Rainbow colours in Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap

If you’re planning a visit to Cape Town anytime soon and love beautiful bright colours, character and spectacular views, you should add the Bo-Kaap to your itinerary.

This historic neighbourhood with its rainbow-coloured houses and steep cobblestoned streets is a firm favourite among photographers and travellers-in-the-know and extremely Instagram-worthy. So, I thought it was about time that I shared some of my own pics and told you a bit more about this special place.

The Bo-Kaap (meaning ‘Upper Cape’ or ‘Above Cape Town’) is situated along the slopes of Signal Hill and within walking distance of the Cape Town city centre. It’s a steep walk up the hill but totally worth it!

This area is also known as the Cape Malay Quarter, since it became the home of slaves who were imported from the East Indies (mainly Malaysia and Indonesia) from 1658 onwards to work in the newly-established Cape Colony. The slaves included highly-skilled craftsmen, artisans, scholars and religious leaders, and the majority of them were of Muslim faith. The Cape’s first mosque (and South Africa’s oldest!), Auwal Mosque, was built in the Bo-Kaap in 1794 and is still in use today.

A post shared by Valentin Remeuz (@remeuz) on

Photo of Auwal Mosque by Valentin Remeuz, via Instagram

The Bo-Kaap has an interesting history, much of which you can learn about at the Bo-Kaap Museum which is located in a beautiful old house from the 1760s, or on one of the many organised walking tours in the area.

A post shared by N P-ART (@npart83) on

Photo of Bo-Kaap Museum by N P-Art, via Instagram

A moment in time: Street art depicting a chapter from the Bo-Kaap’s history.

During South Africa’s dark Apartheid years, the Bo-Kaap was proclaimed as an area exclusively for the Cape Muslim population, and people of other religions or skin colour were forced to leave. While this helped to preserve the Cape Muslim culture and heritage (despite the cruelty to others), it was also an anomaly at the time, as the Apartheid government’s general policy was to move people of colour outside the city centres.

Since the advent of democracy in South Africa in the 1990s, interest in the Bo-Kaap’s incredible location and character has grown dramatically and the area has become hot property.

Beautiful, colourful Bo-Kaap with a glimpse of Lion’s Head in the background.

As more and more outsiders buy up the properties, the unique character of the area is starting to change – something I find rather sad. I also suspect that property interest rates would have increased dramatically over the years, forcing house owners to sell their family properties (the majority of them being working class).

While capitalism, unfortunately, always goes hand-in-hand with democracy, one can only hope that the City of Cape Town will recognise the importance of preserving this incredible piece of heritage in the heart of the city, before it’s too late!

For me, one of the greatest legacies of the Cape Malay population is the incredible spices that they brought from the East and introduced to the Cape cooking so many centuries ago: cloves, cardamom, mustard, cinnamon, coriander, dhanya (fresh coriander leaves), aniseed, bay leaves, ginger, saffron and more.

A famous shop in the Bo-Kaap is Atlas Trading Company where you can buy many of these spices. Just walking past the shop and breathing in the wonderfully intoxicating aromas of the spices is a recipe for instant happiness!

I absolutely love Cape Malay cooking – our cuisine in Cape Town would have been so boring without it! My favourite dishes include: Cape Malay curry, bobotie, rotis, samoosas, koesisters and milk tart.

If you’re feeling peckish, treat yourself to some delicious samoosas or koesisters at the nearby Rose Corner Café in Wale Street.

Photo of delicious koesisters by Hannerie Visser, via Instagram

How to reach the Bo-Kaap on foot

Walk up from Wale Street towards Signal hill. It is a steep uphill walk but shouldn’t take you long. (Wale Street is the street where you will find St George’s Cathedral and the entrance to the Company’s Garden.)

The most beautiful and photogenic street in the Bo-Kaap is Chiappini Street (which is to your right, just after you passed the Bo-Kaap Museum and Atlas Trading Company).

