Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Cape Town Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Cape Town

Set against the backdrop of the majestic Table Mountain on the southwest coast of South Africa, Cape Town is a busy destination, much popular with tourists. Other than the good climate, picturesque surroundings and well-developed infrastructure, the city is noted for a multitude of historic and cultural attractions. To see the most prominent of them, follow this orientation walk and enjoy your time in Cape Town to the maximum!
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Cape Town Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Cape Town Introduction Walk
Guide Location: South Africa » Cape Town (See other walking tours in Cape Town)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 19
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.6 Km or 3.5 Miles
Author: alexei
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Greenmarket Square
  • Long Street
  • Pan African Market
  • Bo-Kaap Museum
  • Church Street Antiques Market
  • St. George's Cathedral
  • The Slave Lodge
  • Groote Kerk
  • Company's Garden
  • South African Museum and Planetarium
  • Planetarium
  • Bertram House
  • South African National Gallery
  • De Tuynhuys (Garden House)
  • Parliament of South Africa
  • District Six Museum
  • Castle of Good Hope
  • City Hall
  • Adderley Street
Greenmarket Square

1) Greenmarket Square (must see)

No trip to Cape Town is complete without a visit to Greenmarket Square, one of the key tourist attractions in the city. Built in the 18th century in the heart of Cape Town's business district, the square was initially used as a slave market, then a cattle market, until ultimately became a principal gathering place for merchants. Today it houses a flea market, one of the best in South Africa, where you can find anything – from European clothes to tribal costumes to precious jewellery and more.

There are also a number of restaurants and cafés surrounding the place, serving delicious local food and drink; for extra fun, there are numerous buskers, mime-artists, jugglers and magicians to keep you entertained. Other nearby attractions include The Old Town House, home to the Michaelis Collection of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings; a Victorian Gothic church; and the Inn on the Square, last of the 19th century local townhouses still in place.

Why You Should Visit:
Not for people looking for peace and quiet – it's a fun place to sit outside in the sun with a drink/snack and watch the activity.
It's also a good place to find all your souvenirs instead of buying them at a mall or airport.

As with most markets, prices vary wildly so always try low-balling the price. Take cash and be prepared to haggle to get a good deal.
Don't forget to visit the small – pedestrian-only – streets around the Greenmarket, but be cautious/aware of your surroundings after dark.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Long Street

2) Long Street (must see)

If you want to get in touch with Cape Town’s day-and-night life, then Long Street in the City Bowl district is the place for you.

During the 1960s and early 70s this was the place to be if you had a bohemian outlook and if you were anti-apartheid. This area was the San Francisco of South Africa. Little has changed over the years, except for the political point of view. But we are not here for politics!

This is one of the oldest streets in Cape Town and it is still surrounded by beautiful Victorian buildings that have balconies enclosed by ornately wrought iron grills. During the day bookshops, stands selling souvenirs and antique shops are happy to welcome visitors, but Long Street comes alive as soon as the sun sets.

If you have been longing to taste an ostrich steak or prawns from Mozambique, you can get both here in one of the many restaurants that serve African food. If you want to eat curry, don’t worry! On Long Street, you will find the spiciest Indian food that you have ever tasted.

If you want to dine and dance, several bar/restaurants offer a tasty meal and then put on a variety of music from local ethnic to heavy metal. If you want a calm night out, some bars feature poetry reading sessions with alcohol-free cocktails afterward.

If you are into arts & culture, perhaps "First Thursday" will fancy your boat (art galleries stay open – free of charge – until late on the first Thursday of the month).
Pan African Market

3) Pan African Market

One of the best places to visit in Cape Town is undoubtedly the Pan African Market which is lodged in a superb building in Long Street.

In 1997 five traders took over an abandoned building on Long Street and set up a market on the first floor. At first the town council decided to chase them out, but seeing that locals and tourists alike flocked to the area, they granted a long term lease on the building and renovated it so that the market could grow.

