Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden – Cape Town

by Kojo Pocu

Did you know that Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is one of the Cape’s most well-known tourist attractions, as well as a popular picnic spot for locals? Yes, it is. The garden is one of the top visited destinations in Cape Town by both locals and international tourists.

Picnics on the lawns, trekking up Skeleton Gorge, sipping a glass of cold Chardonnay before a summer sunset performance, exploring the various shaded pathways, and taking in the panoramic views from the canopy walkway are just a few of the reasons why it’s a favourite with locals and visitors alike.

About Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Kirstenbosch is a significant botanical National garden in Cape Town, located at the eastern foot of Table Mountain. The garden is one of ten National Botanical Gardens managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, which covers five of South Africa’s six biomes (SANBI). The National Botanical Institute was the name of the institute prior to September 1, 2004.

The cultivation of indigenous species is a priority at Kirstenbosch. Kirstenbosch was the first botanical garden in the world to have this mentality when it was built in 1913 to preserve the flora unique to South Africa’s territory, at a period when invading species were not considered an ecological or environmental hazard.

The Botanical Society Conservatory is a vast conservatory with plants from a variety of diverse locations, including savanna, fynbos, karoo, and others. The focus outside is on plants endemic to the Cape region, with the stunning protea collections taking centre stage. The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and The Morton Arboretum have given it level IV accreditation.



Kirstenbosch—or rather, the property on which it sits—was granted to the government by Cecil John Rhodes and is regarded as one of the world’s finest botanic gardens. It was little more than run-down farmland overgrown with pigs at the time. Harold Pearson, a botanist, began developing the site into a botanic garden dedicated to the country’s natural flora in 1913. It now has around 7000 different plant species from southern Africa. The 528-hectare Kirstenbosch Estate (which includes the Garden) is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cape Floristic Region.

What You Need To Know Before Visiting

Kirstenbosch features a scent garden, a medicinal garden, 2,500 species of plants found on the Cape Peninsula, a Protea garden (best seen in May! ), a braille trail, and a cycad amphitheatre. It is located on the slopes of Table Mountain, about 13 kilometres from the city centre. There’s also the Botanical Society Conservatory, which has plants from Africa’s arid regions. It’s recommended taking one of the free guided tours that leave from the Visitors’ Center at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday to fully appreciate everything the Garden has to offer. Audio instructions are also available if the times are inconvenient.

You must take your children to visit the cycad amphitheatre if you have them. Among the cycads are life-size anatomically authentic dinosaur and pterosaur sculptures! A sculpture garden at Kirstenbosch houses an ever-changing collection of African stone sculptures as well as bronze animal sculptures by Dylan Lewis. A walk along the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, popularly known as the Boomslang, will be a hit with your youngsters. This 130-meter steel-and-timber bridge snakes through and above the Arboretum’s trees, offering breathtaking views of the Garden and the Cape Flats.

All that walking is going to stir up an appetite, and there are a variety of options for satisfying your hunger if you haven’t brought a picnic. For a hearty lunch, stop by the African-themed Moyo restaurant, or stop by the Kirstenbosch Tea Room for scones, cake, and cucumber sandwiches. You can even order a picnic basket from one of these establishments.

Can You Take Food To Kirstenbosch?

Yes, you can bring food to Kirstenbosch Garden since picnics in the garden is allowed. You can also get a picnic hamper from the garden’s Tea Room Or Moyo Restaurant. Picnic blankets are allowed but not garden furniture.

When To Visit Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

While the Garden is beautiful all year, the fynbos blooms at their peak from August to November. Summer, on the other hand, has its own allure, with the Summer Sunset Concerts on Sunday afternoons and the open-air Galileo Cinema on Wednesday evenings.

How to get to Kirstenbosch

By Car: Kirstenbosch lies 13 km from Cape Town’s city centre, well signposted on all major roads. From the city, take De Waal Drive (M3) in the direction of Muizenberg, at the Rhodes Drive (M63) traffic light intersection turn right (west/towards the mountain) and follow the signs to Kirstenbosch. Free parking is available at Gates 1, 2 and 3.

By Bus: Both the City Sightseeing busses and Golden Arrow busses stop at Kirstenbosch.

The City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus, mini peninsula tour, stops at the Garden 15 times a day during summer (mid Sept to April) and 12 times a day during winter (May to mid September), 7 days a week.

The bus stop for the City Sightseeing bus is at the Visitors’ Centre (Gate 1), in the parking area directly below the Vida-e Café, to the left of the entrance to the centre as you walk in. The first bus arrives at 09:50 and there is one every 20 minutes in summer, and one every 35 minutes in winter, until the last at 16:20. Visit the website for prices, timetable and to book tickets.

The Golden Arrow bus service to Kirstenbosch departs from Mowbray Station, and one bus per day from the Golden Acre Terminus (near Cape Town Station) on weekdays only (Mondays to Friday only and not on public holidays).

The bus stop for Golden Arrow busses is situated under the big fig tree at the Bell Tower Gate, where the entrance road splits and goes left to the Visitors’ Centre (Gate 1) or straight to the Centre for Home Gardening (Gate 2). Telephone Golden Arrow Information Service on 0800 65 64 63 for current prices or more information. Please be advised to arrive early as busses depart promptly.


Garden Opening Time

  • The garden is open every day from 08h00 to 19h00 during summer (Sep-Mar), 08h00 to 18h00 during winter (Apr-Aug).
  • The Conservatory is open every day from 09h00 to 17h00.
  • The Curator’s Office is open Monday to Friday only, from 07h30-16h20, except on public holidays.

Garden Entrance Fees

Prices on Gardens website as the time I was writing this post:

  • Standard Adult: R210
  • Students/learners of 18 years and older from a South African institute (with student card): R50
  • All children from 6 to 17 years: R30
  • All children under 6 years: Free
  • All BotSoc members (with membership card): Free
  • South African residents over the age of 60 (with ID): Free on Tuesdays except on public holidays

Contact Details Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Ticket Office021 799 8782 / 021 799 8602
Information Office021 799 8783 / 021 799 8773
Concert Information021 799 8620
Curator’s Office (weekdays, 07h30-16h20): 021 799 8800 / 021 799 8752 / 021 799 8757
After Hours and Emergencies021 799 8618 / 060 948 4432
Fax: 021 797 6570
Email: [email protected]
Postal: Private Bag X7, Claremont, 7735, Cape Town, South Africa.