Open Streets, Soirees and art for everyone: The new streets of Cape Town

2017-03-31 14:36 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Some streets in Cape Town have become notorious places of theft, violence and crime - forcing visitors to keep away. Avoiding the streets, however, unfortunately, means not seeing the most beautiful parts of South Africa's cities, including old, historical buildings, quaint little streets and many certain shops that have stood the test of time to become institutions all their own…

Thankfully, various initiatives in and around the Mother City are re-appropriating the 'bad' streets of the city, making them open spaces to be enjoyed by all. 

Open Art

With the streets no occupied by more and more visitors, they have become places of exhibition for artists. A New Artwork called Open House recently opened in Long Street in Cape Town’s city centre, for example. 

Dedicated walkways are, especially, a favourite for both street and established artists to use. The Fanwalk, connecting the V&A Waterfront with Cape Town serves as one example, while the iconic Sea Point Promenade too is packed with various, interactive artworks for all to enjoy.

Also see: 5 ways to make the most of the Sea Point promenade 

This April, Infecting the City, South Africa’s pioneering public arts festival, returns to Cape Town for a four-day creative arts takeover of the Mother City from 5 to 8 April 2017. 

SEE: Infecting the City 2017: 10 years in, here's why you should keep an eye out for it

Now in its 10th year, the collaboration between the Africa Centre and the Institute of Creative Arts celebrates art in the form of seminal performances and installations by artists from around South Africa and the world. As April commemorates the history of freedom and democracy in South Africa, the initiative marks our monumental moment in time through extraordinary artworks to reclaim the streets of Cape Town. 

All performances and events free of charge as the dynamic festival programme will offer audiences the opportunity to discover new heights and explore ways of reconciling their personal and often emotional relation to public, private and internal spaces.  

Check out what the organisers have to say - 

First Thursdays

Cape Town's central city comes alive on the first Thursday of every month, as dozens of art galleries stay open and cultural events go on until late.

Another global initiative, this public event sees art galleries and venues keeping open their doors until late to host cultural events around Cape Town's central city. This allows anyone to explore the city on foot and experience the cultural wealth Cape Town has to offer. There is no tour, schedule, or guided walks... just a festive vibe to kick off the month. 

The next First Thursday
When: 6 April 2017 
Where: See the interactive map below, detailing the First Thursday venues

Open Streets

Open Streets, for example, is one such movement. This international initiative temporarily closes streets to vehicles so communities can use them for healthy, fun physical activities like biking, dancing, exercising and performing. 

The initiative originally started in the United States, and there are currently more than 90 Open Streets initiatives running in the US and Canada. 

Since 2012, Open Streets have also taken form in South Africa’s Western Cape. And, judging by the amount of gang violence that dominates certain gang-ridden Cape Flats areas, there’s no better place in the world for people to start taking back the streets. 

Over the past six months, Capetonians from all over participated in the Open Streets days in King Langalibalele Drive, Voortrekker Road, and Bree and Longmarket Streets, filling the space with pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, dancers and other activities. 

For the upcoming 2017/2018 Spring and Summer season, Open Streets hopes to be an even bigger initiative reaching more streets in Cape Town. 

Congested cities around the world are testing car-free days for different reasons. As of May 2016, Paris has banned vehicular traffic along the Champs Elysées and surrounding roads on the first Sunday of each month. In the same month, Detroit closed its eight-lane Michigan in celebration of World Car-Free Day. 

Car-free days have recently taken place in Madrid, Brussels, and Kigali where the Rwandan capital has introduced monthly car-free days to promote a healthy, active lifestyle. 

In line with this, Cape Town has gained international recognition for its Green agenda, and this public initiative is but one way in which Capetonians can tie into a sustainable global movement.

The city is also one of the world’s top cities when it comes to urban cycling paths - over and above the cycle paths that's been installed in the CBD, there's a cycle route out to Milnerton along the MyCiti Cycle Route. 

SEE: City cycling made easy: How to turn your old bike into an electric one in under a minute  

Open street Markets 

Green Market Square - In the heart of Cape Town’s business district, Greenmarket Square has become quite an establishment for South Africans, as well as international visitors. The square has a vivid history – it has been a slave market, a fruit and vegetable market and during the 1950s it was used as a humble parking lot.

Today, the market is a vibrant exhibition place for many entrepreneurs from all over Africa. Unique clothing, glassware, hand-painted fabrics, footwear, music, sunglasses and curios. This is a good place to come if you would like to buy some unique and good-quality souvenirs.

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The market plain has also become famous for hosting the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival's free concert, which will be taking place during the first weekend of April 2017. 

SEE: Cape Town Jazz Fest 101: Road closures, weather and what to expect

Thursday Market @ St George’s Mall - St George’s Mall situated in the heart of the city is a small cobblestone street adorned by a string of stunning little shops. The mall was previously a street but it has since been cordoned off to motorists transforming this small alleyway into a space devoted to pedestrians, shoppers and tourists. 

The street mall hosts its own little market every Thursday – and people working in the city centre love to grab lunch there on these days. You’ll find fresh, home-smoked sustainable fish, freshly baked bread from a café nearby, delightful curries and a wide selection of delicious bite-sized samoosas, spring rolls and dim sum. Artisan food at its best.

Stellenbosch Street Soirees - The street movement is spreading outside the Cape Town City Centre, which the Stellenbosch Street Soirees a prime example. 

SEE: Get Festive in Stellies this summer with Street Soirees

Every second Wednesday evening of summer, Drostdy Street in front of the old Dutch Reformed Church is cordoned off for people to drink local wine and eat street food. It's a hit with visitors, locals and most of all - students!

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What to read next on Traveller24

Going Green: Cape Town named as Top 5 global leader for climate disclosure

City cycling made easy: How to turn your old bike into an electric one in under a minute

Infecting the City 2017: 10 years in, here's why you should keep an eye out for it