Today, the market that you can visit holds over 35 stalls, with permanent shops on the second and third floors. These shops and stalls represent goods from over 14 African countries including Kenya, Senegal, Mozambique and Cameroon.

This fabulous market offers a wide range of arts and crafts and bartering is the name of the day! Don’t look at the few price tags – if you want to buy a tribal mask or some authentic bead jewellery – the more you haggle with the stall holder, the happier he’ll be to lower the price!

There are tailors who will run up a tribal costume in an hour, so while you are waiting you will have the time to browse through stands selling tribal drums or visit the numerous “witch doctors” where you can buy natural remedies for everything from in-growing toenails to hair loss!
Bo-Kaap Museum

4) Bo-Kaap Museum (must see)

Cape Town has been the home of different ethnic groups, many of them brought as slaves who either bought or earned their freedom. The Bo-Kaap Museum stands on Wale Street and is dedicated to early Muslims who settled here after they had been freed.

The house museum is situated in an area of brightly painted houses typical of Cape Dutch architecture. It is the oldest house in this part of the town, built in 1763. The Muslims who lived in the Bo-Kaap district on the slopes of Signal Hill were mainly skilled craftsmen – carpenters, tailors and builders.

The museum is decorated with 19th-century furniture that would have been used by a typical Muslim family. A large collection of black and white photos in a room on the first floor depict colonial life.

The museum isn’t very big, but it is very interesting and you will learn about Muslim life, about their customs and beliefs and how they were affected by the apartheid system. Under apartheid, many of the locals wanted the Muslims to move away from the area, but they had their mosque here and they refused to move. The museum stands today as a reminder of the tenacity and determination of this minority group.

Why You Should Visit:
Not only is Bo-Kaap is a vibrant and colorful sight to see but also a wonderful street to soak up the sun and learn more about the history of Cape Malay culture & community.

Try visiting the museum prior to walking around the Bo-Kaap area for a greater appreciation of the culture & community.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-4pm
Church Street Antiques Market

5) Church Street Antiques Market

The Church Street Antiques Market is the oldest antique market in Cape Town. Some people call this the original market of Cape Town. Located at the pedestrian part of Church Street, just a block away from Green Market Square, the market offers a wide inventory of antiques, collectables and vintage items. Held daily except on Sundays, it gathers many vendors to offer a wide array of antiques, collectibles, glassware, costume jewelry, china, kitchen items, ornaments, ceramics, microscopes, nautical instruments, mirrors and many more. Cape Town Tourism Board named the Church Street Antiques Market as one of the city's “Essential Pick-Up Spot”.
St. George's Cathedral

6) St. George's Cathedral (must see)

St George’s Cathedral on Wale Street is renowned for two things: the first is its beautiful stained glass windows; the second is that even after 113 years, it still isn’t finished!

The cathedral was designed on the site of a former church by Sir Henry Baker in 1901. Building started in 1906, but through lack of funds, the North Transept wasn’t finished until 1936. By this time Sir Henry had returned to England, where he died ten years later.

Work dragged on slowly over the years: the Lady Chapel and the south aisle were completed in 1963, the Bell Tower and the Link in 1978. The cathedral is still waiting for the Chapter House to be added onto the end of the Link.

In 1982 the French stained-glass artist Gabriel Loire donated the magnificent window entitled “Christ in Triumph over Darkness and Evil” to the cathedral. This masterpiece is dedicated to the memory of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the last Viceroy of India. The beautiful rose window is in the South Transept and in the Link is a window dating back to 1866 of the Last Supper.

In the cathedral gardens, you can walk the Labyrinth and you can buy souvenirs in the Cathedral Book and Bric-à-Brac Shop opposite the church. This great shop not only sells religious books but also cookbooks, children’s stories, and fiction. You can browse through the CDs or old records, pictures and paintings, antiques and occasionally small items of furniture.

Be sure to visit the crypt and the beautiful wooden homage to Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the entry to the company gardens.
The Slave Lodge

7) The Slave Lodge (must see)

The Slave Lodge is located on the corner of Wale and Adderley Streets and is an interesting museum to visit as it pays tribute to the thousands of slaves brought to Cape Town between the 17th and 19th centuries.

