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Exploring the melodies: A guide to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival
9 min read
Updated on May 14, 2024

Embark on a musical journey to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, a symphony of rhythms set in the heart of South Africa. As one of the most prestigious jazz festivals globally, it promises an array of world-class performances against Cape Town's picturesque backdrop.

This guide explores the mesmerizing melodies and the practicalities of attending, including essential South Africa visa requirements for international visitors. Whether you're a seasoned jazz lover or new to the genre, join us in unraveling the vibrant tapestry of music, culture, and travel tips that make this festival an unmissable event.

south africa couple

Cape Town International Jazz Festival’s essence

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is more than just a music event; it celebrates jazz's rich tapestry, blending diverse musical styles and cultures.

This festival, held in Cape Town, South Africa, is famed for its eclectic mix of local and international jazz talents. It's a place where jazz enthusiasts and newcomers can immerse themselves in a world of improvisation, soulful melodies, and rhythmic complexities.

As the largest jazz festival in South Africa, it showcases a range of genres, reflecting music's dynamic and evolving nature. It's a cultural experience that resonates with the spirit of Cape Town, known for its artistic vibrancy and inclusive atmosphere.

Navigating the festival: Venues and schedules

Navigating the Cape Town International Jazz Festival requires understanding its venues and schedules.

The official information about the Cape Town International Jazz Festival is expected to be announced soon. We recommend staying vigilant for the latest updates, including precise schedules and the complete lineup of artists.

Keep an eye on official channels to get the most current and detailed information as it becomes available on the website. This will ensure you have all the details to enjoy this much-anticipated event fully!

Stages and performances

Check out the following stages at the festival for specific niche bands and artists:

Rosies Stage: Ideal for jazz purists, known for its exceptional audio quality and acoustics that enhance the performers' sound.

Kippies Stage: Kippies is the place to groove to more familiar names in the jazz scene.

Downtown stage (formerly Manenberg): A spot to discover new beats, names, and jams​​.

Cultural insights

The festival is deeply rooted in South Africa's history, especially significant due to the contributions of local artists during apartheid.

Iconic performances in past years include George Benson, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and more, highlighting the festival's status as a prestigious platform for both established and emerging artists.

Other activities during the festival

Other than seeing world-renowned jazz artists, there’s more to do at the festival and beyond.

Intimate Jazz venues: Apart from the main stages, there are smaller, more intimate venues where you can enjoy up-close performances.

Workshops and talks: The festival often includes workshops and talks by artists. These are usually held in designated areas and have separate schedules.

Highlight performances and must-see artists

Over its history, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival has seen various influential and important artists grace its stages. Here's a more detailed look at some notable performers from different years:

  1. Late 1990s - 2000s: The events featured a mix of local and international jazz talents in its early years. South African jazz bands and legends like Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim were among the key figures who performed, bringing a blend of traditional and modern jazz to the audience.

  2. 2010s: This period saw the festival grow in prominence and diversity. International stars like Al Jarreau, Herbie Hancock, and Esperanza Spalding shared the stage with South African greats like Miriam Makeba and Jonathan Butler. The festival also began to include artists from genres closely associated with jazz, such as blues, funk, and soul.

  3. 2020 - 2022: The COVID-19 pandemic brought disruptions, but just before that, artists like Jacob Collier and Trombone Shorty were among the modern jazz innovators featured at the festival, alongside local South African talents.

  4. 2023 and beyond: In the 2023 edition, South African jazz diva Judith Sephuma is confirmed to perform, continuing the festival's tradition of showcasing emerging and established artists.

Each festival edition typically includes a blend of well-known international artists, emerging talents, and local South African musicians, contributing to its reputation as a culturally rich and diverse event.

Accommodation and transport: Staying and moving around Cape Town

Staying in and moving around Cape Town during the International Jazz Festival can be a delightful experience, with the city offering a range of accommodation options and convenient transport services. Here's an overview.

Accommodation options in Cape Town

Hotels: Cape Town boasts a variety of hotels ranging from luxury to budget-friendly options. Many hotels are located in the city center, close to the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), where the Jazz Festival is held. This proximity offers easy access to the event.

