Windhoek

Travel Guide Africa Namibia Windhoek

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Introduction

Windhöek

Windhöek

© Luis M

Windhoek (pronounced /ˈvɪnthʊk/) is the capital of Namibia and has about 230,000 inhabitants. It is located in the Khomas Region in the central part of the country on a plateau at an altitude of almost 1,700 metres above sea level. The city is relatively young (about 120 years) and small but it is the administrative centre of the country and most travellers arriving by plane in Namibia will first spend a day or so in Windhoek. It is safe compared to other African cities and has its own charms, like the German colonial building style, several churches and the main street, Independence Avenue. In and around the city there are good hotels and restaurants and nearby is Daan Viljoen National Park, which is a good place to do a small safari.

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Sights and Activities

  • Parliament of Namibia - Formerly the legislative assembly during the apartheid days, this is now the home of the National Assembly. There is also a new building next door for the National Council.
  • National Gallery of Namibia
  • Dictator street names - Though Namibia isn't a dictatorship, there are a few dictators with whom Namibia's first President was quite friendly during the days of the struggle for independence (and still is). There are two in Windhoek, both downtown: Fidel Castro St. and Robert Mugabe Ave.
  • Christuskirche - In the middle of a big traffic circle where Robert Mugabe Ave. and Fidel Castro St. meet, at the gates of the Parliamentary compound. The old Lutheran church.

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Events and Festivals

Independence Day

Namibia celebrates Independence Day on the 21st of March, to mark the day in 1990 when it gained full independence from South Africa. It is a national holiday with many shops and businesses closing for the day as well as all governmental offices.

Windhoek Karneval (Carnival)

The Windhoek Karneval is a very important event in the capital, with celebrations beginning on the first Friday of April. There is the Prinzenball, Büttenabende, the Maskenball (the masked ball) and the Kehraus, which marks the end of the carnival. Festivities also include a ladies night, a youth carnival and a childrens carnival.

Bank Windhoek Arts Festival

Held every February, the Bank Windhoek Arts Festival celebrates local artists and their work. It encourages the development of artists, helping locals establish a name in the industry and giving people a vehicle to enjoy the local design scene. A variety of events from dance and theater to visual arts are held throughout the capital.

Oktoberfest

A smaller cousin of the original event held in Germany, many Namibians of German heritage (or those who just enjoy a beer!) keep the tradition alive in Windhoek.

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Weather

Although much of central and southern Namibia have a desert climate, this is not entirely through for the central plateau where Windhoek is located. Although in general dry, the hot summer includes some serious downpours sometimes, especially in January and February. In winter, the weather is usually dry with clear blue skies and temperatures still around or above 20 °C and occasionally the temperature drops below 0 °C during the months of June to August.

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Getting There

By Plane

International
Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH) is the country's primary international airport. There are few direct connections from Europe, the USA or Australia. From Europe, best direct connections are with Air Namibia or Lufthansa from Frankfurt or Munich.

There are more flights to and from neighbouring countries though, and it is most likely that you have to switch planes in Cape Town or Johannesburg before heading towards Windhoek. South African Airlines flies to these two South African cities, while Air Namibia flies to other cities as well, like Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or Maun (gateway for Chobe and Okavango Delta) in Botswana.

The only way to get from the international airport to town is by taxi. One company has a monopoly or you might find also some semi legal ones for a bit less (this might change soon).

Domestic
Air Namibia is the national airline of Namibia but there are few domestic flights that are of any use to travellers and most flights are chartered. There are however a few dozen of airports in Namibia, mostly catering to smaller planes with originate from Windhoek. Often these flights are part of a package deal. You might find this List of airport in Namibia interesting if you want to joing such a tour.

By Train

There was a regular overnight train service with TransNamib, the national railway company of Namibia, from Upington in South Africa to Windhoek via Keetmanshoop in the south of Namibia. The total trip did take about 26 hours.
Now there is only a train from Windhoek to Swakopmund & Walvis Bay, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays, leaving at 19:15, and Windhoek to Keetmanshoop on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays, leaving 19:40, both arriving in the morning.