The lodge was built in 1679 and it was here that the Dutch East India Company housed up to a thousand slaves in unsanitary, cramped conditions. The original lodge had no windows and was built of unadorned brick, but today it is a smart, white-washed building that tells the story of the African and Asian slaves who lived and worked in the city.

Through interactive displays, you will learn about slave family roots, their way of life and how some of them settled in the city after winning their freedom.

The museum has a small but excellent collection of Egyptian artefacts that date back to 3050BC, including silver items, textiles, toys, and tools. You can admire a superb collection of Greek vases and ceramics, pottery and cuneiform tablets from the Roman occupation of the Near East.

Between 1811 and 1911 the lodge changed hands several times: it was a post office, a public library, a small prison, and the Supreme Court. In the courtyard, you will see the tombstones (but not the graves) of Cape Town’s founder, Jan Van Riebeeck and his wife Maria.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Groote Kerk

8) Groote Kerk (must see)

While you are in Cape Town don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Groote Kerk – or Great Church on Adderley Street.

Usually, when settlers arrive in any area, one of the first things they do is to build a church or some other gathering place of worship, but when Jan Van Riebeeck arrived in the Cape region in 1652, a church was only established three years later.

Riebeeck and his men were sent to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company to set up a supply station for ships sailing to East Africa, India, and the Far East. He was the founder of Cape Town which grew to be the most important city in South Africa at the time.

However, few ministers fancied settling in such a far-flung outpost and the population had to make do with a lay preacher to comfort them. In 1665 a minister was appointed and the Groote Kerk was founded, making it the oldest church in the region.

The church was simple, as all Dutch Reformed churches are, and a bell tower was added as late as 1704. It is somewhat ironic that this addition, deemed superfluous at the time, is the only part of the original church to have survived.

The church you will see today was built by Herman Schuette in 1841. The style is a combination of Greek and Gothic; the interior is plain with a lot of heavy dark wood used for the pews and the galleries.

It is not without beauty, however, and the beautifully ornate pulpit carved out of teak by Anton Anreith and Jan Graaf, is a true masterpiece. The organ is immense and boasts 5917 pipes.

The church is open for guided tours around midday.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am-2pm, services 10am & 7pm Sun
Company's Garden

9) Company's Garden

The Company's Garden is a park and heritage site located in central Cape Town. The garden was originally created in the 1650s by the region's first European settlers and provided fertile ground to grow fresh produce to replenish ships rounding the Cape. Features in the park: The oldest cultivated pear tree in South Africa, A rose garden designed and built in 1929, A well stocked fish pond, An aviary, Restaurant – The Company's Garden Restaurant, Local arts and crafts along the avenue, and many more other.
Sight description based on wikipedia
South African Museum and Planetarium

10) South African Museum and Planetarium (must see)

A good way to spend an interesting afternoon, especially if you are looking for something to do with the kids, is at the South African Museum and Planetarium in Company Gardens.

There is something for everyone in the museum, from rock paintings to stuffed animals and skeletons. There are nine permanent exhibitions that trace the Earth from its earliest beginnings into the future and to the stars themselves.

In the Planetarium high-tech light and sound displays recreate the night sky inside a domed auditorium. You will learn about our galaxy and our place in the universe. There is also an impressive collection of meteorites.

In Virtual Earth you can take part in interactive displays about the planet and how the Earth is changing, not only through man’s clumsy approach to environmental protection but also through the natural shifting of the continental plaques and the upheavals within the Earth’s core.

Darwin and the Cape, African Dinosaurs and Boonstra Dioramas are different sections dealing with life on Earth back to over 300 million years ago, with dinosaur and reptile fossils and artefacts from the earliest human emergence on the continent.

In the Wonders of Nature section, you will find over 20 items, including ammonites, a turtle carapace, some amazing clusters of various quartz and an iron meteorite that is as old as time.

