We Need To Talk About Windhoek
I need to preface this article by saying that we don’t have anything against Windhoek
because it’s going to sound like we do! In fact the city is a godsend with its modern amenities such as cinema, shopping centres and international cuisine, should you be living in Namibia; but if you’re looking forward to an African adventure it’s pretty far removed.
The truth is that if you could fly directly to Etosha, Swakopmund or Sossusvlei most people would do so and Windhoek wouldn’t take up any of your valuable time. The reality is that international flight schedules, the need to pick-up hire cars and other requirements will conspire to ensure you spend some time in Windhoek so while it’s not as exciting as other areas we really do need to cover it.
The good news is that Windhoek is safe, assuming you use common sense, and has a wide variety of accommodation options to choose from. The Hilton is well positioned and easy to find but there are numerous family run guesthouses with facilities and prices to match all budgets. There are also several guest farms dotted along the 46 km stretch of the B6 road which links the city to the international airport if you prefer.
A particular favourite of the Insights Adventure Travel team is the family run Hilltop
Guest House on Lessing Street. Its quiet location overlooking the city, lovely pool area, excellent service and proximity to “Joe’s” (more about this later) make it fantastic value for money.
We don’t typically recommend accommodation without speaking to the potential guests first but in this case we feel we can make an exception because it ticks so many boxes that we are hard pressed to see who we wouldn’t recommend it for!
A quick Google of “Things to do in Windhoek” will result in a lot of pictures of the
Christuskirche (There are two in this post!) which is very pretty but also very unremarkable for anyone coming from Europe. If you feel that you want to at least cast your eye over it but don’t want to spend too much time on Christuskirche a visionary in the city planning office has built a roundabout
around it so you don’t even have to get out of your car. Should you do decide to give it a little more attention the National Museum and the old Alte Feste imperial fort are just down the street and visiting all three will still allow you to be on the road before lunch.
One place of interest is the Namibia Craft Centre which houses 38 stalls selling
crafts, jewellery and art from rural communities, ethnic groups and projects from around Namibia. It’s a great place to explore and if you are looking for quality items this is the place to find them.
However, we do suggest that you leave this until your departure if possible. Escorting a 2 kg root carving of a hippo around on safari for 2 weeks may make him slightly less loveable by the time you get home.
Trip Advisor currently suggest that the number two thing to do in Windhoek is the NamibRand Nature Reserve which, at 368 km to the south, is not generally considered to be local even by Namibian standards! As such there really isn’t much else to see in Windhoek that is worth losing time at other places in Namibia for so we advise one night maximum and then get on to the real Namibia.
Somewhat surprisingly, particularly when you consider very little grows in Namibia,
Windhoek does have some very good restaurants but without doubt the standout place to eat for travellers is Joe’s Beerhouse. Joe’s offers a uniquely Namibian dining experience with its quirky décor, rambling layout, excellent menu and its own boma, it will get you in the safari mood before you’ve even put your pith helmet on. Joe’s does get very busy during the peak season, July to September, so it’s best to book ahead unless you’re happy to wait a while.
There are plenty of other options available; The Social offers a European menu while the NICE Restaurant & Bar is a cooking and hospitality school where tomorrows lodge and hotel staff learn their trade. If you're staying at a Wolwedans lodge during your trip a meal here offers some great symmetry because the Wolwedans Foundation is involved in this initiative. At the time of writing NICE is closed for renovations but should be open again for the high season.
So that's Windhoek in a nutshell, a great staging post for an incredible adventure but not somewhere to waste time which could be used more productively elsewhere.