Five Minutes Further
See the sights, for sure, but sneak away for a taste of the real city. Wherever the big hitters are, we know the perfect place to grab a side order of authenticity, away from the madding crowds.
Few botanic gardens can match, or even come close to Kirstenbosch – nestling at the foot of the iconic Table Mountain. Originally set up as a conservation project – preserving the Cape’s bewildering array of indigenous species, now this steep site exhibits plants from a number of different regions and habitats – and holds open air concerts in summer. A must visit. Take the ravine trail up Skeleton Gorge to the summit of Table Mountain.
A scant 7kms off the coast, but a world away from humanity for those incarcerated here, today Robben Island, and the District Six Museum, presents itself as self-styled ‘symbol of the Triumph of the Human Spirit over adversity.’ That may be so. But there’s no denying this haunting island’s place at the heart of South Africa’s chequered history. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned there for 18 of the 27 years he served behind bars before the fall of apartheid. Over the centuries, the island has housed a prison, hospital, mental institution, leper colony and a military base. Each chapter has its own story, revealed on a guided tour of the island.
Ferries from Nelson Mandela Gateway
District Six Museum
Once a frenetic community of freed slaves, merchants and immigrants, District Six was the heart of Cape Town a century ago. By the beginning of the twentieth century, 60,000 black South Africans were displaced, to create an all-white area. The District Six Museum tells this story with grace and humanity.
25A Albertus St
Iziko Slave Lodge
One of the oldest buildings in Cape Town, the museum’s story ‘from human wrongs to human rights’ is South Africa’s story. An audio tour guides you through the dismal living conditions the 9,000 slaves endured here.
African Penguin Colony
Cape Town’s not short of terrific beaches, but if we absolutely had to pick one, it would be Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town. With its huge, sculptural rock formations and breeding colony of over 2000 endangered African Penguins, this National Park is South Africa at its most mesmerising.
Boulder’s Beach Simons Town
Bo-Kaap and De Waterkant
With its primary colour-painted houses and tightly packed streets, the historic neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap is one huge photo opportunity. The spiritual home of the Cape’s Muslim community, it’s a welcoming, life-affirming district that rewards closer inspection (perhaps on a guided walking tour. Try: nielsentours.co.za) Next to Bo-Kaap you’ll find De Waterkant – its 19th-century homes have been transformed to create a village atmosphere, with galleries, shops and bars.