Whether you’re greenfingered or not, Kirstenbosch is more than just a Botanist’s dream. Perfectly manicured gardens meet dense forests and unruly stretches of the peninsula’s renowned fynbos, all at the foot of Cape Town’s show-stealing landmark, Table Mountain. Welcome to “the most beautiful garden in Africa”.
Founded in 1913 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, these botanical gardens may not have been on your radar before, but as any local will tell you, they should be. Home to 7,000 species of plant – entirely native to southern Africa – it’s here that you will witness the Cape Floral Kingdom in all its glory.
Behold the ancient baobab, lush fern garden and arid desert display in the Conservatory, before wandering the Peninsula Garden where you’ll find over 2,500 species of plant, originating from the Western Cape area.
In the Fragrance Garden, a collection of sumptuously scented flowers have been elevated so that you won’t have to break your back getting a good whiff of them all. And over in the Medicine Garden, you’ll receive a lesson in the various medicinal qualities of a number of flora and fauna.
But it doesn’t stop there. Covering a mighty 528 hectares and protected as part of Table Mountain National Park, you’ll be strolling grounds punctuated by a pretty Sculpture Garden, an oasis-like natural lake, free-falling waterfalls and, you can’t forget to pause at the wishing well – you never know, it might just come true.
If there’s one word that features a lot when describing South Africa’s must-see spots, it’s “views”. And every time you catch a panorama – which is at least daily, if not hourly – you’re so sure that it can’t be beaten. But somehow, Cape Town’s viewpoints just keep on delivering; in Kirstenbosch, things are no different.
A modern amalgamation of steel and timber make up the gardens “Boomslang” Canopy Walkway – a vista boasting bridge that is definitely deserving of its “tree snake” moniker. Make headway here to be blinded by verdant views.
Or, step the view-factor up a notch and take in those of Cape Town’s city bowl by making your way up to the top of Table Mountain on either of the two hiking trails – skeleton gorge and nursery ravine – that begin in the gardens. Weary from a morning hike, picnicing on the neat lawns makes for the perfect summer-time activity – while away the afternoon sipping on a local sauvignon whilst soaking in the serenity of this botanical beauty.
If you’re short on time, or want to make sure that you don’t miss a thing, catch one of the free guided tours that leave at 11am and 2pm from the visitor’s centre Monday-Saturday, or take a self-guided tour with the help of a handy audio guide.
Oh, and if you happen to be holidaying here during South Africa’s summer, it doesn’t get more magical than Kirstenbosch’s sunset concerts – this is living like a local. It will be a Sunday evening that you’ll never forget.
It was the first botanical garden to ever be made into a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is evidence of quite how beautiful Kirstenbosch is. When in Cape Town, use your included hop-on hop-off bus pass to make a stop here - we recommend at least an hour to enjoy these beautiful gardens.
On eastern foot of the iconic Table Mountain – it even stretches up its verdant slopes.
8am-7pm in summer and 8am-6pm in winter (every day).
It’s a beautiful scene no matter what time of year you’re there. Visit between August and November and you’ll catch fynbos out in full force, whilst make it for the summer months and you can schedule in an open air cinema experience on your Wednesday evening as well as a live concert on the Sunday of your stay.
It costs R75 to enter the gardens, so if you’re planning on taking the trail to the top of Table Mountain from here, remember to check out the gardens first (unless you want to brave the same hike back down of course).
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