Honestly, I now understand why travelers traveling to South Africa are obsess with the beautiful city of Cape Town. Now I don’t mind adding Cape Town to my bucket list anytime I’m visiting South Africa. If I’m visiting 100times, I will still add to my bucket list. Because there are plenty of attractions for anyone visiting the city and that is why I have put together top museums in Cape Town you can visit alone or with your family.
Whether you’re interested in science, ecology, history, or art, Cape Town’s museum scene is spectacular. Cape Town is a cultural hotspot with a rich and illustrious past, so tourists can expect to find much of both. The history of the Mother City is rich – and at times terrible – and there are a number of world-class museums that give a treasure mine of information about the past, both good and evil. A handful of these museums are in the city centre – all within walking distance of one another – and combined they provide a vista as varied and engaging as the city itself.
If you are planning to visit, check out some of the top museums in Cape Town. From historical museums to world-class art museums, there is something for everyone.
Museums In Cape Town
Iziko South African Museum
The Iziko South African Museum is a retrophiliac’s paradise, with thousands of fascinating objects. This magnificent and well-established building, which serves as the country’s national museum, houses fossils, stone tools, traditional clothing, and other artefacts, some of which are about 700 million years old. (The museum has been in its current location since 1897, thus it has a long history.) Choose what fascinates you the most—fossils? Wear traditional attire—and make a beeline for that region.
Everard Read – Cape Town
Everard Read is the country’s oldest commercial gallery, having opened in Johannesburg in 1913. It has an outstanding reputation for showing young and established artists, both local and worldwide, thanks to its lengthy history. Every five weeks, new exhibitions open, so there’s always new talent to view. The Everard Read is a fantastic addition to a visit to the V&A Waterfront. While it may not be as well-known as, say, the Zeitz, it is unquestionably one of the best modern art galleries in the country.
South African Jewish Museum
The South African Jewish Museum, which is near to the country’s oldest synagogue and the Holocaust Museum, has a large, sand-colored wall that is visible from the street. Inside, visitors can learn about the history of the Jewish people in South Africa through interactive displays, audiovisual presentations, and antiques. The focus here is mostly on the country’s Jewish roots, but there is also a permanent Netsuke exhibit with over 200 small Japanese carvings. The museum is one of the top museums in Cape Town for Jewish looking to learn more.
Castle of Good Hope
The Castle of Good Hope, sometimes known as ‘The Castle,’ is South Africa’s oldest surviving building and military fort, dating back to 1679. It now houses a collection of military artefacts, colonial furniture, art, and exhibitions with a focus on the early Cape. While it does not compare to other mediaeval castles around the world, it is an important landmark in the city. The grounds contain various exhibits, and the Key Ceremony is held on weekdays at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.
The Bo-Kaap Museum, which opened in 1978, is a branch of the South African Cultural History Museum. The museum is set up and equipped as a family home, depicting the lifestyle of a conventional 19th-century Muslim family living in Bo-Kaap. Despite its small size, it provides visitors with an insight into the Bo-Kaap neighborhood’s history, culture, and socio-political milieu. The Bo-Kaap Museum costs 20 South African rands (£1) to enter, making a fast visit worthwhile.
Iziko Slave Lodge
Between 1679 to 1811, the Slave Lodge, one of Cape Town’s oldest structures, held slaves of the Dutch East India Company. After that, the building was altered and used as government offices until 1960. It was restored as a museum in 1966, with permanent and temporary exhibitions exploring the history of slavery in South Africa as well as human rights problems. The Iziko Slave Lodge is one of the to historical museums in Cape Town.
The Zeitz MOCAA
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is Africa’s largest art museum and the world’s largest museum dedicated to African and African diaspora art. The museum is dedicated to investigating, collecting, and presenting this art, and it holds an amazing collection of work from across Africa and beyond. The exhibition space is spread out over nine stories and includes 100 gallery spaces, totaling 6,000 square metres. To put it another way, plan on spending at least a whole day there.
District Six Museum
Few places in the world are as vividly representative of the Apartheid rule as District Six. When the National Party government labelled the area a “white group area,” the original people were forcibly evacuated from what was previously a racially diverse and flourishing neighbourhood. The District Six Museum, which used to be a Methodist Mission Church, serves as a remembrance of what the neighbourhood used to be like. Digging Deeper is a permanent multimedia installation that features narrated life experiences of District Six people.
Cape Town Holocaust Centre
The Holocaust is one of the darkest and most horrific periods in human history. The Holocaust Centre in Cape Town is located next to the South African Jewish Museum, which is also well worth a visit, and houses a variety of information on the time period covered. The exhibition is well thought out, presenting written and verbal – both auditory and visual – narratives of the Holocaust, yet undoubtedly loaded with emotion. Both heartbreaking and uplifting, the permanent exhibit is a must-see. Be warned: the Centre, like the Slave Lodge, will leave its imprint.
