News

Unusual & unexpected

Looking for something unique and exciting to do in Cape Town that will immerse you in the culture of the Mother City? Here are some options for you …

  • Join a secret sunriseIf you’re an early bird who loves to watch the sunrise and you’re a free-spirited individual – not afraid of self-expression, then this is a must! Sign up to their newsletter to find out the next secret venue where magic happens. For a small fee you get a pair of wireless earphones and are encouraged to dance, meditate… whatever the theme of the day, which often includes dress up.
  • Visit the Labia Theatre: The Labia is a cultural heritage institution to locals on Orange Street, originally opened by Princess Labia in 1949 as a stage for live performances. Today it’s a quirky movie house, which screens mostly artsy, alternative and foreign films in a relaxed non-commercial setting. They have a licensed bar, so you can enjoy a glass of wine and rub shoulders with Capetonian hipsters and intellectuals before the show.
  • Toast at First Thursdays:
    First Thursdays (pic: Cape Tourism)

     On the first Thursday of every month, the CBD’s galleries stay open until around 9pm for you to explore the cultural and art heritage of the city for free – often with a glass of wine in hand. There is no tour or guided walk but the idea is for you to go from gallery to gallery on foot and discover what’s on offer. First Thursdays are extremely popular so try to book a table for dinner in advance if you want to eat en route.

  • Join Promenade Mondays: Connect with like-minded people every Monday evening on the Sea Point Promenade in a fun way – by skating, rollerblading or even BMXing as the sun goes down. The group meets at 6pm at the Queens Beach parking lot.
  • Get Romantic at the Galileo Open Air Theatre: This outdoor cinema takes place at a few venues in Cape Town, which includes the V&A Waterfront on a Thursday, throughout the summer months. Movies include everything from old classics to hot documentaries. Doors open at 6pm and movies start at sunset. There is food on sale and chairs and blankets are available for rent – because Cape Town nights can get chilly! Tickets are around R80.

Source: Cape Tourism

Culture & history

The central city is the oldest part of the City of Cape Town. It has been changing and growing since before the arrival of the VOC at the Cape in 1652. Middle Stone Age hand axes found in the foreshore are evidence of a time when the sea level was much lower than it is now.

Vegetable garden in Company Gardens (pic: Cape Tourism)

Khoekhoe groups came into Table Bay to trade with passing ships well before the Dutch arrived to plant the garden that was to supply fresh vegetables to their ships. Table Mountain’s freshwater sources gave precious water to the early indigenous peoples and their livestock. In fact, Cape Town used to be called Camissa – meaning ‘the place of sweet waters’ – by the Khoekhoe people.

The Company’s Garden was the Dutch-owned fruit and vegetable garden growing fresh produce which was sold to passing ships and sailors and which fed much of the early colony. You can visit the garden and see how it has been transformed into a botanical paradise and community food garden. 

Two Rivers Urban Park was the location of the second Khoi/Dutch war, which began when Dutch farmers began to settle along the Liesbeek River. Their hedges, built to protect their farms, encroached on Khoekhoe grazing ground and clashes began. The legacy of water lives on. Today, the collection of water from springs here in Newlands is an ongoing cultural practice for families who have always lived in the area, and for whom the collection of water has symbolic meaning. 

Raapenberg Bird Sanctuary, a section of the Liesbeek River, also forms part of Two Rivers Urban Park.


Spend a day at the Museums

  • The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in Cape Town and was built by Jan van Riebeek when he arrived in the Cape in 1652. The importance of the Cape as a halfway point in the trade route between Europe and the East is highlighted by the fact that the Cape was occupied at least twice in the late 18th and early 19th century: The Battles of Muizenberg and Blaauwberg marked the military occupation of the Cape by the British. Evidence of these happenings can be found throughout the City. Learn more by taking a walking tour of the city.
  • Castle of Good Hope (pic: Cape Tourism)

    The Slave Lodge is the second oldest building in South Africa. Once a communal slave lodge, it is now a museum showcasing the city’s slave history as well as its culture and society in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. A 1725 runaway slave (‘droster’) community – which grew to 60 people – survived at Cape Hangklip for 109 years, until slavery was abolished in 1834. The Slave Memorial on Church Square is a heritage landmark and features 11 granite blocks (some engraved with the names of slaves) that honour the contribution slaves made to our culture and heritage and acknowledges the suffering they experienced.

