Cape Town’s Museums: From Fascinating To Freaky

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Cape Town & Surrounds

Cape Town’s Museums: From Fascinating To Freaky

Vintage cars, a heart transplant, preserved bones: who said history had to be boring?

Last updated: Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Natural beauty aside, Cape Town boasts a number of extraordinary historical and cultural sites, and the many museums that commemorate them make for a fascinating day out. See a car collection worth a fortune, replicas of the world’s most famous diamonds, the preserved bones of slaves and sailors executed under Dutch rule, and many other must-see relics of days gone by.


See artworks and artefacts displayed in the home of the acclaimed Irma Stern. This includes her studio where she worked, lounge area and the well-known dining room. Visitors are free to walk through the house and explore Stern’s famous portraits, and a series of biblical paintings and artefacts she collected from her widespread travels (including ancient Roman and Pre-Columbian American pieces). Here's what'son at the Irma Stern Museum. 

Opening hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 10am - 5pm
Entrance fee: R65 

21 Cecil Road | Rosebank | Cape Town | 060 827 0787 | Instagram: @irma_stern_museum | Image: Irma Stern Museum


You’ll find everything from veteran motors, old petrol pumps and road signs to clothing and sewing machines from the 1900s at Toeka Stoor, even what beauty products looked like way back then. The coffee shop serves South African favourites, such as bobotie pies, “ouma se kerrie vetkoek”, jaffels, and “moerkoffie” in a tin cup. Plus, there’s a kiddies' play area and farm animals roaming the grounds. The cherry on top? It’s free to enter!

Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 9am - 4pm
Entrance fee: Free (show your support by visiting the coffee shop)  

Toeka Stoor & Coffee Shop | Domaine Brahms Wines | Paarl | Image: Simone Strydom


The La Motte Museum at the wine farm not only shares the history of the estate’s French Huguenot heritage and the wealthy Rupert-family’s ownership, but also the estate’s Cape Dutch architecture. The museum is permanent host to a collection of paintings by famous local landscape artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, and also features rotating exhibitions. There are also other experiences for visitors to La Motte Wine Estate.

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 9am - 5pm
Entrance fee: Free 

Besides the permanent Pierneef collection, there are also exciting temporary exhibitions. Image: La Motte


In 2003, a large number of skeletons were uncovered during the construction of an apartment building near Prestwich Street. The bones turned out to be the remains of slaves and sailors executed in the 17th and 18th century by Dutch settlers. To pay tribute to the lives lost shaping Cape Town into the city it is today, the Prestwich Memorial was founded. It includes a garden where visitors can sit and reflect, and an ossuary, where the bones are housed. There are also interpretive displays that tell the story of Cape Town's history with slavery, forced removal, and the apartheid regime. There's also a coffee shop, and the memorial forms part of St Andrew's Square, where you can see artwork and sculptures.

Opening Hours: Monday–Friday: 7am–5pm; Saturday and Sunday: 8am–2pm
Entrance fee: Free

Corner of Buitengracht Street and Somerset Road | Cape Town City Centre | +27 (0)21 418 0073 | Image: Marcelle van der Westhuizen


Approximately 29km outside the town of Oudtshoorn sits one of South Africa's oldest tourist attractions: The Cango Caves. The caves consist of a series of limestone caves and chambers, some of which are open to the public. Guided tours take place every hour or half-hour (depending on the type of tour), led by expert accredited cave guides. The standard tour is 60 minutes and takes you through open areas, whereas the adventure tour is 90 minutes and explores narrower, more closed-off areas of the Caves, such as the Devil's Postbox and the Coffin. Expect to see cave art and maybe a ghost (no-one has ever been able to figure out why the lights in the Sand Bypass fuse so often). Booking in advance is essential. There is also a restaurant, curio shop and an interactive, education display. The Cango Caves are just one of the many things to see on the Garden Route.

