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Best Local History & Culture in Cape Town

By: Cityseeker
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iziko Koopmans-de Wet House

This historic house, situated in Cape Town's City Center, was one of the first private residences to be opened to the public. Today iziko Koopmans-de Wet House is one of the six sites of the South African Cultural History Museum, and is well known for its unique wall paintings. The home also contains valuable collections of porcelain, glass, furniture and art works. The house was originally built in 1700 and its facade, a fine example of neoclassical architecture, dates back to the late 18th century. Check website for details.

Cape Town, South Africa
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Bo Kaap Museum

As a satellite of the South African Cultural Museum, this museum features exhibits on the Cape Town Muslim community and historical insight into the city's diverse inhabitants. The museum is situated in a restored home of the historic Bo Kaap style, surrounded by other Cape Dutch architecture painted a spectrum of colors. Exhibits feature educational explanations and artifacts from the 18th century.

Cape Town, South Africa
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Slave Lodge

The Slave Lodge, dating back to 1679, is one of the oldest structures in Cape Town. It originally housed slaves of the Dutch East India Company, criminals, and the mentally disturbed. Over the years its function changed, as did its exterior. Today it is the flagship of the six South African Cultural History Museum sites, housing collections of ceramics, toys, tools, silver and textiles, as well as artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Near and Far East. This museum primarily focuses on the history of slavery in Cape Town. Other exhibits focus on the history of the Cape in general.

Cape Town, South Africa
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Iziko Social History Resource Centre

In 2010, after a three year long renovation, the Social History Centre was renamed Iziko Social History Centre. The center is a museum as well as an immensely large central archive. It houses more than 2,50,000 historical artifacts, cultural artifacts, books, etc. Located in the heart of the city, the museum is one of the most popular attractions in the city.

Cape Town, South Africa
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Iziko Maritime Centre

The sea has had a profound influence on the history of Cape Town and the Iziko Maritime Centre, located at the V & A Waterfront, gives an insight into that nautical bond with many interesting exhibits. Shipwreck artifacts, naval history, commercial fishing, passenger liners, and an actual navy ship can be seen here. The decommissioned SAS Somerset is berthed on a quay outside the museum – one of the six sites of the South African Cultural History Museum. The SAS Somerset is the only Boom Defence Vessel left in the world and is open to the public.

Cape Town, South Africa
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Castle Military Museum

The Castle of Good Hope is tone of the most ancient structures in the country of South Africa and within it resides the Castle Military Museum. Initially, this museum was meant to have a naval theme, but in 1992 the curator decided to instead focus on the history of the Capes military. Now a historic monument, this museum is known for showcasing swords and other weapons belonging to the ancient military of Africa.

Cape Town, South Africa
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District 6 Museum

Originally founded in 1994 as a space where ex-residents could gather and meet, the District 6 Museum stands as a way to memorialize the tumultuous history of the district's residents. As part of the South African apartheid, more than 60,000 native residents were relocated to an area known as the Cape Flats. Today, the museum offers exhibitions depicting the history of this ward. Tours guided by an ex-resident of District 6 are available by calling in advance, or visitors can tour the streets on their own. A bookstore and coffee shop are also located on-site.

Cape Town, South Africa
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South African Naval Museum

The SA Naval museum was opened by the Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral R C Simpson-Anderson on 1 April 1993. The collection was formerly displayed at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town and the Martello Tower in Simon's Town. On display is a diorama of a submarine Operations Room complete with authentic sounds and a control centre. Whilst at the museum you can visit the adjoining Dockyard Church with its splendid stained glass windows - originally the Sail Loft. Weddings and funerals are still held in the church.

Cape Town, South Africa
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Robben Island

Between the 17th and 20th Centuries, Robben Island was synonymous with isolation, variously used as a prison, leper colony and asylum. Through the course of its history, this small island off the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, South Africa was also employed as a post office, military outpost and port for ships visiting Table Bay. However, the island is most renowned as the site of the maximum security prison for political prisoners opened in 1961 to detain the leaders of the anti-apartheid revolution. The most notable of the island's inmates is Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years of his 27-year sentence at Robben Island. Other former inmates include Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma, both of whom went on to be elected presidents of the country following the fall of apartheid in 1990. Robben Island is now a museum that preserves the legacy of the island; a symbol of the triumph of democracy over racism, inequality and discrimination. Besides the imposing edifice of the maximum security prison, the island also encompasses the crumbling ruins of the military fort, the lepers’ church, a small lighthouse and the tomb of Hadije Kramat - a place of pilgrimage. A World Heritage Site, Robben Island attracts thousands of visitors each year. Guided tours are led by former inmates who offer a rare glimpse into the lives of those incarcerated at Robben Island.

Cape Town, South Africa
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