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The Traveller’s Guide to Bo-Kaap

Bo Kaap Houses, Cape Town

The Bo-Kaap is one of Cape Town’s most historically rich neighbourhoods, with so much to see, taste and do we highly recommend adding a visit to your Cape Town itinerary.

Here’s our guide to what you simply cannot miss while visiting the Bo-Kaap.

A Brief History

Situated at the foot of Signal Hill, on the fringe of the city centre, and formerly known as the Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap’s origins date back to the 1760s when numerous ‘huurhuisjes’ (rental houses) were built and leased to slaves. These individuals, known as Cape Malays, were brought from Malaysia, Indonesia and the rest of Africa to work in the Cape.

The Colourful Houses

The houses in Bo-Kaap are a mix of Cape Dutch and Georgian architecture, positioned in distinctive multi-coloured rows on steeply cobbled roads. The choice of colour is said to be attributed to the fact that, while on lease, all the houses had to be white. When this rule was eventually lifted, and the slaves were allowed to buy the properties, the owners painted all the houses bright colours as an expression of their freedom. Bo-Kaap is home to predominantly Muslim families who have been living there for generations. Today, the Bo-Kaap community is a significant part of the city’s cultural heritage.

What to See and Do

A five-minute walk from the city centre and De Waterkant and a 20-minute walk to the V&A Waterfront, the Bo-Kaap is best accessed by foot along Wale Street. Explore the Islamic “kramats” (shrines), mosques and food and craft markets, and discover the delicious Cape Malay cooking style. Please note that you do not need a permit to walk Bo-Kaap and surrounding streets in the City Centre.

Take an Audio Tour

Starting at the Bo-Kaap Museum, this 20-minute Audio Tour is guided by Shereen Habib, who has served as a guide for over 20 years- her family has lived here for almost a century. Take a leisurely walk as she guides you on a deeply personal loop through the historical heart of this area. With her help, you’ll soon see why this place is so close to the hearts of thousands of people across the world.

Download the Audio Tour: voicemap.me/tour/cape-town/bo-kaap-walking-tour

Bo-Kaap Museum

The Bo-Kaap Museum is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in the history and culture of Cape Town. The museum, housed in one of the oldest and most well-preserved houses in the neighbourhood, dates to the 1760s. The museum offers visitors a glimpse into the lives and traditions of the Bo-Kaap community, which has a unique blend of Cape Malay, African, and European cultures. The exhibits include historical documents, photographs, artefacts, and interactive displays.

Location: 71 Wale St, Schotsche Kloof
Price: R40 for South African adults, R20 for South African children aged 5 to 17, South African pensioners and students (with valid cards). Free entry on Fridays.

Auwal Masjid

Nestled in the vibrant neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap, the first and oldest mosque in South Africa, the Auwal Masjid, or Auwal Mosque, stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of this diverse community. With its striking white façade and towering minaret, the mosque’s history dates to the early 18th century. The Auwal Masjid continues to serve as a spiritual and social hub for the Bo-Kaap community and visitors.

Location: 39 Dorp Street, Bo Kaap
Contact: Email info@auwalmasjid.co.za

Bo-Kaap

Cooking Tours

Discover the food and lifestyle of the Bo-Kaap community when you attend a cooking class hosted by one of the locals. From folding samosas and making rotis to mixing spices for a perfect traditional Cape Malay Curry, you’ll both learn and taste a whole lot. Experience a day in the life of the Bo-Kaap community, culminating in enjoying your lovingly prepared lunch.

Tours to consider:

Bo-Kaap Cooking Tour: www.bokaapcookingtour.co.za
Faeeza’s Home Kitchen: faeezashomekitchen.com/
Cape Fusion Tours: capefusiontours.com

Scootours

Scootours take you on an adrenaline-pumping trip down Signal Hill to the Bo-Kaap on a big-wheeled scooter. Powered only by gravity and momentum, this is an exciting way for the whole family to experience the city. Once you arrive in the Bo-Kaap, you’ll be whisked back up Table Mountain for your second trip down.

Contact: Visit www.scootours.co.za

Where to Eat

Here are some restaurants to check out:

Bo-Kaap Kombuis 

Bo-Kaap Kombuis is an authentic Cape Malay restaurant that pays homage to its surroundings.  ‘The Kombuis’, as the restaurant is affectionately known, is owned by Yusuf and Nazli Larney and has been serving guests for more than 17 years. The menu consists of everything from Cape Malay curries, vegetarian dishes, and snacks like potato waras and samosas. And, for those who want more than one option, the restaurant has included a tasting platter on their menu, with options of fish curry, butter chicken and lamb curry.

Location: 7 August St, Schotsche Kloof, Cape Town
Contact: Call 021 422 5446 or email nazli@bokaapkombuis.co.za, or visit www.bokaapkombuis.co.za

Bo-Kaap Kombuis

Biesmiellah Restaurant

This family-owned business has been around for more than 4 decades. Situated in the colourful area of Bo-Kaap, this traditional Cape Malay restaurant serves up an assortment of tantalising cuisine that celebrates locals and their culture. Biesmiellah, which translates to ‘in the name of Allah,’ is a strictly halaal establishment known for its affordable meals. The menu is expansive, offering everything from perfectly spiced curries to mouthwatering seafood dishes and beloved snacks like the chili bite, potato wara and samosas.

Location: 2 Wale St & Pentz St Bo-Kaap, Schotsche Kloof, Cape Town
Contact: Visit www.biesmiellah.co.za/ or call 021 423 0850

Rose Corner Café

While this café might not be the place to sit down for a meal, people travel from far and wide for their ‘warm worsies’ (hot, pink sausages) and traditional koesisters (the round, spiced Cape Malay answer to a doughnut). It also offers a variety of other café-type items and spices.

Location: 100 Wale St, Bo-Kaap

Bo Kaap Deli

Award-winning Bo Kaap Deli serves Cape Malay-inspired cuisine in the heart of Bo-Kaap. This aesthetically pleasing eatery offers a diverse menu, featuring everything from koesisters and curry to burgers and breakfast. The deli also boasts an outdoor seating area that showcases some of the area’s top views.

Location: 114 Church St, Bo-Kaap
Contact: Visit www.instagram.com/bokaapdeli/

Marco’s African Place

Marco’s African Place is a 220-seater restaurant that celebrates African culture and international cuisine. Delight your senses with a culinary journey featuring indigenous African and Cape cuisine, including the Pan African Platter with Springbok, Kudu, and Ostrich, Crocodile, and traditional Xhosa dishes. As you dine, enjoy performances by marimba bands and other live acts

Location: 15 Rose St, Schotsche Kloof
Contact: Visit www.marcosafricanplace.com/

Where to Shop

The Diamond Gallery

The Diamond Gallery offers one of the most exclusive diamond and Tanzanite experiences in Cape Town. Visit their showroom, which features South Africa’s only Tanzanite emporium, to acquire a timeless keepsake. Book with their warm and welcoming team, who will answer all your questions and showcase the best of their jewelry and gems.

Location: 15 Jordaan St, Cape Town City Centre
Contact: Visit www.thediamondgallery.co.za

Atlas Trading

This family-owned spice emporium is where you’ll find every flavour you’ll ever need (and ones you never knew you needed). Established in 1946, Atlas Trading is managed by brothers Shouket and Wahab Ahmed who bring wholesale spices to the community and public at a great value.

Location: 104 Wale St, Schotsche Kloof, Cape Town
Contact: Visit www.atlastradingcompany.co.za

About Us

Cape Town Tourism is the city of Cape Town's official Regional Tourism Organisation, responsible for tourism marketing, visitor and industry services.

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