The best part of the museum is undoubtedly the section dedicated to marine life and the Whale Well, where you will be amazed by the skeleton of a huge whale, sharks and the reconstruction of a giant squid.

Why You Should Visit:
The entry-price is right and the exhibits are wonderfully curated. The coffee shop is quaint and well stocked.
The museum's highlight is on the ground floor – an excellent exhibition on ancient cave and rock paintings.

If you're here for the planetarium show, arrive early to save yourself a seat (it gets crowded!).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm

11) Planetarium (must see)

The Planetarium is located on the premises of the South African Museum and is a must-see if you are traveling with your kids. It provides an extraordinary experience where you can explore the universe and the stars with your feet planted firmly on the ground.

The dome was upgraded with a new screen & projectors that bring the night sky to life with a 3D 180-degree view.
But, you don't just have to go to learn about the stars, as there are other kid-friendly shows as well (e.g. "Tilt" is amazing and also educational).
Bertram House

12) Bertram House (must see)

Editor's Note: This museum is currently closed to the public.

No visit to Cape Town would be complete without visiting Bertram House, which you will find on the corner of Orange Street and Government Avenue Gardens.

Due to the strong Dutch influence in Cape Town, it is easy to forget that the British held the area several times during South Africa’s history, and Bertram House is a house museum which will show you how a wealthy British family lived in a country far from their own.

You should perhaps note that at the time of the British rule in the region, the settlers were, on the most part, military, trading or mining families who came from the British working or middle classes. Finding themselves in a new territory, these families were the nouveau riche and they modeled their homes on the grand houses they had dreamed about owning.

Bertram House was built in the Georgian style and is one of the last surviving buildings of its kind in the Cape area. It was built in 1839 by John Baker and its British owners lived there until 1903. When they left the country, it was bought by the South African College and taken over by the government in 1930.

The house was saved from demolition by the determination of Winifred Ann Lidderdale, a member of the South African Cultural History Museum, who insisted that it should be made into a house museum.

Restored to its former beauty, the house museum is furnished with English Georgian furniture and beautifully decorated in light colors. The 364 pieces of Chinese and English porcelain are from the personal collection of Mrs. Lidderdale.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-4pm
South African National Gallery

13) South African National Gallery (must see)

The South African National Gallery is to be found in Company Gardens on Government Avenue and is a popular venue for tourists and locals alike.

The gallery houses one of the most important collections of African, British, Dutch and Flemish art in South Africa from the colonial period to contemporary and indigenous art. The collection of architectural designs and sketches, paintings, photographs, sculpture and textiles is so large that the permanent exhibitions are rotated so that nothing is missed out.

The gallery was founded in 1871 and the first works were those donated by the estate of Thomas Butterworth – a total of 45 paintings. Today the gallery holds thousands. You can admire the works of Anton Van Wouw, Marc Chagall, Neville Lewis, Irma Stern, and William Kentridge among many other artists.

Beadwork plays an important role in the lives of women in many tribes. In 1999 the Bead Society of South Africa was integrated into the gallery and you can learn about the meaning behind some of the magnificent head-dresses, vests and jewelry you will see on display.

The gallery has a very good gift shop where you can buy prints and reproductions, books about colonial and contemporary art, books about beadwork and other souvenirs.

Why You Should Visit:
It's a small gallery and devoted to mainly Afrocentric and struggle art, but it's quite fascinating.
The exhibits are totally different from what one would expect to find anywhere else in the world.
If you like modern art in all its forms you must make time for this.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
De Tuynhuys (Garden House)

14) De Tuynhuys (Garden House) (must see)

If you are interested in architecture and history but don’t want to visit museums, then you will be happy just to photograph De Tuynhuys from the outside, as it houses the offices of the State President and is not open to the public.

It is rather hard to imagine, but in 1675 this building was a rather shabby tool-shed, owned by the Dutch East India Company. At the time there were few splendid buildings in the Cape Town area, which was a basic supply station for Dutch ships passing through the Cape of Good Hope on their way to the Far East and India.

