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 vultures went in search of the Mother City’s most fascinating, historical and innovative spaces. Here’s what we found…
Which are your favourite museums? Let us know in the comments below.
1. Zeitz MOCAA
Touted as Cape Town’s very own Tate Modern, MoMA or Centre Pompidou, Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) opened at the V&A Waterfront in September 2017, and has been on the global art radar ever since. It was named as one of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Destinations of 2018!
Located in a former grain silo, the massive nine-storey space underwent a state-of-the-art overhaul, courtesy of esteemed British architect Thomas Heatherwick, and houses 6 000 square metres of exhibition space within 100 galleries, as well as a restaurant area and a charming Sculpture Garden.
Interesting Fact The grain silo complex was, at 57m, once the tallest building in sub-Saharan Africa. After its opening in August 1924, it became integral to South Africa’s industrial and agricultural development and allowed for significant economic activities in Table Bay Harbour. Although operations ceased as of 2001, it remains an impressive icon, easily recognisable on the Mother City’s skyline.
Marvel at The latest artwork placed in the museum’s lobby, titled the ‘Dubship Black Starliner’ (2019), by Ralph Borland, has an Afro-futurist theme.
Insider tip Capetonians (and all citizens from African countries) can enjoy this spectacular museum for free every Wednesday morning from 10am to 1pm, and half price on the first Friday of the month from 10am to 9pm.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm
First Friday of the Month, 10am – 9pm
Contact 087 350 4777, email@example.com
Cost Free (year-round to under 18s)
R190 (adult single day entry)
R270 (annual membership)
Free (African citizens only) Wednesdays from 10am – 1pm
Half-price (first Friday of the month) 4pm– 9pm
Where to find it Silo District, S Arm Road, V&A Waterfont, Cape Town
2. The Heart of Cape Town Museum
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 when it comes to ground-breaking achievements. Today, this museum honours all who played a vital role in this phenomenal medical milstone.
Good to know You will be taken on a two-hour, fully guided tour with knowledgeable guides, who carefully retell the story of the 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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost R350 (international visitors; includes two-hour guided tour)
R180 (SA visitors; includes two-hour guided tour)
R200 (international students with valid student card)
R90 (SA students with valid student card)
R250 (international pensioners)
R140 (SA pensioners)
Special rates are given to tour groups of 25 or more
Where to find it Groote Schuur Hospital, Main Road, Observatory, Cape Town
3. Iziko South African Museum
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, 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. It’s awesome, in the real sense of the word.
Insider tip Selected Iziko museums are free to enter on commemorative days, like Human Rights Day, Youth Day and Heritage Day. This excludes free entry to Groot Constantia, Castle of Good Hope and the Planetarium.
Good to know Iziko operates 12 national museums:
- South African Museum
- South African National Gallery
- Old Town House (Michaelis Collection) (closed for renovations and restorations until further notice)
- Slave Lodge
- Groot Constantia Manor House
- Bo-Kaap Museum
- Bertram House Museum (closed for renovations and restorations until further notice)
- Koopman’s-de Wet House
- Rust & Vreugd
- The Castle of Good Hope (see below for more)
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm
Closed on Workers’ Day and Christmas Day
Contact 021 481 3800, Info@iziko.org.za
Cost R30 (adults)
R15 (children 6-17)
R5 (children 5 and under)
R15 (SA students and pensioners)
SA senior citizens and students enter free on Fridays
Where to find it 25 Queen Victoria Street, Gardens, Cape Town
4. Norval Foundation
When Norval Foundation opened its doors in April 2018, arts and culture enthusiasts sat up and took notice. Located in the serene Steenberg wetlands, with sweeping views of vineyards and Table Mountain National Park beyond, the majestic, modern glass-and-metal structure matches the splendour within.Founded by the Norval family and designed by DHK Architects, the museum is home not only to world-class, purpose-built galleries, but also a sculpture garden, outdoor amphitheatre, research library, restaurant and bar, shop, and children’s playground. Dedicated to showcasing art with global appeal in an environment that fosters an appreciation for nature, Norval Foundation is a welcome addition to the homely ’burbs, and is another well-deserved feather in Cape Town’s ever-expanding culture cap.
