Top 10 Best museums in Cape Town

A visit to Cape Town will not be complete if one does not visit a few of the local museums. The numerous interesting museums Cape Town provide an interactive way to come close to the things that have shaped the history and culture of that society.

The museums Cape Town offer a great and interesting overview for the visitors to put pieces together and make a picture of Cape Town, its lifestyle and people.

Each museum in Cape Town is a universe in itself and provides fascinating information on a specific aspect of Cape Town. The distinct feature of the museums in Cape Town is that they are constantly upgrading so as to provide the best experiences to the visitors. The museums in cape Town also try to present information and facts in a subjective way so as to promote harmony and peace among the people.

Be it the District 6 museum, the Irma Stern Museum, the Planetarium or the Diamond Museum, the different museums in the Cape cater for visitors with different tastes and interests.

Let the sparkle of curiosity in you lead your way in your discovery quest and do visit some of the museums during your visit to Cape Town.

1. District Six Museum

A visit to the District Six Museum is a must!

With exhibits and galleries on one of the dark phases in the history of South Africa, District Six Museum fascinates one and all! Explore how the apartheid and Group Areas Act tore a community apart! Learn about the people who were once residents of District Six.

The collection at the museum allows the visitors to get glimpses of the lives of the ex-residents of District Six. The pictures and other objects also trace the history of the place. 60 000 persons were forced to leave their homes in District Six and today the museum serves to keep the memories of those people alive.

The floor of the museum is covered with a map of the district with handwritten labels from former residents showing the location of their houses. Many of the staffs of the District Six Museum are former inhabitants of the area who have have painful tales to narrate.

Visiting hours:

Monday: 09.00 am – 02.00 pm

Tuesday – Saturday: 09.00 am – 04.00 pm

Sunday: By appointment only

2. Robben Island Museum

Robben Island Museum is a top destination in Cape Town! Found on the west of Cape Town, Robben Island is notoriously known as the place where the Nobel Laureate and first president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela served his sentence for 18 out of 27 years as a political prisoner.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Robben Island Museum is easily accessed from V&A Waterfront. A tour of Robben Island Museum includes a visit to the maximum security prison where criminals were held captive, including Madiba's cell. The prison tour is usually conducted by an ex-prisoner who recounts tales from his own experience.

Next, with a bus excursion around the island, visitors can see the mental hospital, military base and leper colony. They can then explore Murray's harbour with its lighthouse, colony of penguins and seal and nearby Moturu Kramat shrine.

Visiting hours:

Monday – Sunday:7 am - 7.30 pm

Closed on the 1st May

3. Bo Kaap Museum

Let the cobble stoned streets guide you and you will be led into a lively suburb filled with brightly coloured houses! Hidden in the midst of these colourful houses, Bo Kaap Museum is an attraction for many holidaymakers.

Set in the Malay Quarter of Cape Town and on the slopes of Signal Hill, Bo Kaap Museum is located in the oldest house of the area. It displays the gripping history of the people in Bo-Kaap. It also portrays the local Islamic culture and heritage and sheds light on the lives of the freed slaves of the 19th century.

The most interesting exhibit in the Bo Kaap Museum is the selection of blank and white photos of local life displayed in the room upstairs.

This little museum makes you feel as if you are embarking on a journey to the past. The muezzin's call for prayer, the Cape-Malay cuisine and the traditionally dressed children- all these add to the unique Cape experience!

Visiting hours:

Monday-Saturday: 10.00 am – 05.00 pm

Closed on Sundays, Labour Day, Christmas Day, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha and January 2

4. Irma Stern Museum

A fan of Irma Stern? Then a visit to Irma Stern Museum is not to be missed!

The residence of the renowned South African artist in Cape Town was converted into a museum and today this museum is one of the most visited places in Cape Town.

Several of the rooms have literally been left untouched and are still furnished the same way she used to arrange them. Upstairs, there is a gallery which is used by contemporary South African artists. Besides, the museum has a collection of the artist's work as well as her private collection of antique furniture and African art.

Through the exhibition on display, one can see Irma Stern's development as an artist. The themes of her creations include exotic figures, portraits, lush landscapes and still life in various media such as water colours, oil, gouache and charcoal. Her art is largely influenced by German Expressionism and includes traditional African elements.

Regular exhibitions are arranged in the museum's commercial gallery which is used by contemporary South African artists.

Visiting hours:

Tuesday-Saturday: 10h00 am – 05h00 pm

5. South Africa Jewish Museum

The South African Museum is another popular museum in the cape which attracts many visitors! This museum with its bold architectural design has interactive multimedia displays and detailed and engaging accounts of South African Jewish history.

One feature of the museum is a drawbridge which connects the Old Synagogue to the new building of the museum. It symbolises a ship's gangway down which many immigrants might have walked on reaching the South African shores. Another attraction is an exact model of a Lithuanian Jewish village known as a “shtetl”.

