13 Top Museums In Durban – Ultimate Guide

On the Wanderlog crew, many of us like travelling, so we’re always on the lookout for the most popular sites whenever we go somewhere new. Prepare to see the top Museums in Durban, like the Durban Natural Science Museum, Kwa Muhle Museum, and Port Natal Maritime Museum, among others.

The museum scene in Durban is nothing short of spectacular, whether you’re a keen scientist, an avid nature lover, or a history and art aficionado! A visit to the museums in Durban is a must-do for locals and tourists alike, with everything from life-size T-rex models and shipwrecks to planetariums and models of whales’ inner ears. Check out the list and start planning your trip.

Museums In Durban

Durban Natural Science Museum

The Natural Science Museum, which is housed in the City Hall in the centre of Durban, has been dubbed one of the most popular natural science museums in the country, attracting about 300,000 visitors each year. A boma storytelling area, a Tyrannosaurus Rex reconstruction, a nearly finished dodo, an Egyptian mummy, different diorama exhibitions, and plasma screens presenting natural history sceneries are all available.

There are several beautifully planned rebuilt animal scenes with accompanying sound effects that portray animals in their native habitats. The Museum Research Centre also has Africa’s third largest collection of birds, which is open to the public. Tours are provided, and the greatest part is that admission is free. Visit Durban Natural Science Museum official website for more information.

  • Operating Hours:
    • Monday – Sunday: 9am-4pm
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Contact Number: (031) 311 2256
  • Address: 234 Anton Lembede St, Durban

Mahatma Ghandi House

A small museum on the northwestern outskirts of Inanda, some 25 kilometres from central Durban, contains considerable history related to Durban’s substantial Indian population. The museum is located in a Phoenix village where Mahatma Ghandi resided for more than 20 years while in South Africa. Mahatma Ghandi, a key figure in the anti-apartheid campaign, eventually moved to India, where he garnered international acclaim as a pioneer in the nonviolent resistance movement.

After being damaged in the Inandda Riots of 1985, his home was repaired and turned into a museum to remind people of Mahatma Ghandi’s effect and importance in South Africa. Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa at the time, officially opened the residence in 2000. On the walls of the house are many charts and photos depicting Ghandi’s family life and brave struggle against racial and colour prejudice. It’s a sumptuous and surprising treat.

The Addington Centenary Museum

This intriguing museum, which was originally the famed Addington Hospital, showcases the remarkable advancements in medical science over the past century. This museum, which is near to the ocean, houses artefacts from the nineteenth century.

While exploring the corridors of this historic institution, a visit to this museum allows you to learn about early medical history. The complex exhibits of medical equipment from the 1800s to the present day provide an instructive experience.

The rusting testament of the shipwreck of Ovington Court in 1940 can also be viewed from the former hospital rooms at the museum.

  • Operating Hours:
    • Thursdays: 9am-12pm
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Contact Number: (021) 327 2702
  • Address: Addington Hospital, Durban

Phansi Museum

This small museum is tucked away in an old house amid Glenwood’s green environs. It has a diverse collection of local art, with a focus on art from southern Africa. The museum, which is directed by Paul Mikula and Sharon Crampton, is a hidden gem that demonstrates a genuine passion for African art. Throughout the year, it also presents a variety of small shows featuring local artists. The charming museum in Roberts House is divided into three levels, each with a different gallery focusing on a different facet of culture. On the ground level, there is a research area as well as the primary exhibition gallery. Phansi Museum is on for the top art museums in Durban.

Small intimate exhibitions of a browsing nature are held in the landing gallery. Giant puppets depicting traditional southern African attire can be found on the upper floors. Even the underground cellar has a bead and valuable items show. It’s a lovely, small space that even offers complimentary private tours. It’s clear that this is a location steeped in not only history but also emotion.

  • Operating Hours:
    • By appointment only: Monday – Saturday: 8am – 4pm
  • Entrance Fee: Varies according to group size
  • Contact Number: 031 206 2889
  • Address: 41 Cedar Road, Glenwood

Sugar Terminal

The sugar terminal in Durban is loaded with the history of the massive sugar cane trade that early KwaZulu-Natal was established on, which may seem an odd choice for a museum. More than half a million tonnes of sugar are stored in three massive arched silos just past Maydon Wharf. The Sugar Terminal is the largest and most technologically advanced in southern Africa.

It can handle and transport up to 800 tonnes of sugar each hour, loading it from silos onto cargo ships in Durban’s harbour and then shipping it all over the world. Video presentations on how sugar is created from sugar cane are part of the sugar terminal visits, as are guided trips into massive silos where you’re allowed to take as much sugar as you can carry (in your hands!).

Durban Art Gallery

The Durban Art Gallery, which was founded in 1892 and has hosted a collection of artworks that have witnessed the beginning and end of apartheid, is more than a century old. The museum, which is located immediately next to Durban’s renowned City Hall in the centre of the CBD, also contains a large natural science museum on the lower level. Penny Siopis and Andre Verster have both had exhibits there.

The museum has a collection of artwork dating back to the 15th century, as well as ongoing exhibitions by local and internationally known artists. The gallery’s diversity ensures that the diverse histories of KwaZulu-Natal are accurately represented. If you notify them seven days ahead of time, they will give guests tours in a variety of languages. It is one of the top art museums in Durban for art lovers exploring the beautiful city.