  • The Koopmans-de Wet House in Strand street is the oldest house museum in the country. It offers a fascinating look back into the living space of a well-off Cape family of the 18th Century.
  • The Langa Township Heritage Museum is made up of the Old Pass Office and the Old Post Office. The Old Pass Office has a sad history of being the ‘gateway’ to the city for migratory workers. Many of these workers were harshly punished when they disobeyed the pass laws of the apartheid era. The Pass Office is now used as a space for meetings and heritage workshops, and as a venue where visitors and tourists can learn about the history and urban life of the township.
  • The Gugulethu Seven Memorial remembers the deaths of seven young anti-apartheid activists in 1986.
  • The Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum was established in 1958 as a hostel for workers in the nearby fruit and canning industry. The museum is a reminder of the living conditions that the migrant labour system imposed. Pay a visit to learn more about this system. You can also view the whole township on a guided walk.
  • Robben Island Museum (pic: Cape Tourism)

    Robben Island has, over the years, been a prison, a hospital, a mental institution and a military base. It is best known for being ‘home’ to the world’s most famous prisoner and statesmen, Nelson Mandela. The Robben Island Museum is definitely worth the visit. Take a ferry from the V & A Waterfront to Robben Island. Guided tours are offered by former political prisoners, who provide personal accounts of prison life on the island.

  • The Bo-Kaap Museum is situated in the historic area that became home to many Muslims after the abolition of slavery. Bo-Kaap itself is well worth a visit to view the distinctive colourful houses, cobbled streets and calls to prayer that provide a unique Cape experience. The museum consists of a furnished house that depicts the lifestyle of a 19th century Muslim family.
  • The South African Jewish Museum is a moving tribute and detailed account of one of the great South African Jewish communities of the diaspora. The museum takes visitors on a journey back to the South African Jewry’s early roots and shows how influential the community was in building South Africa as we know it. 

Get interactive

Many attractions in Cape Town offer visitors the chance to learn about the city’s history, as well as experience it. There are many attractions in Cape Town that showcase the city’s rich historical and cultural roots, with many of these not only offering information about the city’s past and present, but also the opportunity to experience it. 

  • Cape Town Planetarium: Looking up into the night sky, the Cape Town Planetarium is a celebration of the planets and constellations visible in the great Southern African sky. Throughout the year, the planetarium hosts workshops and exhibitions of different themes, but the highlight is undoubtedly the lights and sounds created by the planetarium’s star machine, which takes visitors on an audio-visual adventure through the stars and constellations. For the little ones, there are workshops where they’ll learn about the galaxy and the stars in a fun and interactive way.
  • South African Naval Museum: Simon’s Town, located around 30 minutes from the city centre, is home to South Africa’s largest Naval base, making it the perfect location for the South African Naval Museum. Here visitors can see a collection of naval artefacts such as uniforms, torpedoes, sea mines, as well as models of ships and submarines of the South African Navy, past and present. One of the highlights of the museum is the life-size ship’s bridge and submarine operations and control room.
  • South African Jewish Museum: Known for its high tech, interactive displays and occupying two buildings, the South African Jewish Museum is one of the most popular museums in the city and gives visitors an engaging insight into South African Jewish history, as well as an area dedicated to the Holocaust.
  • Springbok Experience Rugby Museum: Rugby is one of South Africa’s most beloved sports, with the passion for the game running deep in South Africans’ blood. Through numerous interactive exhibits, the Springbok Experience Rugby Museum details the sport’s history from its introduction in 1861 to the national team’s historic World Cup win in 1995, as well as the game’s role in the country’s tumultuous political past. The museum also features the popular ‘Springbok Trials Zone’, an interactive area where visitors can test their skills to see whether they have what it takes to make the Springbok rugby team.
  • Cape Town Diamond Museum: Diamonds have played a big part in putting South Africa’s mineral wealth on the world map.  At the Cape Town Diamond Museum visitors can learn how diamonds are formed within the earth’s crust over billions of years, the workings of the country’s diamond industry, and see how diamonds are transformed from rough rocks to coveted jewels.