Marvel at The beauty and serenity of the sculpture garden. The grounds were landscaped by Keith Kirsten International with indigenous fynbos.
Insider tip After several hours of perusing the art galleries and sculpture garden, recharge at The Skotnes Restaurant and Bar. The restaurant overlooks the mountains, vineyards and sculpture garden, and features a bistro-style menu that pays homage to traditional South African cuisine.
Opening times Norval Foundation: Monday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm, closed on Tuesdays
The Skotnes Restaurant and Bar: Mondays and Wednesdays, 8am – 11am and 12pm – 3pm; Thursday – Saturday, 8am – 11am, 12pm – 3pm (12pm – 4pm on Saturday), and 6pm – 10pm; Sundays, 8am – 4pm; closed on Tuesdays
Contact 087 654 5900, email@example.com
The Skotnes Restaurant & Bar: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost R180 (adults)
Free every first Thursday of the month
R160 (pensioners with valid SA ID card)
R100 (students with valid student card)
Free (under 18)
R350 (annual membership)
Where to find it 4 Steenberg Road, Tokai, Cape Town
5. Warrior Toy Museum
If you thought museums were only for a select few, Warrior Toy Museum in Simon’s Town 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. 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 thousands of model cars and hundreds of 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 There is a small shop where you can purchase modern models of old collectibles.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm
Contact 021 786 1395, email@example.com
Cost R10 (adults and children)
Where to find it 121 St George’s Street, Simon’s Town, Cape Town
6. 18 Gangster Museum
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 the museum for free. What’s more, 18 Gangster Museum 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 – 6pm
Saturday – Sunday, 10am – 3pm
Public holidays: open only for bookings/reservations made 24 hours in advance
Contact 021 821 7864, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost R90 (includes museum tour)
R450 (4 hour walking tour)
R550 (4.5 hour cycle tour)
Where to find it 23 Sec Dullah Omar Street, Mandela Park, Khayelitsha, Cape Town
7. Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome
In a world without iPads, the Planetarium’s projected night sky was one of the few things children deemed worthy of their absolute attention; and now, this old favourite has undergone a digital makeover. The revamped Iziko Planetarium boasts the most advanced digital facilities on the African continent, and is sure to keep you transfixed with mesmerising images of the night sky, and awe-inspiring information to go with it.
Marvel at The wonders of space and science during a cosmic adventure through the Planetarium.
Opening times Tuesday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm
Wednesdays there is a digital dome show at 7pm and 8pm (museum remains closed)
Cost R60 (adults, 19 years and older); R30 (children, students and pensioners)
Contact 021 481 3900, email@example.com
Where to find it Iziko South African Museum, 25 Queen Victoria Street, Gardens
8. The Franschhoek Motor Museum
Even if you aren’t a petrolhead, it’s hard not to be impressed by the magnificent collection of vintage cars, motorcycles, bicycles and auto memorabilia on display – all in mint condition, and all with a bit of their history included. With more than 100 years of motoring history housed here, the categories include: Antique, Veteran, Vintage, Post-vintage, Post 1945 and Post 1960. The four exhibition halls include noteworthy cars, such as the Ford Model T, Alfa Romeo Spider, Bugatti Type 23, Buick Marquette and Mercedes-Benz W21. Other car marques include Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin, among many more, even from recent years. The specific automobiles selected for display are alternated to keep things interesting, making return visits a must.
Insider tip Go for a chauffeured vintage car ride on the L’Ormarins Estate (for R80 per person). Even better, if you book 2 – 3 days in advance, you will be emailed a selection of motors from which to choose your ride!
Don’t miss the opportunity to hop on a free tram and do a wine-tasting on the neighbouring Antonij Rupert Wyne farm, while you’re there.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm; Saturday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm (April – November)
Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm; Saturday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm (December – March)
Please note Last admittance is one hour before closing time.