Several luxurious trains also travel through Namibia, stopping en route in Windhoek.

By Car

Well maintained roads lead north, south and east of Windhoek and all are tarred. To the west/interior though roads are gravel but still in an excellent shape. A 4wd vehicle is not necessary but recommended when using these latter roads.
Bus services between Botswana and Windhoek are highly irregular, so probably the simplest way is to hitch - though remember all the usual safety caveats. Public transport in Botswana runs frequently as far west as Ghanzi, from where you can hitch to Windhoek.

By Bus

Buses connect the capital Windhoek with most neighbouring countries, but frequencies are low and traveltime high. It takes about 24 hours to and from Johannesburg and even more to Lusaka in Zambia. There are also direct buses between Windhoek and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, stopping in Katima Mulilo in the eastern Caprivi. These buses travel through Botswana, but you are not allowed to get out of the buses. From Windhoek there are also irregular minibuses travelling directly to Maun, the gateway for the Okavango Delta in Botswana 1 bus per week to Gabarone.

Intercape offers buses to the west from Windhoek to Swakopmund and Walfish Bay and to the north Livingstone, Caprivi Strip, Rundu, Grootfontein, Oshikango / Angola border and south Cape Town, Johannesburg, Keetmanshoop.

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Getting Around

By Car

There are loads of car rental agencies on the airport and in the city to get you started for your trip.

By Public Transport

There is no public transport in Windhoek but there is a system of shared taxis which are similar to combies in South African cities. Taxis primarily run between the townships and the main industrial/commercial areas of the city. Routes are not fixed like a bus route or the combie routes in South Africa. This gives some added flexibility, but also means that fares between given destinations may not always be the same. You can get in or get out wherever you want along the "route".

To catch a taxi just flag it down by holding your arm out and waving your hand down towards the ground. It's a casual gesture, so don't stick your arm straight out like a sign post, and don't wave your arm around like you're calling for help. The fare for destinations that are on the "route" or close to the route is N$10, destinations more "out of the way" are charged at N$20. After midnight every tour is N$20. Point your hand in the direction that you want to go. If the driver stops for you, tell him where you want to go when you get in or before you get in. If the destination is too far off their route, they will tell you they're not going there so you'll just have to wait for another taxi. This can be common during rush hour. It will take some time to figure out what these informal routes are.

Most taxis cruise along Independence Avenue south of the intersection with Fidel Castro Street. The easiest place to catch them is in front of the Gustav Voigts Centre/Kalahari Sands Hotel.

Shared taxis are generally in bad technical shape, and their aggressive driving is legendary. If you feel uncomfortable with that, there are radio taxis (on-demand) which allow you to hire the entire car to yourself. Most of these taxis have to be pre-booked via telephone; they'll come and get you wherever you are. In the city, they can be found behind the Tourist Information Office at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Fidel Castro Street (opposite Gustav Voigts Centre/Kalahari Sands Hotel) and on the northern-side of Wernhill Park shopping mall. They also tend to gather at popular restaurants and nightspots. Make sure you agree on the price before taking them; most will ask for at least N$80 to go anywhere around Windhoek. These taxis also can take you out of Windhoek, and especially to the airport; it's just a question of how much they are going to charge.

By Foot

Most hotels and hostels are close to the city centre, so you can easily walk to most shops, restaurants, clubs and sights.