Source: Cape Tourism

Art

Cape Town is arguably the creative capital of South Africa. The city’s creative energy has over the years created a nurturing environment that continues to draw artists and creatives of all kinds to its shores. It’s no surprise then, that Cape Town boasts an incredible wealth of galleries in which to view work spanning a multitude of genres by…  

 

Art gallery in Kalk Bay (pic: Cape Tourism)

Art galleries

If you have an afternoon to spare, visit some of the dozens of fabulous art galleries on this Cape Tourism list.

The Iziko South African National Gallery outstanding collections of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art. Selections from the Permanent Collection change regularly and include paintings, works on paper, photography, sculpture, beadwork, textiles and architecture. This programme is complemented by a range of temporary visiting exhibitions.

Or, just for fun, you could combine a wine-tasting outing with a visit to the permanent Art at Constantia exhibition at the picturesque Groot Constantia Wine Estate, to browse a range of local and emerging South African artists’ work.

Public Art

Some public art can be touched and some is performed. Here is a selection of the city’s most visible public art projects and areas:

  • Blue artwork on the Mouille Point Promenade. (pic: Cape Tourism)

    Seapoint promenade – art54 project: Strolling along the promenade you can see extraordinary sculptures, murals and photographic installations created by local artists. These artworks form part of a pilot ward project that was started to support art and artists in public spaces. Note: this is a temporary installation.

  • QUICK STATOver 1,200 unique visitors viewed the art54 website, 90 entries from artists were received, 25 works were selected and, to date, eight projects have been implemented.
  • MyCiTi bus stations: Local artists were invited to enter designs to be chosen for the first thirteen MyCiTi bus stations built across the city. The artists were challenged to create artworks that would improve the overall look of the stations, catch the eyes of busy travellers and remain interesting to people walking past the artwork, daily. Artworks ranged from murals to mosaics and printed photographs, but each one had to reveal something new with each deeper look. 
  • Langa Cultural Precinct: Established in 1923, Langa is the oldest of Cape Town’s former townships. Keep an eye open for the artworks that have been created in public spaces throughout the area. One of the most visible is the Langa logo mural on both Bhunga Avenue and Jakes Gerwel drive.Other vibrant murals have been created through the collaborative ‘Icons of Langa Mural Project’. This project celebrates individuals, ideas and concepts unique or important to Langa. If you are walking on Bhunga avenue, stop and have a rest and take in the detail on one of the six mosaic benches recently created there. 
  • Woodstock street art (pic: Cape Tourism)

    Woodstock arts precinct: Woodstock has, in the past five to ten years, given birth to a thriving arts community. With a number of prominent galleries and a design market in the area, the area attracts large amounts of visitors and artists. Many of these artists choose to make public art and are inspired by the Salt River and Woodstock communities.If you wander through Woodstock you can see a number of different murals and graffiti artworks honouring the families and individuals who live there, as well as our shared social and political history.

  • Civic Centre and Thibault Square: Outside the Civic Centre, there is a red sculpture – one of the highest sculptures in South Africa, reaching almost 9 metres. It is made of industrial sections of cast steel that were cut, welded, bent and refitted to produce an abstract form. Some people call it the ‘bent paper clip’ but its real name is ‘The Knot’ and it was created by Edoardo Villa in 1981; it is meant to symbolise the unity of all the sculptures on the landing in front of the Civic Centre. Thibault Square houses the ‘Mythological Landscape’ by Cecil Skotnes – a multi-armed metal dedication to our diverse nation. Erected just as South Africa was becoming a democracy, this sculpture is one of the most fascinating and creative sculptures in the city. Be sure to visit it.
  • St George’s Mall is a busy walkway running from Wale Street down to Adderley Street, and connects a number of different blocks of shops, offices and residential suites. Along the mall, you can see sculptures like Brett Murray’s controversial ‘Africa’ which questions how we understand African identity; further up, on the corner of Shortmarket Street and St George’s Mall, you will see the intriguing ‘Come to Pass’ sculpture, made out of brass and glass and shaped like a compass, clock or cross. It lies on the ground and speaks about the various ways we understand history.
  • Busking and performance art can be found in some of Cape Town’s busiest environments and areas popular with tourists. Hotspots include:

    – Outside the South African National Gallery in the company’s garden
    – Along government avenue, the cobbled walkway which connects Wale street and Orange street
    – Long street, in the CBD, is also famous for its public performances
    – The city centre: near Greenmarket Square and along St George’s mall, you will find dancers and musicians on most days of the week

Source: City of Cape Town

Events in the city

Cape Town hosts a wide range of local and international events – from concerts and community-based events to business conferences and international sports tournaments. Discover some of these below and join us as we celebrate all our city has to offer.

