For ten days every July, Grahamstown bursts to overflowing as the town’s population doubles, with visitors descending for the annual National Arts Festival – usually called the Grahamstown Festival. At this time, seemingly every home is transformed into a B&B and the streets are alive with colourful food stalls. Church halls, parks and sports fields become flea markets and several hundred shows are staged, spanning every conceivable type of performance.

This is the largest arts festival in Africa, and even has its own fringe festival. The hub of the event is the 1820 Settlers Monument, which hosts not only big drama, dance and operatic productions in its theatres, but also art exhibitions and free early-evening concerts. While work by African performers and artists is well represented, and is perhaps the more interesting aspect of the festival for tourists, the festival-goers and performers are still predominantly white.

The published programme – spanning jazz, classical music, drama, dance, cabaret, opera, visual arts, crafts, films and a book fair – is bulky, but absolutely essential; it’s worth planning your time carefully to avoid walking the potentially cold July streets without seeing much of the festival proper. If you don’t feel like taking in a show, the free art exhibitions at the museums, Monument and other smaller venues are always worth a look. For more information and bookings, contact the Grahamstown Foundation (046 622 3082, www.nafest.co.za).

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

South Africa features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
6 reasons your next trip should be to Durban, South Africa

6 reasons your next trip should be to Durban, South Africa

Subtropical heat, golden beaches, craft distilleries and spicy curries: Durban is an intriguing mix of urban South Africa and the Indian subcontinent, with a ge…

25 Apr 2017 • Andy Turner insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook