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5 of the best museums in South Africa

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

There are so many things to love about South Africa. After all, it’s a unique country, with all of our distinctive words and phrases, our 11 official languages, the spectacular scenery, wildlife, urban hubs and quiet countryside.

We also have a rich history, and the numerous museums around the country pay homage to what the people of South Africa have seen, endured, created, and discovered.

Museums serve a vital function; they open up our minds to the multi-layered experiences of those who lived before us; they provide a perspective that can make us feel as though we lived at a certain time; and they offer our children a way to learn about our country’s history in a way that immerses them in the experience and makes it interesting. They also bring the vast differences between the past and present into focus. Back in the day, our ancestors spent their days making tools to hunt so they could feed themselves and their families. Nowadays, for many people, our meals come in cardboard boxes and we prioritise finding insurance for our cellphones rather than discovering a clean and steady water source.

But more than this, they are often the best way for marginalised people, cultures and history to have a voice that is heard.

Each year on 18 May, International Museum Day is celebrated across the globe, highlighting the significance of museums for our cultures. If you’d like to celebrate it this year, we’ve made it easy for you to find a museum that interests you. Here are some of the best ones in SA, in no particular order:

1. Apartheid Museum – Johannesburg

You’ll find the Apartheid Museum next to Gold Reef City. It’s been open for 15 years and is home to exhibits, film footage, photos, and other artefacts from the apartheid era in South Africa. It’s definitely worth a visit to better understand the impact that apartheid still has on the political, cultural, economic and social landscapes of our country.

The museum’s permanent exhibitions cover a range of topics pivotal to the development of SA including the pillars of the constitution, Mandela’s release, the 1994 elections, and much more.

It’s open almost every day of the year, Monday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Admission for adults is R80 per person, while pensioners, children and students pay R65 each.

2. The South African Museum – Cape Town

Located within the Company’s Garden heritage site, the South African museum is a time capsule from nearly two centuries ago right up to today. It has a focus on scientific and cultural specimens that together, create a wide-angle view of our rich history. It houses more than one and a half million of these specimens, including fossils from insects over 700-million years old and garments popularly worn over the last few centuries.

It’s also got a digital theatre called Virtual Earth. It’s interactive, allowing visitors to view the earth from different times and perspectives, including the evolution of the ozone hole and atmospheric predictions.

Entrance for adults costs just R30, for children aged 6 –18, pensioners and students, it’s R15 per person. It is open most days of the year from 10am to 5pm.

3. Liliesleaf Farm and Museum – Johannesburg

Located in the heart of the suburban Rivonia area in Joburg, Liliesleaf was a covert haven for people with diverse backgrounds but all of whom had one common goal – to free South Africa from the apartheid regime.

If you’re interested in seeing where many anti-apartheid heroes hid out, including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, Liliesleaf is open Monday – Friday from 8.30am –5pm, and on weekends and public holidays from 9am – 4pm. If you’re looking for a guided tour, it will cost you R140 per person for adults, pensioners and children aged 8 – 17 get in for R40, students pay R60, and children younger than 7 get in free.

4. The Origins Centre – Johannesburg

If you’re keen to learn more about where you come from, the Origins Centre in Braamfontein is your best bet. The Centre houses palaeoanthropological and archaeological finds that paint an extraordinary picture of humanity. You’ll see an extensive collection of rock art, early human tools, cultural and spiritual artefacts, and ancient fossils. Plus, you’ve got the option of a guided tour, or you can wander through at your own pace.

The Origins Centre is open Monday – Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Adults will pay just R80 entrance, while pensioners pay R65, students pay R40, and children under 12 get in for R40.

5. The Kimberley Mine Museum – Kimberley

The first diamond ever discovered, now called the Eureka diamond, was discovered in Kimberley by 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs in 1866, and was 21.25 carats in size. Following this, prospectors hoping to make their fortunes flooded the area surrounding the site and created what is known today as the Big Hole, which is one of the largest hand-dug excavation sites in the world. Much of the country was built around diamond mining and to this day, diamonds are still one of South Africa’s biggest exports.

If you’re keen to visit the famous Big Hole, the Kimberley Mine Museum is open Monday –Sunday. Adults get in for R90, students and pensioners for R80, and children between 4 and 12 years old pay R50.


At Dialdirect, we understand that while you may not carry around priceless artefacts, your valuables are important to you. That’s why we make it easy to take out specified or unspecified portable possessions cover, where you can get glasses and cellphone insurance, and more.

Prices quoted above correct at time of publishing this blog.

All information obtained from:

[1] http://www.apartheidmuseum.org/

[2]http://www.iziko.org.za/museums/south-african-museum

[3]http://www.liliesleaf.co.za

[4]http://www.origins.org.za/

[5]http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/articles/entry/article-southafrica.net-origins-centre-south-africa

[6]http://www.thebighole.co.za/

[7]http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/zaf/