 

Tweede Nuwejaar celebrations

Culture and creativity

  •  Cape Town Fringe Festival (Sept/Oct): a platform for young, independent artists and independent arts companies to make their voices heard. The Fringe Festival will use both formal and non-traditional performance space and host a range of productions that will move, excite, enthral and captivate the audiences.
  • Cape Town International Jazz Festival (Mar): the continent’s biggest jazz event with around 35 000 people from across Africa and the world attending the event. The festival offers a blend of national and international jazz artists and takes place over two nights on five stages.
  • Cape Town Biennial (Feb/Mar): GRID is an international photography biennial celebrating contemporary visual culture and offers a wide range of exhibitions by renowned artists and new talents. The biennial creates a platform for photographers, curators, creatives, educational projects and the public with the goal to stimulate an international dialogue about current developments in society and visual art.
  • Infecting the City (Mar): Cape Town’s public spaces are transformed into a vibrant backdrop for ‘Infecting the City’, a citywide arts festival, with residents playing a central role in some productions. Infecting the City brings together artists from across the world, telling stories using dance, music and photography. Some of the works are based on audience participation which really allows city residents to get involved in, and even influence the final product. 
  • Open Design Cape Town (Aug): workshops, talks, exhibitions, tours, networking events, and parties are all on offer. The aims of the festival are: to teach; inspire strong design thinking; and encourage people from all walks of life with an interest in design to share their ideas or take part.
  • Suidoosterfees (Apr): a variety of performances, musical shows, historical tours and art exhibitions which take place at three main venues: Cape Town City Hall, The Fugard Theatre, and the Artscape Theatre.
  • Tweede Nuwejaar (Jan): Minstrels, Malay Choirs and Christmas Bands … The day traditionally sees entire communities taking part in the colourful celebrations. The iconic Grand Parade features a stage and screen in front of City Hall, grandstand seating, a food court, a prayer room and vendors. On-stage entertainers, selected by the minstrels to represent Cape Town’s rich cultural diversity, entertain the crowds.
Cape Town Cycle Tour

Sports

  • Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon (Apr): The event, known as the world’s most beautiful marathon, takes place in Cape Town over the Easter weekend every year. Runners are able to take part in the 56km ultra marathon, the popular 21km half marathon and the 5km or 2.5km fun runs.
  • Cape Town Cycle Tour (Mar): The world’s largest timed cycle race, the Cape Town Cycle Tour, takes place in March annually. Around 30 000 riders set out on a route of close to 109kms winding around the Cape Peninsula.
  • ABSA Cape Epic (Mar): referred to as the “Tour de France” of mountain biking, it takes place annually in mid-March. The eight-day event includes approximately 698km of biking and takes riders along the Western Cape’s breath-taking mountain passes.
  • Cape 2 Rio (Jan): This yacht race was started 45 years ago, and runs from Cape Town to various destinations in South America. It is the longest continent-to-continent yacht race in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Triathlon South Africa: The Cape Town leg of the race will serve as a stop on the eight-city tour, which starts in Auckland, New Zealand. The heart of the event takes place at the Race Village at the V&A Waterfront’s Look Out venue, which features a lifestyle exhibition and grandstands from where the public will have a clear view of the finish line. 
  • Lion of Africa Cape Town Open (Nov): The inaugural event was played in 2012, bringing big-time professional golf back to the Mother City after an absence of over a decade. Cape Town boasts some of the country’s top golf courses with more than 10 clubs within a 20-minute drive of the CBD.

