison) and has been a national historic landmark since 1973.
  • Haus Hohenzollern, Moltke and Brücken street. An Art Nouveau building constructed in 1906 as a luxurious hotel, today it is an apartment building.
  • State House (Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht), Am Zoll Street. Built as a courthouse in 1902, nowadays it is the Swakopmund residence of the Namibian president.
  • Lutheran Church. Built by the Germans in 1912, this Evangelical-Lutheran church is another building which looks like it has been transplanted from somewhere in Germany.
  • Barracks (Kaserne), Bismarck Street. Built in 1903 as housing for the troops of the engineer corps who constructed much of the early infrastructure. The lobby is decorated with German coats of arms. Nowadays the building functions as a youth hostel.
  • Lighthouse. The 25.6m-high lighthouse is one of the most visible buildings in the city.

The impressive Namib Desert (the oldest desert in the world, with the tallest sand dune in the world) around Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast to the north can be appreciated in their entirety from the air, from a hot air balloon, a helicopter or a light plane. There are several kinds of flight tours are available, ranging from a few hours to a few days. Some flights enables you to see the desert and the ocean from above, others include safaris. If you're really adventurous, your other options are paragliding (also beginner courses available) as well as skydiving - learn to jump from concerned, compassionate professionals in one of the cheapest, best skydiving schools on earth. The tour usually starts with a scenic flight and then a tandem jump with an instructor from 3,000 metres

Many locals don't come to Swakopmund to hang out in the desert. Hang with the Namibians away on school holiday and go to the beach. You'll find cold water, but warm sands. The beach, just to the north of town, is ringed with museums and cafes. Beware that further south there are no breakwaters, so the beach is exposed directly to the waves of the Atlantic, which means that swimming may not be safe.

Surfing is popular too. Hit the surf spots to the north of town, such as 'Thick Lip' and 'The Wreck'. Travel further south towards Langstrad for 'Guns'. Fishing is a more relaxed sea-related activity and tour companies also offer offshore fishing tours.

Also the desert has many different activities, one local specialty being sandboarding, also known as duneboarding. You can ski the dunes just like you're snowboarding, or ride the board on your belly. Extremely high speeds — not for the faint hearted. This activity can be performed either on the world's highest sand dunes near Walvis Bay or some smaller dunes near Swakopmund. Alter Action has access to the infamous "Dizzy" hill. Tight clothing, sport shoes, sunglasses and sunblock are needed to take part in this activity. Beware that sand may damage your camera; though usually the price includes the operator taking video and photos of you performing the activity and giving you the footage.

Quadbiking is an excellent way to see the Namib desert close up. Several tour companies offer lessons and guided tours on four-wheel motorbikes through the desert surrounding the city. Breathtaking views of the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean.

Just south of town on the road to Walvis Bay, there are some nice sand dunes suitable for a walk. Cross over the Swakop River, smile at the fact that there's rarely any visible water in it, and stroll through the dunes.

There are several birding locations in the town. At the Swakop River mouth there is a small fresh water lagoon which always has good birds to see. In the town there is the water treatment area. This is more for the twitcher (birders chasing rare birds) looking for rare birds. It is only open on working hours on week days. North of the town is the Mile 4 salt works. Some roads go along the open saline lakes where the salt is being extracted. This area is very important for various birds, including flamingos.

Top

edit

Weather

Although Swakopmund has a very arid climate with just about 15 mm of rain a year, the area receives a lot of fog meaning that plants and lichens can grow here, even up to 100 kilometres inland. The average maximum temperatures are between 23 and 28 °C on most days, though when it stays foggy all day temperatures can drop well below 20 °C, while highs of around 40 °C are sometimes recorded when winds blow directly from the warm desert areas. Average lows are mostly between 12 and 16 °C.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

Swakopmund does have an airport, but it's just used by the local skydiving club and for some charter flights. The closest airport for with passenger traffic is 35km away near Walvis Bay, and you can fly there from Johannesburg and Cape Town by South African Airways and Air Namibia ; the latter also has flights from the capital Windhoek. Some hotels and guest houses will provide a shuttle service to/from the Walvis Bay airport. Otherwise, there are a couple of local shuttle services - The Flying Coffee Pot (+264 811 287455) and Raiwin Shuttle Service (+264 81 273 9309) - that do the trip between Swakopmund and the airport for around N$200. Bookings can be made through the shuttle service's website.