In 1679, when the state governor decided to visit the growing outpost, there was a bit of a panic about where to lodge him. As the tool shed was the only unoccupied building, it was hastily enlarged into a two-storey house with a flat roof and a large veranda.

By 1751 it had become the summer residence for succeeding governors and had been refurbished in Neo-classical style with sculptures of Mercury and Poseidon added – the former being the Roman god of trade and the latter the god of the sea – to enhance Dutch prowess at both trade and sailing. The beautiful front door was created by a slave carpenter, Rangton van Bali, whose excellent work later earned him his freedom.

In 1824 a lovely ballroom was added, but the building was damp and no longer habitable except during the driest months of the year. At the beginning of the 20th century the town council considered demolishing it, but as the house was linked to the city’s history, they couldn’t decide whether to knock it down or not.

In 1968 it was decided to restore the house and Gabriel Fagan was commissioned to carry out the necessary repairs. Using drawings that dated back to 1790, he began the work and during restoration, he uncovered the façade’s original stucco garlands, bas reliefs and floral decorations that you can photograph today.
Parliament of South Africa

15) Parliament of South Africa (must see)

While in Cape Town don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Parliament of South Africa, which holds guided tours on most weekdays when Parliament isn’t in session, or you can get tickets to sit in the public gallery.

Since 1910 Cape Town has been the Legislative Capital of the Union and the Council of Provinces meet in the Old House of Parliament which was built in 1885. The National Assembly meets in the Tricameral Chamber, which was created when coloured members were admitted to the government.

The building was originally designed by Charles Freeman in 1875, but he made a hash of the foundation planning and got kicked off the project which was then handed to Henry Greaves, who redid the plans and the building was finished in 1884.

There are two entrances to this beautiful building – one on the garden side with six Corinthian columns; the other, the main entrance on Parliament Street, has four groups of two columns. In front of this entrance, you will see a grand statue of Queen Victoria.

The guided tours are very interesting: to start off you visit the multimedia room where you will watch a short documentary DVD that explains the history of the National Symbol and the Parliamentary Emblem. The guides are always ready to answer any questions concerning the political history of South Africa.

If you want to sit in the public gallery during a session, you’ll have to present your passport before acquiring tickets.

Photography is strictly forbidden inside the building.
Guided tours available, but those need to be pre-booked.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-4pm
District Six Museum

16) District Six Museum (must see)

District Six is the name of a former inner-city residential area in Cape Town, best known for the forced removal of over 60,000 of its inhabitants during the 1970s by the apartheid regime.

On 11 February 1966, the government declared District Six a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act, with removals starting in 1968. The old houses were bulldozed. In 1989 the District Six Museum Foundation was established, and in 1994 the museum itself came into being. It serves as a remembrance to the events of the apartheid era as well as the culture and history of the area before the removals.

The ground floor is covered by a large street map of District Six, with handwritten notes from former residents indicating where their homes had been; other features of the museum include street signs from the old district, displays of the histories and lives of District Six families, and historical explanations of the life of the District and its destruction.

Why You Should Visit:
Well worth taking a guided tour to get a real understanding of the evil that was apartheid. The guides are former residents (before they were kicked out in 1966).

Get there early and take a break at their coffee shop – it's very nice and you must try their samosas and/or koeksisters!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-4pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Castle of Good Hope

17) Castle of Good Hope (must see)

Built by the Dutch East India Company between 1666-79, this Castle is the oldest building in South Africa. In 1682, the gated entry replaced the old entrance towards the sea. A bell tower, situated over the main entrance, was built in 1684 — the original bell, the oldest in South Africa, was cast in Amsterdam in 1697 by Claude Frémy and weighs just over 300 kilograms. It was used to announce the time, as well as warning citizens in case of danger, since it could be heard 10 kilometers away. Inside, the fortress housed a church, bakery, various workshops, living quarters, shops and cells, among others. The yellow paint on the walls was originally chosen because it lessened the effect of heat and the scorching sun. In 1936 the Castle was declared a national monument.

