10 budget experiences in Cape Town’s CBD

Posted by David Henning on 27 July 2022

Like it or not, Cape Town’s CBD has gone bourgie. From one cafe to another gluten-free vegan bagel, with the rising cost of living, especially in the city centre, we need to find alternative ways to spend our time in the city.

French philosopher, Henri Lefebrve, wrote in his revolutionary paper The Right to the City in 1968, that access to life in the city is ‘like a cry and a demand’ and ‘cannot be conceived as a simple visiting right… It can only be formulated as a transformed and renewed right to urban life.’

So with the weather beginning to look a bit better, let’s reclaim the city, get lost, meander – enjoy ourselves in a place that is equally ours. Here are the Cape Town Central City Improvement District’s (CCID) 10 budget-beating venues or experiences to try in the Cape Town CBD.

1. The Company’s Garden

10 budget Cape Town CBD experiences

Beautiful, historic, child-friendly, and known for its resident pigeons, squirrels and trees, the Company’s Garden is a wonderful space to just simple wander. It was originally used by the Dutch East India Company as a refreshment station on its trade route from Europe, today the Company’s Garden is the green lung of the Cape Town CBD.

Take yourself on a tour of the trees, some of which are 200 years old or more, or if you have work to do, the national library has communal working areas where you can get things done in peace and quiet.

Address: Queen Victoria StCost: Free

2. First Thursdays

10 budget Cape Town CBD experiences

Come into town on the first Thursday of every month when art galleries, retail venues and restaurants, bars and clubs stay open to welcome visitors with open arms.

The monthly initiative started in Cape Town in 2012, inspired by similar initiatives around the world. The official organisers put out a programme that includes galleries and other cultural attractions, as well as retail stores, restaurants and bars.

Where: Cape Town CBDWhen: 6:30pm until late (First Thursday of every month)Cost: Free

Website: https://first-thursdays.co.za/

3. Take a hike

10 budget Cape Town CBD experiences

Picture: Matthew Sterne/ Getaway Gallery

How many cities can you think of perched under a beautiful mountain? Not just any mountain, an iconic one that also happens to be one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet! With countless routes, Cape Town’s flat-topped mountain offers some of the best views in the city.

Cost: Free

4. Iziko South African Museum

10 budget Cape Town CBD experiences

Since 1825, the Iziko South African Museum, located in the Company’s Garden, has captivated millions of visitors with its vast historical collections, ranging from fossils to ancient insects, a preserved quagga and historical tools. Little ones will love the whale display, not to mention some of the temporary exhibitions on right now, from JellyWorld (meet the Medusozoa) to an augmented reality experience of Ancient Egypt.

Address: 25 Queen Victoria StreetCost: R30 (Adults); R15 (Children aged 6 – 18); Free (Children aged 5 and under)

Visit the Iziko Museum here.

5. Nelson Mandela legacy exhibition

10 budget Cape Town CBD experiences

The Nelson Mandela legacy exhibition is located in the Cape Town City Hall.

Cape Town’s majestic City Hall boasts a permanent Nelson Mandela legacy exhibition that’s accessible to the public on weekdays. The installation, with interpretive panels, audio-visual and interactive displays, honours Madiba’s history and the country’s long struggle for liberation.

One can either do a guided tour to see the various phases covered including an early life timeline, the 1940s and 1950s in Cape Town, 1960s events leading to imprisonment, prison years on Robben Island, struggle protests, 1980s negotiations, his release, 1994 democratic elections and presidency and legacy.

To book a 45-minute viewing slot, email [email protected] The exhibition is open from 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Friday.

Address: Darling StCost: Free

Visit the Nelson Mandela legacy exhibition here.

6. Rethinking the William Fehr Collection

10 budget Cape Town CBD experiences

The exhibition is located in the Castle of Good Hope.

People should not take things at face value and challenge themselves to grow and see the world differently. That’s the aim of this exhibition at the Castle of Good Hope.

With extensive historical art and decorative objects, including furniture, collected by Cape Town businessman Dr William Fehr, which first went on public display in the 1950s. The core of the collection comprises artworks dating from the country’s colonial past.

Iziko Museums, the custodian of the collection, urges viewers to look at the stories behind what’s presented and see multiple meanings. Open from 09h30 to 15h30 from Monday to Sunday.

Address: Castle of Good HopeCost: R25 for children, R50 for adults

Visit the Iziko website here.

7. Clay Café in the City

10 budget Cape Town CBD experiences

Creativity and cake – a match made in heaven! This is a craft focused space where you can paint pottery and enjoy tasty treats with friends. It’s also a renowned spot for kids’ birthday parties.

When budgeted correctly, Clay Café in the City can come in under R250, which includes the studio fee of R40, painting a mug which starts at R55, and a small meal and drink.

Address: 199 Bree StreetCost: Under R250 depending on painted item and meal

Visit Clay Cafe here.

8. Friday Night Live at The Royal Oyster Bar

10 budget Cape Town CBD experiences

Catch live music at The Royal Oyster Bar on Friday Night Live. Diarise it so you can ease yourself into the weekend with good music, a selection of oyster and cocktail specials, and good food.

To book: call 071 490 2834.

Where: 17 Bree St
Cost: Entry is free, order from the menu

Visit The Royal Oyster Bar here.

9. Storytime for children at the Book Lounge

10 budget Cape Town CBD experiences

This downtown gem is an all-time favourite with bookish people but did you know that you can treat your children to story time every week and allow them to become part of the magic world of story-telling every week?Where: 71 Roeland StWhen: 11am (all kids are welcome and there’s no need to RSVP)Cost: Free

Visit the Book Lounge here.

10. Fruit of the vine tastings

10 budget Cape Town CBD experiences

Let your weekend begin with a complimentary wine tasting at Divine Wine Boutique every Friday. The aim is to alert customers to the interesting offerings on the boutique wine store’s shelves (they focus on small, family-owned vineyards) and the details are always shared on social media.

It’s not necessary to book, and entry is on a first-come, first-served basis, but space fills up fast and you can reserve a table if you plan to linger longer for some food and drinks.

Where: 35 Lower Long StWhen: 5-7pm every FridayCost: Free

Visit Divine Wine Boutique here.

Pictures: Supplied

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