Robben Island Museum
Robben Island, in Table Bay, is most known as the jail where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27-year sentence. It is also where numerous political activists were imprisoned during the Apartheid era. The museum here depicts the dramatic story of human rights and injustice through the eyes of former inmates. Visitors take a ferry to the island and then board a bus for a guided tour of the most prominent sights, including Mandela’s former cell. The Robben Island Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Cape Town, with far more tourists than locals. However, it is not to be missed. The Island is arguably one of the top museums in Cape Town now.
The Stevenson is a pioneering contemporary art gallery with locations in Johannesburg and Cape Town that showcases artists from all over the world. While the gallery has a significant emphasis on fostering local artists, it has also been essential in introducing foreign artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn and Glenn Ligon to the continent’s southern reaches. The gallery is located in Woodstock, one of Cape Town’s hippest neighbourhoods. You won’t have to elbow your way to the art because the industrial environment is clean and cool, with plenty of room.
SMITH, a contemporary art gallery created in 2014, is one of Cape Town’s newest entrants to the art scene. It’s all about highlighting local talent, and exhibitions change every month or so. Despite working with a roster of known artists, the gallery’s owners are always on the search for bold new talent, which is why locals adore it. This is your jam if you’re a collector looking to add works from cutting-edge artists to your collection.
Iziko Groot Constantia Manor House
The historic Groot Constantia Wine Estate, the country’s oldest wine vineyard, is home to the Groot Constantia Manor House. The Cape Dutch homestead is furnished to look like the home of a wealthy colonial farm owner, complete with antique furniture, paintings, pottery, and copperware. Visitors can see an exhibition of artefacts and old photographs of the estate just a few metres away at the Orientation Centre.
Franschhoek Motor Museum
The popular Franschhoek Motor Museum, while not officially in Cape Town, exhibits a more wealthy face of South African history. The museum, located 45 minutes from Cape Town’s city centre, is an exhibition of the ostentatious luxury that typifies the wine-rich region. However, with a spectacular collection of historic vehicles, it also provides a fascinating view into a different period. It’s a must-see for classic automobile aficionados, with over 220 on exhibit, including rare gems like a 2003 Ferrari Enzo and an 1898 Beeston motor tricycle.
Het Posthuys Museum
Het Posthuys is the second-oldest structure in Cape Town, after the Castle of Good Hope, and is located in the Muizenberg district along the False Bay shoreline. It was originally built as a military lookout station to protect False Bay from invading enemy ships, but it was later used as a toll house to collect taxes from local farmers. A diorama, early photographs of the area, and documentation on the Battle of Muizenberg can all be found in the museum today. Despite its tiny size, Het Posthuys Museum plays an essential role in South Africa’s colonial history. The museum is only open on occasion, so call ahead to make sure it’s open.
The Norval Foundation, Cape Town’s most talked-about art complex, is a destination in and of itself. The complex includes a gallery, a sculpture park, a library, an outdoor amphitheatre, and a café, among other things. It includes changing exhibitions and a variety of other unique cultural activities, like concerts, that are open to the public. The majestic, high, glassy edifice, located in Steenberg, near to Table Mountain National Park, overlooks the surrounding wetland and mountains.
Chavonnes Battery Museum
The Archaeological Ruins of a Dutch East India Company Fort are on display at the Chavonnes Battery Museum. Guests can go below sea level among the ribs of this old VOC Fort and touch the sand of the original Cape of Good Hope beach, which was built in 1724 with granite from Table Mountain and cement composed of marine shells. The museum also organises a diverse programme of international photographic exhibitions that are both rich in content and timely in terms of current thinking and issues. The venue is handicap accessible and has complimentary Wi-Fi.
Gangster Museum – Khayelitsha
The 18 Gangster Museum in Khayelitsha is the first of its type on the continent, and it strives to dispel any social myths about gangsterism and the circumstances that lead community people down the disastrous path of gang life and jail. Ex-offenders have created works that employ immersive text and a facsimile of a prison cell to depict their prior gang membership and prison sentence. Their objective is to show how they turned their life around by providing constructive alternatives to gangsterism.
Warrior Toy Museum
At the Warrior Toy Museum in Simonstown, curated by Percy van Zyl, you can escape into a boyhood dream of toys, models, ships, trucks, aeroplanes, and toy soldiers. There is something for everyone to enjoy with over 4000 model cars and 500 dolls and teddy bears. A sales area welcomes individuals eager to build their own collections. The museum is one of the best museum in Cape Town for the family.
The Prestwich Memorial was established as a memorial to the thousands of slaves and sailors who were killed by Dutch immigrants throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Visitors can sit in the garden or walk around the exhibits to learn about Cape Town’s turbulent history of forced removals, slavery, and the apartheid system. Slave and sailor skeletons were discovered in 2003 during an apartment construction project on Prestwich Street, and they now lie in this commemorative memorial. Both the memorial and the coffee shop are located in St Andrew’s Square, which is surrounded by lawns, trees, and benches, as well as artwork and sculptures.