Lots to do in central Durban

THE hustle and bustle of Durban's former Smith Street, now Anton Lembede Street, comes to a complete halt when one enters the tranquillity of the 160-year-old Royal Hotel.

The hotel is situated in Durban's heart, metres from the iconic city hall, in front of a busy taxi stop and next to the Durban Playhouse, eThekwini's premier theatre organisation.

Lugging our overnight bags my better half, two kids and I thought we had been invited to a hotel that "had had its time".

Our first stop was Durban City Hall. Though almost 60 years the Royal Hotel's junior, the city hall is one of the more popular tourist attractions in the city.

Built in 1910 it was designed in Modern Renaissance style. It houses the famous Durban Natural Science Museum, with an array of unique stuffed animals, birds, reptiles and insects, as well as a dodo skeleton and South Africa's only Egyptian mummy.

The eThekwini Art Gallery has an amazing collection of South African art, which the nine-year-old and a teenager surprisingly loved.

We hopped on to a taxi on the doorstep of the hotel and made our way to the Durban beach - undoubtedly one of the best beaches in the country. North Beach was our destination and even though it had lost its Blue Flag status (an international grading system for beaches) two years ago, we frolicked in the waves anyway.

Walking just metres from the seashore, we hopped into another taxi, after a ride on the popular Durban rickshaw, and found ourselves back on the hotel's doorstep to be served supper at the Royal Carvery.

The hotel is also home to The Royal Grill, being their flagship restaurant that boasts award-winning haute cuisine and opulent décor.

The Ulundi is one of Durban's finest traditional Indian restaurants, serving some of the finest Eastern dishes, while the Exchange Bar and Tap Room offer pub-style meals in a relaxed environment.

But if the opulence of the Ulundi isn't your thing, you can get just as good a Durban curry at The Workshop's Oriental.

In 1986 a workshop of the Durban railway station was refurbished and transformed into what is now The Workshop Shopping Centre. This historical landmark was built in 1860 and carries with it all the character and charm of the colonial era.

The original iron girders soar up to the vaulted glass roof, which now provides the framework of South Africa's first theme shopping centre. The Workshop is an exciting melting pot of African, Indian and European cultures all mixed into one like only South Africa can, with the benefits of a modern shopping centre and it is minutes away from the Royal Hotel.

To get to the hotel, we walked through a vibrant flea market where vendors sell anything from food to clothes to plants and even carpets.

Winding down, we took in the view of Durban harbour, one of the busiest ports in the world. It sees hundreds of ships docking in on a monthly basis. The best part of the Durban trip: the Play Station did not leave its bag.