Head to the City of Oaks for a literary and art overload when this annual ...
Things to do for free in Cape Town
A selection of the best things to do for free in Cape Town and the surrounds
A selection of the best things to do for free in Cape Town and the surrounds
Want to experience Cape Town, but payday isn’t until next week? Don't hide indoors in penniless shame; there are countless ways to capitalise on your time in the Mother City without spending a dime.
Our advice: print this guide out and keep it in your ever-so-empty back pocket.
CONQUER CAPE TOWN'S GREAT OUTDOORS
Full moon hike up Lion’s Head
Between Table Mountain and Signal Hill you’ll find a mountain steeped in romance and tradition.Climb the mountain just before sunset and enjoy a picnic, with breathtaking views of Camps Bay and Cape Town, under the light of a full moon.
A visit to Seapoint is not complete without a walk along the stunning seaside promenade. The promenade is frequented by walkers and skaters alike – a sunset jog is a fantastic idea. Can’t afford a theme park? Get in touch with your inner-child and swing high in the air at one of the grassy parks or flex those muscles at the outdoor gym. Cape Town is characterised by its stunning sea views and Seapoint provides the perfect vantage point.
The Promenade | Sea Point | Cape Town
Serious hikers should head here to catch a glimpse of the legendary fairies and take a sip of fresh mountain water. Start your hike where Hohenort Drive meets Rhodes Drive, in Newlands.
Visit Green Point Park
Get to know the plant species around you. The Green Point Park, an immaculately landscaped urban greenway, is equally informative for children and adults. The cleverly designed biodiversity garden contains over 300 local Cape plant species, and the various beds in the garden indicate each vegetation type. So if you don’t have the funds to finance your way into Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, this is a worthy substitute. Afterwards, unwind on the sprawling lawn and enjoy a packed picnic (if you can afford to eat).
Feed the squirrels in Company Gardens
Just as the Company’s Gardens used to enchant ocean-weary travellers who’d arrived to a strange land years ago, today this green patch hemmed in by the busy streets of the CBD continues to charm both tourists and locals. The winding avenues of oaks, the inviting carpet-like lawns and the mosaic of indigenous herbs and succulents are ideal for a few hours spent lazing away a spending-free day. Not to mention, who can say no to the cute and fluffy squirrels running, climbing and hopping around in the mystical Company Gardens? These cute tails with animals don’t want your money, just a few peanuts will do.
Tip: Try looking for the elusive albino squirrel!
Hang up your hammock in De Waal Park
De Waal Park is a community park situated in the heart of the City Bowl. Renowned for its wide variety of trees and its social doggiesphere, both adults and children can kick back, hang up a hammock, and take a nap. There’s no entrance free attached, and if you’re in the city in summer, keep watch for the park’s free summer concerts featuring some of South Africa’s hottest local talent.
- For more outdoor options check out our overview of parks in Cape Town
Surfing in Muizenberg
Rain or shine, cold or hot – the waves are actually best in winter – one of the most legendary local ways to reconnect with one of Cape Town’s greatest assets – its oceans – is by riding the swells that ebb and flow at Muizenberg beach (or any of the Cape’s iconic surf spots). Get there early to miss the traffic jam! You won’t need a cent to make a day of it.
Moonlight Mass Bike Ride
Help reduce the insanely high carbon emission rate in Cape Town, and promote the good ol’ bicycle. Every full moon Capetonians meet with their bikes under the Green Point roundabout to convene Moonlight Mass and ride in support of a less environmentally taxing mode of transit. The route varies from ride to ride, but always ends with a social drink somewhere. You don’t have to shave your legs and buy spandex… just rock up with a set of wheels and you’re good to go!
PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAP
The Centre for the Book
A unit of the National Library of South Africa, the Centre for the Book aims to promote a culture of reading, writing and publishing in all local languages. Look out for their reading–related activities and events such as poetry readings, writing groups and workshops.
5 Queen Victoria Street | City Bowl | Cape Town
Kloof Street Library
Sunny day? The friendly staff at Kloof Street Library will help you choose the perfect novel, African heritage or children’s book, to enjoy in their delightful garden.
122B Kloof Street | Tamboerskloof | City Bowl | Cape Town
PechaKucha Cape Town
PechaKucha, the Japanese-born, presentation-based Q&A, which draw its name from the term for the sound of “chit chat”, takes place at Assembly in Cape Town every first or second Tuesday of every other month. A number of laymen put together presentations about anything that inspires them, and audiences get to lap up the pearls of wisdom and titbits of knowledge for Mahala. There’s no entrance cost involved.
Creative Coffee Mornings
One Friday of every month a group of creatives get together at different locations to share ideas and insights. Started by Capetonian Catherine Henderson in May 2010, the regular 20 to 30 minute morning talks feature one creative speaker and free coffee and snacks. So, start the morning inspired while grabbing a coffee (this is your only entrance fee).
GET TO KNOW YOUR HERITAGE
Signal Hill is located next to Lion’s Head, with stunning views of the Atlantic. Originally, the Signal Hill cannon notified the public when a ship was in trouble. This old Capetonian tradition still takes place every day on Signal Hill, just below the mountaintop. At 12h00 exactly, the Noon Gun is fired - an opportunity for people to set their watches.
Just Nuisance Monument
This monument commemorates Just Nuisance, a Great Dane who befriended the Royal Navy and made such an impression that he was enlisted, wore a sailors hat, turned up at functions and did much to boost the morale of sailors at sea. You can also visit the Simon’s Town museum, which displays his papers, collar and photographs.
