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Things to do for free in Cape Town
Short on cash? Here are a treasure trove of free things to do in the Mother City
Short on cash? Here are a treasure trove of free things to do in the Mother City
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.
Cape Town was recently voted the second cheapest city to live in the world, although locals may beg to differ. Luckily we've put together a guide to how you can navigate the Mother City in a truly wallet-friendly way.
Our advice: print this guide out and keep it in your ever-so-empty back pocket.
CONQUER CAPE TOWN'S GREAT OUTDOORS
Take a 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.
Lion’s Head & Signal Hill | Cape Town
Swing on the Sea Point Promenade
A visit to Sea Point is not complete without taking in the salty air along the stunning seaside promenade. The promenade is frequented by walkers, cyclists and skaters – a sunset jog is a fantastic idea. Can’t afford an outing to 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 amazing sea views and Sea Point provides the perfect vantage point.
The Promenade | Sea Point | Cape Town
Drink in nature in Cecilia Forest
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. The glades, streams and mossy paths will soothe your soul.
Newlands to Table Mountain | Cape Town
Experience Cape biodiversity at Green Point Urban Park
Get to know the plant species around you at Green Point Urban Park, an immaculately landscaped greenway that is equally informative for children and adults. The cleverly designed biodiversity garden contains over 300 clearly labelled Cape plant species, making it a free alternative to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Afterwards, unwind on the sprawling lawn and enjoy a packed picnic.
Green Point | Cape Town
Feed the squirrels in Company’s Garden
Just as the Company’s Garden used to enchant ocean-weary travellers who’d arrived to a strange land years ago, today this green patch continues to charm tourists and locals alike. Hemmed in by the busy streets of the CBD, 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 resist the cute and fluffy squirrels climbing the trees and hopping right up to you? These bushy-tailed animals don’t want your money, just a few peanuts will do.
Tip: Try looking for the elusive albino squirrel!
Company’s Garden | Cape Town CBD
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 fee, and if you’re in the city in summer, watch out for the park’s free summer concerts featuring some of South Africa’s hottest musical talent.
- For more outdoor options check out our overview of parks in Cape Town
Surf at Muizenberg beach
Rain or shine, cold or hot – the waves are actually best in winter – one of the most legendary ways to reconnect with Cape Town’s majestic 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.
Take the family on a Muizenberg meander
This walk on the beach occurs every Saturday after that month’s full moon. The family-friendly event focuses on making the Muizenberg beach a safer space for all, but is a fun night out for all ages. The walk commences from Knead Bakery at 6:15pm and attendees are welcome to bring a group of people with – the more the merrier after all!
Surfer’s Corner | Beach Road | Muizenburg | +27(0) 21 788 2909
PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAP
Fall in love with books at 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. A visit to their soaring wood-panelled interior will inspire even the most reluctant bibliophobes.
62 Queen Victoria Street | City Bowl | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 423 2669
Borrow a book at the 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. This quaint library is situated in an old gabled house at the top of the CBD’s buzzy Kloof Street.
122B Kloof Street | Tamboerskloof | City Bowl | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 424 3308
Attend a poetry reading at Kalk Bay Bookstore
If you love listening to poetry readings and hearing authors talk about their work, keep a eye on this Kalk Bay bookstore. If you simply want to stay in loop with some of the newest literature around – then be sure to email Kalk Bay Books at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to their mailing list. Have a fun-filled culturally rich night out.
124 Main Road | Kalk Bay | +27 (0)21 788 2266
Be inspired at PechaKucha Cape Town
PechaKucha, the Japanese-born format for short, punchy and inspiring presentations, takes place at The Assembly in Cape Town every first or second Tuesday of every other month. Taking its name from the Japanese word for the sound of “chit chat”, the idea is that speakers can show 20 images for 20 seconds each, giving them 6 minutes and 40 seconds to put their views across. Both laymen and experts put together presentations about anything that inspires them, and audiences get to lap up the pearls of wisdom and titbits of knowledge – for free.
Network at Creative Mornings
One Friday of every month a group of creatives get together at different locations to network and 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 and filled with new ideas.
Join in a Pub Quiz
If you have a thirst for knowledge and beer on tap then throw your hat into the ring for quiz night at your local pub. Most of them have a small fee, but luckily Aandklas in Stellenbosch is for FREE! Take a bunch of mates to their Thursday quiz, have a ball and enjoy seeing how good your general knowledge is!
