Durban - Cited as the number one domestic attraction in the country, Durban will see an influx of 1.3million holidaymakers this December as people flock to the natural paradise known for its gorgeous coastline of sun-kissed beaches and subtropical climate.

But the metropolitan municipality is more than just a preferred holiday destination.

It is home to 3.5million locals with a thriving economy, ranked as the third richest city in South Africa, and is also the third largest comparable to Cape Town.

Durban is also the second most important manufacturing hub in the country and is known for being the busiest container port in Africa - boasting the ninth largest harbour in the world.

The modern port of Durban grew around trade from Johannesburg.

The city is ethnically diverse, with a cultural richness of mixed beliefs and traditions.

Zulus form the largest single ethnic group but Durban is also home to the most number of Indians of any city living outside India.

According to Statistics South Africa, the number of Indians in the city is about 653819, making up 18% of the population. 

That is one in every five people. The influence of Indians in Durban is said to be vastly significant, as they bring with them a variety of cuisine, culture and religion.

Durban Tourism’s Phillip Sithole described the city as a trendsetter for its urban lifestyle that is dotted with adventure activities.

“Durban is an elegant, mature and ambitious city,” he said.

Sithole said Durban was ready for the festive season and had a host of activities to ensure it remained the most desirable place to be during the December-January holidays.

While the beach is a drawcard, the city is focused on providing visitors with unique experiences that go beyond the coast and into the realm of the city’s diverse culture, urban lifestyle and scenic diversity.

“Our festive season calendar promises to offer unique entertainment to showcase our cosmopolitan lifestyle and make it the most desirable place to be during December and to usher in 2018.

“Enjoy this special natural paradise by taking advantage of the warm Indian Ocean that’s perfect for water sports, the world-class shopping, fine dining restaurants, unique arts and culture and the magnificent beach promenade and be charmed by the warmth and sunshine smiles. 

Not forgetting the line-up of the most exciting events from uMhlanga to uMlazi.”

The music gig events this season include Fact Durban Rocks, the Durban Jazz Festival, Woza Durban Picnic, Umgababa Beach Festival, Durban Underground, uMhlanga Beach Festival and the Sapphire Coast Beach Festival.

The city is expected to rake in R5billion in revenue from this holiday’s visitors, significantly boosting the economy.

To further drive economic growth, the city recently launched Invest Durban Unit and Strategy.

It is driven by partnerships between the eThekwini Municipality and the private sector as well as other organs of government to promote Durban as Africa’s preferred investment destination.

Invest Durban will provide advisory services and support for new and existing foreign investors, so they can easily capitalise on opportunities.

“In partnership with our other cluster units, the Invest Durban team will also ensure valuable linkages between new foreign investments into our local small, medium and micro-sized enterprises, plus community participation groups,” said mayor Zandile Gumede.

“We are working towards ensuring more new investments are spread across the city, including our townships and rural areas.”

In 2015, Durban was officially recognised as one of the New 7 Wonders Cities.

This year, Durban won Africa’s first Unesco City of Literature award and was named SA City with Highest Quality of Life by Mercer’s Annual Quality of Living Survey.

An interesting fact to note about Durban is that, in 1962, Nelson Mandela was captured and arrested in the town of Howick and thus began his 27 years of incarceration. 

Mandela returned to KwaZulu-Natal to begin a new journey when he chose to cast his first vote in Inanda as a free man in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

Durban boasts the world’s oldest and largest ultra-marathon, the Comrades Marathon, it has the world’s tallest bungee swing at the Moses Mabhida Stadium and is home to the largest shopping mall in the southern hemisphere, Gateway Theatre of Shopping, with a skate park designed by skateboard legend Tony Hawk.

The rickshaw, Durban’s Aliwal Shoal, uShaka Marine World and the Warwick Junction Precinct are also signatures of the city.

Top on the list for art and culture include the African Art Centre in Florida Road, KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood, the Artisan Contemporary Gallery also in Florida, Durban Art Gallery at Durban City Hall, artSPACEdurban in Umgeni and The Dodds Gallery in Berea.

For more on the history and culture, visitors and locals can visit KwaMuhle Museum in Braam Fischer Road, the Cato Manor Heritage Centre on Rick Turner Road, the Durban Cultural and Documentation Centre in Derby Street and the Phoenix Settlement in Inanda.

When it comes to local cuisine, the bunny chow is hands down the trademark meal of the city. 

Three old-school Durban curry spots known for their bunnies are Britannia Hotel, Hollywood Bets and Orientals.

Shisa nyama, a Zulu term for “burn the meat”, is also a firm favourite. Nembula’s in Empangeni and Max’s Lifestyle in uMlazi are popular spots for the best shisa nyama.

Durban is also famous for its street markets, which are packed with fresh produce, delicious food, craft beer and artisanal goods.

The top three Saturday morning markets are The Morning Trade at Morrison Street; I Heart Market, open on the first Saturday of every month at the Moses Mabhida Stadium; and the Essenwood Craft Market in Essenwood Road.