Windhoek is not famous for its nightlife. Most visitors choose to go to a restaurant for a leisurely dinner and perhaps a drink, and then retire for an early start the next day. But if you feel livelier, there are cinemas and a few nightclubs. Friday is usually the best night, better than Saturday. Similarly, weekends at the start/end of the month, when people have just been paid, are busier than those in the middle.
Namibia doesn't have the 'pub' culture of the UK. In the poorer areas, especially in the old townships, there are some illegal shebeens (so-called cuca-shops), geared purely to serious drinking. It's worth noting that here, as in most traditional cultures in southern Africa, respectable women are rarely seen in bars.
If you're intent on finding somewhere relaxing to drink, then look no further than the hotel bars. All of the bigger hotels have bars, including the relaxed beer garden at the Thüringer Hof
, though places like the Fürstenhof
, or smaller establishments, may restrict their use to residents only. One of the best places for a sundowner is the bar of the new Thule Hotel.
If you're thinking of somewhere with more life, then Joe's Beerhouse
is your best bet, or – more central – Dros
on Post Street Mall. Slightly further out, at Klein Windhoek, there's a popular bar known as Explorers
above Luigi & the Fish. It is open every day – and there is also a PlayStation and video area for kids of all ages.
In the other direction, Maerua Park Mall off Centaurus Avenue is quite a hive of activity in the evenings, with many shops open till quite late, and several bars, cafés and informal restaurants where you can while away the evening. Among these, Saddles
bar stands out as a comfortable place for a relaxed evening, while the more trendy can try the cocktails and chrome of the nearby Plaza Pizzeria
. Just outside the mall, in a small wooden building, near the corner of Robert Mugabe Avenue and Jan Jonker Road, is O'Hagan's Irish Pub
, which sometimes plays host to a less than liberal crowd.
Windhoek normally has a couple of clubs running at any one time, some of them cosmopolitan and fun. As in most cities, clubs go in and out of fashion in a matter of months, so anything written here is probably already out of date. Ask for up-to-date local advice on what's currently good and safe. If you're thinking of a club in one of the townships, you should go with a local, or get a reliable taxi that will take you and collect you. At the time of writing, the best venues are:Pentagon Entertainment Centre
This large, popular venue with big-screen TV is in the southwest of Windhoek, near Keppler Street. Live bands play outside till late in the evening, and from 22.00 on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights it operates as a nightclub until the small hours. Fridays is particularly busy.Ladidas
, off Lazarett St, plays good music and is particularly popular with the local community.M3
on Lazarett St attracts crowds from the Angolan and Portuguese communities.Club Thriller
in Katutura, tel: 061 216669, is an old favourite, which has operated since before independence. It now plays mostly rumba, with the odd guest band. Expect a thorough security search at the door, and thereafter a relaxed atmosphere. There's a cover charge of about N$25, and it's open almost till dawn. You should have a guide and/or taxi to come here. Tower Bar
Old Breweries Building, Tal St; tel: 081 249 8455. Next to the Namibia Craft Centre, the aptly named Tower Bar is located at the very top of the Old Breweries Building, so be prepared for a hike up some stairs. Live bands play on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with opening times 18.00–02.00. Prices vary but expect to pay N$10–15.Kiepies
, close to the Pentagon, specialises in country music.
Although there are numerous so-called 'casinos' that flaunt row upon row of one-armed bandits, there are only two real casinos, one at the Windhoek Country Club, the other at the Kalahari Sands Hotel. Both are open until the small hours.
Windhoek's three-screen multiplex, the Maerua Park Cinema
(tel: 061 248980 or 249267) in the Maerua Park Mall on Centaurus Road (where Robert Mugabe Avenue meets Jan Jonker), is set to expand to five screens during 2002. Although this is the capital's only cinema, prices are low compared with Europe or the US: tickets are N$22 (N$26 on Friday and Saturday), but on Wednesdays they're just N$11. Pensioners and under-12s pay N$14 before 18.00. Films shown are very much the latest Hollywood releases, and drinks and snacks are available too.
Windhoek's most relaxed venue for the performing arts and live theatre is the Warehouse Theatre
at 48 Tal Street, tel: 061 225059, fax: 061 220475. Housed in the Old Breweries Building, you'll find a modern mix of local and visiting artists, with music from jazz and funk to rock and roll. It's a safe place, with a relaxed atmosphere – trendy, arty and highly recommended. Cover charge varies with the band. Snacks are available, but eat elsewhere before you arrive, and there's a bar open until late. See the papers for the latest information.
There are several more formal options. Concerts, opera, theatre, ballet and contemporary dance are performed at the National Theatre of Namibia
, on the corner of Robert Mugabe Avenue (12 John Meinert Street; tel: 061 237966; fax: 061 237968) and the College of the Arts
auditorium (contact the principal at 41 Fidel Castro (Peter Müller) Street, PO Box 2963; tel: 061 225841; fax: 061 229007). The Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre
(FNCC, 118 Robert Mugabe Av, PO Box 11622, Windhoek; tel: 061 222122; fax: 061 224927; email: firstname.lastname@example.org) is primarily a language centre, but has a small cinema and holds various concerts and cultural events, usually with a francophone bent. All three are worth checking to see if there are any productions whilst you're around. Information is advertised at the back of newspapers, especially the Friday Windhoek Observer which covers the weekends. Otherwise, ask at your hotel or pension for details.
For more unusual and experimental theatre, try the Space Theatre
at the University of Namibia's Centre for Visual and Performing Arts at Pioneers Park, close to the Country Club (contact Ann Namupala on tel: 061 206 3802), or the small studio theatre at the John Muafangejo Art Centre
Twice a month, Theatre in the Park
, under the auspices of the College of the Arts, puts on live shows in Parliament Gardens. In addition, they have initiatives that range from children's theatre to the promotion of African films. Ad-hoc performances at lunchtime and weekends may also take place. Details are available at the Windhoek City information office.