It is a small area to explore but rich with photo opportunities, so snap away at to your heart’s content! And, should you visit the area in the late afternoon, enjoy listening to the muezzin’s call to prayer …

Have you every visited the Bo-Kaap in Cape Town? What did you enjoy most?

 

Pin it for later:

If you’re planning a visit to Cape Town anytime soon and love beautiful bright colours, character and spectacular views, you should make sure to visit the Bo-Kaap. Click the pin to read the post from www.GrooveisintheHeart.co.za

 

Linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday, and:

Weekend Travel Inspiration Linkup The Weekly Postcard Linkup Faraway Files Linkup

49 thoughts on “Rainbow colours in Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap

  • September 13, 2017 at 5:35 pm
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    What a colorful and tasty looking neighborhood full of rich culture and interesting history that I have never heard of. I know many stories of how gentrification through capitalization happens when certain areas get “popular” – Detroit is seeing this right now and even my Portland Oregon is definitely feeling it. There has to be a balance of preserving local culture and populations while still being able to grow and develop in a sustainable way. Thanks for sharing this lovely place with #FarawayFiles, Erin

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    • September 14, 2017 at 5:30 pm
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      So true, Erin. Sustainable and responsible growth is essential for the preservation of culture and history. It’s such a fine balance! Thanks for your comment 🙂

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  • September 12, 2017 at 3:04 pm
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    This isn’t what i expected Cape Town to look like. It could be the Caribbean. very interesting bit of history!#wkendtravelinspiration

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    • September 14, 2017 at 5:42 pm
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      It’s indeed a very interesting part of Cape Town that’s sometimes missed by tourists since it’s a bit off the beaten track! So glad you enjoyed my post … thanks for the visit, Eileen 🙂

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  • September 12, 2017 at 1:48 am
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    I visited Cape Town many years ago but stuck to the main tourist spots of Table Mountain, Fishermans Wharf and the Cape of Good Hope. I never ventured too far into the city – it really is very attractive and well – colourful.
    Sally’s Tips 4 Trips recently posted…Things to Do and See on a Penang HolidayMy Profile

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    • September 14, 2017 at 5:24 pm
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      Hi Sally! So happy that you’ve had a chance to visit Cape Town many years ago. There is always so much to see at any new tourist destination, there’s no way one can see everything, but that just gives us an opportunity to return again one day 🙂

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  • September 11, 2017 at 3:18 pm
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    I’m always drawn to colour and I just love the look of these brightly painted houses. So much so that they’d be top of my to do list of things to see in Cape Town. I’d love to try some Malaysian food and visit the spice shops as well. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) recently posted…Faraway Files #45My Profile

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    • September 11, 2017 at 7:33 pm
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      Thanks, Clare! I’m also always drawn to bright happy colours wherever I go and, against the beautiful blue skies of Cape Town, these rainbow houses make for great pics 🙂

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  • September 11, 2017 at 1:44 pm
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    Bo-Kaap has an interesting history and I too find it unusual that the neighborhood was maintained during periods of Apartheid. This area is quite well maintained and I wonder if it looked as good when the original slaves were in residence.

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    • September 11, 2017 at 4:08 pm
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      It was never maintained during Apartheid. The area was allowed to be run down. Much of the area is still stagnant. The block of flats at the foot of Signal Hill has stood still in time. The only reason why the area (well, parts of it) is being spruced up is that affluent people have moved in.

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    • September 11, 2017 at 7:27 pm
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      During the apartheid years, this neighbourhood was definitely not as well maintained! Parts of it became quite neglected as it didn’t receive the same municipal services as the other areas. It was only since democracy in 1994 that people started to take an interest in the place, because of its great location, especially in relation to the CBD and the tourist sites surrounding it. The colourful houses in my post have been redone to reclaim its original appearance and many of these houses are actually being bought up by outsiders. There are still parts of the Bo-Kaap that still resemble years gone by and in need of renovation…

      Reply
  • September 11, 2017 at 12:35 pm
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    I hope I get the chance to wander around this colorful neighborhood, take in the spicy aromas, and sample some of the delicious food. Do you think the neighbor will change much as new people move in? Is there still a strong core of locals dedicated to preserving the heritage? Thanks for linking up this week #wkendtravelinspiration!
    Jim ~ reflectionsenroute recently posted…For the Kids! Playmobil FunParkMy Profile

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    • September 11, 2017 at 7:22 pm
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      Unfortunately, the neighbourhood is changing as new people move in. There are people, though, that are working hard to preserve the heritage – let’s hope they succeed in the long run so that people can enjoy this little gem still for years to come.

