Cape Town: Cultural Guide
Fly into Cape Town International Airport and beneath you see the iconic form of Table Mountain, standing guard over the sprawling city. This is Africa’s Los Angeles; a city which thrives against a cinematic backdrop of mountains, vineyards and golden beaches. Be sure to rent a car in Cape Town to make the most of the city, renting with easyCar is often the cheapest way.
A study of the city’s architecture is the best way to understand its history. Its European feel can be traced back to its Dutch roots, but the influence of the French (in the Constantia wine estates and minarets) and the English (in the Georgian mansions and Victorian terraced houses) can also be clearly seen.
But Cape Town is a troubled paradise – the place is haunted by a turbulent past. Apartheid – which in Afrikaans means “the state of being apart” – existed in South Africa until 1994 when the first democratic elections were held, giving all people the right to vote.
Tourists now have a multitude of ways to engage with apartheid history and numerous tours offer visitors an insight into how a divided past has shaped the cityscape today. The Footsteps to Freedom City Walking Tour traces Cape Town’s history through Dutch and British rule, slavery and apartheid. Political Tours focus on how Nelson Mandela’s legacy helped shape multi-racial democracy.
Creativity is woven into the city’s fabric – murals decorate the streets and, in 2014, Cape Town was voted the World Design Capital. Escape the tourist trail and drive into the townships to experience authentic South African innovation – here, urban gardening projects bring life to old bowling greens, whilst rainbow-coloured shipping containers become unconventional classrooms.
The brightly painted neighbourhood of Bo Kapp has become a symbol of Cape Town’s vibrant artistic spirit but it’s the suburban area, Woodstock, which has become the epicentre of Cape Town’s burgeoning creative scene. Art and design have rejuvenated the area’s industrial framework – factories and warehouses have been reincarnated as design studios and trendy markets. The Old Biscuit Mill village draws fashionable locals from all over the city to work in the office space, browse designer boutiques and dine in its world-class restaurants.
In recent years, art galleries have become central to Cape Town’s identity. The city’s cultural and ethnic diversity have helped form a contemporary art scene which is entirely unique. The Gold of Africa Museum and the South African National Gallery are the city’s top cultural attractions.
Once you’ve explored the city, take the Garden Route east in the direction of the Tsitsikamma National Park. The Garden Route is a coastal highway that stretches past some of South Africa’s most beautiful natural attractions – drive past lagoons, ancient forests and the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountain ranges.
Follow in the footsteps of celebrities such as Rihanna, and stop off at the Aquila Game Reserve where you can take a safari either by jeep or on horseback. Here you can see Africa’s Big Five: African elephants, Cape buffalos, lions, leopards and rhinos.
Along the route, pass Africa’s highest bridge – the Bloukrans Bridge set in a dramatic ravine and if you’re feeling adventurous, bungy-jump off.
See the breath-taking stalactites and stalagmites in the limestone Cango Caves and explore the tunnels which stretch for over four kilometres. On the way to the caves, stop by the ostrich farm and ride an ostrich – not something you’re likely to ever forget.
To truly experience the sights, sounds and smells of the city your best bet is to rent a car in Cape Town as soon as you arrive. Book in advance with easyCar for unbeatable prices.