Bo-Kaap, a colorful neighborhood in Cape Town

The Bo-Kaap neighborhood has been added to the list of essential visits in Cape Town. It is a historic neighborhood, but above all it is very showy. And in recent times much safer than years ago. In short, if you travel to Cape Town you cannot miss a walk through Bo-Kaap.

What does Bo-Kaap mean?

In that peculiar South African language that is a mixture of languages ​​from almost any corner of the world, the Bo-Kaap expression that gives the neighborhood its name means “above the Cape”.

Something that is due to its location on the slopes of Table Mountainsince it is located on the slopes of Signal Hill, above the center of Cape Town.

Malay, the other name of Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap Street

In many publications the neighborhood also appears as the Malay neighborhood from Cape Town. And that already has a historical explanation.

The origins of this place must be sought in the seventeenth century, when the first Dutch settlers arrived in South Africa. They brought slaves from Southeast Asiawho were allowed to settle in this area of ​​the city.

To all those people to generalize, they were called Malays, but not all were originally from Malaysia. There were also some from India, Sri Lanka or Indonesia.

And that in itself is yet another example of the fusion of cultures that is South Africa, and that has a clear exponent in Bo-Kaap. Because the origin of the neighborhood is due to those settlerswith its customs, traditions and also its religion, the Muslim.

houses and mosques

House in Bo-Kaap

During the walk through Bo-Kaap the most striking are the popular houses, whose facades are painted in bright colors. The truth is that the appearance is the most curious. But, despite what one might think, they were not always like this.

In the past the houses were simply white. But there was a certain moment when the Muslim community decided to give them color to celebrate one of their festivities. And until today.

Even the different mosques scattered around the neighborhood are painted in colors. And it is said that everything is actually very studied, since the tones have been consulted among the owners of the houses so that the whole has its particular harmony.

Bo-Kaap’s Present

Houses in Bo Kaap

With Bo-Kaap’s humble origins as a slave quarter, you have to imagine that not everything has always been as pretty as we see it today. In fact, it was a somewhat insecure area in the past. However, today it has become one of the most cool from the city.

A) Yes, cafes, shops and workshops of artisans and designers have been opened, who live off the influx of tourists. And at the same time, the houses themselves are being acquired in some cases by people from outside the neighborhood. Something that worries the traditional residents, who think that the identity of Bo-Kaap may be lost.


The spirit of the neighborhood can be seen in greater depth at the Bo-Kaap Museum, located in an old house from the 18th century. There we are shown objects and photos that tell us about the most traditional ways of life and the customs of this peculiar neighborhood.

Must see in Cape Town

Long Street – Christina Mueller /

Somehow, the changes that are taking place in Bo-Kaap are nothing more than a reflection of the gradual modernization of the city. A city in which the most traditional, such as the Green Market, coexists with the businesses of large international firms.

a city that has, with its Victoria & Albert Waterfront, one of the most modern marinas from across the continent. A place that contrasts with the monuments of the charismatic Long Street, where the cathedral or the National Gallery is next to Company Gardens.

Everything, without forgetting the moving Museum of Slavery. In it you can also see references to Bo-Kaap, that neighborhood created by “Malay” slaves and that today is a reference for tourism in Cape Town.

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