Swakopmund: between the desert and the deep blue sea

Sarah Laurence shares the highlights of the quirky Namibian seaside town of Swakopmund.

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Swakopmund feels a bit like a pioneer town in the Wild West, but with German roots and prettily painted buildings: a strange collection of oddities that somehow manages to have an unusually endearing atmosphere.

Wedged between the Namib Desert and the crashing Atlantic Ocean, an ever-present fog hovers over the town, which makes it feel quite magical, and separates it from the scorching desert only metres away. Namibia’s largest seaside resort (and current playground for Namibian citizens) was established by Germans in 1882, as Walvis Bay was already a
British port. The area between the two towns is a coastal stretch made for adventure junkies that offers quad biking, rides on camels and dune exploration. Architectural buffs will enjoy exploring streets of well- preserved colonial German architecture, such as the 1905 Woermannhaus and the main street, Sam Nujoma Avenue, lined with restaurants, banks and shops.

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Hansa Hotel

Since 1904, Namibia’s oldest hotel has hosted celebrities, politicians and visitors in an atmosphere of European
class and elegant gentility. The large reception area, old- fashioned dining room and silk-panelled bar (serving the tummy-warming house special cocktail, Colonial Coffee) hark back to an age of glamorous travel, and discerning visitors will appreciate the lovingly collected antiques and original artwork. However, the warm service and delicious pastries the hotel is renowned for, keep it ever popular in the present. Centrally located, the Hansa Hotel is within walking distance of the town’s attractions and the beach.

3 Hendrik Witbooi Str, +264 64 414 200. 

Bojos Cafe

Bohemian and unpretentious, Bojos Café offers freshly roasted coffee, plentiful Wi-Fi and large portions of food in a casual, family-friendly environment. Wooden furniture spills from the eclectic interior out onto the pavement, and bread and pastries are freshly baked every day. Mon-Fri 7am-5.15pm; Sat 8am-3pm; Sun 9am-2pm. Daniel Tjongarero St, +264 64 40 0774

Oscar and Olive

This boutique not only sells carefully curated South African fashion but also its own range of leather goods, all of which are artfully displayed in an airy corner store. Labels on offer include Island Lily, Spilt Milk, bluecollarwhitecollar, Cinnamon and Sway. 5 Hendrik Witbooi St, +264 64 40 4495

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The Tug

The Tug’s claim to fame is that it is just that – a real tug that came to rest in front of Swakopmund’s iron jetty that stretches out into the sea. Although the menu is large and the restaurant is run with the precision of a large chain, the service is impeccable and the seafood – line sh done in innumerable ways, Walvis Bay oysters, Namibian mussels and local cray sh – is all fresh and generously portioned. Mon-Fri 6pm-11pm, Sat and Sun lunch and dinner. The Swakopmund Jetty area, +264 64 402 356. the-tug.com

Cosdef Centre

The Community Skills Development Foundation is housed in a large, brightly coloured warehouse just outside the town. As well as providing courses in hairdressing, of ce administration and hospitality, since 2009 its Art and Craft Centre has also provided a venue for Namibian artisans
to sell their products. Additionally, the centre forms a hub for entrepreneur incubation and has theatre and restaurant facilities. 14 Windhuker St, +264 64 400 358. 

Village Cafe

Once inside, the interior of the Village Café expands far beyond its small front room to a sizeable courtyard and inside rooms at the back of the building – all decorated in vivid orange, yellow and green (as well as whatever decorations are called for by the time of year). Although the menu (and over owing specials board) is full of both healthy and Banting offerings as well as indulgent treats, the café is best known for having among the best and happiest service in Namibia – the big smiles worn by the staff are infectious and the café is an all-round happy place. Mon-Fri 6:30am-6pm, Sat 6:30am-2pm, 21 Sam Nujoma Drive, +264 64 40 4723. 

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