Opening Hours: Monday–Sunday: 9am–7pm
Entrance fee: R100–R220

Cango Valleie Road | Oudtshoorn | +27 (0)44 272 7410 |


The !Khwa ttu Heritage Centre is new to the museum circuit, having opened its doors for the first time in 2018. !Khwa ttu consists of the Heritage Centre building Yzerfontein, a number of satellite communities located in neighbouring countries, and a digital archive. There are a variety of activities you can participate in when you visit the !Khwa ttu Heritage Centre, including e-biking with a San guide, a herbal tea tasting and San language session, or a demonstration of San skills and ways of life. The facility is wheelchair friendly. Immerse yourself in San culture and spirit at the !Khwa ttu Heritage Museum.

Opening Hours: Monday–Sunday: 9am–5pm
Entrance fee: Adults and children: R80; South African pensioners: R60

R27 West Coast Road | Yzerfontein | +27 (0)22 492 2998 |


The South African Jewish Museum in the heart of Cape Town is a marvel of modern architecture with its bold design and sleek interiors. It houses a range of interactive displays, from audio-visual presentations to rare artefacts, effectively tracing the cultural history of the Jewish community, including a recreating of shtetl life (small-town life). There is also extensive documentation of the Holocaust, which has its own section. You can buy an audio guide for R20 to add a third dimension to the experience. As an added attraction, you can also see one of the world's finest collections of Japanese miniature art (Netsuke) on the premises. Discover this rich history and more at the South African Jewish Museum.

Opening Hours: Sunday–Thursday: 10am–5pm; Friday: 10am–2pm; Closed on Saturday and Jewish Holidays; Open on South
African public holidays
Entrance fee: Adults: R75; Pensioners: R45; Students under 12: free; Students older than 12: R45

88 Hatfield Street | Cape Town City Centre | | +27 (0)21 465 1546


Stellenbosch, a university town amongst endless stretches of vineyards, is rich in history. Check out an old gunpowder house with war memorabilia on display, or head to the Toy and Miniature Museum, where you'll find a collection of 1:12 scale miniature dolls, cars, toys, and more. It includes a lifelike miniature of South Africa's famous Blue Train - and it moves. Or take a stroll back to where time is frozen, with the four restored, historically accurate homes at The Village Museum.

Opening Hours: Monday–Saturday: 9am–5pm; Sunday (April–August): 10am–1pm; Sunday (September–March): 10am–4pm
Entrance fee: Adults: R40; children (2 - 17 years): R20

37 Ryneveld Street | Stellenbosch | | +27 (0)21 882 8861


Groote Schuur Hospital is home to one of South Africa's historical wonders: The Heart of Cape Town Museum, where those who pushed the boundaries of science into a new era are honoured. Here, you’ll find a celebratory display of the first-ever human heart transplant, which happened in 1967. The museum only allows guided tours (which you have to book in advance), but please note that tours are not recommended to children under 8 because of the graphic nature of exhibits and the length of the tour (1.5–2 hours). The museum consists of eight rooms, showing in detail the process of the first heart transplant.

Opening Hours: Daily, with tours at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm
Entrance fee: South Africans: R80–R140; international visitors: R200–R350

Main Road | Observatory | +27 (0)21 404 1967 |


The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art is a relativley new addition to Cape Town's museum family, but it has shot to the top of the list for many locals and visitors. It is the largest museum in the world dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its Diaspora. The museum includes a rooftop sculpture garden, a bookshop, a restaurant, a bar and café, and about 9,500 square meters of nonstop art and architecture. There are ever-changing installations by leading artists in the contemporary sphere, so you can visit time and again. Do yourself a favour, whether you're a professional artist, art-fundy or don't like art at all: Check out Zeitz MOCAA.

Opening Hours: Daily: 10am–6pm, with last entry at 5:30pm; first Friday of the month: 10am–9pm, with last entry at 8:30pm; Museum Night: 5pm–10pm, with last entry at 9:30pm
Entrance fee: Adults: R200; children under 18: free; First Fridays between 4pm and 9pm: R100; African citizens have free admittance every Wednesday from 10am to 1pm upon presentation of ID

Grain Silo Complex | Silo District | V&A Waterfront | +27 (0)87 350 4777 |


Originally, the purpose of the Afrikaans Language Museum was to commemorate those who worked tirelessly to make Afrikaans an official, recognised reading and writing language: the Fellowship of True Afrikaners. The Fellowship was founded in 1875 in the home of Gideon Malherbe, which is now the site of the Afrikaans Language Museum. The museum aims to portray the living conditions and the mood of this particular period in history as accurately as possible, painting a clear picture of what life was like back then. You'll also be able to see the development of Afrikaans over the years: it's variants and contemporary expressions. If you go on your birthday, entrance is free. And if you have a spare moment, the Language Monument that overlooks Paarl is also worth a visit. See why people say Afrikaans is a growing, living, ever-changing language at the Afrikaans Language Museum.

