South Africa might be famous for its gorgeous landscapes, game parks and coastline, but it also hosts some fantastic festivals throughout the year. From lively jazz concerts to oyster and cheese festivals, here's your guide to some of South Africa's most popular festivals and events.
1. Freedom Day
This national public holiday is one of the most important days of the year. It commemorates the anniversary of South Africa’s first non-racial election on 27th April 1994 – a very important sentiment to South Africans living in the post-apartheid world. The day is marked by military flyovers, parades and street parties. South Africans may also visit important sites to honour the struggle for democracy or get together with family and friends for a Braai (barbeque) to celebrate peace and unity.
2. Cape Town Jazz Festival
This annual festival is one of the most anticipated events in the South African music scene. For two days in late March, Cape Town sizzles with an eclectic lineup of local and international artists. The tickets often sell out months in advance, so if you're unlucky and miss out, get yourself down to the free community concert at Greenmarket Square to enjoy jazz in the sunshine.
3. Knysna Oyster Festival
Famous for its beautiful lagoon and delicious seafood, Knysna is one of the most popular destinations on the Garden Route. Despite its name, this annual winter festival held in July offers so much more than oysters. Sure, indulge in some of the country’s freshest, creamiest oysters, but don’t forget about the fun runs, marathons, wine tastings, eating competitions, live music and cooking demos. Round up the troops – this one’s a fun day out for the whole family.
4. South African Cheese Festival
What could be better than a festival dedicated to cheese? A cheese festival set in the stunning Stellenbosch wine region, of course! Hit up the annual South African Cheese Festival in April to indulge in delicious produce from local artisans and international cheesemakers. As well as tastings, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained, from cooking demos to pop-up picnics and live music on the lawn.
5. Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known as Kaapse Klopse, is an annual event held on the 2nd of January. The festival began in the early 19th century during the years of colonisation when slaves were brought to Cape Town to celebrate the New Year. It was the one day they were allowed freedom, and despite the language barriers, they would take to the streets to play jazz, dance and sing in colourful attire. The government banned Minstrel marches and parades during apartheid, but they resumed again once apartheid ended and have been in full swing ever since.
6. Cape Town Pride
Held at the end of summer between late February and early March, Cape Town Pride is one of the biggest Pride events in Africa. Thousands of people march alongside vibrant floats through the heart of Cape Town's CBD to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues and campaign for equality. As well as the parade, there are loads of events throughout the week including movie nights, parties, art exhibitions, karaoke and more.
7. Cape Town International Kite Festival
Running since 1994, this annual kite festival held in Zandvlei Nature Reserve raises awareness and funds for mental health. It promises fun for the whole family (regardless of whether you've ever flown a kite) with impressive kite displays, kite-making workshops, live music and local vendors serving up delicious food. Expect to see kites in every shape, size and colour imaginable.
8. The National Arts Festival
This 11-day festival held in July is the biggest annual art event in Africa. With a jam-packed lineup featuring performers and artists from far and wide, it's a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in all things creative. From intriguing art installations and stand-up comedy to theatre and street performers, there's something for everyone.
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