History, Culture & Cuisine: Our Top Guided Walking Tours

Africa’s allure lies in its wide, open spaces and game-packed reserves. Many travel to this wild continent to get as far as possible from cities and buildings, people and noise. They come to seek out herds of elephant roaming free under a vast, blue sky; to feel their hearts beat faster as they watch a lion stalk its prey and to let life’s everyday niggles slot back into perspective in ink-black nights lit by the stars of the Milky Way.

Safaris are filled with moments such as these but, along with the tooth-and-claw thrills of raw wilderness, another highlight of any trip to Africa is certain to be the people you meet. This land is made up of a rich diversity of warm-hearted people with fascinating stories to share; stories about their countries’ pasts and hopeful futures, their everyday lives, traditions and beliefs.

Whether it be a few extra hours in the urban jungle of Johannesburg or that one Cape Town morning away from the beach, the relaxed pace and authentic interaction of a guided walking tour is one of the best ways to hear these stories and experience the soul of the place you're visiting.

Before you jet off to your safari lodge and waiting game vehicle, take time to explore on foot with one of our top guided walking tours.

Our Top Guided Walking Tours - Foodie in Cape Town
Emma tucks into a tasty treat while Kate is overwhelmed by her traditional 'bunny chow', both enjoyed on their walking tour in the Bo-Kaap.

Cape Town: Gourmet Walking Tour

So much about a culture is expressed through its cuisine. I joined local guide Pam McOnie for a gourmet walking tour around Cape Town’s conveniently compact city centre. Pam really knows her way around the local foodie spots, and her energy and enthusiasm makes for easy and interesting conversation – she'll soon make you feel right at home in this beautiful city!

Between stories of the history of the Cape, Pam introduced us to a diverse selection of cooks and their gourmet treats: we chatted to Wardia about life in the Bo-Kaap while snacking on her crisp, golden samosas, and learnt about Victor’s township cooking school as he dished up helpings of his samp-and-beans soul food. 

From 'bunny chow' to 'bobotie', street food to artisan coffee shops, this tour celebrates the full range of flavours that make up the Cape. You do a fair bit of walking and a lot of eating so make sure you start the tour hungry!

Hot & Spicy in Cape Town 3
The bright streets of the Bo-Kaap brighten up a rainy Cape Town day.
Hot & Spicy in Cape Town 8
Ashley, Mariam, Hazel and Bronwyn enjoy some local Malay delights.

From 'bunny chow' to 'bobotie', street food to artisan coffee shops, this tour celebrates the full range of flavours that make up the Cape. You do a fair bit of walking and a lot of eating so make sure you start the tour hungry!

If you're more of a foodie than a walker, then you can easily do the Cape Fusion Cape Cooking Experience which was enjoyed by some of our Africa Safari Experts recently. A fantastic mix of traditional Malay-style cooking together with a tour of the famous District Six Museum makes this tour a highlight on any Cape Town holiday.

Travel Notes: stay in the Cape Town city centre, a short stroll from delis and coffee shops, and ask your Africa Safari Expert to book your gourmet walking tour or foodie tour with Pam of Cape Fusion Tours.

Johannesburg: Urban Culture & Street Art

Most travellers see South Africa’s biggest city as a mere pit stop, a travel hub to pass through on their way to wilder destinations. Give the 'City of Gold' a little more of your time, however, and you’ll quickly discover that Johannesburg has a wonderful energy and vibrancy, and is the glamorous powerhouse of the new South Africa.

The best way to explore this city of contrasts is on an inner-city walking tour with Jo Buitendach from Past Experiences. Past Experience’s inner city tours are as diverse as the city itself: discover secret shopping spots, see the positive changes resulting from the urban regeneration programme, explore the superb architecture or public art. A tour called Mandela’s Joburg explores where South Africa's great statesman and his contemporaries worked and carried out their resistance activities.

Our Top Guided Walking Tours - Maboneng
Eclectic street art, graffiti & culture combine in one of Johanneburg's most popular tours, the inner city art walk.

A good friend of mine joined Jo for a guided walking tour looking at the graffiti around Newtown, the cultural precinct of Joburg’s inner city. Her verdict? 'All I can say is go and do this walk! I loved the streets of the Joburg CBD, the strange blend of derelict and up-and-coming architecture; the graffiti, wall murals and amateur art. Not only does Jo have great passion and enthusiasm for her city but she’s also doing her Masters' in graffiti so she really is the perfect guide!'

Our Top Guided Walking Tours - Marketing Team
The streets of Maboneng and Newtown are filled with cultural and historical references.
Our Top Guided Walking Tours - Newtown statues
Statues as monuments to the 'every man' line the streets of Newtown in Johannesburg, which forms part of the inner-city art tour.

Go2Africa's Marketing Team recently visited The City of Gold and one of their highlights was walking around the industrial-cool suburb of Maboneng - with its surrealist graffiti and cultural references. Check out their street art photo essay for some inspiration.

Travel Notes: There is fantastic Johannesburg accommodation in the city’s leafy affluent neighbourhoods, and whether your interest is architecture, history or art, you’ll find a guided walking tour to match your tastes with Past Experiences.

Stone Town: History of Slaves & Spices

Some people find Stone Town overwhelming: the intense spicy scents and confusing tangle of alleyways with buildings all on top of each other. Yes, it is bewildering, ramshackle and bewitching! It is also a town with so much history and character that for the majority of visitors. Stone Town stands out as the real highlight of their Zanzibar beach holiday.

Stone Town is small enough to wander around without a guide but you can’t be in a rush as chances are you’ll soon lose your bearings in the maze of narrow streets. If (or when) you do get lost, see it as part of the adventure: not knowing what lies around the next corner, dodging zooming motorcycles, discovering tucked-away coffee shops and wandering past intricately carved wooden doors.

Our Top Guided Walking Tours - Spice Tour in Zanzibar
A spice tour guide shows the detail of some of the spices found on Zanzibar.
Our Top Guided Walking Tours - Zanzibar
Anja explores Stone Town's winding streets, then enjoys a refreshing boat trip in the bay.
Our Top Guided Walking Tours - Spice Tour
Anza shows off her 'jewellery', crafted by her guides on a Zanzibar spice tour.

While you can stroll around Stone Town on your own, I really recommend a walking tour with a professional guide. You'll hear the fascinating stories behind this UNESCO World Heritage Site, like the Anglican Cathedral, which is built over one of East Africa's original - and busiest  - slave markets. The cathedral's timber cross is carved from the branch of the same mvula tree where Dr David Livingstone's heart is buried. Livingstone dedicated his life to ending the slave trade in Africa and was part of a group of missionaries who purchased young men and women from Stone Town's market, to free them, providing them with an education and the opportunity to start a new life. 

Other highlights of Stone Town include buying fresh spices in the market, original Tinga Tinga artworks and cool cotton kikois (a must-buy on any safari shopping list!) and visiting the Forodhani Night Market for local 'pizza' and perfectly grilled seafood skewers. Read more on Exploring Stone Town for some visual delights!

Travel Notes: stay in the heart of Stone Town at Jafferji House & Spa, an elegantly restored boutique hotel with true Zanzibari style. The hotel will happily arrange your walking tour with an excellent local guide.

Written by Sandra Mallinson (Connect with Sandy on Google+.) and Kimberley O'Sullivan (connect with Kimberley on Google+)) 

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