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Fun activities at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town

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Kirstenbosch is the National Botanical Garden of South Africa, located south of Cape Town’s city centre. It’s said to be one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world, situated at the foot of the impressive Table Mountain. There are plenty of activities in the botanical gardens, but even if you only have a couple of hours to spare, Kirstenbosch is worth a visit!

Kirstenbosch in short

What? National Botanical Garden
Where? 13 km (8 miles) south of Cape Town’s city centre
Cost? R75 ( ~ $5 ~ €4.60) entrance fee per adult
Good to know? No rubbish bins in garden
More information? Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Fun activities at Kirstenbosch

You can easily spend an entire day at this lovely botanical garden in Cape Town without getting bored. Here are some of the most fun things to do in Kirstenbosch.

Walk the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway

In 2013 Kirstenbosch celebrated it’s 100th birthday. To celebrate, they built the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, an elevated steel and timber walkway. You can access it on 2 different points, from where it slowly rises from the forest floor, into the trees, to eventually pop out above the canopy.

View from the Canopy WalkwayView from the Canopy Walkway
Birthe on the Centenary Tree Canopy WalkwayBirthe on the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway

The walkway is informally known as “The Boomslang” (meaning tree snake), because it snakes its way through the trees of the Arboretum. If there’s one thing you should do in Kirstenbosch, it’s this 130 m (~ 430 ft) walk. It takes you 12 m (~ 40 ft) above the ground, providing spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, including the famous Table Mountain.

The movement of the Canopy Walkway is totally normal btw, it’s not about to drop from under you.

Find all the dinosaur sculptures

Besides flora (and fauna), there’s quite some art to be found throughout Kirstenbosch Garden. There’s a bust of Nelson Mandela and the Sculpture Garden houses an exhibition of African stone sculptures.

Can you spot the dinosaur?Can you spot the dinosaur?

The sculpures we liked most are the life-sized, anatomically correct tin dinosaurs in the Cycad Amphitheatre. We just thought it was fun to try and find all 5 of them, but apparently this exhibition is to raise awareness about the threat of extinction many of South Africa’s cycads are facing. Since these palm-like plants were abundant during the Triassic and Jurassic eras and the dinosaurs went extinct too, we can definitely appreciate the meaning behind this exhibition.

Go smell the Fragrance Garden

At Kirstenbosch there’s a small Fragrance Garden as well. Rub the leaves of the different plants between your fingers to smell the fragrance they release and find out which ones you can recognise. Do note that you’re not supposed to pick the leaves, just rub and smell without damaging the plants.

Test your nose in the Fragrance GardenTest your nose in the Fragrance Garden
Beautiful King Protea at Kirstenbosch GardenBeautiful King Protea at Kirstenbosch Garden

Admire South Africa’s National Flower

The King Protea is South Africa’s National Flower, growing at Kirstenbosch. It flowers at almost any time of the year, so you should definitely be able to find one.

Do a picnic at Kirstenbosch Garden

Picnics are allowed at Kirstenbosch, but you can’t bring any chairs, umbrellas, barbecues or other “picnic furniture”. Just a blanket and a basket is the most cosy and romantic way to do a picnic anyway, right? No worries if you don’t have a blanket, Kirstenbosch Tea Room rents them out.

You can bring your own, or order a picnic (basket) from Moyo Restaurant or Kirstenbosch Tea Room. Do note that you can’t play ball games, fly kites, skateboard, or play music in the garden, to protect the plants and keep the peace.

Check out the picnic menu from the Kirstenbosch Tea Room here. Order your picnic at least 24 hours beforehand by emailing or calling them. Or click here and then on the Book Now button to order a picnic from Moyo Restaurant. Do so at least a couple of days beforehand.

Do some wildlife spotting

Challenge your travel buddy to spot the most wildlife at Kirstenbosch Garden. Loser buys drinks! You should definitely be able to spot some birds, as over 125 species have been recorded in the garden, and a squirrel or two. Maybe you’ll even see a tortoise, terrapin, lizard, or frog. To see a Grysbok (an antelope), caracal, or cape fox, you’ll have to be lucky, as they are mostly active at dusk or at night, hiding during the day.

Join a (free) guided tour

Kirstenbosch offers guided tours of the Garden daily, except on Sundays. These tours are free and take about 90 minutes. A knowledgable guide will take you on a walking tour along the highlights of the season. They leave from the Visitor Centre at 10:00, 11:00 and 14:00 from Monday to Friday, and at 10:00 on Saturday.  There’s a tour leaving from the Garden Centre as well, which is daily at 10:45.

If you don’t feel like walking, you can buy a ticket for the Shuttle Car Tour, costing R80 (~ $5.40 ~ €4.90) per person on top of the Kirstenbosch entry fee. These tours leave from the  Visitor Centre every hour on the hour between 9:00 and 15:00 daily.

For up to date hours and ticket prices, we refer to the Kirstenbosch website.

There are several trails throughout Kirstenbosch gardenThere are several trails throughout Kirstenbosch garden

Another option is booking a guided tour that combines Kirstenbosch with The Company's Garden, a large park in the heart of Cape Town. Check out this Botanical Gardens guided tour for more information.

