What's On in Cape Town

As much as it is known for its natural landscape, Cape Town's very identity is shaped by its iconic events. Locals and visitors from different backgrounds often find themselves celebrating side-by-side in the city's wide selection of annual cultural celebrations.

Here is a list of some of the city's not-to-be-missed yearly events.

Cape Minstrel Carnival (January)

This uniquely Cape Town carnival has its roots in 19th-century slaves being given the day after New Year's Day off. As a result, the event is also known as "tweede nuwe jaar" ("second new year"). After slavery was abolished in the Cape, the parade became a celebration of the community's newfound freedom. Today, it is a symbol of their freedom from Apartheid, too. Participants dress up as minstrels, form troupes and march in colourful parades, singing and dancing as they make their way through the city centre. Troupes prepare for months ahead of the event, competing for various prizes and accolades. 

The Sun Met (February)

Previously known as the J&B Met, this is both the city's biggest horseracing event of the year and a fashion lifestyle event attended by the city's rich, famous and beautiful. The place to see and be seen, the Met sees attendants vying for the coveted honour of being dubbed "best dressed". With all the glitz and glamour, one can easily forget that the ostensible reason for the event is a horse race.

Cape Town Cycle Tour (March)

The largest timed cycle race in the world, the Argus (as it's usually known) attracts over 35,000 riders and is a city-stopping showpiece for spectators and cyclists alike. The route starts in the city centre before winding around the coast, over Chapman's Peak, and finally to the finish in Green Point. The vast majority of riders are amateurs which lends the race a fun-filled atmosphere that belies the testing nature of the strenuous 68-mile (109km) route.

Cape Town International Jazz Festival (April)

Starting out as the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2000, the Cape Town Jazz Festival has grown to become one of the city's most prominent yearly events. It is the fourth-largest jazz festival in the world and the biggest jazz festival in Africa. The event consistently attracts international performers. In addition to the paid performances that make up the bulk of the programme, the festival also offers those who can't afford the hefty ticket prices a free concert with selected performers at Greenmarket Square.

Hermanus Whale Festival (September)

The best land-based whale watching venue in the world, the quaint town of Hermanus celebrates its aquatic visitors with music and merriment once a year. Walker Bay hosts the Southern Right Whales for several months so, if one misses the festival or prefers quieter conditions, there are other chances besides the festival to see these magnificent creatures.

Kirstenbosch Concerts (November to April)

Every Sunday evening in the summer, the magnificent Kirstenbosch Gardens hosts a series of sunset concerts featuring local and international artists. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy great music under a summer sky framed by Table Mountain.

MCQP (December)

The world-famous Mother City Queer Project has become the biggest costume party on the city's calendar. Each year's theme invites outrageous and imaginative costumes and attracts people from across all spectrums – everyone is welcome to join the festivities, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, age or race.

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