More attractive than most other Southern African capitals, Harare gets a bad rap and unjustly so. While it’s certainly not without its problems, overall it’s a safe and laid-back city where wide avenues are lined with dusty red earth, and indigenous plants and blooming jacarandas give it a lovely African summertime feel. While it’s tempting to rush off to your safari, it’s worth hanging around in Harare to sample its fine dining, museums, craft markets and varied bars.
What to do in Harare for 24h to 48h?
Places of Interest
National Heroes’ Acre
The grandiose obelisk of Heroes’ Acre, overlooking the town, is straight out of Pyongyang, yet lies just 7km from Harare. There’s a giant socialist-realism statue of the unknown soldier (actually three soldiers), flanked by bronze friezes depicting stirring war victories. Entrance is free, but there’s an admission fee for the interesting museum dedicated to the resistance movement.
National Gallery of Zimbabwe
In the southeast corner of Harare Gardens, this lovely gallery has multiple spaces exhibiting a mix of contemporary local, African and international artists. Shows change monthly, with a mix of paintings, photography, stone sculptures, masks and carvings. The attached shop is an excellent place to stock up on crafts and books on Zimbabwean art, before coffee and cake in the cafe. There’s an open-air Shona sculpture garden outside.
National Botanic Gardens
If you thought Harare couldn’t get any more relaxed, you clearly haven’t visited its botanical gardens. Spread over 68 hectares, it’s an extremely peaceful spot, showcasing 90% of the different ecological habitats found in Zimbabwe.
Inspired by the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the Eastgate Centre shopping complex is noteworthy for its sustainable design based on a termite mound, which allows for natural cooling and ventilation.
Designed by notable British architect Sir Herbert Baker in 1913, this attractive sandstone church wasn’t built for another 50 years.
Where to Shop?
His clients may include Bruce Springsteen, Kate Middleton and the king of Spain, but Patrick Mavros’ stunning handmade silver jewellery is very affordable. The shop has a spectacular setting, overlooking a picture-perfect valley with wildlife. All silver is from Zimbabwe and you can arrange a behind-the-scenes tour in the workshop.
Harare, sleepy? Not in the hectic Mbare area where this infamous market has a heady mix of fresh produce and random goods. It’s the curios that bring most tourists here – there’s a big collection of Shona sculpture, wooden crafts and basketry. It’s in a poor part of town and pickpockets are rife, so leave your valuables at home – best come with a local.
Where to Eat?
Don some nice threads as Amanzi is a class act and still the special night out. In a stunning colonial house with African decor, local art (for sale) and an amazing garden, it serves delicious international fusion dishes with a great vibe. The outdoor patio is ridiculously atmospheric with a nearby garden waterfall and crackling fire brazier. Bookings essential.
40 Cork Road
An attractive house-turned-restaurant with a relaxed garden setting, 40 Cork serves quality breakfasts and lunches, and does one of the best coffees in Harare. Also here is its Tutti Gelati, serving excellent homemade gelato (US$2 a scoop), and the quality KwaMambo craft shop.
This atmospheric seafood restaurant in a converted house with a Mediterranean-inspired decor is very popular with locals. The weekly specials are always worth a look, but otherwise expect the likes of grilled Kariba bream, Cajun blackened calamari or good ol’ fish and chips, to enjoy indoors or on garden tables. Most of the seafood is imported from nearby Mozambique.