Opening Hours: Monday–Friday: 9am–4pm
Entrance fee: Adults: R20; children (6-17): R5; children under 6: free; South African pensioners and students (with proof):

11 Pastorie Avenue | Paarl | +27 (0)21 863 0543 | +27 (0)21 872 3441 |


The Franschhoek Motor Museum showcases over 100 years' worth of automotive history, with a collection that exceeds 220 individual vehicles, ranging from an 1898 Beeston motor tricycle to a 2003 Ferrari Enzo. There are over 80 displays at any given time, all organised in chronological order. The collection includes a 1903 Ford Model A, a 1991 Lorraine-Dietrich Convertible, a 1915 Rolls-Royce Silver-Ghost, a 1965 Afla Romeo Berlina, a 1985 Maserati Quattroporte and a 2010 Ferrari 599 GTO Fiorano, to name just a few highlights. You can take a guided tour at no charge, or relax with a glass of wine at the on-site deli. Or make a day of it: the all-in-one voucher (R660 per person) includes a wine tasting at the Terra del Capo tasting room, an antipasti lunch (seasonal), a premium wine tasting at the Anthonij Rupert tasting room, a visit to the motor museum, and a scenic tram ride through the Franschhoek Wine Valley.

Opening Hours: Monday–Friday (April–November): 10am–5pm, with last admittance at 4pm; Saturday and Sunday (April–November): 10am–4pm, with last admittance at 3pm; Monday–Friday (December–March): 10am–6pm, with last admittance at 5pm; Saturday and Sunday (December–March): 10am–5pm, with last admittance at 4pm
Entrance fee: Adults: R80; children (3-12): R40; pensioners: R60

Anthony Rupert Wines | R45 | L'Ormarins | Franschhoek | | +27 (0)21 874 9002


If you're interested in the history of medicine, both traditional and western, head to the Cape Medical Museum. It’s housed in an old hospital, which once was used to contain contagious diseases. It was built in 1859 by the then governor of Cape Town, Sir George Grey, and is now a museum where you can see turn-of-the-century reconstructions of consulting rooms, dispensaries, and operating theatres that shaped the future of medicine. There's also an exhibit on traditional healing, including a display of items Sangoma's use when throwing the bones. The museum offers guided tours, slide shows and educational programmes, and is also used as a venue for functions that are related to the field of medicine. Head over to the Cape Medical Museum on Museum Night, when they’re open late and entrance is free.

Opening Hours: Monday–Friday: 9am–4pm; Saturday: on request
Entrance fee: School groups: R5 per learner; others: by donation

Portswood Road | Green Point | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 418 5663 |


The Simon's Town Museum was founded in 1977, making it a whopping 43 years old in 2020, and can be found in "The Residency", a historical building on Court Road. Despite being a small fishing village, Simon's Town has a rich history: The Handover of the Royal Navy Dockyard to the South African Navy in 1957; forced removal under the apartheid regime from 1965 to 1973; and the collapse of the hotel industry shortly after have all shaped the nighbourhood. The museum now commemorates these events with exhibits, and you can take organised tours of the museum and the historical cells as well as historical lectures. Discover South Africa's rich naval history at the Simon's Town Museum.

Opening Hours: Monday–Friday: 10am–4pm; Saturday: 10am–1pm
Entrance fee: Adults: R10; children: R5

The Residency | Court Road | Simon's Town | | | +27 (0)21 786 3046


It takes about three billion years for the formation of a diamond to take place; from its journey in the ground to becoming a gem you'd want to wear. With beautiful illustrations and replicas of famous diamonds, the Cape Diamond Museum offers a fascinating view of these coveted gems. You can also learn about the diamond industry and the history of diamonds in South Africa by taking a stroll through the mining gear, historical artefacts, replicas of famous diamonds and more. Don't miss out on the Cape Diamond Museum with Shimansky.

