Ardent Antiques and Cheerful Junk shopping on South African holidays

Antique shopping in Cape Town.

South African holiday overview

  • Duration: 1 day
  • Distance: 110km
  • Destinations: Cape Town centre, Groot Constantia, Kalk Bay, Simon's Town

Introduction

Anyone who loves digging and delving in dusty corners on South African holidays, from the ardent antique dealer to the cheerful junk collector, will find something worthy of a little light shopping along this route. It starts in town and heads to the southern suburbs, with built-in diversions if you're burdened with passengers who don't share your passion for antiquities. Between Groot Constantia and Kalk Bay it follows the Constantia Wine Route and passes Steenberg Golf Estate - perfect places to dump your companions so you can indulge your curiosity at leisure.

Distance:

About 45km to Kalk Bay. Add another 10km if you're continuing on to Simon's Town.

Best time to go:

On South African holidays, rainy days rule out the open air markets, otherwise anytime. Bear in mind early closing time for the city shops over weekends, so Saturday mornings and weekdays are great, with the bonus of the Groot Constantia antiques market on a Sunday.

The Route

Search for hidden delights on the dusty shelves of fabulous  shops along Church and Long streets in town, then the harbour-side treasure trove of Kalk Bay. Explore the Church Street antique market and Long Street shops in the city centre. Brunch or lunch at Groot Constantia and visit the Sundays-only antiques and collectables market. Meander along Kalk Bay Main Road to all the antique shops. If there's still time, head on to Simon's Town for afternoon tea, a browse and a boat trip.

Before you go:

Church and Long Street shops and markets are closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. The Sundays-only market at Groot Constantia more than makes up for that. Buy yourself a cash card to feed the parking meters in Long Street, or negotiate with one of the parking attendants, who'll make sure you don't run out of time. Costs range from about R2 an hour.

Reading list

Look out for the Antiques, Collectables and Africana Map in tourism bureaus and antique stores on your South African holidays. Updated every year, it lists good antique shops around Cape Town (and Gauteng), all of which are members of the SA Antique Dealer's Association (SAADA). A really good reference book is the Antiques Price Guide 2003 by Judith Miller (Dorling Kindersley), which lists over 8 500 antiques, each with a colour photograph, description and, most temptingly, a ballpark figure (in sterling) of what you might pay for a similar item. Have a look - that dusty dish you bought for a song might be worth a fortune.

Waterfront to Church and Long streets - 5min

From the Waterfront turn right into Buitengracht Street (M62 Camps Bay). After 1km turn left into Wale Street, then third right into Long Street and park. Head back down Long Street on foot (against the flow of the one-way traffic), cross Wale Street, Church Street is next. The Church Street Antiques Market, billed as Cape Town's original  market, is in the pedestrians-only area to your right. Non-shoppers can enjoy breakfast at one of the pavement tables at Café Mozart, while you wander from stall to stall, each brimming with old china, brilliant brassware, ancient coins, velvet gloves and old jewellery (including rare, and large, Zulu earrings that are inserted into the lobes), bric-a-brac and interesting junk.

The market complements some more highbrow antique shops and galleries that are worth visiting in the same street. Keep going to Burr & Muir, an emporium of art nouveau and art deco. Also pop into African Image, on the corner of Church and Burg streets, for beautiful (and some fun) African artefacts, old and new. Once you've exhausted Church Street, head back up Long Street towards the mountain and look out for the entrance to the Long Street Antique Arcade on your left. (If you hit Wale Street you've gone too far.) This is a rabbit warren of more than a dozen tiny shops, each well worth a dig.

You'll find beautiful old maps and prints dating back to the 1800s, militaria and medals, scientific and medical curiosities straight from the lab, dusty cameras, clocks, ethnic art and silverware, as well as the more predictable jewellery, china, paintings and porcelain. The arcade cuts the corner of the city block, so you'll pop out onto the pavement in Wale Street. Turn right then left into Long Street, for a meander up one of the most lively and diverse streets in Cape Town. Here antique and book shops sit sombrely next to backpacker lodges, student pubs, über-trendy fashion boutiques, clubs, pavement restaurants and seriously good cafés.

The street is peopled with a lively babble of tourists, grungy students, Rastas, artists and inevitable bergies, and you'll almost certainly trip over a film crew using Long Street as a historical/trendy/inner city backdrop for a shoot. On your wander up Long Street, look out for Clarke's Bookshop, possibly Cape Town's most important purveyor of rare and out-of-print books on southern Africa (as well as new ones) that tower to the ceiling. Bristol Antiques is also on this street and a little further on you'll find Atkinson's Antiques for fine jewellery, silverware, watches and objets d'art, as well as Second Time Around, for sequinned vintage and contemporary clothing and costume jewellery you can pick up for a (comparative!) song.

