What is the Capital of Eswatini?

There are two capital cities in Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland. The country was renamed in 2018 after King Mswati III renamed it during the 50th anniversary of Swazi independence. The name Eswatini translates to “land of the Swazis” in the Swazi language.

Mbabane is the largest city and the executive capital of Eswatini, located in the Hhohho region on the Mbabane River.

Lobamba is the legislative capital of Eswatini and is located just 20 kilometers south of Mbabane. Lobamba is home to the country’s Parliament and is considered the spiritual and cultural heart of the country.

The two capitals of Eswatini are located very close to one another, and Mbabane is significantly larger than Lobamba. In this post, we’ll focus on Mbabane, the executive capital of Eswatini.

Eswatini formerly named swaziland political map with the capitals mbabane
Eswatini, formerly named Swaziland, with the capital city Mbabane

Mbabane offers a blend of traditional Swazi culture and modern urban life, with attractions like the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, the Indingilizi Gallery showcasing local arts and crafts, and the Allister Miller Street, which is famous for its cafes and restaurants.

Where is Mbabane?

Pinned location of Mbabane, Eswatini, and its neighboring countries
Pinned location of Mbabane, Eswatini, and its neighboring countries.

Mbabane is located in the western part of Eswatini, in the Highveld region. Mbabane is approximately 26.32 degrees south latitude and 31.13 degrees east longitude. It is situated in the Dlangeni Hills at the eastern edge of the Highveld, an area characterized by high plateaus and mountains.

Mbabane is about 70 kilometers east of the country’s largest city, Manzini, and approximately 250 kilometers north of Durban, South Africa. The city is surrounded by the Mdzimba Mountains, providing it with beautiful landscapes and a generally cool climate due to its elevation.

History of Mbabane

Mbabane, the capital of Eswatini, has a rich history rooted in the colonial period and the unique culture of the Swazi people.

The city of Mbabane was founded in the late 19th century. The area was first established as a European settlement during the Second Boer War. It was named after Chief Mbabane Kunene, who lived in the region when British settlers arrived.

The British influence on Mbabane grew significantly when Swaziland became a British protectorate in the early 20th century.

When and how did Mbabane become the capital of Eswatini?

Mbabane was declared the capital of the Swaziland Protectorate in 1902, replacing Bremersdorp (now Manzini) after the Anglo-Boer War. During the British colonial period, the city grew as an administrative center, which still characterizes its function today.

Mbabane grew in size and importance throughout the 20th century, especially after Swaziland gained independence from Britain in 1968.

Taiwan Embassy in Mbabane, established in 1970.
Taiwan Embassy in Mbabane, established in 1970.

The city became the capital of the independent Kingdom of Eswatini and has since developed into an influential economic and political hub for the country.

Although Mbabane is an urban center, traditional Swazi culture remains strong in the city, with the Umhlanga or Reed Dance and the Incwala or Kingship Dance being important cultural events in the country.

Features of Mbabane

Mbabane is recognized for its diverse attributes that harmoniously merge the traditional African culture and contemporary urban evolution, all set against the backdrop of beautifully scenic mountainous terrain.

Geography and Climate

Panoramic view of Mbabane
Panoramic view of Mbabane

Mbabane is in the Highveld region of Eswatini, surrounded by the Mdzimba Mountains. The city’s location in a mountainous area at around 1,200 meters above sea level provides it with a picturesque landscape characterized by rolling hills and verdant greenery.

Due to its elevation, the city’s climate is classified as temperate oceanic, with warm summers and cool to cold winters. Average temperatures range from about 15 °C (59 °F) in June and July, the most incredible months, to about 22 °C (72 °F) in January, the warmest month. Rainfall is relatively high and evenly spread throughout the year, with the wettest period typically occurring from October to March.


Mbabane locals and street markets
Mbabane locals during their daily life at the street markets of the city.

The population of Mbabane is over 94,000 people. The city is multi-ethnic, with most of the population being Swazi people. Other ethnic groups include people of European and Asian descent.

The official languages of Eswatini, Swazi (also known as Siswati), and English are widely spoken in Mbabane. Swazi culture is deeply rooted in the city, and traditional events such as the Umhlanga (Reed Dance) and Incwala (Kingship Dance) are significant in the social calendar.


