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Founded in 1892, during the period of German colonial rule, Swakopmund served as the territory’s main harbour for many years. Today this curious desert town, edged by desert and sea, is enhanced by lush green lawns, palm trees and carefully tended, colourful public gardens. Swakopmund offers solid comforts such as good hotels, pensions, restaurants and coffee shops selling traditional German cakes and pastries, while the sweep of coastline and desert hinterland offers adventure and relaxation in unspoilt nature. Quaint architecture from a bygone era adds to the continental atmosphere. When approached from the interior, antique domes, turrets and towers on the skyline appear as a hazy desert mirage.

Alter Bahnhof

picture above:Old Station

picture right: “The Jetty” or landing bridge from the german colonial time.

picture right: Woermann haus with tower

Alte Landungsbrücke

An architectural tour of Swakopmund

The distinct German colonial character has been well preserved and today many of the old buildings serve a useful purpose. Woermann House (1905) now houses an art gallery and the Public Library. The Woermann Tower, which can be viewed at specified times, affords a panoramic view of desert and sea. It has a platform from which, in earlier times, a flag was flown whenever a ship of the Woermann Line was sighted.

The old barracks, known as Die Alte Kaserne (1905) was built by the German colonial government to house the German Engineer Regiment responsible for the construction of the jetty and the railway line to the interior. It is now a youth hostel based on the concept of the International Youth Hostel Federation. The privately owned Hohenzollern-Haus (1905) embellished by a frieze of angels and lions, today serves as an apartment house.

Swakpmund Lighthouse

One of the town’s most prominent landmarks, the Swakopmund Lighthouse, was completed in 1903, together with the harbour breakwater known as The Mole. The Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht (magistrate’s court), the building that today serves as a summer residence for the President of Namibia, was built in 1901. Adjacent are the gardens of the Marine Memorial, commemorating marines who died in the 1904/5 Herero uprising. The elaborate Railway Station building (1901) has been transformed into a luxury 90-room hotel and entertainment centre complete with casino, cinemas, bar and restaurant. Often mistaken by visitors for a hotel, is the Swakopmund Jail, which with its ornamental exterior resembles a Bavarian villa. The Prinzessin Ruprecht Heim, built in 1902 to serve as a hospital, is now a pension.

Facilities and Activities while staying in Swakopmund

Year-round sport and recreation include paragliding, hang-gliding, surfing, windsurfing, yachting, sand skiing, skydiving, table tennis, fistball, handball, snooker, billiards and golf.

Swakopmunder Leuchtturm

Swakopmund Golf

The golf course in its desert setting has been described as one of the best in southern Africa. Visitors can embark on industrial tours, which visit the Hansa Brauerei, where traditional beer is brewed, the Karakulia carpet weaving centre and the Swakopmund Tannery, where Swakopmund’s renowned kudu leather shoes are manufactured. A guided tour of the Rössing Uranium Mine shows visitors the world's largest open cast uranium mine. Wilderness Safaris offers desert excursions in 4x4 vehicles.


Swakopmund has a heated Olympic size indoor swimming pool, hot sea baths and saunas. There is a paddling pool nearby, as well as a hydro-slide, which is one of the longest in southern Africa. Palm Beach is a popular, if rather cold, swimming area, with the lee of the mole serving as a launching spot for yachts and pleasure craft.

Swakopmund Museum

The museum on the beachfront was founded by Dr Alfons Weber in 1951, and contains the largest collection of birds' eggs in Namibia. The reference library, known as the Sam Cohen Library, comprises around 6,000 volumes, including the renowned 2 000-title Africana collection of the late Ferdinand Stich. The archives, housed in the same building, allow visitors access to a unique collection of newspapers dating from 1898 to the present day.

Out on the Town in Swakopmund

Swakopmund has several excellent restaurants, pubs and discos and a few nightclubs. A special feature of the coastal town is its jewellery shops, which offer pieces ranging from contemporary African to continental designs. Art and crafts shops offer local products, while street vendors sell Namibian rural art.

Swakopmund; Here I Stand

The unique character of Swakopmund, Namibia's top holiday resort, is to some extent personified by the small but solid steam engine positioned on the left of the road when approaching the coastal town from the interior of Namibia. Known as Martin Luther, the engine was an attempt to transport goods more efficiently than by the customary ox-wagon. The 'steam-ox' was imported from Germany in 1896. The project was doomed to failure, however, as the steam tractor constantly became bogged down in the sand and required too much water to operate. It was dubbed Martin Luther, because of Luther’s historic statement in 1521, "Here I stand, may God help me, I can go no further", and has been known by this name ever since. Swakopmund is much loved by Namibians and visitors alike because of its old-world charm and relaxed atmosphere.

Martin Luther before restoration Martin Luther after restoration

The Welwitschia

In the northern corner of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, an afternoon’s excursion from Swakopmund or Walvis Bay, the Welwitschia Drive is a route through the desert with numbered beacons at points of interest, culminating in one of the country's oldest Welwitschia plants.
Part of the Welwitschia Drive is the ‘moon landscape’, or ‘moonscape’ – a rolling, barren area of rocky desert formed by the valleys around the course of the Swakop river. It’s a spectacular sight, often spoken of, and best viewed by the slanting light of mid-morning or late afternoon.


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