Business and innovation

  • Africa Travel Week (Apr): three co-located shows -the World Travel Market Africa; the International Luxury Travel Market Africa; and the Incentives, Business Travel and Meetings Africa event. 
  • Design Indaba (Feb/Mar): driven by a passion for innovative work with a strong local flavour. This annual design festival has been credited with helping build Cape Town as an international design destination. It consists of the Design Indaba Conference, the Design Indaba Expo, FilmFest and Music Circuit. The Design Indaba Festival showcases and supports worldwide design talent from all creative sectors. 
  • Mining Indaba (Feb): attracts roughly 7,800 professionals, including top economists, mining analysts and financiers, representing more than 1,500 international companies from over 100 countries. Established over twenty years ago, it is the world’s largest mining investment conference. 
  • SA Innovation Summit (Aug): spans all aspects of innovation; 32-45 speakers participate in the conference and their concepts are echoed in the Market on the Edge. The market functions as an exhibition area and takes the participant into a space where innovation is in action; where the pitchers in the Pitching Den pitch for support, the Inventors Garage showcase prototypes and new traders sell their innovative products.

Community-driven events

  • Cape Town Carnival (Mar): Cape Town streets are set to explode with colour, floats and dancers when the Cape Town Carnival takes place in March. The carnival is a colourful expression of our diverse communities. It is a celebration of the way in which residents and the City can work and come together to experience and celebrate the cultural diversity of our city.
  • Community Chest fair (Mar/Apr): This annual charity fair takes place over four days. The event features foods from around the world and top-notch entertainment including a pop-up cinema, live music, big school bands, and more.
  • Community Chest fun run (Dec): Families and friends join forces to enter teams as do schools, NGOs, municipal departments, large corporates and small businesses. The money raised is worked back into communities across the Western Cape. Citizens and visitors are encouraged to support the event by entering the run or cheering on participants as they make their way through the CBD. The Twilight Team Run is one of the city’s most colourful fun runs.
  • St Luke’s Hospice (Nov): This fundraising event consists of two 8km and a 15km trail run. The trail run’s ultimate aim is to raise money for St Luke’s Hospice so they can keep caring for the terminally ill.

Source: City of Cape Town

Fauna & flora

Local flora (pic: Cape Tourism)

Thanks to the high biodiversity of our vegetation, Cape Town is home to a variety of fascinating creatures, from birds and smaller mammals to snakes, tortoises and chameleons. Each species has its place in the web of life.

Our rich floral kingdom and the fynbos system, in particular, supports many creatures. Cape Town is home to around:

  • 364 birds
  • 83 mammals
  • 27 amphibians (2 endemic)
  • 8 freshwater fish
  • countless invertebrates – more than 140 endemics
Cape Gannets

Other mammals in Cape Town include Porcupine, Caracal, Cape fox, African Wild Cat, Honey Badger, Genet and Cape Leopard – to name a few. The Cape has over half of South Africa’s frog species. Of the 62 different frogs we have here, 29 are found nowhere else on earth.

  • Mammals: Smaller mammals like baboons, klipspringers, grysbok, dassies, mongooses and the striped field mouse are typical of the area.
  • Birds: All six bird species endemic to the south-west Cape are fynbos species. Of these, the Cape sugarbird and orange-breasted sunbird are not found in any other type of vegetation. These birds play an important role in pollinating Cape flowers.
  • Insects: The fynbos supports a large number of butterflies, though many are at risk.
  • Reptiles and amphibians: Although our fynbos system isn’t very rich in reptiles and amphibians, many of the species are both endemic and threatened. Our geometric tortoise is regarded as the world’s second rarest tortoise.

Fynbos is the main indigenous (local) vegetation type found in our city and the Cape region. The word fynbos is Dutch for ‘fine-leafed plant’. Some of the most famous fynbos flowers are proteas, ericas, buchus, pelargoniums, gazanias, disas and gladioli – beloved to Capetonians and South Africans alike. 

Fynbos is a unique kind of vegetation that makes up 80% of the UNESCO-honoured Cape Floristic Region, two-thirds of which are found only in the Cape. With more than 7 000 plant species, it is also the richest ecosystem in the Cape Floristic Region. The other relatively extensive vegetation types are renosterveld and strandveld, contributing over 2 000 plant species. Among its 19 vegetation types, Cape Town has six that are endemic. These are confined to the city and only possible to conserve within City boundaries.

King Protea

Protea flowers feature as a symbol for our city and parts of our country:

  • The City’s new logo is based on a protea flower.
  • The Red Disa is the symbol of the Western Cape province.
  • The King Protea is South Africa’s national flower.
  • The South African cricket team is named after the protea.

