Cape Town’s history & culture
Did you know?
The former Slave Lodge on Church Square was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1679 to house thousands of slaves. This museum is open to the public for a minimal fee.
Cape Town has a fascinating history, and as a result the modern-day culture of those who live here is both vibrant and eclectic.
A good place to start your exploration into Cape Town's past is with the city's oldest building at the Castle of Good Hope, built as a fortress by the first white settlers, the Dutch.
Then head off and explore the Company's Gardens and cobbled Government Avenue. This avenue is lined with historic institutions such as De Tuynhuis, the Cape residence of the State President, and the South African Museum with its exhibits on the first known inhabitants of the Cape, the San and Khoikhoi.
Cape Town's tale of slaves, many of whom originally came from Malaya, is told at the Bo-Kaap Museum, in the boldly painted and terraced Bo-Kaap quarter on the slopes of Signal Hill. The Afrikaans-speaking descendants of these slaves have been absorbed into the Coloured community, yet remain staunch Muslims and their neighbourhoods are dotted with the minarets of mosques. Another fascinating location is the District Six Museum on Buitenkant Street, which traces the forced removal of a vibrant mixed race community.
Robben Island is one of Cape Town's biggest tourist attractions and is a major highlight on any trip to the Mother City. Many of South Africa's most famous freedom fighters were incarcerated here, including Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years on the island. The island museum is situated about 11km off the coast of Cape Town and was declared a World Heritage Site on December 1 1997.
Growing in popularity are tours to the townships on the Cape Flats, where a new urban culture is being forged. Tours provide a ‘behind the scenes' look at how communities live and work with visits to arts and crafts facilities and sustainable and environmental development projects.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Cape Town Tourism Information
Gateway Information Centre, Clock Tower Centre, V&A Waterfront
Tel: +27 (0) 21 405 4500
How to get here
Cape Town is easily accessible by road from most areas of South Africa and served by an international airport.
Best time to visit
Cape Town is a year-round destination
Around the area
There is so much to see and do in and around Cape Town. It’s a good idea to go on a guided tour first to get your bearings.
Tours to do
A tour of the winelands is always fun.
Hire your own vehicle, a vehicle with a driver or take part in an organised tour.
Length of stay
Cape Town is worth at least a week of your holiday time.
What to pack
Pack for all the seasons in Cape Town - and remember, you can buy anything locally.
Where to stay
Cape Town has, arguably, the finest accommodation options in Africa.
What to eat
There is a classic culture of fine dining in Cape Town, especially when it comes to seafood. So indulge!
There's always a festival or event on the go in Cape Town.
Good Cape wines are always a bargain and a great memento of your visit to South Africa.