An emerging art scene and world-class shopping
Cape Town’s artistic resurgence has been percolating ever since South Africa’s racist apartheid regime ended in 1994. Creative and political expression is essential to healing, as for decades, South Africans were segregated and silenced according to skin color. Now, Cape Town’s gallery scene is flourishing with allegedly more than 50 spaces that cost nothing to visit.
If you can, plan to attend for First Thursdays. On the first Thursday of every month, galleries, shops, and restaurants around the city throw open their doors for free late-night exhibitions, performances and events. In Cape Town’s downtown City Bowl and East City areas, it’s a big ol’ street party. In Woodstock, street artist Juma Mkwela also offers a fantastic tour around graffiti murals and galleries most days of the week.
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) is also an essential stop. Opened in 2018, it’s the world’s premier gallery of African contemporary art. The museum is massive, spread across nine floors inside a beautiful 1920s granary, one of the tallest buildings on Cape Town’s skyline. WHATIFTHEWORLD, a downtown design and art collective, is also worth a detour, credited with kick-starting this new appetite for modern art in Cape Town.
If you're more in the mood to shop, Cape Town is a consumerist's dream. Cape Town’s main shopping area is the V&A Waterfront, with several big indoor malls and shops lined along the harbor. The busy boardwalk has buskers, a Ferris wheel, comfy outdoor seating, and some yacht action off the wharf -- your standard touristy stretch, but worth a pit-stop if only for the people-watching.
Meanwhile in Woodstock, a string of boutiques, design studios, and vintage shops are spread across Albert and Roodebloem Road within about a kilometer. Be prepared for a sweaty walk in the gray industrial area, but it's worth a little perspiration for cool surprises like The Woodstock Foundry, a shopping complex in a century-old heritage building, and The Woodstock Exchange, a mall showcasing independent fashion and design. In the latter, look out for Chapel, makers of stylish yet value-priced leather bags and upscale bean-bag Fatsak.