Guest houses and B&Bs: For a more personalized experience, consider staying in one of the many guest houses or bed and breakfasts. These are often located in charming neighborhoods and provide a cozy, homely atmosphere.

Self-catering apartments: Ideal for those who prefer a more independent stay. These apartments are available throughout the city and can be a good option for groups or families.

Hostels: A budget-friendly option for solo travelers or younger visitors. Hostels in Cape Town often have a vibrant, social atmosphere and are a great way to meet fellow travelers.

Accommodation recommendations

For jazz enthusiasts traveling to Cape Town for the festival, selecting the right accommodation is crucial, especially considering the influx of attendance of 37,000 each year.

Hotels near the Cape Town International Convention Center are highly sought after and often booked out months in advance. Here are some top accommodation choices in Cape Town:

  1. Southern Sun Cullinan:

Location: Just steps away from the Cape Town International Convention Center. Features: This award-winning luxury hotel is in the prestigious Victoria and Alfred Waterfront area.

Nearby Attractions: Offers easy access to high-end shopping, fine dining, and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) - the largest contemporary art museum opened in Africa in the past century.

  1. Taj Hotel Cape Town

Location: Nestled in the vibrant Cape Town City Center.

Luxuries: Boasts fine dining at the Bombay Brasserie and the full-service Jiva Grande Spa. Accessibility: Within walking distance of the jazz festival, as well as close to the District Six Museum, the Castle of Good Hope, and The Company’s Garden.

  1. The Commodore Hotel

Affordability: A budget-friendly yet luxurious option.

Scenic Views: Many rooms offer waterfront views, providing a stunning bay and Table Mountain backdrop.

Proximity: Located near the V&A Waterfront and within walking distance to The Cape Wheel, Two Oceans Aquarium, and the Cape Town Diamond Museum.

Note: These hotels offer luxury, convenience, and unique Cape Town experiences, making them ideal choices for those attending the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

Hotels near the Cape Town International Convention Center tend to sell out quickly due to the high influx of festival-goers.

Transport options in Cape Town

MyCiti bus: A reliable and affordable way to get around the city. The buses have routes covering major parts of Cape Town, including the CTICC.

Trains: Metrorail trains connect various parts of the city and suburbs, though they are more suited for daytime travel.

Taxis and ride-sharing: Services like Uber and Bolt are widely available in Cape Town. They offer a convenient and safe way to travel, especially late at night.

Rental cars: Numerous car rental agencies operate in the city for those who prefer to drive themselves. This option offers flexibility, especially for visiting attractions outside the central area.

Walking and cycling: Cape Town is a walkable city, especially in areas like the V&A Waterfront and the city center. For shorter distances, cycling is also a popular option. However, it’s safer to drive or use a taxi service during the evening and at night.

Visa information for travelers to South Africa

Visa requirements for travelers to South Africa vary depending on your nationality, the purpose of your visit, and the duration of your stay. Here are some general guidelines:

South Africa eVisa: The South African government has recently introduced the South African eVisa, a digital travel document designed for tourists and business visitors. This convenient system eliminates the need to visit a South African embassy or consulate in your home country for application purposes.

Currently, the South Africa eVisa is accessible to citizens of the following countries:

  • Cameroon

  • Congo

  • Egypt

  • Ethiopia

  • India

  • Iran

  • Kenya

  • Mexico

  • Nigeria

  • Pakistan

  • China

  • The Philippines

  • Saudi Arabia

  • Uganda

How to apply for your South Africa e-Visa with us?

Navigating the South Africa visa application process can be intricate and time-consuming. We offer a streamlined, user-friendly service to make this process more efficient, enhancing your chances of a successful application.

Follow these three simple steps:

Step 1: Enter your personal and travel details on the iVisa website or through the iVisa app.

Step 2: Ensure all provided information is correct. Select your processing time preference and complete the payment using a credit/debit card, PayPal, or Venmo.

Step 3: Fill out the remaining parts of the application form, upload any necessary documents, and submit your application.

Begin your eVisa application today and take a step closer to your South African adventure!

