Robben Island Museum

Any visit to Cape Town should include a visit to the Robben Island Museum! And if you go as far as V&A Waterfront and still do not drop round to see Robben Island Museum, then your visit to the Cape would indeed remain incomplete!

An emblem of the triumph of hope over centuries of oppression and injustice and a permanent reminder of the struggle for freedom, Robben Island is mainly known for having been the place where the Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on this island for 18 of the 27 years as a political prisoner in the maximum security prison.

The blinding-white limestone quarry, where political prisoners toiled so much doing hard work under the scorching sun, and Mandela's claustrophobic cell in the prison are only a few of the disturbing reminders of the tortures during the apartheid period, and of the final defeat of the regime. Robben Island is a must-visit, especially for those fascinated and inspired by the Nobel laureate!

Robben Island Museum Tour

A tour of the museum starts with a ferry ride from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, where you can view the several exhibitions on the island. After a ferry ride of 30 minutes, visitors are conducted to the maximum security prison, including Madiba's cell. The Robben Island prison tour is often conducted by a former political prisoner who has personal experience of the prison or who has served his sentence along with Mandela.

The words of the guide recount the history of the anti-apartheid movement and carry an insight how his life as a prisoner and how the prison itself became a symbol of a new vision for South Africa and its people. The guide will also describe the situations of the prisoners, hunger strikes, the struggle to improve the conditions of the prisoners and how they spent their time and how did their last days in prison feel like.

Visit the Robben Island museum and you will feel really privileged of having a first-hand insight of the prison and its role in shaping the history of Cape Town!

Next, a 45-minute guided bus excursion around the island traces its history as one can see the mental hospital, military base and leper colony. One also gets the chance to explore Murray's Bay harbour with its Muslim shrine Kramat and the museum shop.

Tour highlights

Nelson Mandela’s Cell

For many visitors, the ultimate highlight of Robben Island Museum is Prison No. 7 where Madiba spent the years when he was incarcerated. See for yourself where South Africa's greatest state-man was imprisoned.

Robben Island's lighthouse

8 metres high, the lighthouse in Robben Island is the only South African lighthouse using a flashing light instead of a revolving light.

Limestone Quarry

This is where the inmates of the prison used to spend long hours of breaking the rocks of this quarry under the unbearable heat of the sun.

Fauna and aquatic animals

Though the large number of rabbits has been detrimental to the wildlife of Robben Island, you can still look for seals, penguins, whales and other few animals!

Moturu Kramat

The Moturu Kramat is a sacred site for Muslims situated on Robben Island, built in 1969 to commemorate Sayed Adurohman Moturu, the Prince of Madura. Moturu, one of Cape Town's first imams, was expulsed to the island in the mid 1740s and died there in 1754.

Robben Island Museum as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Robben Island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The symbolic aspect of the Robben Island lies in its history. At various times between the 17th century and the 20th century, the notorious Robben Island has served as a place for banishment for criminals and other “social misfits”.

Lepers and those who had some kind of mental disease were also sent to the island. The Robben Island also served as a military base for a while. Also, those who were opposed to the apartheid were imprisoned on the Robben Island. The notion of Robben Island, as a place to hold people in captivity came to an end when the South Africans rejected the apartheid and all political prisoners walked from the prison.

Additional information on Robben Island Museum

  • Robben Island Museum runs programmes for schools and adults alike.
  • It also conducts ongoing research and acts as an archive.
  • The tour to the museum takes approximately 3.5 hours, including a 45-minutes tour of the island.
  • Departure Point: Nelson Mandela Gate, Clock Tower Precinct, V&A Waterfront (weather dependent)
  • Fees and guidelines-Confirmed on booking

Opening hours:

Monday to Sunday 7 am to 7.30 pm

Closed on the 1st May