The Best Museums in Cape Town

The Best Museums in Cape Town

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
Janke Mostert 

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 mid-2017)
• Iziko South African National Gallery
• Iziko Old Town House
(closed for renovations and restorations until further notice)
• Iziko Slave Lodge
• Iziko Groot Constantia Manor House
• Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum
• Iziko Bertram House Museum (closed for renovations and restorations until further notice)
• Iziko Koopman’s-de Wet House
• Iziko Maritime
• 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. The Heart of Cape Town Museum

Heart of Cape Town Museum
Giltedge DMC

Cape Town is famous for many wonderful firsts – but the world’s first heart transplant, under the careful guidance of Professor Christiaan Barnard and his team on 3 December 1967, is undoubtedly right up there in terms of ground-breaking achievements. Today, this museum honours all who played a vital role in this phenomenal medical moment.
Good to know You will be taken on a two-hour, fully guided tour with knowledgeable guides, who will carefully retell the story of that historic day, and recount the events that lead up to the world’s first heart transplant.
Don’t miss the journals and letters written to Chris Barnard, original artefacts and, above all, experiencing that key Operating Room firsthand.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm
Guided tours (two hours) run daily from 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm (with specially arranged ones at 5pm, too).
Contact 021 404 1967, info@heartofcapetown.co.za
Cost R300 (international visitors; includes two-hour guided tour)
R150 (SA visitors; includes two-hour guided tour)
R75 (SA students with valid student card)
R150 (international students with valid student card)
Special costs are given to tour groups of 25 or more
Where to find it Groote Schuur Hospital, Main Road, Observatory, Cape Town

3. Warrior Toy Museum



If you thought museums were only for a select few, Warrior Toy Museum will make you think again. Dedicated to toys of all shapes, sizes, models, makes and themes, it’s a great place for young and old to visit in
Simon’s Town.
It’s a place to create new memories with your own children, expand your collector’s knowledge, or take a trip back in time, as nostalgia reawakens the golden days of your childhood.
Don’t miss the permanent display of some 4 000 model cars, 500 dolls, as well as a wide assortment of teddy bears, miniature doll houses (and rooms), a working toy railway, toy soldier displays, Meccano, beautifully crafted ships, old model cars, and much more.
Good to know Some of the toys are available for purchase – and the staff are helpful and knowledgeable with regards to the toy displays.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm
Contact 021 786 1395, warriortoys@polka.co.za
Cost R10 (adults)
R5 (children)
Where to find it St George’s Street, Simon’s Town, Cape Town

4. Gangster Museum

Museums in Cape Town: Gangster Museum
Imraan Christian/Media Mobile Mob

The first of its kind, 18 Gangster Museum is an innovative, living museum that seeks to provide a positive alternative and life path for Cape Town’s most gangster-ridden communities. Incorporating immersive text, imagery and a replica prison cell, as well as qualified tour guides and ex-offender curators, the museum is as inspirational as it is educational.
Don’t miss the reformed curators who share real-life experiences of gangsterism and prison – and, importantly, how they’ve turned their lives around for good.
Good to know Your tour fee enables a local school child to visit this museum for free. What’s more, 18 Gangster Museum also holds workshops, installations and focus groups in Cape Town’s biggest township, Khayelitsha and across the city, with the aim of raising awareness about social ills caused by gangsterism, and helping our youth to build better, brighter futures for themselves and those around them.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 8.30am – 3pm
Saturday – Sunday, 10am – 3pm
Public holidays: open only for bookings/reservations made 24 hours in advance
Contact 021 821 7864, info@18gm.co.za
Cost R60 (includes museum tour and drinking water)
R750 (includes walking, cycling and taxi tour of museum and Khayelitsha)
Book online
Where to find it Dullah Omar Street, Mandela Park, Khayelitsha, Cape Town

5. South African Jewish Museum

South African Jewish Museum, Cape Town Museums
Luke 

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 R60 (adults)
R30 (pensioners)
Free (children under 12)
Where to find it South African Jewish Museum88 Hatfield Street, Gardens, Cape Town

6. Hout Bay Museum

Cape Town Museums: Hout Bay Museum
capetownattractions.com

Opened in 1979, this unique, one-roomed garden museum offers a wealth of insight into the rich fishing village of Hout Bay (and surrounds), dating back to 1652. It allows visitors to discover information about Hout Bay’s inhabitants, history, forestry, mining and fishing industries, all of which have made the area famous over the years.
Good to know This cottage also has a garden, planted under local wild plants, and helps to provide information on the medicinal and edible properties of said herbs. They also organise weekly guided nature walks (R15 donation) into the surrounding mountains.
Don’t miss learning how Hout Bay grew from two farms (one of which is Kronendal, the only surviving H-plan house in the Cape Peninsula) in a forested valley to the diverse and popular destination it is today.
Opening times Monday – Thursday, 8am – 4.30pm
Friday, 8am – 4pm
Closed on weekends and public holidays
Contact 021 790 3270, hbmuseum@telkomsa.net
Cost R10 (adults)
R5 (children)
Where to find it 4 Andrews Road, Hout Bay, Cape Town

7. District Six Museum

District Six Museum, Cape Town Museums
Raneem 

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. The District Six Museum also offers a small cafe and souvenir shop. 
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 9am – 4pm
On Saturday, please call 021 466 7100
Contact 021 466 7200, info@districtsix.co.za or (tour bookings) 021 4667200, reception@districtsix.co.za
Cost R40 (adults, self-guided), R55 (adults, with an ex-resident/guide)
R5 (SA and African learners, ages 7–17 years)
R15 (international learners, ages 7–17 years)
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

8. 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.
Insider tip After exploring the Castle, doing a guided tour, or watching the key ceremony and cannon-firing ceremony (not on Sundays), enjoy a light 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 1249, 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

9. Slave Lodge

Slave Lodge Museum, Cape Town Museums
bigdaddypras

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

10. 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 free but pre-booked guided tours cost R50
Where to find it Solms-Delta Wine EstateDelta Road, R45, Franschhoek

11. 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.
Please note It works on an appointment only basis.
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, which offers great packages/workshops, which cost between R450 – R690 and vary in offerings. (Workshops run for between 2–3 hours.)
Opening times Please contact them; visits are by appointment only
Contact 072 342 4174, dimo_kumanov@yahoo.com
Cost R120 (hour-long guided tour, with bottomless coffee and biscuits included)
Where to find it First South African Perfume Museum3 Viola Road, Bloubergrant, Blouberg, Cape Town

You might also be interested in these enlightening centres:

  • 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, Cape Town)
  • Groot Constantia Manor House and Orientation Centre (Groot Constantia Rd, Constantia, Cape Town)
  • Springbok Rugby Experience Museum (Portswood Road, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town)
  • Bo Kaap Museum (71 Wale Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town)
  • Cape Town’s SAAF Museum (Ysterplaat, Cape Town)
  • Irma Stern Museum (Cecil Road, Rosebank, Cape Town)
  • Maritime Centre (Union-Castle House, Dock Road, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town)
  • The Franschhoek Motor Museum (R45, Franschhoek)
  • Chavonnes Battery Museum (Clock Tower District, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town)
  • South African Naval Museum (Simon’s Town, Cape Town)
  • Simon’s Town Museum (Simon’s Town, Cape Town)

 

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: 17 May 2017

Add new comment