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WWith its flamboyant neo-Baroque architecture and coppered dome, you can hardly miss the Durban City Hall (now called the eThekwini City Hall – the city of ‘Durban’ is now part of the greater eThekwini Municipality).
Despite being more than a century old and dwarfed by surrounding modern skyscrapers, the building remains a grand example of Edwardian architecture and is well worth a morning’s visit. The City Hall was built in the early 1900s – rapid growth in the city centre resulted in the original town hall becoming the Durban Post Office, just across the road.
The city fathers commissioned a new hall in 1903, choosing what they termed a ‘bold and progressive’ design submitted by architect Stanley Hudson. Hudson set about creating a replica of the Belfast City Hall in Northern Ireland.
The result is a solid stone-coloured structure adorned with a dome and sculptures portraying the arts, commerce, music, literature and industry, while the main pediment sculptures represent of unity, patriotism and Britain – not for nothing was the province of Natal known as ‘the Last Outpost of the British Empire’.
The building houses the mayor’s parlour and municipal chambers, as well as a public library, an auditorium, the Durban Art Gallery and the Natural Science Museum behind its gracious façade, so there is plenty to explore when you visit.
The art gallery showcases an array of South African and international artworks, while the museum displays a selection of fossils, animals, birds, reptiles and insects, as well as historical artefacts.
In keeping with its imposing exterior, the building's interior décor features wooden flooring, stained-glass windows, wrought-iron balustrades, marble pillars and classic arches.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Durban City Hall
Tel: +27 (0)31 311 1111
Durban Art Gallery
Tel: +27 (0)31 311 2264
Natural Science Museum
Tel: +27 (0)31 311 2256
How to get here
The eThekweni/Durban City Hall is located in the heart of the city on Pixley Ka Seme Street (formerly West Street). eThekweni Municipality is served by the King Shaka International Airport.
Best time to visit
The Durban Art Gallery and Natural Science Museum are open Monday to Saturday from 8.30am to 3.45pm. The public library is open from 10am to 5pm from Monday to Friday and from 9.30am to 12 noon on Saturday.
Durban can be extremely hot and humid from November to March, while its winters are among the mildest in the country and feel positively balmy to most visitors from the Northern Hemisphere – so April to October is probably the best season in which to visit.
Around the area
Within walking distance of the City Hall you’ll find the Playhouse theatre complex, the Royal Hotel, Medwood Botanical Gardens, the Old Station building, the Workshop shopping mall and the Victoria Street Market.
What will it cost
Entrance to the City Hall, public library, art gallery and museum is free.