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The sights and sounds of Walvis Bay are usually the first to greet visitors arriving in Namibia for a holiday. As the main point of entry to the sprawling and starkly beautiful Namibian landscape, the city’s clean, orderly streets emanate a sophisticated yet old world charm where German colonial architecture is offset by colourful African townships, trendy sidewalk cafés, and pretty public parks. Walvis Bay’s origins date back to the late 1800s and the arrival of the first German colonists who erected many of the beautiful, old buildings that still decorate the city today. As such historical monuments and stunning, grand architecture are some the hallmarks of the city.
Most visitors use Walvis Bay as a launching pad to further explore Namibia, choosing to spend a few nights in the city before venturing into the Namib Desert. It’s a great place to acclimatise and do some shopping, as well as a decent amount of sightseeing.
There is no shortage or retail outlets or restaurants in the city, as well as numerous ethnic craft markets selling trinkets and jewellery for tourists to take home. Namibia is also a mineral rich country blessed with an abundance of diamonds and other precious gemstones, so if you’re looking for some extra special bling, Walvis Bay is the place to shop.
The Diamond Works is located in the Old Breweries Building and sells two of Africa’s most precious stones – diamonds and tanzanite. Pick up a piece of bespoke jewellery or go on a tour to find out more about how these gems are mined and polished.
The House of Gems holds a magnificent collection of Namibian crystals and semi-precious stones. The prices are reasonable and the selection of raw and polished stones is seemingly endless, allowing visitors to delve deeply into a treasure chest of sparkling gems.
For arts, crafts and ethnic offerings try: vibey Post Street Mall where just about anything can be bought; the Old Breweries Craft Market – a tourist hotspot for crafts and carvings; or the Namibia Craft Centre selling everything from leatherwork and basketry to pottery, jewellery, needlework and hand-painted textiles.
For a night out the Theatre Warehouse seldom disappoints. Together with the Boiler Room and Cellar of Rock the Theatre Warehouse is one of Namibia’s premier live-entertainment venue. The vibe at the Boiler Room bar and bistro is versatile and cosmopolitan and it’s a great spot for some early evening drinks. Entertainment is offered in the form of live music, quiz evenings and more.
Just over two hours from Walvis Bay, but well worth the drive is the Kristall Kellerei Wine Estate. It is one of only three in Namibia and produces small batches of high-quality wine and spirits with a distinct Namibian character. It’s a fabulous location to while away an afternoon as you do some wine tasting, have lunch, and soak up the elegant garden surrounds.
Okahandja is a small village about an hour from Walvis Bay and another popular tourist stop. At its entrance and exit are two open air craft markets that specialise in wooden carvings made from timber originating in northern Namibia.
A must for nature lovers is the National Botanical Garden, a proudly Namibian landscape where grassy lawns fringe exotic plants and endemic flora. Don’t miss the succulents in the Desert House that include iconic Walvis Bay aloes and quiver trees, while informative signboards let you know what’s growing where. Set aside a couple of hours to enjoy the various walking trails, bird life and picnic spots the gardens offer.
Still on all things wild and natural, the scenic Daan Viljoen Nature Reserve is located approximately 20 km west of Walvis Bay in the hills of the Khomas Hochland. It provides hiking and mountain biking trails and is the only reserve in the country that can be explored on foot as there are no predators. Plains game to see include giraffe, zebra, kudu, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest and oryx. The entire terrain of the Khomas Hochland is worth a bit of discovery featuring wildlife and striking scenery. With an abundance of rivers and dams the area’s bird diversity is also high and includes many of Namibia’s endemic bird species such as Rüppell’s parrot, Monteiro’s hornbill, rockrunner and white-tailed shrike.
If you’re in the mood for a slightly longer drive (about four hours) then head to the Waterberg Plateau National Park where a 200 m plateau rises amid the Namibian plains. Highlights in this protected area include ancient geological rock formation, sheer red granite cliffs, and endangered wildlife and bird species such as black and white rhino, sable and roan antelope, and the Cape vulture – the rarest bird in Namibia.