On the first Thursday of every month, art galleries and other cultural attractions in central Cape Town are free and stay open until 9pm. This South African tradition - now known as ‘First Thursdays’ - started in Cape town in 2012 with just six art galleries, and has since grown into one the city’s foremost cultural experiences. In Cape Town, thousands of people take the streets on the first Thursday of every month to explore the art and culture of the city on foot.
Before traveling to Cape Town, I had not expressed much interest in art galleries and cultural exhibits. However, I decided to join my peers on an evening outing to ‘First Thursday,’ to see what all the craze was about. When we pulled up to Church Street, I was in awe with the number of people that had come out for the event. Most of the roads were closed down and large groups of people walked from gallery to gallery, smiling and laughing with glasses of wine in their hands.
As we entered our first gallery, I quickly realized that I was completely out of my element - art appreciation was something entirely foreign to me. Nevertheless, First Thursday completely exceeded my expectations. Throughout the night, I admired many different artworks with various artistic ideals, styles, and techniques. First Thursday allowed me to gain insight into the value of local artists in a given community. While walking from one gallery to the next, I became inspired by the way that art can unite and depict every aspect of city and its people. This experience made me realize how fun it can be to take advantage of cultural traditions, such as First Thursdays. I look forward to bringing my newfound interest back home with me and to continue exploring people and communities through art.
Here are some tips that I wish I had before attending First Thursdays in order to maximize my experience:
- There is no scheduled tour for First Thursdays, so it is up to you to decide which exhibitions and events that you would like to go to.
- Before you go, try to familiarize yourself with the locations of the galleries using google maps and decide where you want to start off the night. First Thursday spans across the central city, but most of the exhibits are along Bree and Church Street.
- Start the night early! There are tons of galleries to see and each one offers free wine. If you wait until later on in the evening to go, you run the risk of only being able to see a few galleries and they might not have any wine left. Thus, it is best to go on the earlier side so that you can take your time in each exhibit.
- Since parking can be overwhelming, I recommend taking public transportation or an Uber rather than driving yourself. And, if you are driving, try to park around where you want to end up.
- Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and be ready to enjoy a night of walking through the streets of central Cape Town.
- Grab a printed map at your first stop.
- If you are planning to get dinner afterwards, definitely make a reservation. First Thursday attracts thousands of people, so most of the restaurants will be very busy.
- On the same note, the streets will be buzzling with people so be weary of pickpocketers as you stroll from gallery to gallery.
- And, lastly, keep an open mind and remember to have fun!