Windhoek - A view from our expert author

With its pavement cafés and charming architecture, the Namibian capital has a somewhat European feel, but is far more relaxed than its Western counterparts.

Namibia’s capital spreads out in a wide valley between bush-covered hills and appears, at first sight, to be quite small. Driving from the international airport, you pass quickly through the suburbs and, reaching the crest of a hill, find yourself suddenly descending into the city centre. As you stroll through this centre, the pavement cafés and pictChristus Kirche Windhoek Namibia by Tricia Hayneuresque old German architecture conspire to give an airy, European feel, whilst street vendors remind you that this is Africa. Look upwards! The office blocks are tall, but not skyscraping. Around you the pace is busy, but seldom as frantic as Western capitals seem to be.

Leading off Independence Avenue, the city’s main street, is the open-air Post Street Mall, centre of a modern shopping complex. Wandering through here, between the pastel-coloured buildings, you’ll find shops selling everything from fast food to fashion. In front of these, street-vendors crouch beside blankets spread with jewellery, crafts and curios for sale. Nearby, the city’s more affluent residents step from their cars in shaded parking bays to shop in air-conditioned department stores. The atmosphere is relaxed, to the extent that visitors tend to forget that this is a capital city.

Like many capitals, Windhoek is full of contrasts, especially between the richer and poorer areas, but it lacks any major attractions. For casual visitors the city is pleasant; many stop for a day or two, as they arrive or leave, though few stay much longer.

(Photo: Christus Kirche is a ‘fairytale’ Evangelical Lutheran church and Windhoek’s most famous building © Tricia Hayne)

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