About four and a half hours out of Cape Town, Prince Albert is a quaint Victorian village at the foot of the Swartberg Mountain, surrounded by the vastness of the Great Karoo. With well-preserved old buildings – thirteen of which are listed national monuments – clear skies, pristine nature and an extremely high sunshine index, Prince Albert is a great place to escape the city for a weekend. It’s also full of creativity, and – from birding safaris, bicycle tours and cooking classes – there are enough activities to keep the whole family busy. Here are our suggestions for where to stay in Prince Albert, and what to do.
Founded by food-and-travel enthusiasts Lisa and Philip Key, African Relish is a Prince Albert-based recreational cooking school for South African cuisine taught by resident chef, Alexa Wiehahn. They offer themed, half or full-day courses, such as “Karoo Classics” or “Vegetarian”, which are easy to book at short notice, as well as scheduled weekend courses with specially-invited chefs, such as Nina Timm and Chris Erasmus. These longer culinary experiences are combined with special-interest activities, including the popular cycle tour or olive and cheese tasting. African Relish also offers a popular foodie tour in town and surrounds in a Tuk Tuk. The tour includes a cooking demo and lunch.
Whether it’s as a stand-alone destination or part of an extended foodie tour, African Relish is the place to experience local food. They also offer luxury accommodation, serve sit-down meals at the Chef’s Café and offer fresh produce to take home at their in-house deli.
For those wanting to test what they have learned in their own kitchen, African Relish has published their own cookbook, filled with tried-and-tested Karoo recipes collected over a decade in the African Relish kitchen.
Karoo Birding Safaris is owned and run by Japie and Ralie Claassen, both passionate about nature and experienced birders.
With 30 years of birding experience, and having spent most of his life in the Karoo, Japie has extensive knowledge of the area’s plants and animals, and specialises in finding LBJs (Little Brown Jobs). Ralie is an experienced birder with more than 800 species on her Southern African life list. She also has a keen interest in the Southern African flora and invertebrates.
Because of its vast, untouched and little-explored areas, the Karoo is a great place to discover special plants and find “dry west” birding specials. Their two-day trip consists of visiting Gamkaskloof (“Die Hel”), basking in the scenery and plants of the Swartberg Mountains, and enjoying the charm of Prince Albert’s historical buildings. Karoo Birding Safaris also caters for people interested in San paintings, as well as historical buildings around the Karoo and fossils.
Japie and Ralie Claassen also offer tours throughout all of South Africa, as well as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
To find out about the great variety of tours on offer, click here.
Casa Milorca is a quirky country getaway in a charming and skillfully restored 1860s Victorian property in Prince Albert’s historic centre, just one street away from the main road. Inspired by their love of the Karoo, owners Salvelio and Louise have created a tasteful and relaxing haven for those wanting to fill up on clean country air and genuine Karoo hospitality.
The guesthouse is within easy walking distance of Prince Albert’s main attractions, and the house boasts many of the original features associated with the Victorian era, including a pretty bell-cast verandah in the front, sash windows, high ceilings and gleaming, Oregon pine floors. There are two spacious suites in the main house, each with a clawed bath and shower, as well as a separate cottage suite with shower, living area and its own quaint verandah. For sunny days, there are three verandahs, as well as an idyllic garden and a sparkling splash pool, and there is a cosy lounge and reading room for cooler days.
Prince Albert is home to a great variety of artists from different disciplines and twice a year, they open their private studio spaces to the public for 4 days. It’s a great opportunity for art lovers and collectors, not only to explore Prince Albert, but to get to know its artists and find out the story behind their creations.
From ancient skills such as blacksmithing, calligraphy, woodcutting and etching, to a large spectrum of paintings in oils, watercolours and acrylics, both traditional and contemporary, to sculpture and jewellery made from found objects, land art, ceramics, and even some steam-punk light fittings made from old Land Rover parts – there’s enough to please all kinds of tastes.
The next Prince Albert Open Studios is taking place from, 3-6 January 2020. Maps of the route are available from Prince Albert Gallery and the Tourism Office.
Prince Albert Open Studios is grateful to their media partner, The Art Times, for their support.
Situated at the foot of the Swartberg Pass, Dennehof is Prince Albert’s oldest homestead – a serene, comfortable base and perfect starting point for experiencing some of South Africa’s unexplored scenery.
With an 1835 Cape Dutch Farmhouse and outbuildings at the edge of town, the setting is full of personality. Nights can be spent star-gazing and identifying the sounds of nature, and day activities include mountain bike riding, hiking or swimming in a big and round, old reservoir.
Dennehof offers tours of the Swartberg Pass or all the way to Gamkaskloof (known as “The Hell”), by registered tour guide, Lindsay. Participants can choose to drive with him in his vehicle or – for those who prefer to soak up as much fresh air as possible – cycle.
Various room options are available, including the honeymoon suite in a converted old wagon shed. The suite is fitted with a Victorian bath on a secluded outside patio, as well as a fireplace, king-sized bed and an indoor en-suite shower.
To find out more about other available rooms, suites and bicycle tours, click here.
Artist Sue Hoppe and her husband Max run a showroom at their Prince Albert home to exhibit Sue’s art and the books they publish through El Gecko Publishing. “If we’re here, ring the cow bell and we’ll let you in, or if not, phone and make an appointment,” they say.
El Gecko Publishing is an indie publisher, making high-quality, fun books for kids and adults, with a distinctly South African flavour. The idea to publish their own books started with their shared passion for windmills. On their travels, they would hunt down windmills to photograph, which resulted in their first book, called The Climax Collection: The secret life of Windmills – a collection of photographs accompanied by “naughty” captions. A series of illustrated kids’ books followed.
Sue mainly works in oils, but also uses photography, collage and, most recently, encaustic – a process that uses hot wax for painting – to express her ideas.
Her themes and techniques vary widely. “I am preoccupied with the plight of women and children in Africa, and my love for architecture and nature also feature often,” she says. To find out more, go to her website.