Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape…
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.
For our final day in Cape Town, we were heading to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, reputedly one of the best botanical gardens in the world. We had been lucky enough to visit some amazing botanical gardens during our travels; Kew Gardens in London, the New York Botanical Gardens and the Singapore Botanical Gardens to name a few, and we were curious to see how Kirstenbosch would compare.
The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens sit on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain which was on the opposite side of the mountain from where we were staying. After about 20 minutes the bus deposited us right outside the entrance to the gardens.
Regarded as one of the great botanic gardens of the world, Kirstenbosch—or rather, the land on which it sits—was bequeathed to the government by Cecil John Rhodes. At the time, it was nothing more than ramshackle farmland overrun with pigs. In 1913 a botanist called Harold Pearson set about transforming 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 528-hectare Kirstenbosch Estate (which includes the Garden) falls under the Cape Floristic Region, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There were free guided tours that leave from the Visitor’s Centre at 11:00 and 14:00. We missed the first and didn’t want to wait around for the later tour. We also opted not to take the audio guide and instead headed out with a map of the gardens in hand.
There are many paths that crisscross the gardens and we decided to head out to the furthest extremity of Kirstenbosch and work our way back. It was another stunning day and Kirstenbosch looked incredible with Table Mountain as its backdrop. Along the way, we took a walk along the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway – which is affectionately known as the Boomslang. This 130-metre steel-and-timber bridge snakes its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum, providing stunning views of the Garden and the Cape Flats. We passed by the cycad amphitheatre which had life-sized anatomically correct sculptures of dinosaurs and a pterosaur dotted among the cycads.
At the far end of the garden was our favourite spot at Kirstenbosch, the Protea Garden. We had come at in the spring, the best time of year to see the proteas at their best. Protea flowers come in many different shapes and forms. Yet the most common species used in floristry are the pincushion Protea, blushing-bride Protea, and, of course, the King Protea (the national flower of South Africa) which grows three feet high. It’s said that the name Protea was derived from Greek mythology, from ‘Proteus’ the son of Poseidon. Proteus was a shapeshifter, just like our beloved Proteas, which come in all different shapes and sizes!
From the top of the Kirstenbosch, we worked our way down the hills stopping at some of the other gardens including the fragrance garden, a medicinal garden and even a garden of invasive species. Scattered throughout the gardens were some lovely African stone sculptures, and bronze animal sculptures by Dylan Lewis.
Planning your visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
How to get to Kirstenbosch
By Car: Kirstenbosch lies 13 km from Cape Town’s city centre, well signposted on all major roads. From the city, take De Waal Drive (M3) in the direction of Muizenberg, at the Rhodes Drive (M63) traffic light intersection turn right (west/towards the mountain) and follow the signs to Kirstenbosch. Free parking is available at Gates 1, 2 and 3.
Download the map as a PDF.
By Bus: Both the City Sightseeing busses and Golden Arrow busses stop at Kirstenbosch.
The City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus, mini peninsula tour, stops at the Garden 15 times a day during summer (mid Sept to April) and 12 times a day during winter (May to mid September), 7 days a week.
The bus stop for the City Sightseeing bus is at the Visitors’ Centre (Gate 1), in the parking area directly below the Vida-e Café, to the left of the entrance to the centre as you walk in. The first bus arrives at 09:50 and there is one every 20 minutes in summer, and one every 35 minutes in winter, until the last at 16:20. Visit the website for prices, timetable and to book tickets.
The Golden Arrow bus service to Kirstenbosch departs from Mowbray Station, and one bus per day from the Golden Acre Terminus (near Cape Town Station) on weekdays only (Mondays to Friday only and not on public holidays).
The bus stop for Golden Arrow busses is situated under the big fig tree at the Bell Tower Gate, where the entrance road splits and goes left to the Visitors’ Centre (Gate 1) or straight to the Centre for Home Gardening (Gate 2). Telephone Golden Arrow Information Service on 0800 65 64 63 for current prices or more information. Please be advised to arrive early as busses depart promptly.