Killie Campbell Africana Museum

This worldwide recognised and unusual collection of rare resources is located in Muckleneuk, a neo-Cape Dutch style house that was originally the residence of Natal sugar farmer and politician, Sir Marshall Campbell. The Killie Campbell Africana Library, Mashu Museum of Ethnology, William Campbell Furniture and Art Collection, and Jo Thorpe Collection of African Art make up the collection.

Sir Campbell’s son and daughter established the collections, which were donated to the University of Natal on the death of Sir Campbell’s daughter in 1965. The Killie Campbell Africana Library houses one of the best South African book collections, as well as a rich documentary of oral and photographic archives spanning two centuries of the region’s history. The Mashu Museum of Ethnology houses one of the best collections of African cultural objects in the region.

Old Court House Museum

The Old Court House, which was once a courthouse, is the oldest public building in Durban’s central business centre. During the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, a loophole was discovered. Both the South African Wars and the Bhambatha Uprising took place there. During the two World Wars, it was used as a canteen and recruitment centre, and subsequently as a library before being converted into Durban’s largest history museum.

The Old Court House Museum is now a two-story exhibition space that explores the story of the area’s history and the people who have shaped Durban’s identity in South Africa. The museum’s Durban Room contains unique artefacts such as reconstructions of Henry Francis Fynn’s cottage, a sugar cane press, a haberdashery store, and an old pharmacy. The Costume Room has preserved many of the original dress styles and accessories.

  • Operating Hours:
    • Monday – Saturday: 8:30am-4pm
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Contact Number: (031) 311 2229
  • Address: 77 Aliwal Street, Durban

Whaling Museum

Dave Nielsen opened the Whaling Museum on the bluff’s shores after deciding to share the relics he collected from his father’s days as a whaler.

Whale teeth, whale ribs, a harpoon gun casing, vintage photos, newspaper clippings, a flensing knife, and an old compass from a whaling boat are among the items on display at the museum.

Many people are unaware that thousands of migratory whales were trapped in the seas surrounding the bluff and dragged back here to be processed into a variety of items valued by both local and international consumers. The Whaling Museum currently serves as a poignant reminder of that heinous period in history.

  • Operating Hours:
    • Monday – Fri: 9am – 4:30pm
  • Contact Number: (031) 322 9598
  • Address: Samora Machel St, Durban

Port Natal Maritime Museum

With Durban being Africa’s busiest port, the Port Natal Nautical Museum, located off Durban’s Esplanade, is a must-see for anybody interested in learning more about the city’s maritime history. Set on Durban’s harbour coast with views of the water, this monument to indigenous seafaring traditions is a must-see. Aside with educational events, there are ships on display. The SAS Durban, a 42-year-old navy minesweeper, is the largest of the three ships. It is one of the safe museums in Durban for the family.

The Ulundi, which is 75 years old and has a coal-fired engine, is the oldest of the ships on show. The Britannia Exhibition Hall features exhibits that cover the whole nautical experience, from weather forecast devices to star navigation and communication equipment that connects ships at sea and land. You can walk through the engine rooms, expecting the heat, and look around the galleys, imagining what life was like for sailors in the past.

KwaMuhle Museum

Kwa muhle is a Zulu term that meaning “the site of the good one,” and it was named for Mr. Marwick, the company’s first manager. During the Anglo-Boer War, Mr. Marwick assisted 7,000 Zulu people in fleeing Gauteng. Thousands of native South Africans were saved because of him during a period when settlers and farmers were looking for their blood. The structure was previously the headquarters of the city’s infamous Native Administration Department, which was at the heart of Durban’s severe labour control system, which was fundamental to the unjust apartheid system’s operation.

It has now been converted into a museum that aims to reflect Durban’s urban development and the history of its citizens from various perspectives. The museum looks at life in and around Durban during the apartheid era and in the years leading up to it. Pictures of township life, photographs, movies, and thoughts on the contributions of people who built the foundations for Durban’s growth as one of Africa’s premier cities are among the displays. Entrance is free, as it is at many of Durban’s municipally sponsored public museums.

  • Operating Hours:
    • Monday – Saturday: 8:30am – 4pm
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Contact Number: 031 311 2237 
  • Address: 130 Bram Fischer Road

Bergtheil Museum

Situated in the leafy suburb of Westville, lies the Bergtheil Museum. The Bergtheil Museum is unlike any other museum in South Africa because it focuses on the first German settlers that Jonas Bergtheil brought to Westville, Claremont, and New Germany.

Household goods and workshop implements, as well as photos, papers, and a reference library with an extraordinary collection of South African military history, are among the treasures on show. Bergtheil Museums is one of the best museums in Durban for Germans visiting South Africa

  • Operating Hours:
    • Monday – Friday: 8:30am – 4pm
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Contact Number: 031 203 7107
  • Address: 16 Queens Avenue, Westville

KZN Science Centre

A visit to the KZN Science Centre will do the trick if you’re searching for something a little more involved. This scientific centre, located on Airport Road, aims to educate the public through curriculum-based activities and interactive exhibits.

The tailor-made programs are made to fit any group and the in-house planetarium will whisk you into the galaxies far, far away! It is a non-profit organisation that is fuelled by donations, check out their website if you’re keen to contribute to this innovative cause. 

  • Operating Hours:
    • Monday – Friday: 8am-5pm
  • Entrance Fee: R50
  • Contact Number: (031) 408 1012
  • Address: 1 Airport Road, Reunion