If all the antique dust is getting to you, there's also a factory shop full of outdoor gear for hikers, a couple of trendy fashion stores and one or two beautiful gifty/décor shops. Or settle down with a beer at one of the several pubs and pavement cafés that line Long Street. Right at the top of Long Street, past the Long Street Baths and across Buitensingel Road, you'll find another retro haven that's a winner with film crews looking for relics of the 50s and 60s. Bruce Tait Kitsch and Collectables, with arguably the most pierced man in Cape Town behind the till, bulges with feather boas, plastic fruit lights and all manner of glorious kitsch and collectables. You'll battle to leave without buying something and if you've always wanted a nodding dog for your rear windscreen, here's the store for you to browse in on your South African holidays.

Long Street to Groot Constantia - 25min

From the traffic lights at the top of Long Street, turn left into Orange Street and follow signs for N2 Somerset West and M3 Muizenberg to join highway. At Hospital Bend stay right, following signs for M3 Muizenberg and brown signs for Kirstenbosch. At about 10km, turn right into Rhodes Avenue, M63 Hout Bay, passing Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens after 2km. T-junction right to Hout Bay and Constantia Nek. At 17km on Constantia Nek circle,  turn sharp left to Constantia Main Road, M41 Wynberg. Turn right after brown Groot Constantia sign - the entrance to the wine estate is about 500m further.

A sense of history, distant views over False Bay and an antiques market every Sunday make Groot Constantia a good stop for lunch or brunch. The wine estate dates to 1685, when the land was granted to Simon van der Stel, a governor of the Cape. He planted fruit trees, oaks and vines, and about 40 of his vines still thrive here today. The manor house, built in 1692 at the end of an avenue of stately oaks, is one of the best-preserved examples of Cape Dutch architecture, and it houses a priceless collection of Cape furniture and porcelain.

The original wine cellar, dated 1791, is now a wine museum of drinking utensils and artefacts, including ancient amphoras, delicate glassware and an impressive set of imperial measures from gallon and quart to pint and a half-gill. Their assize stamp is 1569, and they were used at the Cape back in 1875. The swimming bath, from around 1795, is a pleasant stroll away from the main buildings. The Sundays-only antiques and collectables market is in a shaded courtyard that used to be part of the estate's old slave quarters. Browse through old china, books, antique and costume jewellery and plenty of shining cutlery and delicate silverware.

On your South African holidays, relax and have a meal at one of the two fully licensed restaurants - a general menu and traditional Cape fare at the Jonkershuis (they offer a sampler dish where you can taste a little of everything) or dine on some fine international cuisine, from burgers to venison, at Simon's. Afterwards, tour the cellar and do a tasting of Groot Constantia's large range of wines - the shop and tasting cellar  is on the left just before you drive out of the estate's main gate. Cellar tours every hour in summer, three per day in winter time.

Groot Constantia to Kalk Bay - 25min

From Groot Constantia turn right onto Constantia Main Road, M41 Wynberg. At 1.5km turn right at traffic lights into Ladies Mile Road, M39 Bergvliet. At next lights turn right onto M42 Tokai. Follow the Constantia Wine Route past Buitenverwachting, Klein Constantia and Steenberg Wine and Golf Estate. Go straight through two traffic lights as the road curves along the foot of the mountain. (At around 11km you'll pass the end of the M3 highway, which will later be your direct route back to the city.) At 11.8km, T-junction right into Main Road, M4 Muizenberg. Follow the railway line through Muizenberg and St James to Kalk Bay.

As you turn onto the Main Road, which was the old wagon road between the Castle in Cape Town and Muizenberg, you'll see one of the original carved milestones on your right, showing it's 13 miles to the Town Hall. Ancient Days Antiques, on the left shortly after you join the Main Road, is also worth a stop for interesting furniture, especially yellowwood farm pieces. If you were able to resist the temptation to stop at the various estates along the Constantia Wine Route, Kalk Bay delivers a main street full of quirky shops and eateries, all filled with the sound of screeching seagulls and breaking waves.

