South Africa has a thriving market culture with each new market wanting to out do the last. Markets in the Mother City include the Neighbourgoods market at the Old Biscuit Mill, the Oranjezicht market in Granger Bay, the V&A Food Market and Watershed, and the Mojo Market, just to name a few.
All of these markets offer delicious foods, beautiful locally made goods, and are great places to go when you and your friends can’t agree on where to go for lunch. These markets are wonderful and you are bound to visit at least one of these if you ever find yourself in Cape Town. However, there is one market that, (in my opinion as a global market frequenter), stands out above the rest.
The Elgin Railway Market is unlike any market located within the city. In fact it stands in the heart of South Africa’s apple orchards, where these apples are shipped to countries all over the world!
The Elgin Railway Market gets its name from being the old art-deco styled Elgin railway station and has been beautifully restored to fit market stalls, plenty of seating, (which is a luxury for Cape Town markets), and a great view of the steam engine trains rolling in and out of the station carrying crates upon crates of delicious, juicy apples.
This isn’t just a market to grab a quick bite and a green juice, but the journey there is part of the whole experience. You can actually book a day trip to the market on an old steam train that departs from the heart of Cape Town’s city centre and takes you through parts of Cape Town and beyond that no tour guide is able to show. We wanted to go on the train but it was fully booked. But fear not, the drive there runs parallel to the train, through the mountains, forest, and orchards, and is just as picturesque.
Upon arrival, you walk through beautiful, industrious steel doors into the breathtaking food hall.
First thing we did was scout the food stalls to see what was for lunch—with local cuisine like biltong, bobotie, duck and cherry pie, burgers, pizza, a customizable gin bar, and even sushi! As a vegan and a lover of Middle Eastern food, I cannot recommend Ardis enough, where I had a falafel shwarma with vegan mayo; best in Cape Town hands down.
There is even an old school bus that has been upcycled into a book store with all different genres of books for everyone. Upstairs, you can find more seating and stalls with locally made clothing, shoes, jewelry, toys, and art—each offering something uniquely South African. Upstairs is also where you will find the lookout to view the steam train rolling in and out of the station, with market lovers disembarking and strolling into the market.
Elgin Railway Market is the market that they don’t tell you about, purely because it does not just show the tourists what they want to see, but showcases what Cape Town culture is about, which is getting together with a group of friends, sharing a bottle of wine or two, or three, and enjoying good food in beautifully unique places.
Written by Kimberley Schoeman; Photos by Kimberley Schoeman.
The Ceres Rail Company offers day trips to the Elgin Railway Market on weekends, departing from the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town at 8am. After a picturesque 3hr train journey, you’ll spend a leisurely 3.5hrs at the Elgin Railway Market eating, drinking, listening to live music, and shopping, before departing home at 2:30pm. Wanna go?