From jazz festivals to kite-flying contests, gay pride to Mozart festivals, and even minstrel carnivals, festivals in South Africa celebrate everything under the sun.
We give you the low-down on the best South African festivals so you start planning your social agenda, all year-round.
January: Cape Town Minstrel Carnival (Cape Town)
The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known as the Kaapse Klopse, is an annual street parade dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, when slaves in Cape Town were given one day off per year. There’s a colorful array of music and dancing with songs dating back to the 1800’s, and the entertainment starts from 12:00 with an opening ceremony on the Grand Parade at around 13:00. At least 50 minstrel troupes will participate on the day, held 2 January 2019.
January-February: Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (Johannesburg)
Originally organized in 2006 in commemoration of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 250th birthday anniversary, the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival has developed into a highly successful and well-loved annual classical music event. This year sees its 10th birthday and runs 25 January-3 February 2019.
February-March: Cape Town Pride (Cape Town)
The ever-increasing success of Pride in Cape Town draws many visitors to the city. There is a procession with floats through the CBD and numerous parties are dedicated to LGBTQI lifestyles. Runs 22 February-3 March 2019.
March: Cape Town International Jazz Festival (Cape Town)
Also known as Africa’s Grandest Gathering, the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival is the culmination of world-renowned musicians providing a cohesive star-studded line-up. It was formerly known as the North Sea Jazz Festival, which was created by Dutch jazz promoter Paul Acket. Runs 29-30 March 2019.
March: Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees – Oudtshoorn
The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees is an annual Afrikaans language arts festival that includes both visual and performing arts. Based on the number of visitors, it is now also the largest South African arts festival. This 25th year edition runs 21-27 March 2019.
April: Splashy Fen Music Festival (Durban)
Splashy Fen Music Festival is South Africa’s longest running and oldest music festival, that takes place in Durban. It celebrates life, art, music, people, love laughter, fun and enjoyment, and all this within a world heritage site (The Drakensberg). Runs 18-22 April 2019.
April: South African Cheese Festival (Stellenbosch)
With more than 170 exhibitors, this culinary local cheese and agriculture festival is a feast for the palate. In addition to a wide variety of cheeses, there are also delicacies of boutique gins, insect ice-cream, pastas and pesto. The 18th South African Cheese Festival runs 26-28 April 2019.
June: Wacky Wine Weekend (Robertson)
The Wacky Wine Weekend is a local food and wine festival with tasting tours, live music and sports. Set in the beautiful Robertson wine valley, they also offer arts and crafts and the chance to enjoy award-winning wine paring sessions. Runs 7-9 June 2019.
June: Big Five Marathon (Limpopo Province)
Held right alongside the African savannah’s impressive wildlife, the Big Five Marathon allows runners from all over the world to meet in one of the most spectacular “Big Five” game reserves and race to the finish. There are no fences, rivers or anything that separate the runners from the African wildlife. The next event takes place 22 June 2019.
June: Innibos (Nelspruit)
Popular arts festival Innibos takes place in Nelspruit and covers adult and children’s theater. More than 200 artists, actors and musicians attend each year, and perform cabaret, literature, dancing, and drama. Runs 26-29 June 2019.
June-July: National Arts Festival (Grahamstown)
The 45th National Arts Festival transforms a sleepy Grahamstown and explodes across 90 venues to become Africa’s largest multi-arts festival, attracting more than 200,000 visitors. There are more than 2,000 performances with a program of more than 600 events. Runs 27 June-7 July 2019.
July: Jive Cape Town Funny Festival (Cape Town)
Popular comedy festival presenting the best South African comedians and the famous international variety acts on the same stage. Performers and stand-up comics take to the stage in this month-long winter festival. Runs 1-28 July 2019.
September: Aardklop (Potchefstroom)
Founded in 1998, this arts festival held in Potchefstroom celebrates Afrikaans theater, dance and other art forms. The 2019 edition of this South African festival takes place from 24-29 September and features art stalls and many kinds of music production.
October: Macufe Mangaung African Cultural Festival (Bloemfontein)
MACUFE is a cultural festival, with theater productions, an arts and crafts exhibition, a beauty pageant, and the Sparta Macufe Cup at the Free State stadium. Over 140,000 people come to listen to a wide variety of music like jazz, hip-hop, gospel, kwaito, classical, rock and R&B. Runs 4-13 October 2019.
October: Cape Town International Kite Festival (Cape Town)
Cape Town International Kite Festival takes place on the lawns of the Zandvlei Nature Reserve and attracts over 20,000 visitors who come to see the brightly colored array of kites from across the world. Runs 26-27 October 2019.