Bo-Kaap and De Waterkant

Photo courtesy Paul Mannix

Bright Colours and Brighter Smiles

Known for its brightly coloured houses and situated at the foot of Signal Hill, Bo-Kaap is the spiritual home of the Cape’s Muslim community.

Follow Wale Street until you get to brightly painted Georgian terraces and narrow cobbled streets – now you’re in the Bo-Kaap, one of Cape Town’s most colourful suburbs.

A Colourful History

Bo-Kaap has a fascinating history. Many of the residents are descendants of slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and various African countries, who were imported to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The slaves were known as “Cape Malays” (which is not essentially true as most of the residents are not entirely of Malaysian descent). However the term has stuck and Bo-Kaap is also known today as the Cape Malay Quarter.

The best place to discover the history of the area is the quaint Bo-Kaap Museum (+27 21 481 3939). It’s open from 10h00 to 17h00 from Monday to Saturday. Tickets cost R10 for adults, R5 for students and pensioners and children aged 16 and under may visit free of charge.

The museum building dates back to the 1760s and is the oldest house in the area that is still in its original form. The main focus is the contribution made by early Muslim settlers, and the house depicts a recreation of the life of a typical Malay family.

Head towards Dorp Street and you’ll find the Auwal, South Africa’s first official mosque. This historic building was founded in 1797 by the influential Imam Abdulla ibn Abd al Salaam, a well-known Muslim scholar and activist.

Eat your way around the Bo-Kaap

One thing you simply have to do when visiting Bo-Kaap is to have a traditional Cape Malay meal at one of the restaurants. Spices are heady and recipes date back centuries.

Next to Bo-Kaap you’ll find De Waterkant. This trendy area has become one of the most sought-after addresses in Cape Town. Many of the old 19th-century homes have been transformed to create a village feel reminiscent of London’s Soho and New York’s Greenwich Village.

There are numerous art galleries and restaurants and the area is popular with fashionistas from around the globe. It’s also a favourite haunt of the local gay community.

Learn to cook like a local

If you're keen on spending some time in the kitchen, book yourself on a cooking safari and learn to cook secret recipes from one of the local Bo-Kaap ladies in her very own kitchen. This unique excursion takes you the heart of Bo-Kaap, for a tour through the Bo-Kaap museum, where you will learn more about the history of this colourful neighbourhood. Sample the smells of Atlas Trading, the Bo-Kaap's famous spice shop where locals stock up on the fragrant spices and herbs used in their delicious Malay recipes. Step inside the home of one of the local ladies where you will learn how to cook sumptuous traditional fare, like samosas, curry and rotis, before sitting down to share the feast with your host and often, members of her family. There is no better way to get to know the locals than by eating with them. After all, the way to a Capetonian's heart is through their stomach. 

Contact Coffeebeans Routes to book.

Book Now

Coffeebeans Routes

Tel: +27 (0) 21 424 3572
Fax: +27 (0) 86 616 3119

70 Wale Street
Cape Town
South Africa

Did you know?

Many of the Bo-Kaap residents are descendants of the slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and Africa who were imported to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Bo-Kaap is synonymous with colour. Photo courtesy of Alexandra Roberts

A mosaic of Bo-Kaap houses, courtesy of Kleinz1

  • Phone: +27 21 487 6800
  • Physical Address: 1 Loader Street, De Waterkant

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Thank you for your feedback. We agree that the reasons for and details around the establishment of the area are fascinating and the history is incredibly rich. We provide the contact details of the Bo-Kaap museum in this post, should readers/visitors require more in-depth information



I did not like this because it did not give me the information I needed. Sorry for saying but it is true. There needs to be more in-depth information. Give reasons for the location, why it was built there. you should consider things like, availability of water, fertile soil, climate and weather, grazing land, safety, transport routes, harbour, mining and minerals, past history, cultural factors and economic factors. Please update this A.S.A.P. Many people need this type of information.

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