Bring an empty suitcase, because chances are you’ll be leaving Cape Town laden with booty. There's an almost irresistible range of products on offer, including traditional African crafts, ceramics, fashion, fine wines and contemporary art. You’ll also find antiques and curios from all over Africa, but shop carefully as there are many fakes among the originals.

Art & Design

The best places to tap into what's likely to be the next big thing are weekly markets, such as Neighbourgoods, and the collective designer spaces such as Woodstock Exchange and Stable. The annual Design Indaba festival is also the ideal time to catch up on all the latest creativity going on across the continent.

Commercial galleries stocking a broad range of visual arts are big in both the City Bowl and Woodstock areas, with the highlight of the month being the First Thursdays events, which often coincide with show openings. There are also some particularly talented ceramicists here, including Barbara Jackson and Clementina van der Walt.

Ethical Shopping

Shopping in Cape Town can have a positive effect on struggling local communities. Seek out crafts and souvenirs where the proceeds from your purchase go towards helping people struggling with poverty, or towards supporting projects to deal with health issues such as HIV/AIDS, or education.

A great one-stop shop for many such items is the Watershed. Here you'll find established brands, such as Wola Nani, specialising in picture frames and papier-mâché bowls, and the beaded works of Monkeybiz, alongside up-and-coming businesses such as the fashion accessories of Lulu K (www.lulukdesigns.com) or Cool-tabs (www.facebook.com/CoolTabs.accessories), made from recycled can tabs.

Fashion for All

Scout the boutiques on Long and Kloof Sts for upcoming designers and affordable streetwear. Alternatively go local with African print fashions that come either ready-to-wear or tailored to your taste and style. There's no shortage of international designer brands these days, mainly found in Victoria Wharf at the Waterfront, but also don't ignore local designers such as Stefania Morland, Malcolm Klûk and Christiaan Gabriel Du Toit.

Markets & Events

You can discover many up-and-coming retailers and buy great souvenir products at the many weekly markets held across the Cape and out in the Winelands.

First Thursdays is a popular monthly event centred on the galleries and design shops clustered around Church and Bree Sts – it's a chance to dip into the local art scene, as well as a roving street party. Observatory holds its own smaller-scale Art Thursday event on the second Thursday of the month. Pick up a leaflet showing participants from AHEM! Art Collective.

Need to Know

Opening Hours

  • Shops 8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri, 8.30am-1pm Sat
  • Malls 9am-9pm

Bargaining

When buying handicrafts from street hawkers and at some market stalls, some bargaining is expected. It’s not a sophisticated game, though, so don’t press too hard.

Taxes & Refunds

A Value-Added Tax (VAT) of 14% is included in prices. Foreign visitors can reclaim some of their VAT expenses upon departure at the airport so long as they have receipts with the businesses' VAT details on them.

Events

  • Design Indaba Local and international designers across various media swap ideas and show products in late February and early March.
  • Rondebosch Potters Market Held on the second-last Saturday in March and November.
  • Kirstenbosch Craft Market Lots to choose from at this regular event held on the last Sunday of the month.