A lingering exploration of all of them is highly recommended, with a break for tea in the middle if your credit card is smoking. (But if you've seen enough antiques to last a lifetime, browse the various art galleries or watch the waves over a glass of wine at the Brass Bell restaurant on Kalk Bay station.) Better still, have a meal at Cape to Cuba above Kalk Bay Harbour and shop from your table. Meet Cape Town's very own Che Guevara reincarnated as an antique shop owner in a restaurant packed with Madonna statues, astonishingly lavish chandeliers and ornate metal furniture, all with a price tag attached so you can add what you like to your bill.

A magpie meander turned up these temptations in Kalk Bay: Spices in brown bags for sale amid the collectables in Shor Bazaar, named after the 'thieves market' in Bombay. A set of Thomas Baines prints at Graciously Ancient. A weird mix of antique furniture, peppered with African artefacts, at two shops in one building - Belle Ombre Antiques and African Art. Ballot papers from South Africa's first democratic election in 1994, juke boxes and old Cape furniture at The Railway House. A very bad place for bulls, amid thousands of plates and more at The What Not and China Town.

Tram benches, a brass ship's foghorn, old toys and official red post boxes in the Kalk Bay Trading Post at the old post office. Vintage wine and jewellery at the Kalk Bay Antiques Centre.Magnificent clocks and fancy leather top hat boxes at Tim Curtis Antiques. Cries of London prints on the wall at Cries of London. Art, books, Africana and very old bones at Quagga Trading. Africana, a beautiful roll-top desk and suitably ancient African masks in the dim interior of the Treasure Trove. If time permits, head for historic Simon's Town for some maritime memorabilia or even a boat trip - simply remain on the Main Road for another nine kilometres, keeping the sea to your left all the way.

Kalk Bay to Waterfront - 40min

Turn into Boyes Drive, M75 Clairvaux Road at the traffic lights near the entrance to the harbour. This scenic 7km route takes you back to the Main Road opposite the Westlake Wetlands. At the T-junction turn left onto Main Road, M4 Retreat, then left into Steenberg Road, M42 Westlake, M3 Cape Town. Turn onto highway at the first lights and follow M3 Cape Town signs to the Waterfront.

Contact Details

  • Church Street African Image Cnr Church & Burg Streets, 021 423 8385
  • Church Street Antiques Market 021 438 8566, Mon-Sat 8:30-14:00 (But They Pack Up Earlier On Saturdays)
  • Long Street Antique Arcade 021 423 3585, Mon-Fri 9:00-17:00 Sat 9:00-14:00
  • Long Street - These Shops Generally Follow Business Hours Of 9:00-17:00 Weekdays, Closing At Lunch Time On Saturdays, While The Restaurants And Clubs Go On Way Into The Night.
  • Atkinson's Antiques 021 424 3726
  • Bristol Antiques 021 424 2647
  • Bruce Tait Kitsch And Collectables Kloof Street, 021 422 1567
  • Clarke's Bookshop 021 423 5739
  • Second Time Around 021 423 1674
  • Kalk Bay Main Road - These Shops Are Generally Open Daily 9:00-17:00. Some Open At 10:00 On Sundays
  • Belle Ombre Antiques & African Art 021 788 9802
  • Cape To Cuba 021 788 1566, Daily 11:30-16:00, 18:00-Approx 23:00
  • Cries Of London 021 788 3256
  • Graciously Ancient 021 788 5577
  • Kalk Bay Antiques Centre 021 788 8882
  • Kalk Bay Trading Post 021 788 9571
  • Quagga Trading 021 788 2752
  • Shor Bazaar 021 788 7113
  • The Railway House 021 788 4761
  • The What Not And China Town 021 788 1823
  • Tim Curtis Antiques 021 788 8701
  • Treasure Trove 021 788 4802
  • Groot Constantia - Cellar Tours Hourly From 10:00-16:00 (In Winter At 10, 11 And 15:00), Tasting And Sales Daily 9:00-17:00
  • Groot Constantia Antique And Collectables Market 021 689 3908, 083 324 9264, Sun 10:00-16:30
  • Groot Constantia Estate 021 794 5128 Or 794 5067
  • Jonkershuis Restaurant Groot Constantia, 021 794 6255, Tues-Sat 9:00-22:30, Sun-Mon 9:00-16:30
  • Manor House And Museum Daily 10:00-17:00
  • Simon's Groot Constantia, 021 794 1143, Daily 11:00-22:30
  • Ancient Days Antiques Main Road, Retreat, 021 788 6450, Closed Sat
  • Café Mozart Church Street, 021 424 3774, Mon-Fri 7:00-3:15, Sat 8:00-13:00

By Adélle Horler

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