The Best Cape Town Museums

The Best Cape Town Museums

Image credit: Car Rental Cape Town

Culture, entertainment and fun collide at these Mother City museums.

Whether you’re into science, nature, history or art, the museum scene in Cape Town is nothing short of impressive. The Inside Guide’s resident culture vulture went in search of the Mother City’s most fascinating, historical and innovative spaces. And here’s what she found…

1. Iziko South African Museum

Iziko South African Museum, Cape Town Museums
Image credit: Janke Mostert on Instagram

Founded in 1825, our country’s oldest museum has seen millions of people navigate through its halls. Take in exhibitions of more than 1.5 million specimens –  accumulated over almost 200 years – including ancient fossils and stone tools, rock and meteorite samples, lifelike recreations of our country’s indigenous people using real pieces, as well as marine and wild animal displays and features.
Don’t miss Whale Well – a unique collection of whale skeletons, including a giant 20.5-metre blue whale skeleton.
Insider tip During Heritage Week (19 – 24 September) and other commemorative days, all Iziko museums are free.
Good to know Iziko operates 11 national museums: Iziko South African Museum, Iziko Planetarium (closed for a digital upgrade until early 2017), Iziko South African National Gallery, Iziko Old Town House (closed for renovations and restorations until 2017), Iziko Slave Lodge, Iziko Groot Constantia Manor House, Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum, Iziko Bertram House Museum (closed for renovations and restorations until 2017), Iziko Koopman’s-de Wet House, Iziko Maritime Centre, and Iziko Rust & Vreugd.
Opening times Monday Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Closed on Workers’ Day and Christmas Day
Contact 021 481 3800, Info@iziko.org.za
Cost
R30 (adults)
R15 (children 6-18)
R15 (SA students and pensioners)
R75 (family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children)
Free (children under 5, excludes Planetarium)
SA senior citizens and students enter free on Fridays
Where to find it Iziko South African Museum25 Queen Victoria Street, Gardens, Cape Town

2. District Six Museum

District Six Museum, Cape Town Museums
Image credit: @raneem_m_s on Instagram

This museum, appropriately established in 1994, uses past memories and experiences to remember a once-vibrant community’s painful forced removals (and demolitions) in the apartheid era. So powerful has this museum’s contribution to the struggle for land and subsequent process of healing and restoration been, that it was declared a National Heritage Site in 2006.
Learn more about the history of District Six, see artefacts and historical pieces, and possibly even share in the memories and experiences of former residents too.
Don’t miss the D6 Homecoming Centre, which houses temporary exhibitions and is located close by, next to the Fugard Theatre.
Opening times
Monday – Saturday, 9am – 4pm
On Saturday, please call 021 466 7100
Sunday, by appointment only
Contact 021 466 7200, info@districtsix.co.za or (tour bookings) 021 4667200, reception@districtsix.co.za
Cost
R30 (adults, self-guided), R45 (adults, with an ex-resident/guide)
R5 (SA and African learners)
R15 (international learners)
Free to ex-residents of District Six and other forced removal areas and SA pensioners
Book at Webtickets
Where to find it District Six Museum25A Buitenkant Street, Cape Town

3. South African Jewish Museum

South African Jewish Museum, Cape Town Museums
Image credit: @luke_za on Instagram

Opened by the late President Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid activist, Helen Suzman, in December 2000, it is fittingly located in South Africa’s very first (and possibly most beautiful) synagogue, the Old Shul (1863).
Founded and largely funded by visionary SA philanthropist, Mendel Kaplan, the museum Cape Town’s only custom-built one covers the history of the Jews in South Africa (and the world), Judaica and Judaism.
Enjoy moving tributes and personal accounts, interactive displays, unique artefacts and audio-visual presentations, with a fine collection of Netsuke (miniature Japanese art) too.
Need to know You must take your ID. There are audio guides available for R15 and a gift shop with ethnic curios, gifts, books, jewellry and more.
Opening times
Sunday – Thursday, 10am – 5pm
Friday 10am – 2pm
Closed Saturdays and Jewish Holidays (please see website for these dates)
Open on public holidays
Contact 021 465 1546, info@sajewishmuseum.co.za
Cost
R50 (adults)
R30 (pensioners)
Free (students under 12)
Where to find it South African Jewish Museum88 Hatfield Street, Gardens, Cape Town

4. First South African Perfume Museum

First South African Perfume Museum, Cape Town Museums
This perfume museum (and workshop) is the first and only one of its kind on our continent. With comprehensive permanent collections, innovative exhibitions and display cabinets filled with perfumes of all ages (including an ancient Roman one that’s around 2 000 years old), it makes for a unique experience.
Marvel at roughly 4 500 perfume bottles – collected over the past 20 years by founders, Dimo and Daniela Kumanov.
Insider tip Create your own signature perfume and perfumed body cream at the Perfume Privé Workshops. They take 2 – 3 hours, and a guided tour is included in the price. (R450 – R690)
Opening times
Monday  – Friday, 10am – 5pm
Weekends and public holidays, by appointment only
Contact 072 342 4174, dimo_kumanov@yahoo.com
Cost R120 (hour-long guided tour, with bottomless coffee and biscuits included)
Book online
Where to find it First South African Perfume Museum3 Viola Road, Bloubergrant, Blouberg, Cape Town

