This museum is architecturally interesting and packed with thoughtful, often brutal, reminders of South Africa’s history.
The V&A Waterfront
The V&A Waterfront is a 123-hectare mixed-use destination, and one of Africa’s most visited cultural and historical hubs. Set on the edge of a natural, historic working harbour with the iconic Table Mountain as its backdrop, it offers local and international visitors a cosmopolitan mix of experiences ranging from leisure, shopping and exclusive entertainment.
When it comes to learning about apartheid, you’ll want to also plan a trip to Robben Island. Located just four miles off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island was a maximum-security prison until 1996. During the apartheid era, many political prisoners were sent to Robben Island. This includes Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years behind bars on Robben Island. The prison is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important cultural sites in the country.
Conditions at the prison were incredibly harsh, with many prisoners forced into hard labour in the limestone quarry. They were also made to sleep on the stone floors of their cells without a bed as well.
Today, former prisoners are tour guides and they shed light on what life was like here during apartheid. You’ll be able to see Mandela’s cell and take a bus ride around the island to see the prisoner’s graveyard as well as the quarry where Mandela and other prisoners were forced to work.
See the African Penguins
Part of the Table Mountain National Park and a short drive from Cape Town, the Boulders Penguin Colony is home to several thousand African penguins. (Fun fact: they’re also known as jackass penguins, because the noises they make sound like a donkey braying.)
Unfortunately, they’re an endangered species as a result of human impacts like pollution, oil spills, and habitat destruction. For that reason, you aren’t allowed to walk on the beach where the penguins breed but you can watch them from the nearby viewing platforms. There is also a raised boardwalk that starts at the Boulders Visitor Centre which will let you get up close to the penguins. Just keep in mind that they are wild animals and the beach is their home, not yours. Be sure to keep your distance and don’t try to feed them or pet them. As cute as they are, they’re still wild animals.
What is it? The clue’s in the name. A trip up this iconic landmark is absolutely worth your time. The more energetic may prefer to hike, but nobody’s judging if you plump for the cable car.
Why go? The views are simply spectacular (though be warned that cloud cover – known locally as the tablecloth – can swoop in very suddenly and obscure the panorama completely). There is also a short circular walking route to follow while you’re up there.
Woodstock street art
What is it? Some call it gentrification, some say it’s the capital’s most exciting emerging art space. Either way, this neighbourhood is full of breath-taking public artworks. It seems like there’s a mural on every block.
Why go? Cape Town’s anti-graffiti laws mean there’s less public art than you might expect throughout the city. Come here to see the Capetonian landscape at its most vibrant.