There are a lot of events throughout the year in South Africa. Whether you are looking to get cultured, embark on a gourmet dining experience, soak up the sporting festivities or just get back to nature, here’s a list of what not to miss.
Food & Wine
The food and wine on offer in South Africa are outstanding. There are also festivals-a-plenty, but there’s a handful we wouldn’t dream of missing. Head to Knysna for a week in July for the Knysna Oyster Festival which has become world renowned with various sporting events and musical acts; but it’s the fresh Oysters that draw in the big crowds.
If you’d like to dabble in some wine tasting then stop off in the Cape Winelands for Franschhoek Uncorked. Held over the last weekend in September, it’s an amazing wine celebration with roughly 21 wineries participating. Newcomers this year include Babylonstoren, Eikehof, Black Elephant Vintners, Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons and Topiary Wines. Sample these award-winning wines while listening to live music and soaking up the ambiance with the rolling vineyards in the background.
Finally for something a little more grab-and-dash, stop by the trendy Street Food Festival. In its second year, the Street Food Festival consists of two one day events, with one day hosted in Cape Town and the other in Johannesburg. Bringing together new chefs, guest speakers, and an abundance of fantastic food. It’s well worth a visit. Entry to the market is free, but if you want to learn a thing or two you can pay to sit in on a seminar, or enjoy an arranged dinner from 7pm at an additional cost.
South Africa’s cultural scene is rich and varied, so there really is something for everyone. For the bookworms, Franschhoek’s Literary Festival is a three-day extravaganza of all things word-related. With lectures from visiting authors, readings and screenings – and with world-class vineyards around the corner – this is the perfect place for the discerning bibliophile.
Continuing the creative theme we head to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival (NAF), held in and around Rhodes University. Everything from performance art to stand-up comedy features on the programme, so head to this tiny town in the Eastern Cape for your 11 day dose of the most brazen and best performers and artists from around the world.
The Johannesburg and Cape Town art fairs are a departure from the NAF as they focus solely on fine art (painting, sculpture, and installations). The Johannesburg Art Fair this year runs for three days in September, and the Cape Town Art Fair runs for three days in February. These fairs have been instrumental in bringing African artists, curators and galleries and those from the diaspora to the forefront of the contemporary art scene.
For the more musically inclined, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival features performances from some of the world’s most renowned musicians as well as workshops and master classes. The Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts are also great for music lovers, set in the beautiful botanical gardens on a gentle slope – make sure you pack your picnic and get there early. Past performers include Johnny Clegg, Bryan Adams and Michael Bublé.
With most South Africans growing up outdoors, sport tends to come quite naturally to them, and whether you are joining in or spectating there is plenty to get involved in. The Cape Town Cycle Race is a cycle race that pushes your body. 35,000 cyclists will take to the road and pedal across 109km (68 miles) in one day. It’s not for the faint hearted, and cyclists from all over the world travel to Cape Town to give it their best shot.
The Comrades is something only to be entered if you are an experienced runner. Starting in Durban, the 56.1 mile course takes you across some amazing landscape throughout South Africa, and ends in Pietermaritzburg. Now in its 90th year and usually happening at the end of May and the route alternates the start and finish each year, so next year it will start in Pietermaritzburg. The Comrades is the running race of all races.
For something of a slower pace, take a seat at the cricket. England make their way over to South Africa in December for the first test series since 2011. With a mixture of five day tests, 20/20 and One Day Internationals, there are plenty of options to bask in what could be an England win. We can only hope.
The Two Oceans Marathon is widely recognised as the world’s most beautiful run. Based around Chapman’s Peak, Hout Bay and Constantia Nek, this 36.7 miles scenic route has become popular with locals and internationals a-like. The race takes place over the Easter weekend, so it is a great option if you are away for the holidays, and with half marathons, 5kms and 2.5kms on offer the whole family can get involved.
The Hermanus Whale Festival is an annual event that attracts visitors from all over the world to see the majestic Southern Right whales in close quarters. The record number of whales spotted in a single day is 196, and with activities such as kayaking and whale watching plane flights you could try and top that record. The festival runs from the end of September to the beginning of October.
The west coast region of South Africa is home to some of the most rugged coastal scenery on earth, as well as one of the most beautiful flower shows each year in September. Specifically the Namaqua West Coast Region, which most of the year looks like an arid desert, is turned into a kaleidoscope of colour following the winter rains. The Namaqualand Flower route is a great self-drive option for those who want to take a couple of days to appreciate this incredible event.