15 March 2015 by Lynnette Johns

Take a township tour in Cape Town

When visiting Cape Town there are a number of places you have to see, but if you want an authentic experience then add a township tour to your itinerary.

Some residents are happy to show tourists their homes on township tours. Image courtesy of brianholsclaw

Table Mountain, Robben Island and the V&A Waterfront are high on the list of attractions in Cape Town. However, to get a different feel for the city, how about a visit to the oldest township in Cape Town, a taste of traditional food, or the opportunity to grab a cold beer in a shebeen (tavern)?

Because of apartheid spatial planning, most of Cape Town is divided along racial lines. Black people live in townships like Langa, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha, while coloured people (mixed race) live in places like Athlone, Manenberg, Mitchells Plain and Bishop Lavis. Traditionally white people live in the northern and southern suburbs, but these areas are increasingly multiracial.

<p>Take a culinary tour of the Bo-Kaap. Image courtesy of <a href=

Take a culinary tour of the Bo-Kaap. Image courtesy of Meraj Chhaya

A township tour can last between two and four hours; most of them are walking tours, so wear sturdy shoes and take along a sun hat.

Siviwe Tours takes you to Langa. Established in 1923, it is the city’s oldest township. Over the course of the two-hour walking tour you can stop and chat to residents, and see workers' hostels, informal settlements and long-established housing developments.

The Happy Feet Youth Project puts on a cultural show, which includes traditional gumboot dancing. Depending on your interests, Siviwe Tours will tailor-make a tour for you, which can include history, art, music, education, social issues and healthcare.

Khayelitsha is on the outskirts of the city. This township was established in 1983 and is home to almost 400 000 people. A tour of the township, with Nomvuyo’s Tours, includes visits to local shops and shebeens, as well as home visits. You will also have the opportunity to stop off at craft markets to buy handmade trinkets and traditional clothes. 

<p>A woman surrounded by children in Gugulethu. Image courtesy of <a href=

A woman surrounded by children in Gugulethu. Image courtesy of Urban Adventures

Andulela Tours has a number of options, including cultural, culinary and wildlife tours. The culinary tours include learning about Cape Malay cooking. The Malay tour takes place in the inner city. Malay people came to Cape Town as slaves during colonial times. Many of the women worked as cooks in the homes of their Dutch masters. The women experimented with traditional Dutch food and added aromatic spices to the meals. Their skills in the kitchen are legendary and during the tour you will enjoy a cooking workshop and, of course, a traditional meal. 

Cape Point Route offers bicycle, photographic and township walking tours. The walking tour takes place in Masiphumelele, which is close to Noordhoek. During the walk you will have an opportunity to visit a school, an orphanage, a community centre and a traditional healer.

<p>Visit a school in Masiphumelele. Image courtesy of <a href=

Visit a school in Masiphumelele. Image courtesy of brianholsclaw 

Cape Rainbow Tours offers a wide range of township experiences: its tours include a visit to Manenberg, Bo-Kaap, Khayelitsha and District Six. Manenberg is home to coloured (mixed race) people and District Six, in the inner city, is where thousands of people were displaced when the apartheid government declared it a white area. Most of the people who lived in District Six were coloured and they were re-housed on the Cape Flats. The District Six tour is a poignant one, and tour guides are often former residents who give deeper insight into the lives of the thousands of people who lived there.

For a unique take on the city, remember to add a township tour to your Cape Town bucket list.  

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