Museums might sound to some like a very boring outing. But the Iziko initiative aims to offer a unique experience of South Africa’s diverse cultural heritage. The word means “hearth” in isiXhosa. In a traditional African homestead, it is the central focal point.
Similar to the idea of a hearth drawing the community together, these museums strive to be a gathering point of the country’s varied legacy.
Once you’ve completed the Iziko Museum Mile, you will have visited 7 museums, each focusing on a different cultural element. The route kicks off in the Company’s Gardens. The term “mile” is used loosely, if you walk between the museums, you will cover roughly 8km by foot. Or 10 km by car.
Iziko South African Museum
It’s the flagship of the museum family. You will travel back thousands of years to the origin of our country. The museum dates back to 1825, established as research and educational institution. Scientists still work here to preserve and capture newly-found artefacts and fossils. There are thousands of these in the archive of the museum.
The exhibits include fossils of early human ancestors; Khoi-San archaeological collections; an extensive marine biology collection; minerals and rocks; dinosaur dioramas plus a life-size display of African dinosaur fossils.
Linked to the South African Museum, a visit to the Planetarium is a must. The shows captivate both adults and children. With new state of the art digital technology, the educational shows are engaging and a great visual treat. View the daily Planetarium shows.
Location: 25 Queen Victoria Street, Company’s Gardens
Iziko South African National Gallery
The building has been preserving inspiring artworks since 1871. It boasts with South Africa’s past and present art gems. A wide variety of historical and contemporary artworks have been gathered for your viewing pleasure, including both African and international works. Admire the paintings, photography, beadwork, sculptures, and textiles.
The permanent collections are rotated every few months, carefully selected by a team of curators. Plus, established South African artists regularly host exhibitions at the gallery.
Visit the South African National Gallery events page to stay in the loop.
Location: Government Avenue, Company’s Gardens
Iziko Slave Lodge
The history of this building is tainted with the darker side of South Africa’s history. Built in 1679 by the Dutch East India Company, it was thousands of slaves’ first taste of their new forced homeland. It was used from the 17th to 19th century.
Now you can imagine yourself in their shoes while learning more about the South African slavery history and challenge yourself to think about human rights issues. The exhibitions include Egypt in Africa; Singing Freedom: Music and the Struggle Against Apartheid; The Story of isiShweshwe: Material Women? and more.
Location: Upper Adderley Street, CBD
Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum
The museum is in one of the original residential houses of the area. It was built somewhere between 1763 and 1768. This area was formerly a Malay Quarter. The house was restored and now showcases artefacts of the Muslim cultural heritage, as well as exhibits exploring the development of the city. Read our post to find out more about the history of the Bo-Kaap.
Location: 71 Wale Street, , CBD
Iziko Rust en Vreugd Museum
The city is full of beautiful historical buildings. This one dates back to 1778. Willem Cornelis Boers called it home. He was a high-ranking Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie* (VOC) official. It’s located on the outskirts of the CBD and features the typical Cape Dutch architecture. The period-style garden enfolding the house will transport you back to a bygone era.
You can view the William Fehr Collection of Artworks on Paper, to get a better feel for the life of an early Cape settler.
*Translated from Dutch: United East Indies Company
Location: 78 Buitenkant Street, CBD
Iziko Koopmans-de Wet House
You might have walked past this house on Strand Street, oblivious that it’s a hidden historical gem. In the 18th-century a wealthy family settled here. The house’s name comes from the final private owner, Marie Koopmans-de Wet. Over the years the building underwent renovations, but its original flair has remained intact. A beautiful façade, extravagant big sash windows, and stylish doors – it’s a classic example of Cape Dutch architecture. The private townhouse was the first opened to the public in 1914, giving it the status of oldest South African house museum.
Location: 35 Strand Street, CBD
The Castle of Good Hope featuring William Fehr Collection
The castle is the oldest South African colonial building. Dutch colonialists built it from 1666 to 1679. And for more than two centuries the pentagonal fort was the house of military and government operations. Walking through the castle will offer you a glimpse into the early Cape life. View William Fehr’s historical art collection in the Kat. This building was once the home of the Cape governor, situated in the middle of the Castle grounds.
The collection contains beautiful paintings and ceramics, as well as furniture. It’s a great way to gain insight into early colonial South African life.
Location: Corner of Darling Street and Buitenkant Street, CBD
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