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Eat

  • Brückenhaus, opposite Avis Dam (Drive on the B6 towards Gobabis. At the edge of town, before driving under the railway bridge, the Brückenhaus (Bridge House) is on the right). Large helpings of tasty meat and chips, very few veggies, thus a very Namibian restaurant. Several really monstrous portions with kilograms rather than grams of meat will get your table a round of Jägermeister if you can finish them. One of the few places in Namibia where you can get craft beer. There is a beer garden, kids have a pool and a small playground. Very friendly staff. Burgers 120 N$, steak 150 N$, craft beer 50 N$.
  • Joe's Beer House, 160 Nelson Mandela Ave, ☏ +264 61 232-457. M-Th 4PM-late, F-Su 11AM-late. Windhoek's largest restaurant, seats several hundred people, and is packed essentially every day. You'll meet busloads of tourists, noisy families, local celebrities, all colors and all ages. Due to its size it can be a bit chaotic, as well as a tad impersonal. The place also features an amazing collection of odds and ends on display, from old bottles and farming equipment to a Mini Cooper that managed to cross Africa. Typical Namibian cuisine with a lot of tasty meat and not many vegetables. Huge portions; the average person will be full from a bar snack. Large beer from tap 25 N$, starters and light meals 60-100 N$, main course 150 N$, steak 200 N$. It is expected that you tip even if you are not occupying a table, that's unusual for Namibia, and the waiters will tell you when the tip is not sufficient.
  • Luigi and the Fish, 320 Sam Nujoma Dr (Klein Windhoek, on the way to the airport), ☏ +264 61 256-399. 6PM-10PM. A nice restaurant and bar, many travellers here. It describes itself as having the biggest menu in Namibia, with a mix of game, beef, pork, seafood, pizza and vegetarian dishes. On Fridays and Saturdays you need to book in advance.
  • Old Continental Cafe, Pedestrian passage between Lüderitz Street and Independence Avenue (Parking can be difficult here. Come on foot.), ☏ +264 61 307 176. 9AM-5PM. Small downtown eatery for breakfast and lunch. Lebanese-style cooking, dishes are somewhat spicy. Try the soup of the day. 30-80 N$.
  • PepperCorn, Shop 59, Maerua Mall (opposite the cinema), ☏ +264 61 254-154. 9AM-10PM. Try to get a seat in the lounge and have a drink before and after the meal.
  • Sardinia, 47 Independence Ave, ☏ +264 61 225-600. 9AM-11PM. Italian restaurant with great pizzas, hot dishes and excellent ice cream.
  • Taste of India, Hosea Kutako Drive (In the 'Southport' development in Southern Industrial. Not walkable after sunset as the block is surrounded by bushes and then-abandoned workshops). 11:30AM-10PM, Sundays closed. Tasty Indian food but terrible ambiente, plastic chairs and tables, next to a parking lot. Still, this is much better and cheaper than Indian restaurants elsewhere in town. Starters 10-60 N$, main 60-100 N$, side dishes extra at 10-30 N$.

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Drink

  • The Wine Bar - Located on a hill overlooking Windhoek with fantastic sunsets, perfect for that romantic occasion. The staff give excellent service and have good knowledge of the wines being served. You may also purchase wine here.
  • Blitzkrieg Bunker Bar - A loud rock and metal bar. Despite the risqué name, a perfectly friendly place with laid-back staff and a good crowd. Writing anywhere on the walls with a marker pen is not discouraged.
  • Bump - Located in the Southern Industrial section of Windhoek, Bump features a spacious outdoor area, mid-sized dance floor and a large bar. Although the music is often limited to house and rave music, the service is friendly. Popular with the Afrikaner crowd.
  • Chez Ntemba, Dr Kenneth Kaunda Street (Off Independence Avenue. All taxi drivers know it, too). open Wed-Sun. Popular with locals and the only place to go out on Sundays because other places are closed or dead quiet. Fri-Sun entrance is N$30. Small beer for N$20.
  • J&J Gambling House, Luther Street (Off Independence Avenue. At the back of Chez Ntemba, walk halfway around the block). Open till 2 AM except on Sundays when it closes 10 PM. Popular bar in the town centre. J&J can get a bit rough from time to time: Hookers, drunkards, people selling contraband, but security is good. 750 ml beer N$ 23, you would have to go deep into the slums to get it cheaper.
  • Old Location Ohungi and Restaurant, Purcell Street, Windhoek West (Formerly the Oase, many taxi drivers will only know the old name). Till late. Frequently still operational after Police hour (2AM). One of the few watering holes that are neither shabby nor extravagant. Outside tables. The restaurant is a stall in front of the bar, offering meat until the wee hours of the morning. Small beer 20 N$.
  • Warehouse, corner of Tal Street and Sam Nujoma Drive, ☏ +264 61 40 2253. Closed on Sundays. Popular with tourists and the local artist's scene. Live music (Rock and Jazz) of varying quality, but often good and always entertaining and free. Tuesdays Karaoke. Occasionally there is a rock concert in a separate hall for which there is an admission fee. 0.5l beer N$25, meals and snacks N$40-80.

