There’s so much more to Cape Town tourism than beaches and mountains. The city’s vibrant townships offer insight into local life that you simply won’t experience anywhere else.
Here’s what you can expect when visiting some of Cape Town’s best-known townships.
Gugulethu is one of Cape Town’s original townships, first established in the 1960s. The Xhosa name Gugulethu translates to ‘our pride’.
The streets of Gugulethu are always buzzing with activity. During a tour of the township, you can be assured of meeting many local vendors while you learn about the community and its culture.
Gugulethu is home to Mzoli’s Place, a highly popular tavern-style restaurant and butchery. This is just the spot to enjoy an authentic ‘Chisa Nyama’ experience – choose your meat and the Mzoli’s team will cook it on the braai (outdoor barbecue) while you wait, serving it up with traditional South African sides like pap and bean salad.
Music is a big part of life in ‘Gugs’, and some township tours will also give you the opportunity to meet the township’s many celebrated jazz musicians.
Located on the slopes of Hout Bay, this seaside township is home to a vibrant community of 30 000 people. Tours of the area offer you the chance to meet and interact with residents, see unique local architecture and art, and enjoy dinner at a traditional tavern while being treated to African choir and dance performances.
First established in 1985, Khayelitsha is the largest township in Cape Town. This informal settlement is known for the strong entrepreneurial spirit of its residents. The main streets of Khayelitsha are bustling with local businesses – everything from hair and beauty salons to car washes to street food vendors selling magwinya (a tasty fried bread dough).
Don’t leave Khayelitsha without visiting the unique 18 Gangster Museum. This ‘living museum’ is the first of its kind in Africa. It’s an immersive experience designed to educate South African youth about the pitfalls of gangsterism and drugs. The installations are curated by former offenders who talk to visitors about their experiences with gangsterism, incarceration and turning their lives around for the better.
Langa is the oldest informal settlement in Cape Town, first founded in 1927 and located around 15km from the city centre. Be sure to visit the Langa Pass Museum to learn about the area’s powerful political history – during the apartheid era, Langa was home to a 50 000-strong protest march against the pass laws of South Africa.
Langa is also known for the local braai culture. A visit to the township wouldn’t be complete without flame-grilled meat and an icy South African beer.
Philippi is a township that was formed in the Cape Flats area during the 1980s. The Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) is home to many small-scale farms, which produce an amazing 100 000 tons of locally grown vegetables for Cape Town households and supermarkets every year.
Philippi Village is well worth a visit when you’re in the area. This five-storey former cement factory has been repurposed into a retail, business and recreation hub. It’s home to a variety of offices, conference facilities and event spaces, to help promote local entrepreneurship. It also includes a library, a college and on-site creche for the children of working parents.
This is where you’ll find the Philippi Container Walk, a series of shipping containers used as retail space by local artists, designers and other small businesses. This is a unique shopping experience, and with more than 70 businesses (and counting) it’s also the longest container walk in Africa.
Township tourism in Cape Town provides visitors with a unique perspective on the lives of local residents while helping to boost township economies. Many local touring companies provide the opportunity to explore these vibrant areas on foot, bike or bus.