If you have more money to spend, there are numerous small aircraft charter operators in Namibia, and flying from destination to destination on a tour through Namibia is an effective way to minimize the time spent travelling the long distances.

By Train

TransNamib offers overnight trains between Windhoek and Swakopmund (9½ hours) and Walvis Bay (1½ hours) daily except Saturday. There are 3 trains a week between Walvis Bay and Tsumeb (17½ hours) also passing through Swakopmund.

By Car

The B2 mainroad runs south from Walis Bay (just half an hour away) towards Swakopmund and from there north/northeast inland via Usakos towards the B1 road that runs south-north across the country. The C34 coastal road connects Swakopmund to the north via Hentiesbaai towards the Cape Cross Seal Reserve and further along the Skeleton Coast. The C28 and C14 roads go inland from Swakopmund and Walvis Bay respectively. The C28 is the shortest route towards Windhoek while the C14 is best taken when you are heading towards the Namib Naukluft National Park, including the famous Sossusvlei.

By Bus

The Interncape Mainliner offers bus services to Walvis Bay (half an hour) and Windhoek (4¼ hours) on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, with connections to and from South Africa. The Friday Star Line bus between Khorixas (6½ hours) and Walvis Bay (one hour) passes through Swakopmund, and returns on Sundays. There are minibuses between Swakopmund and Windhoek (four hours) and Swakopmund and Walvis Bay (45 minutes).

Minibuses operate from Windhoek almost every 2-3 hours, ask the taxi drivers where the buses leave. There are multiple minibus ranks in Windhoek for different destinations, so make sure you find the right one. For about N$120 you can have a ride in an minibus. The ride will take about 4-6 hours. Pay immediately and try to get yourself a seat next to the driver for a bit more space.

By Boat

Swakopmund lighthouse

Swakopmund lighthouse

© Nat and Ev

Top

edit

Getting Around

By Car

You won't need a car for transport around central Swakopmund, only when you are going within the wider urban area or more inland.

By Foot

Most of Swakopmund is easily explored on foot and distances between most hotels, the beach and the central pubs, restaurants and shops are short.

Top

edit

Eat

Typical local cuisine, insofar as it exists, is a combination of the hearty German cuisine and fish and seafood of the ocean. Being a resort city, many restaurants are located in hotels. For some of the most popular ones you will need to book a few days ahead, especially on weekends and holidays. An average sit-down restaurant meal costs around N$150-300, and on top of that it's customary to leave a tip of 10%.

  • BOJOs Cafe, C34. Cafe with different menus every day, updated on their Facebook page.
  • Caffe Treff Punkt, 102 Sam Nujoma Ave. Great German café, lovely breakfast.
  • Cafe Tiffany, Libertina Amathila Avenue. Fresh fish, good wine, reasonable prices. The locals eat here!
  • Café Anton (at the Schweizerhaus Hotel). Great for an all-you-can-eat breakfast. In the daytime they have delicious cakes; reportedly, the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte is even better than what you can get in Germany! Around N$60.
  • Restaurant Europe (at the Hotel Europa Hof). According to some, the best fish and seafood restaurant in town, large servings too. Do book your table beforehand, because it's a popular place.
  • Napolitana, 33 Nathanael Maxuilili, ☏ +264 64 402773. An Italian restaurant with both Italian food and steaks and game. Large servings.
  • Namib Restaurant, 13 Luderitz St, ☏ +264 64 404896. German cuisine with great service. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Zur Weinmaus, Poststraße. Very friendly host. Not many tables, so make a reservation.
  • De Kelder, Tobias Hainyeko Street. A little bit hidden, does not look attractive from outside. But everything else is perfect!
  • Zur Kupferpfanne, Daniel Tjongarero Ave 9. Game food and good wines.
  • The Tug Restaurant, Strand Street (at the jetty), ☏ +264 64 402356, fax: +264 64 402356, ✉ tug@iafrica.com.na. A great seafood restaurant, with a wide wine selection. It is an actual tug with a great view of the sea - reservations are essential. Rather expensive.
  • The Jetty 1905. At end of the pier, fish and chips, sushi, tapas, good wine list and whisky Don Pedro's, +264 64 5664 for reservations.
  • Kückis Pub, Tobias Hainyeko 22, ☏ +264 64 404207. Warm and enjoyable atmosphere with great service. Limited menu, but interesting dishes (shark steak, etc) and very well prepared.