Hike beyond the garden

If you like hiking instead of a walk through the garden, Kirstenbosch won’t disappoint either. There are 5 hiking trails of different difficulty levels on the estate. They are all well-maintained and sign-posted.

You can find more information on these different hikes on the Kirstenbosch website: the Braille Trail and Boekenhout Trail are shorter (about 15-30 minute) forest walks, with the Stinkwood Trail exploring the oldest part of the forest in about 45 minutes. For a longer hike around the Kirstenbosch estate and up to the waterfall, choose the Yellowwood Trail (about 1.5 hours) or Silvertree Trail (about 3 hours). You can find a map with these hikes marked on them here.

You can even climb Table Mountain from Kirstenbosch, but take care when doing so. There are steep gorges, unpredictable weather and people have been mugged on those slopes. Play it safe and book a guide for this hike, like for example this guided hike from Kirstenbosch to The Table Mountain Cable Station. Also, check the Kirstenbosch Mountain Safety Guidelines if you plan on heading up Table Mountain.

Attend the Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts

The Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts are musical concerts, held on the lawns of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. The perfect lazy Sunday activity if the weather is nice. We weren’t able to attend, but have heard this is the place to be on Sundays between the end of November and the beginning of April.

For the line-up and tickets for the Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts we refer to the Webtickets website.

Stage for the Kirstenbosch Summer ConcertsStage for the Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts

Go see a movie at the Open Air Cinema

During the same period as the Summer Sunset Concerts, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden also hosts an open air cinema. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, from October to April, doors open at 18:00 and the movie starts after sunset. Arrive early to get the best seats and try some of the local artisanal food and beverages sold at the market stalls. Or, you can bring your own food and drinks.

No worries, when the weather doesn’t permit an open air movie, everything moves to the ZipZap Dome.

Ticket prices range from R109 ( ~ $7.40 ~ €6.70) to R195 ( ~ $13.20 ~ €12), depending on you wanting a blanket, backrest or premium seats. Good to know: if it’s your birthday week, you’ll get in for free, complete with a blanket and backrest. And if you attended 5 movies, the 6th one is free!

For up to date ticket prices and information on which movie is playing when, we refer to The Galileo Website. You can also follow The Galileo or Kirstenbosch Facebook page.

Kirstenbosch entry fee and opening hours

The entrance fee for Kirstenbosch is R75 ( ~ $5 ~ €4.60) per adult, to be paid upon passing the ticket booth at one of the garden entrances. The visitor centre and gift shop are at Gate 1, the centre for home gardening is at Gate 2, and Gate 3 is the only entrance for visitors bringing their dog.

If you like having tickets beforehand, you can buy them on the Webtickets website as well. Click here to go straight to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden ticket page.

Kirstenbosch Garden is open daily, 365 days a year, from 8:00 to 18:00. In summer, from September to March, they close an hour later, at 19:00.

For up to date information on ticket prices and opening hours, we refer to the Kirstenbosch website.

These amazing views are open every single day!These amazing views are open every single day!

How to get to Kirstenbosch

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is about 13 km (~ 8 miles) south of the city centre of Cape Town, adjacent to Table Mountain National Park. Here are the different ways of getting to Kirstenbosch Garden.

Getting to Kirstenbosch by car

If you have a car at your disposal, like we did, it’s typically only a 10 to 20 minute drive from Cape Town’s city centre to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. It’s well signposted on all major roads and there’s free parking at each of the 3 gates:  Gate 1 Gate 2 Gate 3. Note that there might be parking attendants on duty there, requiring a tip. Some change will do.

Getting to Kirstenbosch on a hop-on hop-off bus

Kirstenbosch is one of the many tourist attractions in Cape Town the City Sightseeing hop-on hop-off bus stops. You know, that red open-top bus that you see in all major cities around the world? Take the Blue Mini Peninsula Tour to get to Kirstenbosch, among other attractions. You can buy tickets on the City Sightseeing website, or check GetYourGuide for deals.

Getting to Kirstenbosch by taxi or Uber

If you don’t like those touristy red open-top busses, you can always take a taxi or an Uber or Lyft to get from Cape Town to Kirstenbosch and back. Click here for more information on Uber, and here for more information on Lyft.

Good to know when visiting Kirstenbosch

Kirstenbosch is a no bins garden, meaning that you should take everything you bring with you into the botanical garden back out. It’s to keep the garden cleaner and discourage scavengers like rats.

Dogs are only allowed in some parts of Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Check out the Kirstenbosch Dogs Map for dog friendly walking paths.

Find a map of Kirstenbosch here: Kirstenbosch Garden Map.

It's easy to get lost in these gardens. Get a map!It’s easy to get lost in these gardens. Get a map!

There are enough fun things to do at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden to fill an entire day. And if you plan your visit right, you can even grab a Kirstenbosch Summer Concert. The garden is neatly maintained, with stunning views of the famous Table Mountain. Don’t skip this wonderful botanical garden when visiting Cape Town!

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Fun activities at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape TownFun activities at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town