Cape Town’s calendar is full of fantastic festivals celebrating everything from wine-tasting to kite-flying to whale-watching.
There’s always something happening in Cape Town, but it’s not always possible to say when. In true laid-back Mother City fashion, plans are made and cancelled on a whim.
This adds to the improvisatory feel of the place, but does make forward planning rather difficult. Thus many of our Calendar events are pencilled in, rather than set in stone.
Robben Island Museum
Robben Island has become synonymous with Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years in its maximum security prison. Fascinating and inspirational.
Boulders African Penguin Colony
A meander through the colony’s breeding ground is a joy. Watch as the birds waddle about and play peekaboo from their twiggy burrows.
This grandiose shrine, dedicated to imperialist Cecil John Rhodes, was built on his favourite lookout point in 1912 and features an inscription by his friend Rudyard Kipling.
During the summer Capetonians are treated to a range of outdoorsy festivals and events, be they sports-, culture- or music-related. Be sure to keep an eye on the local press for updates, or phone the Cape Town Tourism Bureau for the latest on what’s going on.
Kirstenbosch Sundowner Concerts
Where: Rhodes Drive, Newlands
When: late Nov-early Apr
Beat the Sunday blues with a few good bottles of wine and a sunset backdrop during the popular weekly Kirstenbosch sundowner concerts. These performances have become a summer institution among Capetonians, so get there early if you want a grassy patch from which to see hot local talents like Freshlyground, the Parlotones and Fokofpolisiekar.
Where: various locations in Observatory
When: late Nov-early Dec
Each year the slightly grungy ’burb of Obz transforms into a hotspot of cultural happenings for this street festival. Top local musos pump the jams from a number of stages and a market sells local and imported threads as well as its fair share of food.
Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival
Where: out of town – various locations in Franschhoek
When: early Dec
So, what’s the difference between Methode Cap Classique and champagne? Grab a glass and start sampling the barrage of bubblies at this fabulous affair to find out. There are gourmet offerings from the area’s restaurants too.
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Where: City Centre
When: 1-2 Jan
There’s something about the luminous multi-coloured satin suits and frenetic banjo-strumming of the Cape Minstrels that puts Capetonians in the party mood.
The tradition has roots in the practices associated with slavery, when 2 January was given as a holiday to the slaves.
Today singers and musicians still march through the streets of the Mother City (usually along Wale Street) complete with face paint, twirling parasols and some infectious beats, while ringing in the tweede nuwejaar (second new year).
Cape Argus Cycle Tour
Where: Cape Peninsula
When: early March
Each year over 40,000 keen cyclists from hither and thither converge to partake in this epic 109km pedal.
The scenic circular route starts in the City Centre, and snakes its way through the Southern Peninsula and past the Atlantic Coast before coming to an end in Green Point.
Cape Town International Jazz Festival
When: early Apr
Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2009, the Cape Town Jazz Festival is now one of the top-five jazz events in the world. Over 40 local and international talents improvise the toe-tapping beats.
Taste of Cape Town
Where: Jan van Riebeeck Sports Fields, De Hoop Avenue, City Bowl
When: early Apr
Nibble your way though stalls of sophisticated nosh brought to you by the Cape’s top restaurants. Or park yourself on a conveniently placed couch and sip some suitable tipple along with your gourmet delicacies.
Riebeek Valley Olive Festival
Where: out of town – Riebeek Valley
When: early May
The quaint villages of Riebeek Kasteel and Riebeek West team up for the biggest olive festival in the country. In between olive and olive-oil tastings, visitors can explore the olive groves, go on wine-cellar tours or pick and mix fresh produce at the local farmers market. Or simply kick back and listen to live music.
Vodacom Funny Festival
Where: Baxter Theatre
Although this comedy festival is on the small side, it still elicits big laughs.
Wacky Wine Weekend
Where: out of town – various wineries in Robertson
When: early June
Go crazy with the help of a few bottles of vino, courtesy of over 45 regional wineries, and take part in the range of zany activities including the likes of vineyard quad biking, wine diving and Italian pole climbing.
Cape Town Fashion Week
When: early Aug
Channel your inner Heidi Klum and ooh and aah at the haute couture creations floating past you during this Capetonian Project Runway. The proudly SA fashion show sports threads by local designers.
Where: out of town – Various locations in Darling
When: early Sept
Performers come from as far afield as Belgium and India to take part in this unique arts festival that’s hosted in the voorkamers (front rooms) of venues that include everything from small township shacks to large Victorian manor houses.
Rocking the Daisies
Where: out of town – Cloof Wine Estate, Darling
A young, annual festival where some of the country’s biggest rock, blues, pop and folk bands play alongside lesser-known artists. Make sure your camping gear is sorted. Pack warm clothes, and avoid blow-up mattresses and open shoes as the devil thorns in the area truly are from hell.
Discovery Cape Times Big Walk
Where: various locations in Cape Peninsula
When: 9 Nov
Put on your walking shoes and work those calves for charity (all proceeds are donated to a selected organisation). The Big Walk is made up of eight different routes starting at Mowbray. Timorous trundlers can opt for the 5km or 10km walks, while the fighting fit will get their lion’s share of cardio from the double-digit routes.