What is the Capital of Zimbabwe?

Harare is the capital of Zimbabwe. Harare is Zimbabwe’s largest city and its economic, political, and cultural hub.

A map of Zimbabwe highlighting its capital, Harare, and other major cities, with neighboring countries labeled around the border.
Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe

Harare is known for its modern architecture, numerous parks, gardens, and as a trade center for tobacco, maize, cotton, and citrus fruits. Over the years, the city has faced various challenges, especially economic ones, but it remains a significant metropolis in the southern African region.

Where is Harare?

Location of Harare, Zimbabwe
Location of Harare, Zimbabwe

Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, is located in the northern part of the country. It’s situated in the Mashonaland region, lying on a plateau at an elevation of 1,483 meters (4,865 feet) above sea level.

The city is near the country’s northeastern part and is a central hub for transportation and economic activities in Zimbabwe. The geographical coordinates for Harare are approximately 17.8292 °S latitude and 31.0521 °E longitude.

History of Harare

The history of Harare is marked by various significant events and periods that have shaped its development.

Harare’s inception occurred when the British South Africa Company, under the leadership of Cecil Rhodes, established the city as “Salisbury” in 1890. Named after the British Prime Minister, the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, it served as a strategic military outpost during early colonial efforts to control the region.

St. Mary's Cathedral, built in the early 20th century
St. Mary’s Cathedral, built in the early 20th century, is known for his colonial-era architecture in various parts of the world.

It was part of a broader British effort to establish a “Cape to Cairo” railway and communication network. Settlers were attracted to the area’s fertile land, and the city grew as a center for agriculture and mining.

In 1935, Salisbury was chosen as the capital of Southern Rhodesia, replacing Bulawayo. Its selection marked a pivotal transformation from a military outpost to a thriving administrative and economic hub.

The city’s infrastructure expanded to accommodate governmental buildings, commercial enterprises, and cultural institutions. Its growth reflected the strategic importance of the area and the increasing influence of European settlers in the colony.

Salisbury’s role as the Federal capital during the Central African Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953-1963) further solidified its prominence. It served as a political nexus, influencing policy and administration throughout the federation.

During this period, infrastructure expansion, such as roads and railways, and growth in industry and commerce led to increased urbanization and economic complexity in the city.

Munhumutapa Building in Harare, constructed during the colonial
Munhumutapa Building in Harare, constructed during the colonial era and is named after the Munhumutapa dynasty.

The Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) by Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Front government in 1965 was a defining moment. The declaration, announced from Salisbury, led to international sanctions, isolation, and a sense of defiance and determination within the city.

A strengthened military presence and a growing divide between the white minority government and the black majority population characterized this period.

The city was a crucial base during Zimbabwe’s liberation war. While the government continued to operate from Salisbury, the struggle for independence by liberation movements intensified. The city saw political turmoil, social tensions, and economic challenges as the conflict raged. During this tumultuous time, Salisbury’s institutions played a key role in shaping national policies.

The Heroes' Acre, a national monument in Harare
The Heroes’ Acre, a national monument in Harare, honoring the country’s fallen heroes who contributed to the liberation struggle.

After a transition period and the Lancaster House Agreement, Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, and Salisbury became the capital of the newly independent nation.

In a symbolic gesture reflecting the new era, the city was renamed Harare in 1982, honoring the Shona chieftain Neharawa. This period marked a new hope for unity and development, with efforts to build a more inclusive society and grow the national economy.

Harare has faced significant challenges following independence, including hyperinflation, unemployment, and political unrest. Despite these hurdles, the city has seen growth in infrastructure, educational institutions, and cultural amenities.

Urban planning challenges, such as housing and public services, have arisen, reflecting the complexities of managing a growing urban center. Harare’s ability to navigate these challenges continues to testify to its resilience and central role in Zimbabwe’s national life.

Features of Harare

Harare blends tradition and modernity, characterized by various features and notable aspects. Harare’s most striking features are its modern architecture juxtaposed with traditional markets and colonial-era buildings.

Harare’s vibrant and diverse cultural scene reflects a rich tapestry of Zimbabwean heritage. The National Gallery of Zimbabwe showcases art from contemporary and traditional Zimbabwean artists, while the numerous cultural festivals celebrate the country’s music, dance, and traditions.

Geography and Climate

The Landscape of Harare
The Landscape of Harare

Harare’s geography is characterized by its location on a plateau, creating a landscape that blends urban development with natural features. The plateau’s elevated position gives the city its distinct subtropical highland climate.

