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Cape Town is officially one of the world’s best cities for culture

Affordability, diversity and a new respect for the cultural cachet of the Global South landed it a place on Time Out's list

Richard Holmes
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Richard Holmes

The votes are in – from no less than 21,000 savvy travellers – and Cape Town has cracked Time Out’s list for the World’s Best Cities for Culture. What’s even more impressive is that South Africa’s ‘Mother City’ came in third place, beating out cultural heavyweights Paris, New York and Amsterdam.

In what is the global travel brand’s first-ever ranking of the World’s Best Cities for Culture, Time Out surveyed urban-dwellers worldwide to take a deep dive into the cultural attractions of their chosen cities.

Each city was then ranked according to how well locals scored the culture scene for quality and affordability. To create and rank the final list, Time Out editors narrowed down the selection by excluding cities with lower overall scores, and only including the highest-scoring city for each country to ensure the list reflects cultural cities globally.

You can find the full list over here, but with the data tallied it was Mexico City that emerged as the overall winner, taking the crown as the world’s cultural capital of the moment.

Locals praised the variety and affordability of its cultural attractions, as well as a diversity that ranged from world-class museums – including the grand Palacio de Bellas Artes and the iconic Frida Kahlo Museum – to the iconic Día de Muertos street parade and the annual Festival del Centro.

Prague came in second, with the city celebrated as an outdoor museum thanks to its rich Gothic architecture. Cape Town bagged third position for the meteoric rise in its cultural offerings over the past decade. That is thanks largely to the opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa and the Norval Foundation, alongside a vibrant landscape of theatres, private galleries and artist studios. Cape Town was followed on the list by Buenos Aires at number four and Athens at number five.

Cape Town is the only city in sub-Saharan Africa to make the list, with Marrakech (number 13) the only other African metropolis to earn a spot. 

‘This is the first time we’ve carried out a city survey focused on culture, with over 21,000 city-dwellers having a say on what’s great about their city’s culture scene,’ explains Grace Beard, Travel Editor at Time Out. ‘One of the most essential factors that went into this ranking is how locals scored their city’s culture scene for affordability – which is why for example London, although a hotbed for culture, isn’t on the list this time around. From Mexico City, praised by locals for the diversity, vitality and affordability of its art scene, to the largest free open-air festival in Vienna, these are cities where art and culture won’t break the bank.’

Culture vulture? Check out our list of the best museums and galleries in Cape Town.

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