5. Slave Lodge

Slave Lodge Museum, Cape Town Museums
Image credit: @bigdaddypras on Instagram

One of Cape Town’s oldest buildings, the Slave Lodge was renamed in 1998 and, since then, its temporary exhibitions have been used to address and raise awareness around human rights.
The lower storeys focus primarily on past slavery, whereas the upper galleries include older displays, such as ceramics from across the globe, silverware of Cape, Malaysian, Russian and English origins and Egyptology collections.
Interesting fact Over the past three centuries, the Slave Lodge has had several guises and names: Slave Lodge, Government Offices Building, Old Supreme Court and SA Cultural History Museum.
Insider tip For a small additional fee, rent an audio-guided tour and take an immersive historical journey into the slaves’ deplorable living conditions.
Opening times
Monday Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Contact 021 467 7229, ptichmann@iziko.org.za, Info@iziko.org.za
Cost
R30 (adults)
R15 (children 6-18)
R15 (SA students and pensioners)
R75 (family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children)
Where to find it Iziko Slave LodgeCorner of Adderley and Wale Streets, Cape Town

6. Castle of Good Hope and its Military Museum

Castle of Good Hope, Best Museums
Though the Castle of Good Hope is always worth a visit, the Castle Military Museum (contained within) makes for an interesting tour too, as you discover the Cape’s military and political history. The museum houses one of our country’s finest sword collections, and includes factual information, historical accounts and some well-preserved artefacts and exhibits from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Learn more about South Africa’s wars, the military connection between the Portuguese, Khoi, Dutch and English nations and, on your way out, pop into the shop to purchase some keepsakes and curios.
Please note The Military Museum is currently closed for renovations until further notice but should hopefully be re-opening soon.
Insider tip After exploring the Castle, doing a guided tour, or watching the cannon-firing ceremony (not on Sundays), enjoy a meal at the charming De Goewerneur Restaurant.
Dont miss The Iziko Museum’s William Fehr collection, currently on display at the Castle, though only a limited selection will be available during the renovations.
Opening times
Monday – Sunday, 9am – 4pm (last ticket sale at 3.30 pm)
Open on public holidays
Closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day
Contact 021 787 1260, info@castleofgoodhope.co.za
Cost
R30 (adults)
R15 (SA pensioners)
R15 (children and students)
R5 (booked school groups)
Where to find it  The Castle of Good Hope, Corner of Castle and Darling Street, Cape Town

7. Music van de Caab Centre, Solms-Delta

Music van de Caab Centre at Solms-Delta
Although the Museum van de Caab at Solms-Delta is perhaps better known than the music centre, we thought the latter was also worth a visit if you’re on the estate. Combining local music, heritage and culture, this museum highlights music’s power to transform lives, cross boundaries, and heal our nation.
Immerse yourself in Solms-Delta and Delta Trust’s accumulated knowledge and fieldwork, archived and displayed within, along with the recordings and interviews from the musicians in the area and those featured at ATKV-Oesfees, an annual music festival.
Good to know Also on the Solms-Delta estate is Museum van de Caab, which chronologically and frankly tells Delta’s story through a collection of the farm’s voices.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Contact 021 874 3937, museum@solms-delta.co.za
Cost R10 admission fee for both museums
Where to find it Solms-Delta Wine EstateDelta Road, R45, Franschhoek

You might also be interested in these enlightening centres:

  • The Heart of Cape Town Museum (Groote Schuur Hospital, Groote Schuur Dr, Observatory)
  • Cape Town Holocaust Centre (88 Hatfield Street, Gardens, Cape Town)
  • Robben Island Museum (Robben Island, Cape Town)
  • Cape Town Diamond Museum (Level 1 Clock Tower, Clock Tower District, V & A Waterfront)
  • Groot Constantia Manor House and Orientation Centre (Groot Constantia Rd, Constantia, Cape Town)
  • Springbok Rugby Experience Museum (Portswood Road, V&A Waterfront)
  • Bo Kaap Museum (71 Wale Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town)
  • Cape Town’s SAAF Museum (Ysterplaat, Cape Town)
  • Irma Stern Museum (Cecil Road, Rosebank)
  • Maritime Centre (Union-Castle House, Dock Road, V&A Waterfront)
  • The Franschhoek Motor Museum (R45, Franschhoek)
  • Chavonnes Battery Museum (Clock Tower District, V&A Waterfront)

Subscribe to our newsletter for your weekly guide to exploring the Cape

Disclaimer:

The Inside Guide has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, we do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, cost, time, and location.

Time of publication: 21 September 2016

Add new comment