What's On in Cape Town

As much as it is known for its natural landscape, Cape Town's very identity is shaped by its iconic events. Locals and visitors from different backgrounds often find themselves celebrating side-by-side in the city's wide selection of annual cultural celebrations.

The city's history lives through events such as the Cape Minstrel Carnival, along with the Mother City Queer Project, Cape Town's biggest annual gay pride event which was originally a costume party to celebrate South Africa's new constitution in 1994. Whatever one's preferences, there are events throughout the year to keep the city's citizenry entertained and engaged.

Cape Minstrel Carnival (January)

A uniquely Cape Town experience, members of the city's "coloured" community usually celebrate 2 January, known as the second new year, with a minstrel party and march to the city centre. Troupes prepare for months for this colourful and uniquely South African procession, competing for various prizes and accolades. The carnival finds its roots in 19th century slaves being given the day after New Year off and, after slavery was abolished in the Cape Colony, it became a celebration of the city's working classes. 

J&B Met (February)

This is both the city's biggest horseracing event of the year and a fashion lifestyle event attended by the city's rich, famous and beautiful. People in attendance compete for the coveted best-dressed prize and there's even a horse race at some point in the afternoon.

Cape Argus Pick ’n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour (March)

The largest timed cycle race in the world, the Argus, as it's usually known, attracts over 35,000 riders and is a city-stopping showpiece for spectators and cyclists alike. The route starts in the city centre before winding around the coast, over Chapman's Peak, and to the finish in Green Point. The vast majority of riders are amateurs which lends the race a carnival, fun-filled atmosphere that belies the testing nature of the strenuous 68 mile (109km) route.

Cape Town International Jazz Festival (April)

Starting out as the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2000, the Cape Town Jazz Festival has grown to become one of the city's largest events and is the biggest jazz festival in Africa. The event consistently attracts international performers and also offers a free concert with selected performers at Greenmarket Square.

Hermanus Whale Festival (September)

The best land-based whale watching venue in the world, Hermanus celebrates its aquatic visitors with music and merriment. Walker Bay hosts the breeding southern-right whales for several months so, if one misses the festival or prefers quieter conditions, there are other chances to see these magnificent creatures.

Kirstenbosch Concerts (November to April)

Every Sunday evening in the summer, the magnificent Kirstenbosch Gardens hosts a series of sunset concerts featuring local and international artists. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy great music under a summer sky framed by Table Mountain.

MCQP (December)

The world-famous Mother City Queer Project has become the biggest costume party on the city's calendar. Each year's theme invites outrageous and imaginative costumes and attracts people from across the spectrum – gay and straight, young and old, black and white.