With more than 300 years of recorded history, Cape Town has many interesting tales to tell. From the local Khoi-San people to colonial architecture, these ten museums reveal the Mother City’s hidden treasures.
Iziko South African Museum and Planetarium
Founded in 1825, the South African Museum is the country’s oldest museum and is located in the historic Company’s Garden in the CBD. The SA Museum exhibits a variety of natural and social history collections including an impressive display of African dinosaur fossils, marine biology, hominoid fossils and San rock art. The on-site Planetarium was recently upgraded with state of the art technology to provide a magnificent 3D space experience never before seen in Africa.
25 Queen Victoria St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, +27 21 481 3800
South African Jewish Museum
The South African Jewish Museum is located at the site of the country’s oldest synagogue in the Company’s Garden. The museum traces the origins of Jewry in South Africa and looks at the cultural history of Jewish life through interactive displays and artefacts. There is also a fantastic collection of Netsuke (Japanese miniature art) on display.
*Visitors need to present an ID or passport to enter
88 Hatfield St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, +27 21 465 1546
Iziko Slave Lodge
The Slave Lodge is one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town and was used to house the slaves of the Dutch East India Company between 1679 and 1811. After 1811, the building was modified and served as various government offices until 1960 when it was re-opened as a museum. Today the Slave Lodge explores the history of slavery in South Africa, as well as human rights issues, through permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Corner of Wale and Adderley Street, Cape Town, +27 21 467 7215
Iziko Groot Constantia Manor House
The Groot Constantia Manor House is situated on the historic Groot Constantia Wine Estate, the country’s oldest wine farm. The Cape Dutch homestead is decorated as the home of a wealthy farm owner from colonial times, featuring a collection of antique furniture, paintings, ceramics and copperware. A few meters away at the Orientation Center, you can find an exhibition of artefacts and old photographs of the estate.
Het Posthuys is regarded as the second oldest building in Cape Town after the Castle, and is found along the False Bay coast in the suburb of Muizenberg. It was originally used as a military watch post to guard against enemy ships entering False Bay, but also served as a toll-house to collect tax from local farmers. Today the museum features a diorama, early photographs of the area, and material on the Battle Of Muizenberg.
*The museum is open intermittently, so be sure to call ahead before you go.
Main Rd, Muizenberg, Cape Town, +27 21 788 7972
Josephine Mill Museum
The Josephine Mill is set in a tranquil spot along the banks of the Liesbeek River, a few meters from the Newlands Rugby Stadium. The mill, which dates back to 1819, once provided stone ground flour to the Cape colony until it fell into disrepair in the 1930s. During the 1980s, the mill was restored to its former glory and is now fully functional, producing ground flour which it sells from a shop along with freshly-baked bread on-site. The museum displays a range of recovered artefacts and offers insight into the stone milling process. After touring the museum, visitors can enjoy lunch at The Toad & Josephine Restaurant on site.
13 Boundary Rd, Newlands, Cape Town, +27 (0)83 299 6873
The Heart of Cape Town Museum
The Heart of Cape Town Museum commemorates the first human heart transplant performed by Dr Christiaan Barnard on December 3rd, 1967 at Groote Schuur Hospital. The museum offers an insight into the events surrounding the transplant and a guided tour of several rooms, including the original operating theaters where a reconstruction of the famous surgery can be seen.
Castle of Good Hope
The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest surviving building and military fort in South Africa, dating back to 1679. Today the Castle exhibits an array of military artefacts, colonial furniture, art and exhibitions with special significance to the early Cape. Visitors are able to explore the Castle grounds and see the Changing of the Guard at 12pm every day.
Darling St & Buitenkant St, Foreshore, Cape Town, +27 21 787 1260
Springbok Rugby Experience Museum
Set in the heart of the V&A Waterfront, the Springbok Rugby Experience Museum offers unique insight into the history of this much-loved South African sport. Inside you will find various audio-visual displays and memorabilia – including famous trophies and clothing, and a game zone where enthusiastic visitors can test their rugby skills.
Portswood Rd, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, +27 21 418 4741
Chavonnes Battery Museum
The Chavonnes Battery was a coastal fortification built by the Dutch East India Company in the early 18th century. It was used to protect the bay until 1861 when construction began on the harbor, and the site was subsequently built over. In the 1990s, the battery was excavated and later opened as a museum where parts of the original structure can still be seen.
Clock Tower Precinct, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, +27 21 416 6230