A day in and around Harare, Zimbabwe

In Africa, En-Route, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel, Zimbabwe by Janis5 Comments

So many smiles on the streets of Harare

We were staying with relatives during our visit to Harare and, they had lent us a set of wheels for the day.
A street scene in downtown Harare that shows a modern, bustling, city centre.

Downtown Harare

I know it’s not always convenient but, if you are up for negotiating the hectic Harare traffic.  The oh so frequent pothole, it’s the easiest and quickest way to get around Harare.  To be perfectly honest, it’s part of the fun and certainly memorable, you know you are in Africa.

Saying that, if you’re in Harare for a stopover or layover, there’s enough to keep you amused in the heart of Harare city.

Quick Links

Off to the Newlands craft market in Harare

On our way to Harare city centre, we wanted to pop into the roadside Newlands craft market. We’d seen these handicraft sellers a few times along Enterprise Road. And as we were getting to the end of our 3-week Zimbabwean adventure, we wanted to take home a couple of the stone sculptures.

A collection of stalls displaying carved stone ornaments.

Newlands craft market

I know when we are back home in the UK seeing one of the little souvenirs will bring back so many memories of the trip.

A helpful guide

If you're considering an adventure around Zimbabwe, then your in for a holiday of a lifetime. I always find it incredibly useful to plan our trips with the help of a guide book.

Take a look at this informative Bradt guide, it will give you great tips and advice.

Would you like your hippo in wood, stone or wire? 

Parked up, we strolled into the market, which is spread out along the side of the road. Immediately the local vendors are greeting you with smiles and reassuring you that the items they have on their stall are the best.

A range of carved stone ornaments on a stall at the Newlands craft market.

So much to choose from at Newlands craft market

There’s no pressure, we take a look around see if there is anything that catches our eye, then move onto the next stall.

It’s slightly overwhelming at first as you don’t know which way to look as there is such a selection. We didn’t arrive with anything specific in mind, so it was a hippo and elephant overload. The choice was yours; you could have it in stone, wood or wire.

Stalls on the left & right displaying local wares.

Newlands craft market along Enterprise Road

So many memories of Harare 

We’d visited Zimbabwe 20-years ago, and there were so many familiar-looking pieces; however, I couldn’t resist it. The locals are so friendly, and we found some great keepsakes that will ensure our memories are topped up for years.

Carved stone figures on a stall at the Newlands craft market.

Stoneware at Newlands craft market

A stone hippo, a wire warthog a batik wall hanger, and a couple of other stone carvings are what we narrowed it down to. Although if you had a craving for a 12-foot wooden giraffe or a life-size metal rhino, then your prayers would be answered. 

Harare City Centre

Back in the truck and we’re off into town, and we’re heading for the council car park in Park Lane. Harare’s Park Lane is a little different from the one in London; however, the parking is a lot cheaper, at two Zimbabwean Bond (40p), what a bargain.

A large stone block obelisk in the centre of the Harare Gardens.

Harare Gardens

Just nearby are Harare Gardens, which is a pleasant park to stroll through and to catch some shade in the heat of the day. We pass by fruit sellers, ice cream vendors and friends out enjoying themselves.

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Central Avenue, Harare

Along Central Avenue in Harare are few iconic buildings, the first is the National Gallery of Harare. The National Gallery of Harare was opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1957. It’s a Contemporary Gallery and home to thousands of local pieces of art.
A 1960's low-level building that now houses the National Gallery of Harare.

National Gallery of Harare

Just along from the art gallery is Cecil House. Part of the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe. This attractive single-storey building with its ornate scrolled ironwork gable was constructed by the De Beers in 1901. Cecil Rhodes, the founder of De Beers, died the following year and was laid to rest at Matobo National Park, just outside Bulawayo.

A white stone, Colonial-era, building with black trimmings and wrought iron guttering,
Cecil House, Central Avenue
On the corner of Central Avenue is a very modern-looking building and home of the Social Security Centre.
A stone & glass tower block in downtown Harare.

Social Security Centre, Harare

Samora Machel Avenue, Harare

We then head onto Samora Machel Avenue, this is a huge road with four lanes on each side of the wide central reservation. When we’d driven along this road previously, it was unbelievably chaotic, commuter buses dodging in and out. You have to avoid them, as they don’t necessarily avoid you.
A well used Nissan minibus serving as a commuter bus in central Harare.
‘Smarttech’ commuter bus along Central Avenue

Along this busy road is the tallest building in Zimbabwe, the New Reserve Bank Tower. Built-in 1997, it stands at 394 feet (120 metres), which isn’t that high in comparison to some sky-scraping city centres, but still looks quite impressive, nonetheless.

Just down from the New Reserve Bank Tower, is the Pearl Assurance House another one of Harare’s standout buildings, which constructed in 1959.

A modern glass tower block of the New Reserve Bank in the centre of Harare.

New Reserve Bank Tower

A street view of central Harare focussing on the Pearl Assurance House tower block.

Pearl Assurance House

Let us know!

Have you visited Zimbabwe or any of its neighbouring countries, share with us your memories and drop a comment below?

The “old guard”

In the other direction along Samora Machel Avenue, is the High Court of Zimbabwe which is housed in the elegant cream and grey Mapondera Building, this was built in 1932.

The high court building of Zimbabwe in the Mapondera Building built in 1932.

Mapondera Building 1932

Then there is the immaculate Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, in the now Mashonganyika Building.

Originally when it was built in 1899, it was the Standard Bank building, then the Charter House and since 1926.

It has the name it bears today.

A stone statue of the scales of justice outside the former high court building.

