Tourists flock to the South African city of Cape Town to see landmarks such as Table Mountain and relax on its nearby beaches. However, Cape Town is also packed with cultural attractions and has some excellent museums. Here are details of just five museums to consider visiting when you plan a Cape Town holiday.
Cape Town’s most famous museum, Robben Island Museum, is situated on Robben Island, which lies about 10km off the coast of Cape Town, in Table Bay. Although Robben Island has been used as a military training station and a hospital in the past, it is best known as the site of the maximum security prison in which Nelson Mandela was incarcerated between 1964 and 1982.
The island was transformed into a museum in 1997 and became a World Heritage Site in 1999. You can get to Robben Island by ferry from Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, and take a tour of the prison complex, where you can see the cell in which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.
2. The Iziko Maritime Centre (Union-Castle House, Dock Road, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town).
The Iziko Maritime Centre is Cape Town’s maritime museum and contains a range of exhibits relating to the history of shipping in Cape Town and Table Bay. Items on display within the Iziko Maritime Museum include the oldest existing model of Table Bay’s harbour and a number of models of ships.
The museum also includes the John H. Marsh Maritime Research Centre, which includes nearly 20,ooo photographs of ships.
3. The District 6 Museum (25a Buitenkant Street, Cape Town).
The District 6 Museum includes a range of exhibits relating to the history of the District 6 area of Cape Town. District 6 was one of the city’s most densely populated areas and a tight-knit community until the 1970s, when the apartheid government declared that it would now be a “whites-only” area and forcibly removed more than 60,000 black residents from their homes.
You can either explore the museum on your own or take a guided tour with one of District 6’s ex-residents. Exhibits within the District 6 Museum include photos, documents, video recordings and street signs, as well as a small collection of works by local artists.
4. The Gold of Africa Museum (Martin Melck House, 96 Strand Street, Cape Town)
Cape Town’s Gold of Africa Museum is housed in the beautiful Martin Melck House, a historic townhouse, which has now been restored to its former glory. The museum’s collection was begun by Josef Mueller, a Swiss art lover, and was housed in Geneva until 2001, when it was bought by a gold mining company and transported to Cape Town.
The permanent collection includes more than 350 artefacts created in Western Africa and a number of gold items crafted in Southern Africa. The museum also holds regular temporary exhibitions, and has a goldsmiths’ studio, a restaurant and a shop. There are a range of tours to choose from, including a torchlit night tour. You will need to book your tour in advance, and charges apply.
5. The South African Museum (25 Queen Victoria Street Gardens, Cape Town).
Founded in 1825, Cape Town’s South African Museum is the oldest museum in sub-Saharan Africa. It moved to its current location in 1897 and is now one of Cape Town’s most popular attractions.
It has two main types of permanent collection, the natural history collections and the social history collections. The natural history collections include a wide range of objects, including fossils,rocks, minerals and insects, whilst the social history collections include ceramics, textiles, toys, weapons and archaeological exhibits.
Many travel operators provide flights from the U.K. to Cape Town and you’ll find a wide range of hotels and guest houses to choose from within the city. Most of the main museums in Cape Town are easy to reach by public transport, taxi or hire car.