Source: City of Cape Town

Coastline and beaches

We boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the world (pic: Cape Tourism)

The City of Cape Town is home to 72 beaches, eight of which are Blue Flag beaches and, with the exception of Boulders Beach, all eight are free to use. Each of them has something different to offer and you are guaranteed to find one that suits all your needs. Muizenberg is a great option at cooler times of the year, with warmer water and activities, including surfing and SUP lessons available.

Cape Coastline

Cape Town has over 300 kilometres of coastline, including two of the largest bays in South Africa – Table Bay and False Bay – and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Our rich and varied landscapes, plants and creatures make it the perfect coast to explore; there are more than 70 beaches, tidal pools, rocky and sandy shores, coastal dunes, estuaries and more!

We have one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world, home to rare and endangered species – in 1991, South Africa was the first country to declare White Sharks a protected species.

Cape Town’s coastline also offers some of the world’s best whale-watching spots. The whales most commonly seen from shore are Southern Right Whales, which visit our waters between June and November each year. 

A Cape Town day made perfect for the beach (pic: Cape Tourism)

The warm Agulhas current that sweeps down the east coast and the cold Benguela current that flows up the west coast creates an incredibly rich and varied marine life. During summer, the west coast has an upwelling of nutrient-rich cold water that supports plankton growth. This then supports a variety of food webs, including shoals of ‘Pelagic’ fish like anchovies, pilchards and snoek.

Our rocky shores are especially species-rich because of their diversity of micro-habitats (smaller habitats). We also have breeding sites of seabirds and seals on offshore islands, while colonies of African penguin breed at Boulders Beach, Burgher’s Walk and on Robben Island.

Source: City of Cape Town

Welcome to Cape Town!

Welcome to Cape Town - a beautiful city surrounded by nature! There is so much to see and do in Cape Town, it's hard to decide where to start. Some of my favourite things to do include ...

• Visiting Kalk Bay for shopping/eating out
• Relaxing on Boulders Beach and visit the local penguin colony
• Taking a drive to the Cape Point nature reserve via Chapman's Peak Drive
• Shopping or eating at the V&A Waterfront
• Taking children to the Two Oceans Aquarium
• Tasting the wines of Constantia
• Climbing Table Mountain
• Walking the length of Long Street


Useful online resources

This is Newlands

Kirstenbosch Gardens (Pic: Cape Tourism)

Newlands is on the verdant eastern side of Table Mountain and has a genteel ambience with its abundance of trees and rippling streams. Partly rural and partly a sophisticated extension of the Mother City, it’s virtually free of the South Easter wind and boasts Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on its doorstep where the Liesbeek River originates.

Kirstenbosch has so much to offer – a tree canopy walkway, Botanical Society bookshop, craft market, garden centre, and restaurants. There also the popular Galileo Open Air Cinema  – and Kirstenbosch is also the venue for open-air concerts, covering all musical genres from pop to classical.

Newlands Forest is incorporated within the Table Mountain National Park. The forest is a popular outdoor recreation area which includes surviving remnants of indigenous afro-temperate forest and endangered Granite Fynbos, as well as extensive pine plantations. There are also historic sites including the Woodcutter’s Cottage and Lady Anne Barnard’s Bath. Newlands is home to the indigenous frog species called sandellia, a tiny frog that lives in the waters of the Liesbeek River.

Rhodes Memorial (Pic: Cape Tourism)

Visit Montebello Design Centre which has a craft shop, sculpture garden, studios, a restaurant and the first contemporary Bushman (San) Gallery. Enjoy walks in the forest, coffee bars and restaurants, elite designer shops, English pubs, international rugby and cricket sporting facilities as well as walking distance to Rhodes Memorial and the University of Cape Town. We are also close to the Groote Schuur Estate (home of the State President), Josephine Mill and the oldest brewery in the country.

But those are just some of our favourites. Here are a few more fun local activities:

  • Browse the local art galleries and artists’ studios
  • Shop at Cavendish Square
  • Noodle through the Dean Street Food Market
  • Get revitalised at Angsana Spa
  • Take in some cricket action or catch a local rugby game
  • Walk from Kings Block House to Kirstenboschsch
  • Follow the Littlewort trail
  • Lick your lips at The Creamery

Explore what else there is to see and do in Cape Town.