      Reply
  • September 11, 2017 at 3:42 am
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    This looks like a gorgeous place to visit. Certainly a different perspective on SA that many don’t think of. Thanks for sharing #theweeklypostcard

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    • September 11, 2017 at 7:20 pm
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      It certainly is! Cape Town has many other wonderful treasures to offer tourists too, so you should definitely try to make your way here one day, Laura 🙂

      Reply
  • September 10, 2017 at 8:42 pm
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    So I’m going to East Africa and South Africa in December! And Cape Town was on our itinerary but my boyfriend told me that we won’t have time now and we will have to add it to our next trip 🙁 I was so excited to visit Cape Town but am still exciting to visit Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa! I’ve seen pictures of these color buildings on Instagram and wanted to see it in person, next time!
    Christine | The Journey of Christine recently posted…Canoeing in Moraine Lake | Banff National ParkMy Profile

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    • September 11, 2017 at 7:18 pm
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      How exciting that you’ll be traveling to Africa later this year, Christine! Cape Town is, in fact, a city right at the tip of South Africa, but it sounds like you will only be in the northern parts of the country? I hope you’ll get a chance to visit Cape Town one day. In the meantime, enjoy Zimbabwe and Botswana – two beautiful countries that are very Insta-worthy too 🙂

      Reply
  • September 10, 2017 at 5:25 pm
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    What a pretty neighbourhood! I’m from Southeast Asia and was very intrigued to learn about the Cape Malay community – never knew that there was such a sizeable community of Malays and Indonesians all the way over in South Africa! I definitely don’t recognise the Cape Malay dishes you mentioned though. I imagine their cuisine must have changed over the years and is probably influenced by local flavours and tastes in South Africa.

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    • September 10, 2017 at 8:25 pm
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      Hi Michelle! Glad you enjoyed my post! Well, the community are descendants from Malays and Indonesians who came to Cape Town in the 17th century already, so it is a long time ago 🙂 And it became even more diverse with the arrival of other cultures such as Indians, Sri Lankans etc later on. Yup, the cuisine is definitely influenced by the Dutch etc. The Cape Malay slaves often had to cook for the Dutch settlers and they adjusted many recipes using their own spices from the East Indies. Really so fascinating!

      Reply
  • September 10, 2017 at 7:25 am
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    Hi Birgit, I’m back after a few months absence. This essay is very informative, well written and clear. Bo-Kaap’s buildings also seem well laid and well kept.
    Edward Fagan recently posted…Health, The Best Bodily StateMy Profile

    Reply
    • September 10, 2017 at 10:52 am
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      Hi Edward! So good to hear from you. Welcome back, and thanks for your lovely feedback!

      Reply
  • September 10, 2017 at 7:12 am
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    My husband and I have been talking for a long time about visiting South Africa. We still didn’t make it there, but I hope to visit Cape Town someday. Your pictures caught the atmosphere of this place quite well. I love these colorful buildings in contrast with the Lion’s Head. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    • September 10, 2017 at 10:51 am
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      Thanks, Anda! It’s a looong flight from LA to Cape Town but once you’re here, there’s so much to see and do – totally worth it! It’s also good to know that your US dollars will stretch far in South Africa, so you’d be able to spoil yourself a bit! 🙂

      Reply
  • September 10, 2017 at 12:59 am
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    You really weren’t kidding about the bright colors! We love buildings that aren’t afraid of being bright and colorful like that. Can’t help but cheer up when you see them! We hadn’t heard of Bo-Kaap, but you’ve certainly piqued our interest. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.
    Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net) recently posted…#TheWeeklyPostcard – 8 September 2017My Profile

    Reply
    • September 10, 2017 at 1:10 am
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      Those bright colours are an instant tonic 😀 So glad you feel the same!