National Bank of Swaziland in Mbabane's city center
National Bank of Swaziland in Mbabane’s city center.

Mbabane serves as the administrative and commercial hub of Eswatini. Given its status as the country’s capital, its economy primarily centers around public services and commerce. Many government offices and businesses are located in the city, employing a large portion of the population.

A few industries also contribute to Mbabane’s economy, including iron ore mining and forestry. Additionally, tourism plays an essential role, with attractions such as the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, the traditional Swazi Market, and the surrounding natural beauty drawing both local and international visitors.

As the capital city, Mbabane also houses several financial institutions, contributing to its economic health. Despite this, like many parts of Eswatini, Mbabane faces poverty and economic inequality challenges.

Things to Do and Places to See When in Mbabane

Mbabane presents a plethora of engaging activities and captivating sights. Let’s explore some of the most frequented attractions and landmarks in and around Mbabane:

1. Mkhaya Game Reserve

White rhinos in the Mkhaya Game Reserve
White rhinos in the Mkhaya Game Reserve

The Mkhaya Game Reserve is one of Eswatini’s premier destinations for wildlife viewing. Located about an hour’s drive southeast of Mbabane, the reserve is home to various species, including white and black rhinos, elephants, giraffes, and antelope species.

Mkhaya offers guided game drives and walking safaris that allow you to get close to the wildlife responsibly and respectfully. The reserve is also known for its dedication to conservation and attractive accommodation options that let you stay overnight in the heart of the wilderness.

2. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Eswatini
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is the oldest protected area in Eswatini, established in 1961.

As Eswatini’s oldest protected area, the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is an essential stop for nature lovers. Nestled in the Ezulwini Valley just south of Mbabane, this sanctuary offers a range of activities, including game drives, horseback riding, mountain biking, and walking safaris.

The sanctuary covers an area of approximately 4,560 hectares (11,270 acres). It features diverse landscapes, including open grasslands, woodlands, valleys, and stunning mountainous terrain.

You can spot zebras, hippos, crocodiles, and various bird species while exploring beautiful landscapes ranging from grasslands to dense forests.

3. Explore the Swazi Market

A vendor in a Mbabane-based Swazi Craft Market
A vendor in a Mbabane-based Swazi Craft Market.

The Swazi Market in Mbabane is a vibrant, bustling hub of commerce where locals and tourists come to shop for everything from fresh produce to traditional handicrafts. As you wander through the stalls, you’ll find beautifully woven baskets, intricate beadwork, carved wooden masks, and many other handmade items.

The market is a great place to appreciate the craftsmanship of Swazi artisans, experience local culture, and pick up unique souvenirs.

4. Enjoy a Stay in the Sibebe Rock Resort

Traditional village-like resort located near the Sibebe Rock
Traditional village-like resort located near the Sibebe Rock.

Sibebe Rock is a massive granite formation located around 10km from Mbabane. Sibebe Rock is one of the world’s second-largest monoliths in the world. It is estimated to be around 3 billion years old and covers an area of about 16,500 square meters. The rock has excellent geological and cultural significance in the area.

The traditional Sibebe Rock Resort is a lodging facility situated near the rock formation. It offers accommodations and amenities for visitors who wish to spend more time exploring the area. The resort may provide guided hikes, rock climbing equipment, and other services to enhance the visitor experience.

5. Visit the National Museum

Traditional beehive hut in the National Museum of Swaziland
Traditional beehive hut in the National Museum of Swaziland, also known as Eswatini.

Located around 23 minutes’ drive from Mbabane, The National Museum of Eswatini offers a rich overview of the country’s history, archaeology, and traditional culture. The museum hosts exhibits featuring artifacts from various eras of Swazi history, traditional clothing and weapons, archaeological finds, and more.

The National Museum provides valuable insight into the heritage of the Swazi people, making it a must-visit for those interested in understanding the country’s past and cultural identity.

6. Malolotja National Park

The Malolotja National Reserve in Eswatini
The Malolotja National Reserve in Eswatini

Approximately an hour’s drive north of Mbabane, the Malolotja National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Known for its spectacular landscapes, including some of Eswatini’s highest peaks and deepest valleys, it offers a network of hiking trails for all levels.