Harare experiences mild summers and cool winters, with temperatures ranging from an average low of around 7 °C (45 °F) in winter to an average high of about 26 °C (79 °F) in summer. The city’s rainy season occurs from November to March, bringing substantial rainfall that nourishes its gardens and parks.


Community worker in Harare
Community worker in Harare

The population of Harare is diverse and dynamic, with a mix of ethnic
groups reflecting the broader makeup of Zimbabwe. Harare is estimated to have a population of around 2.2 million people. The city is a melting pot of cultures, with a blend of Shona, Ndebele, and other minority ethnic groups and a small population of European descent.

This diversity is reflected in the city’s languages, traditions, and cultural expressions. Harare is also marked by a youthful population, with a significant percentage under 30, adding to the city’s energetic and forward-looking character.


The main commercial area of Harare with modern highrise buildings
The main commercial area of Harare with modern highrise buildings.

Harare serves as the economic center of Zimbabwe, with a complex and multifaceted economy. Its key industries include manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and services. As a hub for trade and commerce, Harare plays a vital role in the export of products like tobacco, maize, and cotton.

The city’s manufacturing sector produces goods ranging from textiles to chemicals, while its mining industry includes gold, chromium, and other minerals. Financial services, telecommunications, and tourism contribute to the city’s economic fabric.

Despite these economic activities, Harare has faced significant challenges, including high unemployment rates, inflation, and economic instability in recent years. Efforts to attract investment, promote entrepreneurship, and stabilize the economy have been central to the city’s development.

Various international corporations and regional headquarters underline Harare’s significance as a business destination in Southern Africa.

Things to Do and Places to See in Harare

Harare offers a variety of fun and engaging activities for residents and tourists alike.

1. Visit the National Gallery of Zimbabwe

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare
National Gallery of Zimbabwe, playing a significant role in supporting and nurturing the careers of emerging artists in the country.

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe is an institution dedicated to promoting and preserving Zimbabwean visual art and heritage. Since its establishment in 1957 in the country’s capital, Harare, the gallery has been pivotal in showcasing the best in African and Zimbabwean contemporary art.

If you’re interested in Zimbabwean art, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe is undoubtedly the best place to start. It provides a comprehensive overview of the country’s rich artistic heritage. It offers a platform for understanding the contemporary creative dialogues and discourses within the country and the largest African continent.

2. Explore the Harare Gardens

Harare Gardens, a slice of nature amidst the bustling city
Harare Gardens, a slice of nature amidst the bustling city.

Harare Gardens, also known as Harare Botanical Gardens, is Harare’s largest public park and garden. Located in the heart of the city, the park covers an area of about 68 hectares and offers a serene environment ideal for relaxation, picnics, and walks.

Harare Gardens is known for its wide variety of indigenous trees and plants. It provides an opportunity to get acquainted with some of Zimbabwe’s native flora. The gardens are also home to various bird species, making it a favorite spot for birdwatchers. Small mammals like squirrels can sometimes be spotted darting around the trees.

3. Discover the Mukuvisi Woodlands

Mukuvisi Woodlands, a unique opportunity to experience the savannah ecosystem
Mukuvisi Woodlands, a unique opportunity to experience the savannah ecosystem without venturing too far from the capital.

The Mukuvisi Woodlands is a natural reserve situated on the eastern outskirts of Harare. It covers approximately 263 hectares and’s one of the largest remaining indigenous woodlands around Harare. The reserve offers a glimpse into Zimbabwe’s unique savannah ecosystem.

The reserve is home to various animals, including giraffes, zebras, impalas, and many species of birds. It serves as a natural habitat for diverse indigenous trees and plants. Mukuvisi Woodlands is not just a place for recreation but also education. The reserve has an Environmental Education Centre, which schools and other groups for environmental education programs utilize.

4. Shop at Mbare Musika

Mbare Musika, a reflection of the city's history, culture, and vibrancy
Mbare Musika, a reflection of the city’s history, culture, and vibrancy.

Mbare Musika is Harare’s primary and one of the largest public markets. Situated in the Mbare suburb, south of the city center, the market has historical significance and remains a central hub for trade and transportation.

The market is primarily known for its fresh produce, with farmers and traders coming from all over the country to sell fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural products. Apart from produce, you can find a variety of other goods, from household items to clothing. There are also services like hairdressing and a section where live chickens and other small livestock are sold.

5. Explore the Domboshava Rocks

Large granite outcrops in Domboshava, shaped by centuries of erosion
Large granite outcrops in Domboshava, shaped by centuries of erosion.

Domboshava Rocks, often called “Domboshava,” is a granite hill and national monument located approximately 30 km north of Harare. It’s renowned for its ancient San rock art, scenic views, and unique geological formations of its granite outcrops.

