Mbabane is the capital and most popular city in Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland. Unlike some tourist destinations where guests spend most of the trip in their luxury hotels because there are not too many places to visit, Mbabane ensures that you do not have a lot of time on your hands.
There’s always some wildlife habitat or nature reserve to visit, a local market to shop, and trails to explore.
Its economy thrives mostly on sugar exports and tourism, so there’s an abundance of tourist sites to check out. To help you learn more about the city, discover these top facts about Mbabane.
The city’s economy is primarily driven by the financial services sector, with numerous banks and insurance companies headquartered there. Additionally, Mbabane is known for its manufacturing sector, which includes the textile, garment, and food processing industries.
Despite challenges, Mbabane’s economy continues to grow, contributing to the overall economic development of Eswatini. The city is also a central commercial hub, with a bustling retail sector and a vibrant informal economy.
Agriculture, mainly subsistence farming, also plays a role in Mbabane’s economy, with local farmers producing crops such as sugarcane, corn, and vegetables.
Mbabane is famous for its mountain, the Sibebe Rock, the second-largest monolithic rock on the planet and one of Africa’s most important geological sites. You should know that this mountain has been in existence since the beginning of time.
Scientists estimate that it is about three billion years old; very impressive, yes? If you are up to the challenge, the mountain can be viewed by taking a strenuous climb along nearby paths. You cannot climb the mountain itself because it is very steep (unless you’re very, very daring).
Climbing the path is really the only way to admire the mountain’s beauty, as a ground view does not do justice to its majesty. You also get to see wildflowers and spot birds like woodpeckers and buzzards along the way.
It is one of the least populated cities in Africa. As of 2023, the city is home to just 68,000 residents. This makes it the perfect tourist getaway; there’s a lesser crowd to hustle for space with, cleaner air to breathe, and no queues. What’s not to love? You can simply chill, sip a coke and enjoy the relaxed ambiance.
Research website, Numbeo, while evaluating 250 cities worldwide, places Mbabane as the first for the fastest traffic commute time, among the cleanest 6%, and in the best 8% for its climate.
For lovers of arts, crafts, recycling, and the environment, the Ngwenya Glass Factory is a top-priority visit. Since 1987, this factory has set a standard that most would not be able to meet up with for a long time, making glassware from 100% recycled glass.
Mbabane is truly at the top of the list when it comes to environmental awareness and consciousness. Tableware such as jugs, vases, glass cups, and decorative pieces are made from soft drink bottles gathered from all over Eswatini.
Community members are paid for bringing discarded glass objects in. As part of the tour, guests are allowed to watch the craftsmen shape, and mold melted glass into new and beautiful pieces. (Read: 10 Romantic Weekend Getaways in Africa)
For the foodies, Mbabane’s pride restaurant, Ramblas, is a great place to have food and drinks. The Award Winning Restaurant has an extensive menu list and is known for using the best of the best ingredients in the country.
There’s also a chance that you might run into some of Mbabane’s popular celebrities there. It is set within a small villa with sophisticated decor and offers the finest wines and desserts.
Mine and Minerals
From the border post town of Ngwenya is the world’s oldest mine, rich in history and a marvel to the eyes. It is one of the popular places to visit in Mbabane and was opened in 2005. It was mined for Specularite, an ore that was used as body paint by chiefs during festivals and ceremonial occasions.
Guests are allowed to take a guided tour and view the fascinating exhibits, which mostly include samples of various mineral deposits, photographs of the early mining days, etc. Archaeologists have dated the mine to about 43,000 years ago.
The Malolotja Nature Reserve is one of the best reserves in Southern Africa. While it does not have a lot of animals, it houses rare animal species giving tourists a unique experience.
These include wildlife like Zebra, Aardvark, Porcupines, Baboons, Blue Wildebeest, Blesbok, Orono, Grey Rhebok, and Mountain Reedbuck.
There’s a whole range of activities for adventure seekers and scenery lovers, from hikes that could take several days to mountain biking, horse riding, and zip lining. Visitors can choose to have the real camping experience by choosing campsite accommodations or opt for the self-catering cabin and chalet alternative.
For nightlife entertainment, Mbabane promises beautiful casinos, live performances, fashion shows, and the famous annual MTN Bush Fire. Even when the sun sets early, you can keep the night going strong at popular bars and pubs like Solaris and The Albert Millin. (Read: 10 Most Beautiful Cities in North Africa)
Mysteries of Mbabane
If you want to unlock the mysteries of Mbabane, you have to experience the Mdzimba trail. The hike lasts for half a day and takes tourists through the burial caves of Swazi Royals, stunning views of the sacred Mdzimba Mountain, the mystic Sangoma (traditional healer), and craft markets where you can get very beautiful crafts.
You can get all your cool souvenirs at the very beautiful Mbabane craft market, from ornaments to delicious foods. Most tourists report that the true beauty of the market comes from the nice, kind, and positive local traders that are passionate about their culture and history.
No trip to Southern Africa would be complete without spending at least a few days in Mbabane, Eswatini. Whether looking to see marvelous sights or heading for a wildlife adventure, this city must form a part of your trip. (Read: 14 Pros and Cons of Living In Africa)
Despite having modern facilities, the city has a relaxed feel that makes you appreciate its local history. If you are also looking to spend as little as possible, Mbabane is the place for you, as most of its tourist attractions can be accessed for free.