A Colourful Riot of Colour in Cape Town

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The neighbourhood of Bo Kaap in Cape Town completely captivated me because it was just so unabashedly colourful.  Bo Kaap, also known as the Malay Quarter, is located on the slopes of Signal Hill on the way to the entrance to that iconic image of Cape Town, Table Mountain.

bo kaap neighborhood

The Malay quarter was where the former Malay slaves who had been brought in by the Dutch to work their farms were housed after the British abolished slavery in November of 1834.  Although called Malays, the people were from both Malaysia and Indonesia.  Their defining characteristic is that they are Muslim.  The oldest Mosque in South Africa (built in 1798) is located in Bo Kaap.

bo kaap neighbourhood

Apparently, the houses started off being different colours because the Malays were illiterate and it was an easy way to tell houses apart if you are giving directions.

bo kaap neighbourhood

The neighbourhood is definitely facing gentrification because of its central location, pretty historical houses and cobblestone streets.  You can definitely tell with the intricately coloured house numbers and steps.

Bo Kaap stoop

Bo Kaap number sign

There were a lot of white cars on the streets!  I wonder if people decided that the houses were colourful enough and the cars needed to be white.

Bo kaap neighbourhood

Having said that, no one seems to worry about clashing colours with their neighbours.  It is definitely a colour free-for-all which remarkably all seems to work together under the bright South African sun.

bo kaap neighbourhood


This house was my favourite of the colour schemes.  The bright yellow house, purple planters and wood shutters – what fun!!  I’d never have the courage to try this colour scheme on my own house.


My daughter loved this hot pink house with the pink flowers in front.  I think the gorgeous light stopped it short of being a Pepto-Bismol pink.

pink flowers

What do you think?  Have you ever seen any colourful neighbourhoods in your travels?  I have to admit I have seen colourful houses in Europe but none of them were such bright shades.

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