Situated at the foot of Signal Hill and known for its bright, rainbow-colored houses and steep cobblestone streets, Bo-Kaap is the cultural home of the Cape’s Muslim community.
Iconic local businesses abound in Bo-Kaap, where you’ll find local food like “warm worsies” (hot sausages), samoosas, and koeksisters (coconut-dusted doughnuts) early in the morning.
The Bo-Kaap Museum house in the area is still in its original form. The main focus is the contribution made by early Muslim settlers, and the house depicts the life of a typical Malay family.
Where to eat in Bo-Kaap:
1. Bo-Kaap Deli
This unassuming streetside cafe serves Cape Malay specialties including masala mince shakshuka and koeksisters, a donut-like delicacy wrapped in coconut, close to the famed brilliantly colored Bo-Kaap buildings.
For one of the best butter chicken dishes on this side of the equator (and other spicy treats), visit Biesmiellah in the Bo-Kaap. They also serve everything from braai platters to North Indian curries so you’ll be spoilt for choice.
3. Bo-Kaap Kombuis
Renowned for serving the best Cape Malay food, the Bo-Kaap Kombuis is an institution. Their Masala Steak Sandwiches are unbeatable and their views of the city and Table Mountain are simply phenomenal.
A collaboration between chefs, coffee drinkers, and human beings, Batavia is where Cape Town pays homage to Cape Malay cuisine. Styled like a home in the Bo-Kaap, here you can truly experience coffee and enjoy the robust taste of different fusions. Menus vary based on conversations with local farms so expect to see new surprises whenever you visit.
5. Marco’s African Place
Seating over 220 guests, Marco’s African Place is a huge restaurant with an enormous spirit to match. Encompassing many facets of African culture, from food to music and even art, Marco’s African Place is popular among locals and visitors alike. The restaurant features daily live entertainment and also hosts jazz events from time to time. The décor is truly African, with ceramic pots from around the continent and pieces of traditional art and African instruments on the walls.
Where to shop in Bo-Kaap:
1. The Diamond Gallery
The Diamond Gallery offers one of the most exclusive diamond and Tanzanite experiences in Cape Town. Visit their showroom and South Africa’s only Tanzanite emporium to buy a timeless keepsake. Book with their warm and welcoming team who will answer all your questions and show you the best of the best of their jewelry and gems.
2. The New Modernist
This is a little slice of heaven for those who love décor, design, and modernism. Stepping into the doors of The New Modernist is like walking straight into a home magazine; curator Emma De Crespigny has created a space dedicated to modernist furniture and design. It’s a fresh approach to a vintage store that will have you dreaming of redecorating and leave you inspired.
3. Atlas Trading
This family-owned spice emporium is where you’ll find every flavor 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.
The traditional art of beading is being modernized by the crafters at Monkeybiz, who are using beadwork as a way to uplift themselves and their communities. You’ll find the perfect keepsake, souvenir, or heirloom here in their beaded artworks, available in all the colors of the Bo-Kaap.
It doesn’t get trendier than this local design collective selling exceptional local design items, Deluxe Coffee and Detox Juices. See and shop items from 10 local designers, from beautifully crafted gold and silver jewelry to colorful African print backpacks and shirts with Afrikaans sayings on them.
What to see & do in Bo-Kaap:
1. Bo-Kaap Free Walking Tour
Visitors are able to see the Bo-Kaap neighborhood on foot while also gaining insight into the district’s vivid history, culture, and scenery on this free walking tour by Nielsen Tours. Trips depart three times a day each day, starting from Green Market Square on Shortmarket Street. On this tour, guests will get an overview of Bo-Kaap’s best-known landmarks, including colorful houses, hidden places to find local beers, multiple mosques, and historical restaurants and shops. This informative, fun, and free tour is simply not to be missed!
2. Bo-Kaap Museum
The Bo-Kaap museum was established in 1976 as an extension of the South African Cultural History Museum. In order to depict the lifestyle of a traditional 19th-century Muslim family residing in Bo-Kaap, the museum is set up and furnished as if it is a family’s home. Although the museum is small, it offers visitors a look into the past, culture, and socio-political climate of the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. Entry costs the equivalent of just $2 too, so taking this quick stop at the Bo-Kaap Museum is definitely worth it!
3. Auwal Mosque
As a hub of Cape Town’s Muslim population, the Bo-Kaap district boasts numerous mosques. However, the best known of these is unquestionably the Auwal Mosque. Commissioned by an Indonesian prince and built-in 1794, the Auwal Mosque is the first mosque built in all of South Africa. Interestingly, the first Imam, or Muslim worship leader, is thought to have written several copies of the holy Quran completely from memory in this spot.
4. The Noon Day Gun
After the English occupation of the Cape in 1795, Dutch guns were taken and replaced by a bigger English cannon. Ever since 1806, a shot has been fired from the cannon at noon as a time signal. Today, the tradition is still held and the shot is loaded by the South African Navy and heard by residents daily. The noon day gun is Cape Town’s oldest lasting tradition and visitors are able to visit the site to watch the process of shooting the gun, learn about its history and gaze out at the views of the city.
5. Bye Cycle Tours
Cycle through the city, including the beautiful Bo-Kaap, on an electric bike from Pedego when you join Bye Cycle Tours for a morning of exploration. Their electric bikes, also known as “ebikes” are like traditional bicycles, but with an added motor so you can let the battery do all the work up one of the Bo-Kaap’s intimidating hills.