Entrance tickets can be purchased online at Webtickets
Best time to visit Cape Town
The best times to visit Cape Town are from March to May and from September to November. These shoulder seasons boast enviable weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices. When planning your trip, it’s important to note that the seasons here are reversed: South Africa’s summer corresponds with America’s winter, and vice versa. That said, Cape Town’s summer is the most popular (and most expensive) time to visit. Hotels and attractions are usually overflowing with travellers. Meanwhile, the Mother City clears out between June and August when chilly weather and frequent rainfall put a damper on tourist activities.
Other places to visit while in Cape Town
1. TABLE MOUNTAIN
Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top.
2. ROBBEN ISLAND
Robben Island was used at various times between the 17th and 20th centuries as a prison, a hospital for socially unacceptable groups and a military base. Its buildings, particularly those of the late 20th century such as the maximum security prison for political prisoners, witness the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression and racism.
The Bo-Kaap is an area of Cape Town, South Africa formerly known as the Malay Quarter. It is a former racially segregated area, situated on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city centre and is a historical centre of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town.
4. VICTORIA & ALFRED WATERFRONT
The V&A Waterfront is an iconic 123-hectare neighbourhood which welcomes millions of people from all over the continent and world. We celebrate heritage & diversity, champion art & design, support entrepreneurship & innovation & drive positive social, economic & environmental,
Where to stay Cape Town
1. LUXURY – ATLANTIC VIEW CAPE TOWN BOUTIQUE HOTEL
Atlanticview Cape Town is a privately owned intimate 5-Star Boutique Hotel. It’s perfectly located close to all the main tourist attractions, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain in Fashionable Camps Bay, “The South African Corniche”, packed with world-class restaurants, bars and beaches. The hotel is accessible to the Beaches (2 min), Table Mountain (5 min) Down Town or V+A Waterfront shopping Centre (10 min) and Cape Town International Airport (20 min). The Cape of Good Hope, Penguin Colony and Cape Winelands are less than an hour away.
The hotel has commanding 180-degree magnificent views sweeping from the top of Table Mountain and The Twelve Apostles range that disappears into the sea. It is truly the perfect place to holiday, honeymoon or simply take a break for a romantic weekend. This beautiful property is situated alongside a greenbelt/nature reserve in very quiet surroundings. It is far enough from the noisy crowds of the promenade but close enough to enjoy the beaches, bars and restaurants with spectacular views in all directions.
2. MID RANGE – ANCHOR BAY GUEST HOUSE
Anchor Bay Guest House is nestled on the slopes of Table Mountain within walking distance from the famous restaurants and nightlife of Sea Point. Less than 3.5 km away is the CBD of Cape Town, Cape Town Stadium, and of course, the extraordinary V&A Waterfront – a world-famous working harbour with many speciality restaurants, shops, boutiques, boat cruises, ferries to Robben Island, an aquarium and much more.
3. UNIQUE – THE GRAND DADDY
The Mother City’s most original, convenient and fun place to stay! The luxurious Grand Daddy Boutique Hotel on Long Street bustles with energy.
As well as standard rooms the Grand Daddy has an airstream trailer park on its rooftop. The seven original Airstream trailers each have their own decor theme and collectively reflect a typical South African road trip. Authentic Airstream trailers are incredible works of craftsmanship and their classic shape is unforgettably iconic.
4. BUDGET – LONG STREET BACKPACKERS
Accurately described as “The Soul of Long Street” (Lonely Planet, 2011), this famous hostel is the epicentre of action on Cape Town’s most vibrant street. There are literally hundreds of eating, drinking and entertainment options right on the doorstep.
Sleeping up to 80 guests, this hostel features a lush internal courtyard that’s perfect for braais, ping-pong, chilling, and meeting fellow travellers. The iconic brick building also boasts two large, sun-drenched balconies, with views of Long Street and Signal Hill. There are dormitory-style accommodations, as well as single, twin, and double private rooms, all with shared bathrooms. There is a TV room with satellite TV, a pool table, a well-stocked communal kitchen, and fibre-speed WIFI.