The Castle acted as local headquarters for the South African Army in the Western Cape, but today houses the Castle Military Museum and ceremonial facilities for the traditional Cape Regiments.

Why You Should Visit:
The guided tour is informative and funny and will end up as one of the highlights of your visit to Cape Town.
The views of the city and Table Mountain from the (walkable) ramparts are very good.

The changing of the guard doesn't rival Buckingham Palace but as a side treat, there's a cannon firing on the hour at 11:00/12:00.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Please note: Key Ceremony runs Mon–Fri and Cannon Firing does not take place on a Sunday. These ceremonies are weather dependent.
Sight description based on wikipedia
City Hall

18) City Hall (must see)

Cape Town City Hall is a large Edwardian building that was built in 1905. It is located on the Grand Parade to the west of the Castle and is built from honey-coloured oolitic limestone imported from Bath in England. The Organ was built by Messrs Norman and Beard of London and Norwich, the specifications were drawn up by Sir George Martin, organist of St Paul's Cathedral in London especially for the City Hall. The workmanship and materials are of high quality, and the organ made from mahogany, teak and pine.

The tower of the City Hall has a Turret Clock which strikes the hours and chimes the Westminster quarters. The faces of the clock are made from 4 skeleton iron dials filled with opal. The City Hall no longer houses the offices of the City of Cape Town, which are located in the Cape Town Civic Centre. The auditorium is regularly used for concerts, while the City Library was recently moved to the adjacent Old Drill Hall.

You may need the panoramic setting on your phone or your wide angle lens to do this place justice.
Look out for regular performances by the Cape Town Philarmonic Orchestra and various choirs or visiting soloists.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7:45am-3pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Adderley Street

19) Adderley Street

If you want to do some up market shopping while you are on holiday, you should go to Adderley Street, which is the main street in Cape Town’s downtown district.

The street runs from Heerengracht to the entrance of Company Gardens, after which it becomes Government Avenue. It was named after the British Member of Parliament, Charles Bowyer Adderley, who fought against the British Government’s plans to turn the Cape are into a penal colony like Australia.

The street is full of shops, restaurants and offices. At night markets flourish and during the day a permanent market in the square in front of Central Station sells leather goods and curios. You will also find the famous Flower Market where freshly cut flowers have been sold on this spot for over 100 years.

Along the street there is the entrance to the Golden Acre, which is the oldest shopping centre in South Africa. Another building of note is the Groote Kerk on Church Square. At the end of the street you will discover the Slave Lodge Museum.

In front of the museum’s entrance is a statue of Jan Smuts, who was a member of the British War Cabinet and who helped create the Royal Air Force. From 1919 to 1924 and from 1939 to 1948 he was the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa.

Walking Tours in Cape Town, South Africa

Create Your Own Walk in Cape Town

Create Your Own Walk in Cape Town

Creating your own self-guided walk in Cape Town is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Museums Tour

Museums Tour

It's not difficult to dive into Cape Town history, since the most notable museums are almost all located in or close to the city center. Take this tour and immerse yourself in Cape Town's history and culture.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Garden District Walking Tour

Garden District Walking Tour

This green inner-city suburb of Cape Town is very popular with tourists. It dates back to 1652 when the first garden was opened. A number of cultural and architectural sights are located within this district. Take this tour to enjoy a picturesque and artsy walk through the gardens of Cape Town.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Cape Town Shopping Tour

Cape Town Shopping Tour

Cape Town is grand with quality shopping opportunities. Colorful African crafts are present here in almost every store. Shops such as Shine Shine and Imagenious, offer items entirely unique to Cape Town. Take this tour to explore the best shopping venues of Cape Town.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

16 Distinctively South African Things to Buy in Cape Town

16 Distinctively South African Things to Buy in Cape Town

The many hopes pinned on this place (Cape of Good Hope) by passing-by sailors over the centuries must have done a good job for Cape Town, seeing it become a colorful cultural hub and prominent metropolis (3rd largest) in South Africa. Overlooking the meeting point of the two oceans (Indian and...