A tour of Groote Schuur

GS3Groote Schuur, Dutch for “big barn”, is an estate on the Rondebosch side of Newlands. In fact, Newlands Avenue used to run right through the property and when next you drive up Klipper Road, look out for the “Newlands Avenue” road sign which is still displayed at the entrance of Groote Schuur.

In 1657, the estate spanned 65 hectares and was owned by the Dutch East India Company. The house, which was originally a granary for the farm, was constructed in the seventeenth century. Cecil John Rhodes took out a lease on the house in 1891, then bought it two years later for £60,000.

The top storey of the Cape Dutch building on the slopes of Devil’s Peak was destroyed by fire in 1896. The traditional thatched roof was replaced by sturdier Welsh slates.

Rhodes commissioned the architect Sir Herbert Baker to renovate the house, and although he gave Baker no strict instructions as to what he wanted, he abhorred any mechanically-made items (such as hinges for windows) in the house and had them replaced with brass and bronze items that would be cast.

Baker remodelled the front of the house, added a long stoep in the back and constructed a new wing. The wing contained a billiard room with master bedroom above that boasted a large bay window overlooking Devil’s Peak. He also added a grand hall with a massive fireplace.

The home’s hybrid of ornate gables, colonnaded verandas, barley-sugar chimneys, whitewashed walls and warm teak woodwork give it a regal appearance. The original and only bathroom during Rhodes’ time has a massive bathtub carved from a single piece of Paarl rock granite. No-one is sure how it was brought all the way to Rondebosch or how they lifted it upstairs

Baker also played a significant role in the furnishing of the house. After initially filling it with modern furniture from London, Rhodes, influenced by Baker, began a shift to more traditional Cape furniture. This would mark the beginning of his collection of colonial furnishings.

Rhodes also commissioned agents to search for furniture, books, porcelain, silver and glassware from the Cape. Many of these items had to be re-imported from Holland and today the house and its interior remain almost exactly as they were then.

The rooms in the home have a comfortable domesticity, enlivened by evidence of Rhodes’ eclectic tastes. The wooden comer posts on one of the staircases are carved in the form of the enigmatic soapstone eagles that were found at the Zimbabwe Ruins; Delft tiles decorate the downstairs skirtings; and several of the fireplaces have Zimbabwe soapstone surrounds.

GS1Among the most interesting items in the home are souvenirs from Rhodes’ travels, including an exquisitely inlaid Moorish Egyptian travelling writing table, an old Cape stinkwood armoire with secret drawers and an elephant-shaped drinking cup.

The gardens of the house were as Rhodes demanded – “masses of colour”. He was allergic to pollen so the plants were carefully chosen and the house was surrounded by a mixture of hydrangeas, cannas and his favourite flower, the starry blue Plumbago.

Rhodes was always a generous host while at Groote Schuur. He used the residence as much as a business and political headquarters as a home. His life at the time was one of dinner parties and meetings on the stoep, where he would be joined by as many as 50 people at a single gathering.

Cecil John Rhodes died young, at age 48, and bequeathed Groot Schuur to the nation along with vast tracts of mountainside that stretched all the way to Constantia Nek. Much of it has been spared development and is now an important conservation area, including Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Part of the estate became the upper campus of the University of Cape Town.

From 1910 to 1984, it was the official Cape residence of the Prime Ministers of South Africa and continued as a residence of PW Botha and FW De Klerk. However, Botha never resided there, opting rather to live in the neighbouring Genadendal building (formerly called Westbrooke).

The building was the site for the signing of the historic “Groote Schuur Minute” between Nelson Mandela of the African National Congress and then-president De Klerk, on 4 May 1990. The document was a commitment between the two parties to the resolution of the existing climate of violence and intimidation as well as a commitment to stability and to a peaceful process of negotiations.

Under Mandela, Genadendal became the official Cape Town residence of the South African President. Rhodes’ Groote Schuur home is now a museum.

  • You can visit by appointment or on the occasional open day. A 2½-hour tour of the mansion is well worth the entrance fee of R150. Email [email protected] or call her on 083 414 7961

 

Walks & hikes

Table Mountain is a national monument and forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. Cape Town is famous for this flat-topped sandstone mountain. Renowned for its hiking routes and adventure sports, its indigenous animals and plants, as well as incredible panoramic views of the peninsula, Table Mountain is a nature and activity hotspot.