Contact 021 874 9002, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost R80 (adults)
R60 (pensioners and club members)
R40 (children, 3 – 12 years)
Where to find it R45 Franschhoek
9. District Six Museum
This museum, appropriately established in 1994 – the year of South Africa’s first free and fair election – uses past memories and experiences to remember a once-vibrant community’s painful forced removals (and demolitions) in the apartheid era. This museum’s contribution to the struggle for land and subsequent process of healing and restoration has been so powerful, 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 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. District Six Museum also offers a small cafe and souvenir shop.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 9am – 4pm
Please note If you’re a group of 10 or more visiting the museum on a Saturday, please pre-book your tour to ensure that there are enough guides for your group.
Contact 021 466 7200, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost R45 (adults, self-guided), R60 (adults, with an ex-resident/guide)
R5 (both guided and self-guided tours, SA and African learners, ages 7–17 years)
R15 (self-guided tour for local university students and international learners, ages 7–17 years)
R30 (guided tour for local university students and international learners, ages 7–17 years)
Free to ex-residents of District Six and other forced removal areas, and SA pensioners
Where to find it 25A Buitenkant Street, Cape Town
10. Castle of Good Hope and its Military Museum
Though the Castle of Good Hope is always worth a visit, the Castle Military Museum (contained within) makes for an interesting tour too. A visit to this museum is a discovery of the Cape’s military and political history. It 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, taking a guided tour, and watching cannon-firing ceremony (10am, 11am and again at 12pm, but not on Sundays), enjoy a light meal at the charming Re5 restaurant.
Don’t miss The key ceremony at 10am and 12am. It showcases the unlocking of the Van der Stel entrance of the Castle of Good Hope by the ceremonial guards of the castle. It’s a past practice that is still done today.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm (last ticket sale at 4.45pm)
Open on public holidays
Closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day
Contact 021 787 1249, email@example.com
Cost R50 (adults)
R25 (SA pensioners)
R25 (children and students)
R8 (booked school groups)
Where to find it Corner of Castle and Darling Street, Cape Town
11. Slave Lodge
One of Cape Town’s oldest buildings, the Slave Lodge was renamed as such 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 A temporary exhibit, ‘A Luta Continua!,’ that commemorates the Western Cape youth protests of 16 June 1976, is currently running at the Slave Lodge.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 9am – 5pm (Closed on Sundays, Worker’s Day and Christmas Day)
Contact 021 467 7229, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost R30 (adults)
R15 (children 6 – 17 years)
R15 (SA students and pensioners, free entry on Fridays)
R5 (children 5 years and under)
Free entry on Commemorative days
Where to find it Corner of Adderley and Wale streets, Cape Town
12. First South African Perfume Museum
This perfume museum (and workshop) is the first and only one of its kind on the African continent. On the grounds of the Huguenot Museum in Franschhoek, the 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), makes for a fascinating 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. The museum offers varying packages which cost between R520 – R750. (Workshops run for between 2–3 hours.)
Please note The workshops are by appointment only, but the museum can be visited on the purchase of a ticket on-site.
Opening times Museum visit with ticket: Monday – Saturday, 9am – 5pm; Sunday, 2pm – 5pm
Workshops by appointment only, please contact them directly to book
Contact 072 342 4174, 074 121 0012, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost R80 (adults); R40 (students and children). Ticket price includes entry to the Perfume Museum and the Huguenot Museum and the Monument
Where to find it Lambrechts Road, Huguenot Museum grounds in Franschhoek
13. Cape Town Science Centre
The Cape Town Science Centre has come a long way since it first opened in November 2000 at Canal Walk shopping centre as the MTN Sciencentre which was governed by the Interactive Science Foundation. After welcoming about 1 million visitors the centre relocated to Observatory in 2011. The new and improved Cape Town Science Centre now boasts over 250 exhibits, puzzles and interactive games that cover a wide range of disciplines including mathematics, technology and engineering. It’s all aimed at getting young minds engaged scientifically and showing how learning can be fun.