Opening Hours: Daily: 9am–9pm
Entrance fee: Into the showroom: R50 per person

The Clock Tower | Level 1 | V&A Waterfront | | +27 (0)21 421 2488


The District Six Museum was established in December 1994 and is committed to telling the stories of those who were forcefully removed by the apartheid government. Catch a glimpse of the lives of the residents who once called District Six home, and discover why there are still open fields today in the heart of Cape Town, standing vacant. and the history that makes it a spot visited by tourists from across the globe. There are guided tours (for an extra R15), too, conducted by an ex-resident. The emergence of the museum in 1994 was as a result of the "Hands Off District Six" conference in 1988, which led to the formation of the District Six Museum Foundation in 1989.

Opening Hours: Monday–Saturday: 9am–4pm
Entrance fee: R45–R60


South Africa has a variety of top-notch museums, many of which are run by Iziko, including history and culture-rich facilities like Bertram House, the Bo-Kaap Museum, Groot Constantia, and the most advanced digital planetarium in Africa. The flagship institution, the Iziko South African Museum, manages eleven national museums, collection-orientated libraries and a world-class social history archive, amongst other things. Check your calendar closely, because some days, like International Museum Day (18 May), and commemorative holidays (like Heritage Day), you can get in at discounted rates or for free. Please also note that some museums are closed on religious holidays like Eid ul Fitr, Eid ul Adha, and Christmas day.

Please note:  Bertram House and Old Town House are closed to the public until further notice.

Various locations in and around Cape Town | | +27 (0)21 481 3800 


Opening Hours


Bo-Kaap Museum

Mondays–Saturdays: 9am–4pm

Closed: Sundays, Eid ul Fitr, Eid ul Adha, Workers’ Day, Christmas Day

Adults: R20

6–17: R10

5 and under: R5

School: R5–R8

SA pensioners and students: R10

Free: Fridays, commemorative days

Groot Constantia

Daily: 10am–5om

Closed: Workers’ Day and Christmas Day

Adults: R30

6–17: R15

5 and under: R5

School: R5–R8

SA pensioners and students: R15

Free: Fridays, commemorative days

Koopmans-De Wet House

Thursdays–Fridays: 9am–4pm

Closed: Workers’ Day and Christmas Day

Adults: R20

6–17: R10

5 and under: R5

School: R5–R8

SA pensioners and students: R10

Free: Fridays, commemorative days

Maritime Centre

Daily: 9am–4pm

Closed: Workers’ Day and Christmas Day

Adults: R20

6–17: R10

5 and under: R5

School: R5–R8

SA pensioners and students: R10

Free: Fridays, commemorative days

Rust and Vreugd

Thursdays–Fridays: 9am–4pm

Closed: Saturday–Wednesday, Workers’ Day, Christmas Day

Adults: R20

6–17: R10

5 and under: R5

School: R5–R8

SA pensioners and students: R10

Free: Fridays, commemorative days


Shows: Tuesday–Sunday

Closed: Workers’ Day and Christmas Day

Adults: R60

17 and under: R30

School: R15

SA pensioners and students: R25

Free: commemorative days

Solve Lodge

Daily: 9am–5pm

Closed: Workers’ Day

Adults: R30

6–17: R15

5 and under: R5

School: R5–R8

SA pensioners and students: R15

Free: Fridays, commemorative days

South African Museum

Daily: 9am–5pm

Closed: Workers’ Day and Christmas Day

Adults: R30

6–17: R15

5 and under: R5

School: R5–8

Sa pensioners and students: R15

Free: Friday, commemorative days

The Castle of Good Hope

Daily: 9am–5pm

Closed: Workers’ Day and Christmas Day

Adults: R50

6 and over: R25

Under 5: free

Schools: R8

SA pensioners and students: R25

Free: commemorative



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