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Sleep

  • Cardboard Box Backpackers Hostel, 15 John Albrecht St (at the corner of John Meinart), ☏ +264 61 228-994. Has a bar and a swimming pool; close to downtown. Also the site of the Cardboard Box Travel Shop. Dorm bed N$135.
  • Chameleon Backpackers Lodge & Guesthouse, 5-7 Voight St, ☏ +264 61 244-347. Has a mix of dorm and private rooms with a bar, swimming pool and booking desk for Chameleon Safaris. Close to downtown. Dorm bed N$150 pp.
  • ParadiseGarden Backpackers (ParadiseGarden Hostel & Camping), 5 Roentgen Street (At the corner of Beethoven street and John Meinert street turn right into Beethoven street. Roentgen street is the first street on your left.), ☏ +264 81 2809208, ✉ info@windhoekhostel.com. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 10am. Owned and managed by a German. Has travel information desk, free WiFi and secure parking, well-equipped kitchen, laundry service, a huge and always clean swimming pool, located within a 15-minute walk from Windhoek downtown. English, Spanish and German spoken. Camping N$130, dorm N $190, rooms starting from N$450.
  • Rivendell Backpackers, 40 Beethoven St, ☏ +264 61250006. single/double rooms and dorm beds. Has a swimming pool.
  • Backpackers Unite, 5 Grieg St, ☏ +264 61 259485. Check-in: 12 noon, check-out: 12 noon. camping/dorm beds. has a swimming pool. free breakfast and wifi. Dorm N$140 pp. Caamping N$80 pp.
  • Jan Jonker Accommodation, 183, Jan Jonker Road, ☏ +264 61 221236, ✉ info@jan-jonker.com.
  • Okavango Guesthouse, 124 Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo St, ☏ +264 61 306 553, ✉ info@windhoekguesthouse.com.
  • Hotel Casa Blanca, 52 Fritsche Street, Pioneers Park, ☏ +264 61 249623, fax: +264 61 249622, ✉ casa@iway.na.
  • Galpinii Guest House (b&b), 45, Prinsloo Street, Pioneers Park, ☏ +264 61 242630, fax: +264 61 247654.
  • Klein Windhoek Guest House, 2 Hofmeyer Street, Klein Windhoek, ☏ +264 61 239-401, fax: +264 61 234-952.
  • Jordani Bed and Breakfast, 55 Hamutenya Wanehepo Ndadi St, ☏ +264 61 220141, ✉ jordani@iway.na. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00.
  • Protea Hotel Furstenhof, Dr. Frans Indongo Street. Luxury hotel downtown with a pool and beautiful view of the city.
  • Avani Windhoek Hotel & Casino, 129 Independence Ave. Luxury hotel downtown with a casino and a small shopping centre.
  • Windhoek Country Club. Luxury resort and conference centre in the south end of the city.
  • Heinitzburg. Boutique hotel in an old castle above the city.
  • Hilton Hotel, Rev. Michael Scott St. Namibia's only five-star hotel. Luxury, certainly when compared to the alternatives, new modern, well equipped, excellent service, city center location.

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

Booking.com

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Learn

The University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) are located in Windhoek. There is also the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre where you can take classes in everything from French to photography.

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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.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: -22.5749
  • Longitude: 17.0805

Accommodation in Windhoek

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This is version 37. Last edited at 10:03 on Jul 30, 19 by Utrecht. 25 articles link to this page.

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