The Albow Centre also forms part of the complex. It houses the South African Jewish Museum Shop, Jacob Gitlin Library, Café Riteve and the first and only Holocaust Centre in Cape Town.

The museum exhibits Jewish collections of rare Judaica artefacts, the world's finest Japanese Netsuke miniature carvings, unseen works by Irma Stern, Marc Chagall Hadassah and selected works of William Kendridge.

Also, the award-winning documentary “Nelson Mandela. A Righteous Man” is screened everyday.

Visiting hours:

Sunday-Thursday:10h00 am to 05h00 pm

Friday: 10h00 am - -02h00 pm

Closed on Saturdays and Jewish Holidays

6. South African Museum

Visit the South African Museum to discover theme-wise cultural and biological diversity!

The oldest museum in the African sub-continent, the speciality of this museum is that it has theme-wise exhibitions and takes care of 1.5 million items! The collection ranges from fossils and Stone Age tools to clothing and both ancient and modern artefacts-all these represent the natural and cultural history of South Africa.

Both the African dinosaur exhibition with two great skeletons from North Africa and the rock art display are great highlights of the museum. Another impressive feature of the museum is the Whale Well where musical recitals are often held among giant whale bones and life-size casts of marine creatures.

The round celestial theatre of the Planetarium is also found in the same complex. It hosts shows for children and adults alike.

In the Discovery Room, children can touch objects that are elsewhere protected by glass. The Mind Space is a fun inter-active space that caters for learners above 8 accompanied by their teachers or guardians.

Visiting hours:

Monday-Sunday:10h00 am – 05h00 pm

Closed on Labour Day and Christmas Day

7. South Africa National Gallery

Embark on a journey from the colonial times to the modern day at the South Africa National gallery!

Located in the beautiful Company's location, the South Africa National Gallery has over 8000 works including a variety of paintings, photography, sculpture, bead-work, textiles and works on paper. These collections are at times complemented by visiting exhibitions.

The selections from the permanent collection change at regular intervals. In this way, with temporary exhibitions, every work gets the chance to be showcased.

Each room has accompanying wall text providing the background and inspiration of each collection. The historical and modern overview of art in South Africa makes it a must-see attraction for art-lovers.

Visiting hours:

Monday-Sunday:10h00 am – 05h00 pm

8. Cape Town Planetarium

Welcome to the world of planets, stars and galaxies! The Cape Town Planetarium is a unique and thrilling experience for the visitor.

Located in the same building as the South African Museum, the Cape Town Planetarium combines great sounds with the Minolta star machine and multiple projectors to create the perfect platform for a great cosmological adventure.

The Cape Town Planetarium showcases different themes. The content varies from Davy Dragon discovering the planets of our solar system to a little toy Lion named Michael and his friend Bertie Bug learning about star constellations. More mature content such as Astronomy of the Great Pyramid and a basic guide to star-gazing are also available for adults.

Though the shows change every season, the Planetarium offers one permanent exhibition, which is the open display of three iron meteorites.

Practical workshops are also available for children, which may include making a Star Wheel and learning how to identify stars and constellations.

This audio-visual extravaganza is worth a visit!

Visiting hours:

Monday-Sunday: 10h00 am-05h00 pm

Closed on Worker’s Day, Christmas Day and theirst Monday of the month(excluding school holidays)

9. Cape Town Diamond Museum

The little gem that is Cape Town Diamond Museum is a place that one must visit!

Located at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town Diamond Museum is where you can learn about the diamond industry, the history of diamonds and diamonds in South Africa. This non-profit organisation aims at creating awareness about those sparkling gem and appreciation for the diamond industry.

Guided tours are conducted by Shimansky, the owner. Learn with awe as the procedure of how a formation deep within the earth's crust becomes a perfect masterpiece in the Cape Town Diamond Museum. Witness first hand as rough diamonds are transformed in the Diamond Cutting and Polishing Factory before they turn up to be gorgeous beauties in the Jewellery Manurfacturing Factory.

One can even enjoy freshly brewed coffee or sip some South African wine as one wanders through the Shimansky showroom.

Visiting hours:

Monday-Sunday:09h00 am – 09h00 pm

10. Gold of Africa Museum

A visit to Gold of Africa Museum is another enriching experience in Cape Town!

Set in the ancient 18th century Melck house, the Gold of Africa Museum boasts of the largest assortment of African gold objects in the world. It displays the famous Mueller-Barbier Gold collection that displays ancient gold artefacts and objects from West Africa and other old civilizations of Southern Africa.

Gold of Africa Museum offers exhibition, various tours and educational programs that give the visitors a wonderful insight into the culture, wealth and power that once exiasted in West Africa's Akan kingdoms-the ancient Southern African Kingdoms of Mapungbwe, Thulamela and in Greater Zimbabwe.

Temporary exhibitions with gold displays from countries like Brazil, Egypt, Mali, and India also feature at the Gold of Africa Museum.

Visiting hours:

Monday-Saturday:09h30 am – 05h00 pm

Closed on Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Good Friday