One of the most prominent features of Domboshava is its ancient rock paintings. These artworks, attributed to the San (Bushmen) people, are believed to be over 6,000 years old. The images depict various scenes, from animals like giraffes and kudus to human figures and abstract symbols.

6. See the Balancing Rocks

The Balancing Rocks in Harare, which process of forming these took over 2 billion years
The Balancing Rocks in Harare, which process of forming these took over 2 billion years.

Balancing Rocks are a geological phenomenon found in various parts of the world, but the ones in Zimbabwe have become particularly iconic. They are natural formations resulting from millions of years of weathering and erosion. Essentially, they are stones, sometimes massive, that appear to be precariously balanced atop one another, defying gravity

The Epworth Balancing Rocks near Harare are probably the most famous of the country’s balancing rock formations. They became a country symbol and were prominently featured on the Zimbabwean banknotes.

7. Relax on Lake Chivero

Golden sunset at the iconic Lake Chivero near Harare
Golden sunset at the iconic Lake Chivero near Harare.

Lake Chivero is a significant water source for the city and is surrounded by Lake Chivero Recreational Park. Over the years, the lake and its surroundings have become famous for relaxation and recreational activities. It’s home to various fish species, making it a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts.

The calm waters of the lake provide an excellent opportunity for boating. Many visitors enjoy leisurely boat rides, taking in the scenic beauty of the lake and its surroundings. The lake and its environs are a haven for birdwatchers, with over 400 bird species recorded in the area. The wetlands, in particular, attract a variety of waterbirds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Harare safe for tourists?

Like many urban areas, Harare has neighborhoods with varying safety levels. Common sense precautions are advisable, such as avoiding walking alone at night and being cautious with belongings. Engaging with a local tour guide or following advice from reputable hotels and local authorities can enhance safety.

What is the best time to visit Harare?

Harare can be visited year-round, but the dry season from April to October offers pleasant temperatures and minimal rainfall, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities.

What currency is used in Harare?

Zimbabwe uses foreign currencies like the U.S. Dollar and South African Rand for transactions. Credit and debit cards are also widely accepted, but carrying some cash is wise.

How can I get around the city?

Harare offers various transportation options, including public buses, private taxis, and ridesharing services. Rental cars are also available for those who prefer to drive.

Is English spoken in Harare?

Yes, English is one of the official languages and is widely spoken in Harare, particularly in tourist areas, hotels, and restaurants.

What is the local cuisine like?

Harare offers a blend of traditional and international cuisine. Local dishes often feature maize, meats, and fresh vegetables. Trying the local dish “sadza” is highly recommended.

Are there good accommodation options?

Harare has a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses and lodges.

Final Thoughts

Harare melds a rich tapestry of cultural heritage, modernity, and natural beauty. Its lively streets, historic sites, and proximity to pristine landscapes make it a unique destination in Southern Africa.

Whether you’re an art lover, a nature enthusiast, or a traveler eager to immerse in local culture, Harare offers an array of experiences that cater to diverse interests.

The capital’s juxtaposition of past and present tell a story of resilience, transformation, and hope. Harare is undeniably worth visiting, promising enlightening encounters and treasured memories.

Image Sources and Copyright Information
  • image-1237: © Mappr
  • Map with Pin on Harare, Zimbabwe: © JoaoCachapa/Shutterstock
  • St. Mary’s Cathedral Exterior View: © Damien Farrell/Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported
  • Bronze Statue of Soldiers Holding a Flag: © Gary Bembridge/Wikimedia | CC BY 2.0 Generic
  • Cityscape of Harare at Dusk: © WallPaperFlare
  • Community Worker Addressing a Gathering in Harare: © Kate Holt/AusAID/Wikimedia | CC BY 2.0 Generic
  • Aerial View of a Busy Commercial District with High-Rise Buildings: © Ulrich Mueller/Shutterstock
  • Exterior View of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe with Sculptures: © Awinda/Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported
  • Sunlit Trees in Harare Gardens: © Hofmann EDV/Shutterstock
  • Savanna Landscape with Sparse Trees: © Charles A. Tilford/Flickr
  • Vendors Selling Produce at a Market Stall: © Shack Dwellers International/Wikimedia
  • Balanced Rock Formations on a Hillside: © Tawanda Kapikinyu/Shutterstock
  • Stacked Balancing Rocks Against Sky: © Travis Lupick/Flickr
  • Sunset Over Lake Chivero: © Tawanda Kapikinyu/Shutterstock