Capetonians love a great outdoor market. The old farmers’ market has received a serious upgrade, and nowadays South Africans of all stripes—young, old, hipster, hippie, black, white, Indian—gather at one of the city's most popular weekly affairs, where they spend the afternoon stocking up on fresh produce, ordering some lunch, and even browsing vintage or locally made glasses, skirts, shoes, and bracelets. Many folks just come out for the scene, to people watch, enjoy music, and grab a bite, and tan amid the thrum. The phenomenon isn’t limited to Cape Town, but Capetonians seem to do it best, and shopping the market can give visitors a taste of local culture. There seems to be a new market opening up every few months, but here are five of my current favorites. If you’re ever looking for me on a Saturday morning, your best bet is to start your search with Neighbourgoods!
The original hipster haven, Neighbourgoods has been around since 2006 at the atmospheric Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. In fact, this market is often thought of as one of the driving forces behind that district's revitalization into the city's arts hub. You're sure to hear a lot of American accents there, but that doesn't mean the locals don't love it: any free Saturday morning I have, I love to kick my weekend off with smoothies, pancakes, or kebabs from dozens of stalls. It's such a hit that an offshoot was started in Johannesburg.
Bay Harbour Market
This lively weekend affair unfolds at the waterfront in Hout Bay. More than a hundred stalls set up in a former fish factory (beware the smell just outside), selling everything from cakes to clocks while live bands play on a makeshift stage. Head over there on a Friday evening for a convivial night market as well.
Oranjezicht City Farm Organic Market
An urban farm in the heart of the city—what's not to love? Every Saturday morning, OZCF opens its doors to the public, and they arrive in droves to stock up on free-range eggs, organic turnips, fresh breads, and more. There's plenty of prepared food that could make for a great picnic breakfast under the oaks—muffins, homemade yogurt, and quiches galore.
Earth Fair Food Market
Right in the heart of the Central Business District, the Earth Fair Market sets up every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. along the pedestrian boulevard of St. George's Mall. Stroll along the promenade and pick up tuna carpaccio from Delicious Fish, artisan chocolates from Tony H, sweet treats from Little Miss Cupcake, and Indian fare from the Taj.
Though it was historically a place where veggies were bought and sold (thus the name), these days Greenmarket Square is definitely more geared toward tourists. But don't let that deter you from adding it to your shopping itinerary: if you're looking to stock up on some cheap souvenirs—ostrich eggs, beaded giraffes, and printed fabrics, perhaps?—this is the place to go. Just make sure you bring your bargaining skills—and never settle for the asking price.