Top

edit

Drink

This is Jägermeister country and don't forget to sample the famous, locally brewed Hansa Draught. There is also a local independent craft brewery, called Namib Dunes.

  • Bacchus Taverne, 44 Bismarck Street (opposite Europa Hof). Likely the coziest bar in Swakopmund. It has a good selection of pub snacks and is affordable too.
  • Tiger Reef, Südstrand Street. Beach bar, excellent place for a sundowner on the beach. Go to the aquaruim and walk along the beach in the direction of Walvis Bay. Grab a bottle of bubbly for the amazing sunset (Locally called sundowners).
  • Rafters Action Pub, Woermann Street. Great sports bar with big LCD screens.

Top

edit

Sleep

  • Desert Sky Backpackers Lodge, 35 Lazaret St (at the corner of Breit St), ☏ +264 64 402339. Five minute walk from downtown and the beach; clean, friendly owner; N$30 for WiFi internet access; and camping area. N$150 camping, N$190/person for a dorm, N$540 for a double room.
  • Villa Wiese Backpackers, Cnr. Theo-Ben Gurirab & Windhoeker Street, ☏ +264 64 407105, ✉ villawiese@compuscan.co.za. Another great backpackers. Plus they have their own bar. dorms R185.
  • Swakopmund Youth hostel, Lazarett street (housed in the Alte Kaserne.), ☏ +264 64-404164. dorm beds N$120.
  • Skeleton Beach Backpackers., 14 Moses Garoeb street, ☏ +264 64 25-9485. dorm beds. N$150.
  • Amanpuri Travelers Lodge, Moses Garoeb street, ☏ +264 64-405587. has dorms beds N$180.
  • Swakop Lodge, 42 Nathaniël Maxuilili, ☏ +264 64 402030, fax: +264 64 405016, ✉ bookings@swakoplodge.com. Dorm beds. Popular among those travelling on overland trucks. Still, there are some quite nice and clean rooms (though ask to see the room first). Restaurant, Internet cafe, laundry service N$30, guarded parking lot, kitchen. N$150.
  • Sea Breeze Guesthouse, Turmalien St, ☏ +264 64 463348.
  • Meike's Guesthouse, Windhoeker St, ☏ +264 64 405863.
  • Vogelstrand Guest House, 33 Tsavorite St, Vogelstrand, ☏ +264 64 403287. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00. Intimate family run bed and breakfast guest house with six rooms. Continental or health breakfast with an array of dishes made from local produce. The outside areas are designed in a quiet country courtyard style. From N$690. edit
  • The Secret Garden Guesthouse, 36 Bismarck St (in the old town), ☏ +264 64404037. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10:30AM. Six standard double en suite rooms, three comfort double en-suite rooms and two suites. Breakfast is included and the guesthouse has a bistro restaurant for evening meals. Secure parking is available. N$500+.
  • Dünenblick self-catering apartments, riverside av 37 and rhode allee no 5 (overlooking the namib dunes and close to the beach, opposite the Swakopmund jetty), ☏ +264 81 1290489, +264 81 149 0449, ✉ duenenblick@selfcatering-swakopmund.com. Check-in: 14h00, check-out: 10h00. Luxury apartments, stylishly decorated in contemporary look, with all the comforts possible. Including full DSTV and Internet , well situated with sea view or dune view. All within walking distance to the centre of town. From N$900.00 per apartment.
  • Alternative Space Guesthouse,, Anton-Lubosfki St 167 (Krammersdorf), ☏ +264 402713, ✉ nam00352@mweb.com.na. The place is out of the ordinary.If you are looking for a place with a difference stay here. N$600.
  • By the Beach, Swanlamer 12, ☏ +264 64 405 442, +264 81 244 6336, ✉ redskyventures@gmail.com. A new self catering accommodation service offering affordable luxury, with sea views, coffee/tea, DSTV in master bedroom and lounge, indoor BBQ. From N$550 per unit, sleeping up to 6 people.
  • Sandcastle Apartments, Woker St 4, ☏ +264 64 40 36 32, ✉ mail@sandcastle-swakopmund.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. N$ 450.
  • Sophia Dale Base Camp, Street 1901 Plot 173, ☏ +264 64 40 3264, ✉ sophia@mweb.com.na. Sunny and cosy camping and bungalows 12km from Swakopmund, in the lush area of Swakop River.
  • Swakopmund Municipal Bungalows, Cnr Hendrik Witbooi and Swakop Street, ☏ +264 64 4104333. Selection ranging from tiny two bedroom units (approximately N$250 a night) to luxury bungalows (TV, stove, etc.) at N$650-700 a night. Walking distance to town.
  • Hotel Schweizerhaus, 1 Bismarck Strasse, ☏ +264 64 400331, +264 64 400332, +264 64 400333, fax: +264 64 405850, ✉ schweizerhaus@mweb.com.na.
  • Hotel Eberwein, Sam Nujoma Avenue, ☏ +264 64 41 44 50, fax: +264 64 41 44 51, ✉ enquiry@hotel-eberwein.com.
  • Strand Hotel, Vineta St, ☏ +264 64 400 315, fax: +264 64 404 942, ✉ centralres.nsh@olfitra.com.na. Scheduled to reopen in October 2015.
  • Prinzessin Rupprecht Heim, Sam Nujoma Avenue, ☏ +264 64 412540, ✉ info@hotel-prinzessin-rupprecht.com.
  • Alte Brücke Resort & Conference Center, Vineta, ☏ +264 64 404918, ✉ info@altebrucke.com.
  • Sea View Backpackers Swakopmund, 20 Berg Street Swakopmund, ☏ +264 85 334 4567, ✉ info@seaviewbackpackers.com. All rooms are on suite. Two-minute walk to the ocean, pool table, cereal breakfast, bar area, free WiFi, inside and outside fireplace. Staring from N$ 500 for a single person en-suite room and N$ 250 per dormitory bed.
  • The Stiltz, Am Zoll. Luxurious with a very romantic setting.
  • Hansa Hotel, 3 Hendrik Witbooi Street, ☏ +264 64 414 200, fax: +264 64 414 299, ✉ reservations@hansahotel.com.na. The archetype of a hotel from the "old days". Waiters wear penguin suit, and the place oozes style. This is also a nice place for Sunday lunch which is surprisingly good value for money, but you might be rejected if your attire is too informal. above 1000N$.
  • Swakopmund Hotel & Entertainment Center Alter Bahnhof, Mandume Ya Ndemufayo, ☏ +264 64 410 5200, fax: +264 64 410 5360, ✉ swakopmund@legacyhotels.co.za. It's a 4 star luxury hotel, built in and around the impeccably restored old station building. Includes casino, pool and restaurant. From N$940 per room, incl. breakfast.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