      Reply
  • September 9, 2017 at 3:57 pm
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    This neighborhood looks right up my alley! I love colorful buildings and cobblestone streets! And I agree- It’s very INSTA-worthy 😀 I’ve been dying to get to Cape Town, so I’ll definitely keep this in mind!

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    • September 10, 2017 at 12:49 am
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      I hope you can make your way to Cape Town soon to experience it for yourself and take some gorgeous pics!

      Reply
  • September 9, 2017 at 11:06 am
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    Your post brings back memories. I was in the Cape Region just a few months ago. It’s one of those places that you can visit over and over again.

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    • September 10, 2017 at 12:32 am
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      That’s wonderful. So glad you had a chance to visit, Wendy!

      Reply
  • September 9, 2017 at 5:38 am
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    I haven’t been to Cape Town and when I do some day, Bo Kaap is one of the places that I want to visit because I’m from Malaysia 🙂 I’m curious to see the colourful houses and to learn about the history – how the Malay community was formed in Bo Kaap. I bet there are similarities in their food with Malaysian food 🙂 #FarawayFiles

    Reply
    • September 10, 2017 at 12:47 am
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      Ah, yes, of course! You’re from Malaysia! 🙂 I’m sure you’ll find the history and Malaysian influences very interesting. Even the local Afrikaans language (similar to Dutch) adopted some Malay words … such as ‘piesang’ (pisang) for banana and ‘baie’ (banyak) for much 🙂 And yes! There are definitely similarities with Malaysian food. When I visited Malaysia years ago, I just loved the food, felt so familiar and yummy!

      Reply
  • September 9, 2017 at 5:20 am
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    Love the bright colors! The pictures are definitely instagram-worthy! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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    • September 10, 2017 at 12:30 am
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      Thanks Sarah! Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

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    • September 10, 2017 at 12:28 am
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      Ah, yes, you are right! It does remind of Burano … I loved visiting the small island. You will definitely love the Bo-Kaap too!

      Reply
  • September 8, 2017 at 11:14 pm
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    I didn’t know they had those types of buildings. Lovely! #Weeklypostcard

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  • September 8, 2017 at 10:44 pm
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    Wau, I’ve never heard about Bo-Kaap, but due to the photos, it is definitely worth a visit. Just tell how steep is it? Even when it’s called ‘Above Cape Town’. 🙂 #wkendtravelinspiration

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    • September 10, 2017 at 12:25 am
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      It’s definitely worth a visit, yes! It’s not that steep, despite the name 😉 You just have to walk from town centre up the hill and the most colourful houses are in the first section, so no need to walk too far. Hope you can visit one day.

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    • September 8, 2017 at 7:41 pm
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      Wow! So glad you had a chance to visit this special place 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your time in beautiful Cape Town.

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    • September 8, 2017 at 7:40 pm
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      I also love bright colours! Makes me so happy. Hope you get a chance to visit Cape Town one day.

      Reply
  • September 8, 2017 at 9:11 am
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    I’ve known the Bo-Kaap for more than 60 years and I’m again stunned by its beauty. Thanks for the magnificent photos! Carry on opening eyes for beauty!

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    • September 8, 2017 at 7:37 pm
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      Thank you! We live in such a beautiful part of the world with something special around every corner. We’re really lucky 🙂

      Reply
    • September 8, 2017 at 7:30 pm
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      How interesting. I would love to travel to Puerto Rico one day. Will make a mental note of San Juan I also love bright colours very much!

      Reply
    • September 8, 2017 at 7:28 pm
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      Yes! All those beautiful colours are an instant pick-me-up!

      Reply

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