43A Bird Street | Stellenbosch | Western Cape | +27 (0)21 883 3545
GET TO KNOW YOUR HERITAGE
Amble along Signal Hill
Signal Hill is located next to Lion’s Head, with stunning views of the Atlantic. It’s home to a number of historic features such as the Signal Hill cannon, which originally 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 (and block their ears).
Check out the Just Nuisance Monument
This monument in Simon’s Town commemorates Just Nuisance, a Great Dane who befriended the Royal Navy and made such an impression that he was enlisted, wore a sailor’s 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 | Simon’s 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, which showcases Islamic heritage and culture in South Africa, and is set in the historic neighbourhood that is home to many Muslims and descendants of freed slaves. Additionally, The Planetarium, a celestial dome in the South African Museum Building in the Company’s Garden 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 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 a leisurely day.
Park Lane | Central Park | Century City | +27 (0)21 531 2173
Show & Tell at The Drawing Room
This Observatory-based café and art gallery has a variety of exhibition openings and show & tell’s for the public. Known for the delish food and a good cuppa joe, art lovers can catch the work of up-and-coming artists or mingle with like-minded individuals. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details about upcoming events.
87 Station Road | Observatory | Cape Town
Sample the fare at Neighbourgoods Market
Get a little gourmet Saturday treatment from 9am to 2pm. The bustling Neighbourgoods Market is every foodie’s dream, stocking items from over 100 speciality traders offering fine food, wine and local produce. 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.
The Old Biscuit Mill | 373-375 Albert Road | Woodstock | Cape Town
More wine tastings (hiccup) at Tjing Tjing
There's no reservation needed at Tjing Tjing for their free 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 | +27 21 422 4920
Visit the Watershed Good Night Market
One of the more recent markets to pop up in the Mother City, this evening shindig is hosted at the Waterfront’s newly established craft and design marketplace, The Watershed. Filled with locally made items, it’s a magnet for the city’s creative set.. The market gets underway from 6pm and continues until 9pm
The Watershed | 17 Dock Road | V&A Waterfront | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 408 7600 (V&A Waterfront Info Centre)
Hang out at the City Bowl Market
Housed in a historic hall on Hope Street in the middle of the CBD, the City Bowl Market is a wonderful collection 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
Keep it real at 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. You might catch a clown entertaining the kids or a musician singing his heart out.
Bay Harbour Market | 31 Harbour Road | Hout Bay | Cape Town
GET INTO THE ARTS & CULTURE SCENE
Take a diamond tour 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, you or your girlfriend/wife/partner 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
Attend a poetry reading at A Touch of Madness
Situated in an old Victorian house, this Observatory-based restaurant and bar is well-known for its crazy delicious food and madcap atmosphere –the name says it all. If you’re strapped for cash, you can attend their weekly poetry evenings every Monday from 8pm until 10pm. The line-up changes from week to week so come with an open mind and hear from some of Cape Town’s budding poets.
12 Nutall Road | Observatory | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 447 1940
Catch contemporary South African art at Whatiftheworld Gallery
WhatiftheWorld Gallery provides a platform for establishedcontemporary artists and gives collectors the opportunity to discover new artists. Plus you can peruse these works of art for free. It’s run by one of the co-founders of the NeighbourGoods Market and was one of the first galleries to open in Woodstock. They also represent some of SA’s finest designers (not just artists) – check out their website for more info that you can include. Find more galleries here.
1 Argyle Street | Woodstock | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21447 2376
See edgy urban art at Worldart Gallery
Openings at this CBD-based gallery tend to spill out onto Church Street, a pedestrianised mall brimming with African art and craft. Worldart specialises in accessible urban art by young local talent, many of whom are illustrators and street artists.
54 Church Street | Cape Town | +27(0) 21 423 3075
Follow the sounds of free Music
The City of Cape Town is continually staging massive acts, such as the Cape Town Carnival and the free concert at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which 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 well 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 rescues abandoned dogs and cats. Donate your time and take part in their dog-walking programme. We guarantee that after a few hours with a furry friend, you’ll feel like a million bucks. Email email@example.com for more information.
Plant a tree and help Greenpop grow
Greenpop plants trees, runs educational programmes and hosts restoration festivals all in the name of a greener future. The NGO spearheads fun events aimed at raising environmental awareness: 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.
By Cheréne Pienaar and Alyx Carolus