Top

edit

Keep Connected

Internet

There are Internet cafes in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Opuwo, and hostels often have access as well. Wifi is on the rise, but still not on the level of neighbouring South Africa.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Namibia's country code is 264. Each city or region has a two-digit area code. When calling long distance within Namibia, prefix the area code with a '0'. Mobile phones are very common and run on the GSM network, using the same frequency as Europe and the rest of Africa. Be aware that when you get off the beaten track signal can be erratic.

To avoid high costs, switch off data roaming and/or buy a local SIM card instead. Internet rates especially are extremely high still, but you will also save money on calling costs.

Post

Nampost is the national postal service of Namibia. It has post offices in most major cities and towns or postal services are incorporated within small shops in the smallest settlements. As for many countries in Southern Africa, services are actually fairly reliable but not very fast. Count on 2 weeks or more for postcards or letters to be send to countries in Europe or North America. Most post offices are open from 8:00 or 9:00am to around 4:30pm, with shorter hours (mornings) on Saturdays. Note that local variations may apply. For parcels, you might choose more expensive but faster companies like DHL, UPS, FedEx or TNT.

Top

Quick Facts

[edit]

Coordinates
  • Latitude: -22.67746
  • Longitude: 14.53363

Accommodation in Swakopmund

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Swakopmund searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Contributors

as well as Kieran-M (2%), Peter (<1%)

Swakopmund Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Swakopmund

This is version 19. Last edited at 9:20 on Jul 30, 19 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License