Just Nuisance Monument | Jubilee Square | Simons Town
Visit all the Iziko Museums
The Iziko Museums regularly have free entry days (usually on public holidays), which make for prime opportunities to explore the extensive art, social and natural history collections housed in these Cape Town institutions. Particularly interesting is the Bo-Kaap museum, an entity that showcases Islamic culture and heritage, and is set in the historic surrounds that has become home to many Muslims and freed slaves. Additionally, The Planetarium, a celestial dome in the South African Museum Building seasoned at transporting museum-goers into the magical world of the universe, is an incredibly entertaining day out.
FILL UP WITH FREE FOOD AND WINE
Visit the Century City Natural Goods Market
For a free family-friendly outing in the Northern Suburbs, gather the kids and canines and head over to the Century City Natural Goods Market on the last Sunday of each summer month (October to April). Set on the grassy expanse next to the large wetland and bird sanctuary of Intaka Island, this outdoor market is ideally located for a lazy weekend day spent soaking up the sun. No-charge entertainment, like jumping castles, train rides and magic tricks, is on offer; though, the expansive green usually provides the little ones with room to engage in more than enough activity. For adults, a variety of artisan stalls are available for your browsing pleasure, and live local music acts provide the backbeat to the leisurely day.
Park Lane | Central Park | Century City | +27 (0)21 531 2173
Get a little gourmet Saturday treatment from 9am to 2pm. The bustling Neighbour Goods Market is every foodies dream, stocking over 100 speciality traders including fine food, wine and local farmers. There are plenty of chutneys, cheeses cakes and wines for you to sample here. A little forward planning for that pay-day picnic never hurt anyone.
373-375 Albert Road | Woodstock | Cape Town
No money for a wine tour? Wine Concepts at Lifestyle on Kloof offer free, daily tastings. They have wines that you won’t find in the supermarket, sourced from top wine estates such as, Cederberg and Noble Hill, and small independent garages. These guys supply the connoisseurs of the grape world.
Lifestyle Centre | 50 Kloof Street | City Bowl | Cape Town
There's no reservation needed at Tjing Tjing for their wine tastings on Wednesdays; just stop by from 5pm onwards to sample some top-drawer blends and meet the winemakers.
165 Longmarket Street | City Bowl | Cape Town
Visit the City Bowl Market
The City Bowl Market in Hope Street is a wonderful creation consisting of stalls featuring vintage clothing, great coffee, Nutella-filled crépes, wooden arts and crafts and so much more. Walking around and chatting to the warm and friendly locals will cost you absolutely nothing. The market is open every Saturday between 9am and 2pm and every Thursday evening between 4:30pm and 8:30pm.
City Bowl Market | Hope Street | Gardens | Cape Town
Visit the Bay Harbour Market
Described as “a real place for real people” the Bay Harbour Market, also informally called the Hout Bay Market, is the epitome of Cape Town’s relaxed atmosphere. Trading times are Friday 5pm to 9pm; and Saturday and Sunday 9:30am to 4pm. Keep it real, keep it free and head down to this original and interesting gathering to see what beautiful things people are creating.
Bay Harbour Market | 31 Harbour Road | Hout Bay | Cape Town
GET INTO THE ARTS & CULTURE SCENE
Diamond tours at Shimansky
Embark on a fascinating, behind the senes look at experts delicately shaping platinum, learn about the factors that affect the value of a diamond and witness the result of human expertise in Shimansky's sparkling showroom. Although the tour is free, your girlfriend may emerge doe-eyed for diamonds. Read about the Shimansky diamond tour.
Top Floor | The Clock Tower | V&A Waterfront | +27 (0)21 420 2788
WhatiftheWorld Gallery provides a platform for new contemporary artists and gives collectors the opportunity to discover new artists. Plus you can peruse these works of art for free. Find more galleries here.
1 Argyle Street | Woodstock | Cape Town
The City of Cape Town is continually staging massive acts, like the Cape Town Carnival and the free concert at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, that feature some of the nation's foremost local artists. Keep your eyes peeled for these events; they bring the city together in one arena and are worth a visit. A trip to the V&A Waterfront also always promises some aural tickling, from Marimba buskers to shiny brass bands under the trees. Keep an eye on our events page for free gigs happening in and around Cape Town.
LIFT THE BANK BALANCE BY LIFTING THE SPIRIT
Walk a dog and make a best friend
If you can’t lift the bank balance why not lift the spirits? TEARS, which is located just off Kommetjie Road on the M5, is a non-profit organisation that aims to rescue abandoned dogs and cats. Donate your time and take part in their dog-walking program. We guarantee that after a few hours with a furry friend, you’ll be feeling all the better. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Plant a tree and help Greenpop grow
Greenpop plants trees, runs educationals and hosts restoration festivals… all in the name of a greener future. They spearhead fun events aimed at raising environmental awareness: such as plant days at schools and football fields, jam sessions in Long Street’s car parks, bicycle rides in Cape Town and tree planting projects in Zambia. You can get involved for free by signing up on their volunteer database.
Help knit 1000 blankets for orphaned babies. Me-A-Mamma, a company that markets maternity wear, has placed wool, needles and instructions in cafés, hairdressers and waiting rooms around Cape Town in an effort to crowd source labour from a caring public. While enjoying a coffee or getting your hair done, you can take part. It’s plain stitch knitting - you can learn how to do it in two minutes.
By Cheréne Pienaar
Want to live the high life on a low budget or find the best backpackers hostel? Be sure to read our Best of Cape Town section. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on the latest happenings in Cape Town.