South Africa's “Mother City,” Cape Town is home to a significant cultural cache. From its position as the country's legislative seat to its picturesque waterfronts to its unique and colorful neighborhoods to a number of historic structures that speak volumes about where the people of South Africa have been and where they are going, the significance of this city cannot be undersold.
There are a number of important buildings in Cape Town, most of which have served interesting and varied purposes. The prison on Robben Island, located just off of the coast, was a holding area for political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Tours to the island and through the facility are conducted daily. The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in the city at nearly 350 years old and his home to a variety of displays, including military artifacts and an art collection. The South African Parliament, just west of Signal Hill, also provides tours of the grounds and a chance to see government proceedings. On top of this, there are a number of memorials worth seeing, including the Rhodes Memorial at the base of Devil's Peak on Table Mountain, which was built to commemorate businessman and politician, Cecil John Rhodes.
Although you may find your bearings using the ubiquitous Table Mountain at first, you'll find that many of your activities will go through the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. First off, there is no place more visited in South Africa by tourists, mostly because of the abundance of development here; the aquarium and the Marine Museum are good attractions, while even a stroll through to the look at the attractive building facades can be worthwhile. Robben Island tours start here, while the observation wheel and the clock tower are other exemplary landmarks. Another restored area worth exploring is the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, where the Muslim descendents of Southeast Asian slaves now live and worship in a preponderance of lovely, colorful houses and mosques. The Bo-Kaap Museum is a more in-depth look at the history of the area.
Other museums of interest in Cape Town include the District Six Museum in an uninhabited area downtown, which documents the efforts of the government to create a “whites only” section; the South African National Gallery off of Government Ave., where art from the censorship era of Apartheid is particularly compelling; and the Galleria Gibello in Bo-Kaap, home to a collection of photographs from across the African continent.
For further information on intriguing cultural activities in Cape Town, peruse our dedicated pages, watch our travel videos, or have a conversation with the embark community.