Discover if you need a visa for your next trip to South Africa with our Visa Checker Tool.

south africa colorful houses

Culinary delights: Best foods and drinks to explore

When exploring Cape Town's vibrant culinary and nightlife scene, especially near the Cape Town International Convention Center and jazz festival, you'll find many outstanding bars and restaurants catering to diverse tastes and preferences.


Asoka presents a sophisticated and upscale dining experience. Its sleek interiors, romantic lighting, and cozy atmosphere create the perfect setting for a memorable evening.

Enjoy Asian-inspired tapas, each dish a work of art, perfect for sharing and snapping photos for your social media.

Known for its beautifully crafted cocktail selection, Asoka offers a range of exquisite drinks to complement your meal.

The Piano Bar

A vibrant nightlife spot, The Piano Bar features nightly performances spanning various genres, including jazz, soul, and folk, and performances by talented singer-songwriters.

Ideal for those looking to extend their evening's enjoyment post-show with a band and engaging environment.

The Crypt Jazz Restaurant in St. George’s Cathedral

Located in St. George’s Cathedral, a key site in the anti-apartheid movement, the restaurant is set in the cathedral's crypt, built in 1898.

The venue offers a unique dining experience where guests can enjoy their meals with live jazz music, creating an intimate and extraordinary atmosphere.

The Crypt is a significant cultural landmark and a distinctive culinary destination, blending history with culinary art.

These venues offer delicious food and drinks and enrich your visit with their unique atmospheres and cultural significance, making them must-visit destinations in Cape Town!

Tips and tricks for an outstanding festival experience

Here are some tips that might enhance your festival experience:

  1. Book early: Hotels near the Cape Town International Convention Center fill up fast. Book well in advance to secure a convenient location.

  2. Festival schedule (get your tickets): Keep an updated schedule (preferably a digital copy on your phone) on hand to plan which performances you want to attend.

  3. Explore the venues: The festival offers different stages like Rosies, Kippies, and Downtown, each with a unique vibe.

  4. Local dining and nightlife: Check out nearby places like Asoka for upscale Asian-inspired tapas, The Piano Bar for ongoing music shows, and The Crypt Jazz Restaurant for dining with live jazz music.

  5. Stay hydrated and keep safe: Cape Town can be warm. Carry water, wear sunscreen, and dress comfortably. Keep valuables locked up or in a secure bag.

  6. Social media engagement: Follow the festival's official social media channels for live updates, artist interviews, and behind-the-scenes content.

  7. Transportation: Plan your transportation, considering options like public transport, taxis, or ride-sharing services, especially if you plan to enjoy the nightlife.

Exploring Cape Town beyond the festival

Exploring Cape Town beyond the Jazz Festival offers many experiences thanks to the city's rich history, stunning natural beauty, and vibrant culture. Here are some must-do activities and places to visit:

  1. Table mountain: Enjoy panoramic views from the top, accessible by cable car or hiking.

  2. Robben Island: Visit the historical prison where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life, with tours led by former inmates.

  3. V&A Waterfront: A lively area with shops, restaurants, and entertainment.

  4. Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope: Scenic drives and hikes at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula.

  5. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: Beautiful gardens against Table Mountain, perfect for picnics and leisurely walks.

  6. Beaches: Enjoy the sun at popular spots like Clifton and Camps Bay, and see penguins at Boulders Beach.

  7. Cape Winelands: Explore vineyards and wine tasting in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

  8. Bo-kaap: A colorful neighborhood known for its Malay culture and cuisine.

  9. Art and culture: Visit Zeitz MOCAA and local galleries for contemporary African art.

  10. Surfing: Muizenberg is a perfect spot for beginner surfers.

Contact us for more info about traveling to South Africa

If you want more information about the travel requirements for South Africa, contact our customer service team via online chat or email us at [email protected].

  • iVisa is NOT affiliated with any government agency. This site does not provide legal advice and we are not a law firm. None of our customer service representatives are lawyers and they also do not provide legal advice. We are a private, internet-based travel and immigration consultancy provider dedicated to helping individuals travel around the world. You may apply by yourself directly on the various government websites. The source of information: http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services
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