Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is regarded as one of the best in the world. When the land was obtained under the government of Cecil John Rhodes, it was farmland overran with pigs. In 1913 a botanist, Harold Pearson transformed the land into a botanic garden devoted to the country’s indigenous flora. It now contains over 7000 species of plants from southern Africa. The Kirstenbosch Estate is over 1,300 acres, falls under the Cape Floristic Region, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here are the best things to do at Kirstenbosch:
1. Tackle the Boomslang
Before venturing off to the stunning botanical, the Boomslang was the most popular picture on social media. A boomslang is a venomous snake whose name (meaning “tree snake”) refers to its preference for residing in trees. The Boomslang is the nickname for the garden’s tree-top walkway that snakes above the arboretum, giving an aerial view of the gardens and parts of Cape Town. Officially called the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, the Boomslang opened in 2014. Although it is quite picturesque, Kirstenbosch offers more Instagramable options to flex with.
2. Enjoy a picnic
Probably the most popular activity, other than simply strolling, is to pack a picnic and find a quiet corner to eat your lunch. Believe me, next time I visit, I won’t forget my bottle of red wine and brie. It’s the perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. Turn on a bit of Spotify, grab a good book and before you know it, your entire bottle of wine will be finished. Maybe I’m speaking for myself.
There’s plenty of food markets to pack your basket with all kinds of goodies. It can be a bit busy on the weekends and holidays, but there was no trouble finding a reasonable private area. Try to visit on a weekday if at all possible.
3. Free guided tours
Kirstenbosch can be overwhelming. It looks as if it’s just lawns, trees and flowers, but in fact, there are themed gardens: medicinal plants, indigenous species, and endangered plants among others. The best way to really experience Kirstenbosch is on a free guided tour. These insightful walks last around 90 minutes and take place from Monday to Saturday. The walks also highlight whatever is flourishing that season and allow you to see aspects of the park you might not find by yourself. You can find the tour times here.
4. Hike Table Mountain
If you’re feeling energetic and start early, Kirstenbosch is a great spot to reach the top of Table Mountain. The five-hour Skeleton Gorge hike is well-known, but let me tell you, no route, no matter where you start, will be easy reaching the top of this mountain. I nearly died, zero exaggeration, but that’s a story for another day. It’s a strenuous hike taking in forest, reservoirs and eventually, views of the city in every direction. Invest in a good map or a guide before heading out. If you’re a beginner, a guide would definitely be the better choice.
5. Live Concerts
Oh to discover this! I love live music and to have it in beautiful scenery is even better. The estate lets you bring in your picnic baskets full of goodies, even to the concerts. Guess who already has their ticket for the next one?!
From November to April, Kirstenbosch stages sunset concerts on Sunday afternoons. Most of the acts are famous South African bands, with music ranging from classical and folk to soft rock plus Christmas carols by candlelight in mid-December.
6. Lunch at Moyo
Another wonderful surprise was lunch. If it’s not picnic weather or you just fancy a more elaborate lunch, try Moyo. While often times restaurants in more touristy parts don’t have the best food, the lunch was delicious. The pan-African menu features a lot of South African classics like snoek, game meat and boerewors as well as African fusion dishes such as ostrich steak marinated in Ethiopian spices. There was an added bonus as there were live performances with African song and dance and traditional face painting. Moyo is open daily for lunch and for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
Durban Lamb Curry. A bit spicy. Savory. Highly recommended.
7. Outdoor art
As if the natural beauty isn’t enough, there are examples of sculptures scattered around the gardens as well. There’s a whole garden section dedicated to the different art pieces. Along with rotating exhibitions, there are permanent collections including animal sculptures and traditional African stone carvings.
If you’re ever in Capetown, make this one of the stops on your list! It’s about a 20-min drive from the city center and only 70 rands for adults. You can visit the gardens:
Sep-Mar (Summer): Mon-Sun: 08h00-19h00
Apr-Aug (Winter): Mon-Sun: 08h00-18h00