The fervour for markets in South Africa's Cape Town has a long history, but the city's market scene has experienced a renaissance in recent years, with artisan foods, craft beers and designer goods drawing crowds across the 'Mother City'.
In the late 18th century in cobbled Greenmarket Square, the city’s second-oldest public site, slaves were traded alongside food staples like fruit and vegetables. Today the very same site is popular with tourists for its mix of arts, crafts and curio stalls. Since 1860, buckets of colourful blooms, including the national flower the protea, have been hawked at the Trafalgar Place flower market; it remains a great photo opportunity and chance to chat with the garrulous sellers, most of whose families have worked here for generations.
And for years, the Milnerton Flea Market has drawn bargain hunters and those with a sharp eye for a genuine antique or design piece among the 250 odd stalls set up beside Marine Drive.
The new-style markets have similarities between them, such as live music, whimsical decor (hay bales for seating, milk jugs filled with flowers hanging from the rafters) and children’s play areas. But each one also offers a subtly different grazing and shopping experience, as well as an ideal opportunity to engage with locals, catch up on the current vibe and snap up unique items, often from the makers themselves. From Thursday through Sunday, zig-zag around the Cape peninsula to the following venues.
What better way to cap off a drive from the city along the spectacular, cliff-side Chapman’s Peak Dr than to arrive at Cape Point Vineyards, a boutique winery overlooking the long sweep of Noordhoek beach? Every Thursday evening, the wine tasting room, restaurant and grounds are taken over by the Noordhoek Community Market (4.30-8.30pm). The focus is mainly on food, which can be enjoyed with the vineyard’s award-winning wines, but there’s also some stalls with fashion, handmade candles and flowers.
Back in the City Bowl, the southern end of St George’s Mall, is the location for the weekly lunchtime Earth Fair Food Market (earthfairmarket.co.za; 11am-4pm), where you can snack on a wide range of foods, from Vietnamese rice paper rolls and boerwors (sausage) sandwiches to paella and Afrikaan’s style stews.
The dining continues at the chilled City Bowl Market, which is located in a lovely old building in the Gardens district with a lofty hall and outside courtyards. Fresh produce and plenty of delicious nibbles and drinks are on offer, including freshly made salads, juices, sandwiches and craft beers.
The place to be in the southern peninsula community of Muizenberg come Friday night is the Blue Bird Garage Food & Goods Market,which rocks from 4pm to 10pm. Located in a 1940s hangar that was once the base for the first airmail delivery service in the Southern hemisphere, this is a particularly fun place to shop, graze and drink local wines and ales while grooving to live jazz.
When Justin Rhodes and Cameron Munro started Neighbourgoods Market in 2005 they had little idea it would turn into the phenomenally popular institution it is today. This expertly curated collection of local producers and micro-entrepreneurs has been the inspiration for several more markets featuring crafts, artisan foods and designer goods that have blossomed around the Mother City. It runs on Saturday from 9am to 2pm at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock (but get in and out early if you want to avoid the crowds). Gourmet eats and drinks are gathered in the main area, where you can pick up groceries and edible gifts or just graze, while the separate Designergoods area hosts a must-buy selection of local fashions and accessories. Check out Bluecollarwhitecollar for tailored shirts in eye-popping patterns and Grant Mason Originals for shoes made from luxury fabric offcuts.
Just as popular, but with a totally different vibe, is Oranjezicht City Farm Market (ozcf.co.za). This was originally based at Homestead Farm, next to their beautifully designed urban farm, created in November 2012 on a previously abandoned bowling green, and a space you can visit 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday. At the time of research, because of problems with city ordinances, this Saturday market (9am-2pm) was being held in the grounds of Leeuwenhoff, the official residence of the Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.
If you can tear yourself away from either of these, the outdoor Tokai Forest Market (tokaiforestmarket.co.za) offers farm-fresh produce and crafts in the leafy surrounds of Tokai, part of Table Mountain National Park. Grab breakfast here, some gluten free baked treats or handmade cheeses and let the little ones run wild in the various activity areas.
For many years Hout Bay, on the Atlantic Coast side of the peninsula, has been a destination on Sundays for its excellent craft market (10am–5pm), held on the village green. Among the items on offer are beadwork and other trinkets made in the nearby township of Imizamo Yethu.
At the far western end of Hout Bay’s harbour is the newer Bay Harbour Market. This imaginatively designed indoor market, which runs Saturday and Sunday from 9.30am to 4pm (and Friday from 5pm to 9pm between November and February), has been a riproaring success. There’s a good range of gifts and crafts, as well as very tempting food and drink options and live music.
If it’s the last Sunday of the month, scoot over to Newlands for the excellent Kirstenbosch Craft Market, which features one of the area’s largest and best selections of local crafts, from brightly painted tin fridge magnets to ceramics and designer millinery.