Souvenirs are a nice reminder of a holiday or time spent in a certain destination. They bring back beautiful memories from the country you have travelled to every time you look at or use them. Buying souvenirs does not only have to be as a reminder for oneself, but also as a gift to friends and family. The question often is: what are the best travel souvenirs to buy in Cape Town?
With lots of craft markets, local art shops and souvenir stalls, Cape Town is an outstanding place for souvenir shopping. Since Cape Town is often visited at the end of a trip through South Africa, it makes a great place to by South African souvenirs without having to carry them in your luggage during your trip. I love souvenir shopping in every country I travel in. And I especially like to buy South African gifts. The items are so nice, colourful and mostly handmade. I collected so many beautiful items over the years that every time I go shopping in Cape Town I have to restrain myself from buying more.
The best South African souvenirs to buy in Cape Town
Thanks to its amazing health benefits, Rooibos tea is gaining popularity worldwide. This fragrant caffeine free tea comes from a shrub-like bush which only grows in the Cederberg area on the West Coast of South Africa, just north of Cape Town, making it ‘truly South African’. It’s a very popular drink in South Africa. Rooibos tea of various brands can be found in most supermarkets. For nice gift wrapping, flavoured Rooibos tea or loose Rooibos tea, you can visit specialty tea or souvenir shops in town. Rooibos tea is a nice souvenir to buy in Cape Town, especially when you want something small and light to carry back home in your luggage.
Tip: You can also buy Rooibos Tea online if you run out of your South African stock
Biltong is a cured and dried meat flavoured with various spices, originating from South Africa. Biltong used to be made for meat preservation purposes by the early ‘Voortrekkers’, but is now a very popular snack in South Africa. Traditionally, biltong is made from beef but also comes in most variations of game meat; like kudu, springbok, ostrich and even shark. Biltong can be bought in supermarkets, butcheries and specialised biltong shops. Varieties of biltong include droewors (dried sausage) and chilli bites, which are small spicy sticks of meat. Biltong is great as ‘padkos’, which in South Africa means ‘snacks for the road’, or literally translated: ‘road food’ (but not road kill) It can also be had as an appetiser before a South African braai or barbeque. which is when you will have the real meat.
Tip: Keep in mind that you cannot fly to every country with meat products in your luggage but you may be able to buy it online in your destination / home country.
Amarula is a cream liqueur made in South Africa with the delicious Marula fruit as its main ingredient. The Marula fruit is distilled to a spirit base and aged in French oak for two years. The Marula fruit that grows on the Marula tree attracts many animals, especially the African elephant who love to eat this fruit. Therefore, the Marula tree is also called ‘The Elephants tree’.
Amarula liqueur, which has a delicious sweet and exotic creamy flavour is best drank ‘on the rocks’ or added to your coffee or dessert. The liquor is produced in South Africa, but around 70% of the production is exported to at least 100 countries worldwide. It is highly probable you can find Amarula in your home country, but buying this product locally always adds to the charm of a South African souvenir or gift.
Amarula Cream liqueur can be bought in any bottle store in Cape Town as well as in the airport if you want to get a bottle or two before flying out.
South African wines
South Africa is famous for its wines and wine producing regions. When visiting Cape Town, a visit to a wine farm should be high on your to do list. The region around Cape Town has so many great wine areas with multiple great wine farms; like Stellenbosch, Constantia and Franschoek. South Africa even has its own signature variety of red wine grape, which is the Pinotage. Did you know that the scenic Route 62, which meanders from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, is the longest wine route in the world?
Bringing home a bottle or crate of South African wines is a marvellous souvenir to remember the beautifully located vineyards, the delicious food and the amazing landscapes. Either pack a bottle in your luggage, or have it sent to your home address through the wine farm. A lot of wineries now also export wines all over the world. So you can go wine tasting in the various wine farms and you might be able to find your favourite South African wine on the shelf in your home country.
Decorated ostrich eggs and other ostrich products
Another typical South African souvenir that you can find in many gift shops in Cape Town are beautifully decorated ostrich eggs. Ostriches are indigenous to South Africa and being a large supplier of ostrich products worldwide, it plays an important role in the South Africa economy. Oudtshoorn is the Ostrich capital of South Africa and is great for a visit to learn more about the worlds largest, flightless birds.
The souvenir eggs of an ostrich are really large and empty, either plain, carved, painted and are great for interior or exterior decoration. Ostrich eggs can even be used as a light holder. Ostrich leather is used to make wallets and handbags and is easy recognisable by the ‘bumps’ on the leather. Another great and useful ostrich product are the feathers. They make great dusters, are very durable and can pick up the dust much better than any other type of duster. I use one and I can recommend it.
Carved wooden items
Wood carvings are very popular amongst tourists. They fit in most interiors and come in dozens of shapes and are a beautiful reminder of your stay in Cape Town and South Africa. From African masks, decorated bowls, to animal figures, and spoons, it will be easy to find something that you will like. I love to browse the various market stalls for some beautiful hand painted items, even though I have a whole collection already.
Tip: Keep in mind though, that along with biltong, wooden souvenirs cannot be brought into every country.
Wire and bead art
A beautiful and authentic souvenir to take home from Cape Town is some wire and bead art. Beads play an important role in local African tradition.
Local talented artists make the most beautiful items out of wire and decorate them with colourful beads. This art comes in various shapes and sizes. From keyrings, to animal figures, to toycars, it’s really worthwile to support the local artists as well as to get something nice and unique from your trip. Look for the stalls where you can see the artist working on his wire art, which is as local as you can get.
Diamonds and Tanzanite gemstones
Diamonds were discovered in South Africa in 1867. It is currently still one of the top producing countries in the world. Thanks to the favourable exchange rate, many visitors want to buy diamonds or jewellery in Cape Town. There are plenty of high end jewellery shops in the city selling diamonds. For many, it is the ultimate souvenir to take home from Cape Town.
Tanzanite is a beautiful blue violet gemstone originally mined in the area of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Tanzanite is only found in a small region in Tanzania making it one of the worlds rarest gemstones. It is currently a highly sought after souvenir for many tourists visiting Cape Town. The interesting exchange rate makes tanzanite an interesting buy for tourists. Many jewellery shops in and around Cape Town will have Tanzanite pieces for sale.
Tanzanite is one of the top 5 selling gem stones in South Africa.
Where to buy souvenirs in Cape Town
Cape Town has plenty of places where local and authentic South African souvenirs can be purchased. From souvenir stalls on the road, to art and craft shops, to specialty shops and large shopping malls, you can find it all and in abundance in Cape Town.
To list all the available places in Cape Town would be a few more separate posts, so I will list just a few places in town with lots of possibilities to find a beautiful South African souvenir.
Greenmarket Square: Located in the middle of the city centre, and surrounded by hip coffee shops and restaurants, street vendors build up market stalls to showcase their best souvenirs every day in Greenmarket square.
V&A Waterfront: The most popular tourist area with lots of shops selling a wide range of South African products as well as high end jewellery shops for diamonds and other gemstones.
Watershed: A new addition to the V&A Waterfront offering various arts and crafts, right next to the aquarium.
Company’s Gardens: Various street vendors set up their stalls in the Company’s Gardens to sell locally made crafts, also located in the city centre not far from Greenmarket Square.
Weekly markets: Cape Town is famous for its various indoor and outdoor markets where local crafts can be bought.
What is your most memorable souvenir you have brought back from your travels?
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