The South African Museum, now part of Iziko Museums of Cape Town, is set in the beautiful Company Gardens. It has extensive collections representing natural history and human and maritime sciences. Adjacent to it is the Iziko Planetarium, where the skies are clear whatever the weather.

Did you know?

The Minolta star machine at the Iziko Planetarium can create a clear night sky regardless of the weather.

The South African Museum and Planetarium was founded in 1825 and focuses on natural history and human sciences. Set in the beautiful Company Gardens in central Cape Town, it is the oldest museum in the country.

The museum is now part of Iziko Museums of Cape Town. This collection of museums includes the Slave Lodge, Koopmans-De Wet House, Bertram House, Groot Constantia, the Bo-Kaap Museum, Rust en Vreugde and the William Fehr Collection in the Castle of Good Hope.

The nucleus of the South African Museum and Planetarium is its social and maritime history collection obtained in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among these are pre-colonial and colonial artefacts, traditional arts and crafts from several cultures and San rock art, including those removed from caves when it was still considered acceptable to do so.

Of particular interest are the Lydenburg Heads, which represent early African art from around 500AD. Alongside these are ethnographic displays of traditional medicines and pre-colonial African mathematics and science.

The museum also features collections of marine and terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates as well as skeletons of ocean mammals. This section is built around a massive four-storey wall hung with the complete skeletons of four whales.

Most compelling of all are fossils dating back 700 million years. Among these are Miocene whale remains and fossil samples from the middle Devonian to late Jurassic periods.

The museum has rock and stony meteorite fragments, which is a good place from which to head for the adjoining Iziko Planetarium. Here is an ever-changing celestial performance. Using a Minolta star machine and multiple projectors, the Planetarium can create a clear night sky regardless of the weather. It's a captivating audio-visual experience.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Iziko Museums of Cape Town
Tel: +27 (0) 21 481 3800

How to get here

The museum is in the Company’s Gardens in Queen Victoria Street. Taxis and buses are available throughout the day to this part of the city.

Best time to visit

The museum is open week days between 9am and 5pm.

Around the area

The V&A Waterfront is nearby, offering a wonderful shopping experience, and nature buffs will not want to miss the Two Oceans Aquarium next to the Waterfront.

What will it cost

R15 entrance fee. Children under 16 are admitted free of charge.

Length of stay

Half a day to a full day.

Where to stay

Cape Town has a wide range of accommodation establishments, from budget to luxury options.

What to eat

There is a cafeteria at the museum serving light meals and snacks.

What's happening

There are always new initiatives and exhibitions at the museum and planetarium, so check the website regularly for updates.