Iziko Museums

Photo provided by Iziko Museums

The Iziko Museums of Cape Town are an amalgamation of national museums located near the city centre, along what has been dubbed the “Museum Mile”.

Iziko is an isiXhosa word meaning “a hearth” – the traditional centre of the home where families would get together to share oral histories. The Iziko Museums continue in this vein, with 12 museums across three spheres – natural history, social history and arts – coming together to share and celebrate Cape Town’s and South Africa’s heritage.

The natural history collections comprise:

• The Iziko South African Museum
• The Iziko Planetarium

The social history collections comprise:

• The Iziko Rust en Vreugd
• Iziko Koopmans-De Wet
Iziko at the Castle of Good Hope
Iziko Groot Constantia
• Iziko Bertram House
Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum
• The Iziko Slave Lodge 
• The Iziko Maritime Centre
• The Iziko Social History Centre

Comprehensive art collections are displayed at the Iziko South African National Gallery and the Iziko Michaelis Collection at the Old Town House in Greenmarket Square. 

The museums are a great way to explore Cape Town’s rich cultural history, and a major highlight for visitors is the Iziko South African Museum, which has exhibits ranging from almost 700-million-year-old fossils to insects and fish, dinosaurs and wildlife menageries. There are also stone tools dating from 120 000 years ago, traditional clothes from the last century and authentic African beadwork.

If social history is more your style, then a trip to the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum is not to be missed. Established in 1978, it was initially a depiction of a house and the lifestyle of a 19th-century Muslim family. Today it continues to highlight the history of the Cape Malay and Muslims in Cape Town and includes exhibits of the Bo-Kaap, presented in a national socio-political and cultural context.

The Iziko South African National Gallery is home to an impressive collection of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art, with more recent exhibitions focusing on South African history through art. The gallery has permanent collections, which are stored in the archives, while the exhibitions include paintings, modern installations, photography, sculpture, beadwork and architecture, among others.

Most of the museums are open Monday to Sunday from 10h00 to 17h00, but some operate on a slightly different time scale. Admission for 18 years and younger is free and booked school groups also enter at no charge. Prices for adults vary according to the different sites, with admission being free on certain commemorative days.

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