Table Mountain’s vegetation is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, which is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mountain is also home to the endemic – and critically endangered – Table Mountain Ghost Frog.

If you are facing Table Mountain from the CBD, you will see Devil’s Peak to the left and the smaller Lion’s Head to the right; both also offer incredible opportunities for climbing, hiking, sports and exploration. These two peaks face Table Bay and together, all three form the classic bay and mountain image we see in many postcards of the city.

Au Pear enjoys an idyllic situation, right in the heart of the lush, green suburb of Newlands. Its own leafy setting is perfectly set off by the many natural retreats around the guesthouse. Walks and hikes are the ideal way to get the most out of the natural loveliness of Cape Town without having to journey very far.

Here are some of the most scenic areas in which to walk and hike in and around Newlands:

Walk in Newlands forest (pic: Cape Tourism)

Newlands Forest

The beautiful forest is perfect for those wanting a restful escape from the city vibe. The towering trees provide cooling shade to ensure that, even in the balmy summer months, visitors can do this trail quite comfortably. The trail through the forest offers breath-taking views, not only of the jade foliage, but also of the suburbs of Newlands and Bishop’s Court in places. Along the way, there are a number of places in which to stop and enjoy a picnic. The entire walk takes about 1.25 hours, if you do not opt to stop for refreshments. It is easy to manage, and ideal for families. It is also linked to the suburb of Newlands by a subway, which means that Au Pear’s visitors can quite easily walk to the forest and mountain from the guest house.

A trail in Kirstenbosch Gardens (pic: Cape Tourism)

Newlands Forest to Kirstenbosch

The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens are a popular tourist attraction in the Mother City, and are best enjoyed strolling around them at a restful pace. Combine a visit to the gardens with a hike for a very special experience of the natural beauty around Newlands.

This particular trail starts and finishes on the mountain side of Union Avenue, where it meets with Rhodes Avenue. This is a four-hour walk, not counting time for stops and photos, which are musts. The views are nothing short of spectacular, and the forested areas are cool and manageable. In places, the route is a little steep, which earns this trail an “intermediate” rating.

Upon reaching Kirstenbosch Gardens, you will no doubt want to savour the manicured greenery while enjoying a snack and a cool drink at one of the restaurants or the tea house.

Table Mountain Trails
Table Mountain trails (pic: Cape Tourism)

Table Mountain is truly spectacular, and lies on the doorstep of Au Pear. There are dozens of trails that traverse the inclines of the mountain, some more established than others. The best known of these include:

Skeleton Gorge to Maclears Beacon – a steep route to the top of the mountain with unrivalled views along the way. Ladders have been erected for some of the steeper parts. This takes about four hours to complete.

Kirstenbosch to Constantia Nek – this is an easy two hour route that showcases some of the Cape’s most gorgeous fynbos. It covers some six kilometres and boasts stunning views.

Kings Blockhouse to Kirstenbosch – follow a contour path around Table Mountain for some magnificent views. This route starts at Rhodes Memorial, heads straight up to the historic Kings Block House and then trails around towards Kirstenbosch. It takes about three hours to complete (if you have a car waiting for you at Kirstenbosch) and is easy to manage.

Kirstenbosch treetop walk (pic: Cape Tourism)

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

Within the gardens themselves are a number of trails for the young and young-at-heart to enjoy. Some of these take only 15 minutes, while others can take up to six hours. They include the Braille Trail (a short path that is especially designed for those without the facility of sight), Boekenhout Trail (30 minutes), Stinkwood Trail (about an hour), Yellowwood Trail (two hours), Silvertree Trail (three to four hours), Smuts Track up Skeleton Gorge (up to six hours) and Nursery Ravine (at least four hours). For those that are not able to manage one of these walks, there are guided tours conducted on golf carts. These are informative and can be enjoyed in comfort by every member of the family.

 

Note: If you want to walk your dog in Table Mountain Park, you will need a My Activity Permit. Your dog will also need to be kept on a lead. There is a brochure with maps and instructions for how to walk your dog on the mountain. Take it with you!