Must-see museums close to Daddy
Fancy a spot of historical education? A meander through some of Cape Town’s most magnificent museums and monuments will quench your thirst for a taste of the past. Or else a walk up Long Street, from the Grand Daddy and uphill towards the mountain, will seep you in the history of one of South Africa's most bohemian streets. Look out for two- and three-tiered buildings in Long Street with wrought iron balconies and two tone colouring. These Victorian buildings are quite something to behold.
Mostly within walking distance of the Grand Daddy, the following selection of local museums is where you’ll trace Cape Town’s heritage – from slavery to maritime warfare, from apartheid to democracy.
The Iziko Slave Lodge. Image courtesy Iziko
Your tour starts on Grand Daddy's doorstep, literally. Just next door - at 40 Long Street - is the South African Slave Church Museum, the former premises of the South African Missionary Society. Founded by Reverend Vos in 1977, the Misssionary Society aimed to convert slaves to Christianity and in 1804 built the first slave church in the country. Today a small museum on the premises highlights the history of missionary work in South Africa.
From the Grand Daddy, walk up Long Street and turn left into Wale Street. From there turn right into Queen Victoria Street and walk all the way to the top of the street. You’ll see the glorious Iziko South African Museum on your left, a massive white colonial-style building with pillars at each entrance. You’ve arrived!
The museum is a thrilling place to learn about natural history, and houses over a million specimens that are significant to science and natural development – from ancient stone tools and artefacts to dinosaur dioramas; from fossils almost 700-million years old to fish and insects of today. The museum is home to an astounding planetarium, where you can learn about the stars and planets in the night sky. Open Monday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm, R20 gets you in. And yes, you could spend an entire day here just looking at the fossil display.
Just behind the Iziko museum is Bertram House
– a museum that ladies will love. To get there, walk up Queen Victoria and turn left onto Orange Street, where you’ll find the main entrance.
A red brick townhouse with a gorgeous manicured garden, Bertram House was built in the 1840s and named after the property owner’s (John Barker) wife, Anne Bertram Findlay. The house was extensively restored in 1983 and opened as a museum in 1984. Today the interior reveals antique knick-knacks and accessories used by the ladies of that time to craft needlework, make jewellery and write letters. Open Monday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm, entrance is free (yay!)
From Bertram House, walk across Government Avenue, following the wall that cordons off Cape Town High School. When you reach Hatfield Street turn left, and after a block or two you’ll arrive at the South African Jewish Museum
. The exterior is ultra-modern, clad in Jerusalem stone and bearing the Star of David.
The museum is interactive and hi-tech and tells the history of Jews in South Africa, from the first synagogue built in the country in 1863 to the Cape Town Holocaust Centre. On display are rare Judaica artifacts and animated video footage of Barney Barnato and Max Rose. Open Sunday to Thursday from 10am to 5pm, entrance costs R40 for adults and R25 for children under the age of 16.
To reach the Slave Lodge, carry on walking down Hatfield Street, past the Parliament building (pop in for a tour), and turn left into Spin Street. Here you’ll find the lesser-known concrete plaque that commemorates the site of the Slave Tree, an enormous Canadian pine under which slaves were reportedly bought and sold.
From here head to the corner of Wale and Adderley Streets and you’ll find the Iziko Slave Lodge
just opposite St George’s Cathedral
, the oldest cathedral in Southern Africa and the seat of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town.
The Slave Lodge is one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town. Over the past three centuries is has evolved from slave lodge to government offices, from the old Supreme Court and SA Cultural History Museum to what it is today. Under the theme “From human wrongs to human rights”, the exhibitions on the lower level of the museum explore the long history of slavery in South Africa. Open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, R20 gets you in.
The Iziko South African Museum. Image courtesy Iziko
From the Slave Lodge, walk down Adderley Street for around four blocks and turn left into Strand. Here you’ll find Koopmans-De Wet House
, an 18th century family home that houses some of the best pieces of Cape furniture and silver in the country, as well as a priceless collection of ceramics.
Opened in 1914, the museum is named after Marie Koopmans-De Wet, a lady renowned for her tireless work helping widows and orphans of the Boer republics during the South African War. Open Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, entrance costs R10.
If you head back down Adderley Street, you’ll pass the Cape Town City Hall
(where Nelson Mandela made his first public speech shortly after his release from prison on 11 February 1990) and adjacent to that you’ll find the Castle of Good Hope
, the oldest surviving colonial building in the country.
Built between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a maritime replenishment station, the Castle of Good Hope is the seat of the military in the Cape. We suggest going on a guided tour on horse and carriage through the premises, and watching the firing of the signal cannon at 10.10am and 12.10pm. Open Monday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm, entrance costs R28 for adults and R12 for children aged 5-16.
Your last stop is the Gold of Africa Barbier-Mueller Museum
, which lies just on the opposite side of the road to the Castle. Here you’ll find a collection of gold artefacts from all over Africa, objects from the ancient gold civilisations and displays that highlight the use of gold in Africa’s many cultures and traditions. Open for visits Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 5pm.