Marvel at The many mind-bending exhibitions that will astound not only the kids interacting with them but adults too. Keep an eye out for the Mindball – where children move a ball around with the power of their brain waves, and the Human Gyroscope – where they can spin around as if floating in a low-gravity environment.
Insider tip When you’re done hogging the gyroscope, head over to the iCafe, a privately run coffee shop offering refreshments, light meals and free internet.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 9am – 4.30pm
Sundays and public holidays, 10am – 4.30pm
Closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day
Contact 021 300 3200, email@example.com
Cost R65 (children aged 3 – 18)
R230 (family package for four people)
R57 per person (groups of 10 or more)
Where to find it 370B Main Road, Observatory, Cape Town
14. Robben Island Museum
Learn more about South Africa’s divisive and tragic history with an emotional tour of Robben Island prison, where freedom fighters were jailed during the apartheid regime. Now a World Heritage Site with a special focus on conserving the island’s natural and cultural resources as well as promoting it as a platform for critical debate and life-long learning. Tours take place daily at 9am, 11am and 1pm, and visitors are transported to the island via ferries which depart from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront.
Please note All bookings must be made beforehand via webtickets.
Marvel at Nelson Mandela’s tiny prison cell where he was kept for 27 years.
Insider tip Take tissues as some visitors find the tour an emotional one.
Opening times 9am, 11am and 1pm
Contact 021 413 4200, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost R380 (SA visitors)
R550 (international visitors)
R200 (SA children, 0 – 17 years)
R300 (international children, 0 – 17 years)
Where to find it Depart from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V & A Waterfront, Cape Town
15. Cape Town Holocaust Centre
The Cape Town Holocaust Centre was established in 1999, and in 2007 expanded into the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Foundation following the introduction of the study of the Holocaust in the National High School Curriculum. The centre raises awareness of the Holocaust history, other genocides and human right issues. The centre houses a permanent exhibition on the history of the Holocaust through texts, archival photographs, film footage, documents, multimedia displays and recreated environments. It also holds a section on the pseudo-science of race that led to antisemitism and the institutionalised racism of Apartheid.
Please note When visiting the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Foundation, please bring along your ID, drivers license or passport for security purposes.
Marvel at The moving 20 minute documentary that tells the story of how Holocaust survivors made their home in Cape Town.
Good to know On the same campus, but dedicated to preserving the history of the Jewish diaspora is the South African Jewish Museum, opened by the late President Nelson Mandela in 2000. Also on the campus in South Africa’s first, oldest and surely grandest synagogue.
Opening times Sundays – Thursdays, 10am – 5pm
Fridays, 10am – 2pm
Closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays
Contact 021 462 5553, email@example.com
Where to find it 88 Hatfield Street, Gardens, Cape Town
We also rate
- Josephine Mill Museum (13 Boundary Rd, Newlands, 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)
- Bo Kaap Museum (71 Wale St, Schotsche Kloof, Cape Town)
- Cape Town’s SAAF Museum (Piet Grobler Road, Ysterplaat Airbase, Cape Town)
- Irma Stern Museum (25 Cecil Rd, Rosebank, Cape Town)
- Maritime Centre (Union-Castle House, Dock Rd, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town)
- Chavonnes Battery Museum (Clock Tower District, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town)
- South African Naval Museum (St George’s St, Simon’s Town, Cape Town)
- Simon’s Town Museum (Court Rd, Simon’s Town, Cape Town)
- Stellenbosch Museum (37 Ryneveld St, Stellenbosch, Cape Town)
- Afrikaans Language Museum (11 Pastorie Ave, Esterville, Paarl)
- Museum of Childhood (3 Milner Rd, Rondebosch, Cape Town)
Researched by: Bianca Hausle, Catherine Davis, Annabel Short, Nikki Benatar
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