Scales of Justice

A colonial-era building that was once the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Zimbabwe.
Mashonganyika Building 1899
There was another old attractive building along here; however, we were told politely by a policeman not to take a photo of it.

Africa Unity Square

We stroll along to Africa Unity Square, also known as Cecil Square (in honour of Cecil John Rhodes). It’s a great place to sit and watch the world go by. In the past, this square has played a significant role in Harare’s history.
A sunken shallow water feature as the centrepiece of Africa Unity Square.

Africa Unity Square

Unity Square was built in 1890 with some interesting buildings located around the perimeter. One of them being the Meikles Hotel, which was opened in 1915. Thomas Meikle was one of three brothers who emigrated to South Africa from Scotland in the late 19th-century.
The Meikles Hotel in central Harare. The building has a history of over 100 years, but this is a more recent addition.
Meikles Hotel
Along one side are traditional flower sellers, who have become a familiar sight on the square, although of recent years their numbers have become fewer.
A collection of flower sellers on the edge of Africa Unity Square plying their trade from their covered stalls.

Flower sellers in Africa Unity Square

Harare Cathedral

We wandered further around the city centre, then headed up to the Roman Catholic, Sacred Heart Cathedral. It was quite subdued inside, compared to some cathedrals we’d visited around the world, and also had a timber roof. 
The nave of the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral.
The nave of the Sacred Heart Cathedral
A spiral staircase at the back of the Sacred Heart Cathedral that leads to the organ.
Spiral staircase inside the Cathedral

Lunch with the locals

If you would like to try some Zimbabwean cuisine, particularly ‘sadza’ head to Gava’s, it serves “sadza with soul”. Sadza is traditionally eaten with your fingers and mixed with a stew of your choice.

This was a great experience within a very relaxed environment, although try and arrive early as Gava’s is popular with the locals.

Why you’ll love Africa

It was really pleasurable strolling through Harare city centre. Dotted around the streets are people selling refreshments, these young ladies buying their juice, were more than happy to give us a smile.
Two local women buying drinks from a street vendor in the centre of Harare.

Beaming smile at Flavourlitious

While we wandered around Harare, we were stopped a few times by local Zimbabweans who just wanted to chat to us and say hello. It was very heart-warming that they made us welcome. I think tourists are a little few and far between now.

A woman in a full length, sleeveless, red dress wearing a grey wool bobble hat on a warm day in central Harare.

Lady in red, oh, and grey!

I love this photo; it just says ‘Africa’ to me.

Not too many people could wear a lovely summer red dress, a knitted bobble hat and carry them off so well.

Bearing in mind that our visit to Zimbabwe was in April, I also had to do a double-take when I spotted a guy walking along the street wearing a Christmas jumper.

Shona Sculpture Gallery

We now jumped back in the truck as we were heading in the direction of Harare Airport, as this is where the Shona Sculpture Gallery is located.

The Shona Sculpture Gallery has an indoor gallery with smaller pieces of art. Within its lush, secluded garden, there are some beautiful larger pieces nestled amongst the foliage.

A carved stone piece of a woman leafing through a book titled 'Adult Literacy' by the artist Jonathan Mhondorohuma.

“Adult Literacy” by Jonathan Mhondorohuma

A carved stone piece of a looped ribbon entitled “Wedding Gift” by Tonderai Sowa.

The Chindu “Wedding Gift” by Tonderai Sowa

The works that are on display here are incredible, the sculptures are all produced by Zimbabwean artists, some of which are by 3rd generation carvers.

There was one exhibitor that was born in 1916 and is still carving today.

Shona Sculpture Gallery

Entrance to the Shona Sculpture Gallery was free of charge, and we were given a one to one tour and a detailed explanation of each work of art.
A beautiful carved stone woman's head in a style similar to Art Deco.

A Shona Sculpture, the elegance is beautiful

A multicoloured carved stone artwork on a display plinth.

A Shona Sculpture, incredible colours from one piece of stone

I must admit some of the pieces were astounding, I would have loved to have taken one home.

Since returning home, I found out that their sister company, Guruve, is only around one hour away from me. So, the seed was planted, and for my birthday I bought a piece of work by Jonathan Mhondorohuma. It’s beautiful, and she just makes me smile.

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  1. I was really impressed by the way you presented the city of Harare. It made me proud to be a Zimbabwean. A lot of time we hear negative coverage. Thank you so much. Best article ever.

    1. Author

      Thanks very much for your lovely comments. Zimbabwe is a beautiful country and the welcoming locals made our travelling experience incredibly memorable. Loved it.

  2. Thank you for reminding the world that despite socio economic and political challenges, Zimbabwe still remains a beautiful country, with warm people and still attractive, with a lot to offer. You have done better than us Zimbabweans in marketing our country. It’s the only country we have, challenges or no challenges, we have no other. Thank you for this important reminder!

    1. Author

      Yes, it is such shame what Zimbabwe is going through at the moment as the country has so much to offer. The wildlife is unbelievable and your national parks must be the envy of so many countries.
      And as I mentioned the locals are so welcoming, friendly and always happy for a chat.

    2. Hi Leon, as Janis has said we truly love Zimbabwe, and its people, especially it’s people. Our last trip was our third, and I really hope it’s not our last because there’s so much more to discover. Of course, there’s the amazing wildlife, and landscapes like Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba, Hwange & Matobo, but let’s not forget the arts & culture – such talented people. We have our very own Shona sculpture by Jonathan Mhondorohuma that takes pride of place in our home.

      We wish the very best for the country, and its people.

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