The springs of Windhoek (pronounced VIN-took) attracted pastoralists long before time was measured with alarm clocks, breakfast runs and train schedules. But since 1840 random claims and several skirmishes for dominion over the precious water have culminated in a city with more facets than a flawless diamond.
Pensions and neo-Gothic churches jostle with craft markets and shebeens as the German heritage of early years is led astray by the vagaries of Africa's whims. The town itself is small as capitals go with around 230 000 inhabitants making up a little over 10% of the national population.
There are many useful words to describe Windhoek and, as your most likely point of arrival and departure, all those words will sing like a rufous-tailed palm thrush at the break of dawn: small, clean, safe, convenient, modern, interesting, cheap, warm. More words exist but we'll let you make them up after your visit.
In Windhoek there are many interesting historical buildings, museums, galleries and craft shops. The city has several good restaurants and modern shops and services making it an excellent base camp from which to launch your Namibian adventure.
If you're the museum-visiting type, then don't miss the Owela Museum, Alte Feste Museum, the Geology Museum and the Transport Museum.
Interesting historical buildings to tick off your list are the Clock Tower, Elephant Column, the War Memorial, Christus Kirche, Alte Feste and the Ink Palace (Parliament).
Galleries featuring Namibian art and craft include the Bushman Art Shop and Museum and the National Art Gallery of Namibia. There are also street markets where local artists sell their crafts, fabrics and art.
Other interesting features: National Botanical Garden, Meteorite Fountain, National Theatre of Namibia and the Warehouse Theatre.
Windhoek is surrounded by several excellent safari-style lodges and guest farms offering comfortable accommodation and game viewing, birding and hiking trails.
More In Namibia
The 10 Best Places to Visit in Namibia
Namibia has some beautiful, unique and extraordinary scenery. Attractions abound and activities are limitless. But it's the whole journey that is the most extraordinary attraction of them all. Just driving through the country will be an experience quite unlike any you've had before. While parts of Namibia resemble other places - like the Kruger Park and Okavango Delta - no other place on Earth comes close to resembling Namibia.
After the world's oldest desert in the south, the Caprivi wetlands come as a bit of surprise. The finger of land that slices between Botswana and Zambia to touch Zimbabwe is a sub-tropical paradise of perennial rivers, sodden marshes and verdant woodlands at odds with the parched country to the west.
The Kaokoveld, a vast and empty wilderness occupying the north-western quarter of Namibia, is roughly divided in two by the Hoanib River. The north is known as Kaokoland and the south as Damaraland. Although these administrative divisions fell away after Namibian independence the colloquial demarcations have persisted.
The Skeleton Coast
The Skeleton Coast is a sliver of desert that spans the 1,500km from the Orange River in the south to the Kunene River and Angolan Border. Despite its macabre name - given by sailors wary of the strong winds, shifting sandbanks and rusting wrecks - the northern section of the great Namib Desert is full of life and a fascinating place for the informed visitor.
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