The Malolotja Park is rich in biodiversity, with over 280 bird species and a variety of flora and fauna. One of the highlights is the trail leading to Malolotja Falls, one of the most impressive waterfalls in the country.

7. Take Part in Cultural Events

Local Eswatini women wearing traditional clothes during the Umhlanga
Local Eswatini women wearing traditional clothes during the Umhlanga, or Reed Dance.

Eswatini is rich in cultural traditions, and participating in local events can highlight your visit to Mbabane. The Umhlanga, or Reed Dance, and the Incwala, or Kingship Dance, are two of the most significant ceremonies in the Swazi calendar.

The Umhlanga usually occurs in late August or early September and involves young unmarried women gathering reeds to present to the Queen Mother. The Incwala usually occurs in December or January and is a ritual of kingship involving dance and the first fruits of the harvest.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to visit Mbabane, Eswatini?

The best time to visit Mbabane, Eswatini, is during the cooler, drier months of May to September. The temperatures are mild, and the chances of rainfall are low. However, wildlife viewing in nearby reserves is typically best during the wet season, from October to April.

What is the traditional food of Mbabane, Eswatini?

Traditional Swazi food involves a lot of maize, beans, and meat. Staple dishes include:

Emasi etinkhobe temmbila (ground corn with sour milk)
Emasi emabele’ (ground sorghum with sour milk).

Meat, especially beef, and goat, is also very popular.

What’s a must-try dish/food in Mbabane, Eswatini?

A must-try dish in Mbabane would be ‘Sitfubi’ – fresh milk cooked and mixed with cornmeal, or ‘Sishwala’ – thick porridge served with meat or vegetables.

Is it safe to visit Mbabane, Eswatini?

There have been reports that crimes such as armed carjacking, burglary, car theft, and mugging are common in some parts of Manzini and Mbabane, so avoid walking after dark. Crime rates tend to increase ahead of and during the holiday season.

How can I get around in Mbabane, Eswatini?

Public transport in Mbabane includes minibusses, known as Kombis, and taxis. Rental cars are also available for tourists who prefer to drive.

What is the time zone of Mbabane?

Mbabane is in the South Africa Standard Time zone, 2 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+2).

What is the currency in Mbabane, Eswatini?

The currency in Mbabane and throughout Eswatini is the Swazi Lilangeni (SZL). South African Rand (ZAR) is also widely accepted.

Final Thoughts

Mbabane provides a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural richness, making it an intriguing destination for adventurous travelers. It is worth visiting for its welcoming atmosphere, beautiful landscapes, and the opportunity to experience Swazi culture first-hand.

From local markets brimming with handcrafted items to the nearby nature reserves and parks, Mbabane is a hidden gem that offers an authentic African experience.

Image Sources and Copyright Information
  • Map Highlighting the Capital of Eswatini, Mbabane: © Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock
  • Location Pin on Mbabane Map: © Zarko Prusac/Shutterstock
  • Traditional Building with Red Accents in Urban Setting: © Kransky/Wikimedia | CC BY 3.0 Unported
  • Panoramic View of Mbabane Cityscape at Sunset: © Eswatini Tourism/Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0 International
  • Street Market Activity in Mbabane: © Dynamoland/Shutterstock
  • Central Bank Building in Mbabane, Eswatini: © Denis Kabanov/Shutterstock
  • White Rhinos by Watering Hole at Mkhaya Game Reserve: © Homo Cosmicos/Shutterstock
  • Zebras Grazing at Dusk in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary: © Vaiz Ha/Wikimedia | CC BY 2.0 Generic
  • Craft Market Vendor at Stall: © Jens_Bee/Shutterstock
  • Aerial View of Thatched Roof Resort in Mountainous Landscape: © Sopotnicki/Shutterstock
  • Beehive Hut in Swaziland: © Andrew Bower/Shutterstock
  • Grassy Landscape with Boulders at Malolotja Nature Reserve: © Maximum Exposure PR/Shutterstock
  • Women in Traditional Umhlanga Attire, Eswatini: © Homo Cosmicos/Shutterstock