When it comes to traveling, most people have a go-to item to collect like snow globes and shot glasses. But for those of us eccentrics, there’s a victory in nabbing a century-old farm tool used on a ranch in rural Gauteng or an ancient Nigerian mask that made it through hundreds of years unscathed. Whether you’re in Cape Town, Johannesburg or traversing through small towns, you’ll find a like-minded community of antique store owners showcasing their most prized, vintage possessions.
Start with the country’s most popular city for tourism, Cape Town. In between beach trips and dining on calamari, check things off your wishlist and go antique shopping at some of the city’s prestigious stores. Consider Kalk Bay Trading Post and The Antique Market, where shoppers will find clusters of vintage finds in immaculate condition. The items range from religious paintings, to typewriters, to home-wares. Shoppers who love to flaunt their quirky fashion sense won’t want to miss out on Glitterati Vintage Clothing and Accessories for dresses from the 1950s and mink coats. For book lovers, try Quagga Rare Books and Art (in Kalk Bay), where you’ll find ancient covers emerging between the skulls of springboks and antelopes. The collection comes in both English and Afrikaans. Outside of Cape Town, Simon’s Town and Franschhoek have their own fair share of antique shops like Hunter & Collector, and Nostalgie (great for perusing old vinyl records).
Johannesburg is the cosmopolitan city to be in with quirky restaurants and hipster coffee shops, and this of course includes its array of antique shops. Swing by the trendy neighborhood of Melville to Clyde on 4th for art deco vases and neo-classical lamps. For those who are looking to ship furniture back home, Barter Buy Antiques is the largest of its kind in the country (think vintage bookcases and pre-colonial leather sofas). If you are selective about your antiques, Wizards Vintage sells nothing but high quality products and designer brands, allowing shoppers to take their chances at purchasing Yves Saint Laurent shoes from the 1980s (can you just see your friends at home reeling with envy?).
Smaller towns often go unappreciated by travelers and are often a haven for antique goods. For example, Nelspruit (about 200 miles east of Johannesburg) is a charming town with rows of mom and pop antique shops. There, you’ll find preserved items like grandfather clocks that survived the Second Boer War and Victorian hair combs. Lovers of all things kitschy will find things right up their alley as well with mid-century coffee tables and pink porcelain poodle figurines. Another fantastic small town to shop in is Parys, where shoppers will find an antique mall featuring everything from jewelries, to old books, to black and white photographs. In addition, homemade up-cycled goods can be found using recycled products to make newer, artsy items.
Lets not forget about other bustling cities like Durban with its own electric mix of thrifty shops with catchy names like Hen’s Teeth and Naughty Nineties Antiques. Port Elizabeth is home to Papillon The Curiosity Shop that’s ideal for shoppers with a hankering for macabre items like taxidermy animals and old, empty medicinal glass bottles with “ether” marked on them. If you have extra cash (or a trust fund) to spend, go big and crazy by taking home a 1970s sports car at some of South Africa’s classic cars shops like Sedgefield Classic Cars in Western Cape, House of Classic and Sports Car in Knysna and Vintage Car Importers in Cape Town. The retro cars found in the country are exceptionally rare and hard to find in areas like the United States, Europe and Australia.
Serious antique shoppers should consider planning their trip around antique fairs hosted by SAADA (South Africa Antique, Art and Design Association) held in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. Or go for the monthly Antique & Collectibles Fair at the Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton (Johannesburg) that’s hosted every first Sunday of the month. The fair is so large that up to 50 antique dealers travel to the square to sell their treasures.
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