With apologies to art history professors: Most of us know the feeling of padding through a quiet gallery, feigning interest in vases and murals. While it can feel a bit embarrassing to admit it, not all museums are fascinating. Some are just, well — a little drab and dreary. But we're lucky to be in Cape Town, a city that breaks the mould even when it comes to rather conservative cultural institutions. Be a tourist in your own city for a day and pop into these museums, where we promise you won't be nodding dumbly at a slightly cracked plate or a posed portrait of some wealthy 17th-century figure.

Hout Bay Museum

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You've been to obvious attractions such as Robben Island and the Castle of Good Hope. But little landmarks like the Hout Bay Museum turn up the volume on quieter local tales. This one-room house and garden museum is an ode to its surrounding neighbourhood, explaining its history as a fishing village and showcasing photos that illustrate its rich and diverse development. The staff host guided walks, fireside chats and sundowner get-togethers, too, all in the interest of community — one you can get a glimpse of by peering into this window.
Where: 4 Andrews Rd, Hout Bay
More info: +27 (0)21 790 3270; Facebook


The South African Air Force Museum

Photo by Cibi Chakravarthi

Still in love with Top Gun, are you? It certainly can’t be because of Tom Cruise playing volleyball in '80s mid-waisted jeans. If bomber jets, war planes and combat helicopters are your thing, you need to stop by the South African Air Force Museum in Ysterplaat. With only three branches (in Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town), it offers a rather rare opportunity to interact with a Mirage and even an Avro Shackleton. If you’re truly a fan, you’ll know exactly what that means.
Where: Piet Grobler St, Ysterplaat
When: Weds.-Fri., 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat., 8:30 a.m.-noon
More info: +27 (0)21 508 6576; Facebook


Bo-Kaap Museum

Camps Bay has the views; Clifton, the glam; De Waterkant, the quirk. Bo-Kaap, in our opinion, has the looks, with its cobbled streets cuddling brightly painted green, pink, red and yellow houses. The Bo-Kaap Museum is in one of these traditional houses and it depicts the life of a typical Muslim family who historically lived in the neighbourhood. Exploring the heritage, customs and practices of Islamic culture, this experiential, interactive museum feels more like a visit to a friend’s home than a drawn-out school trip. Then there’s the bobotie- and koeksister-scented stroll afterwards — what a Bo-Kaap treat.
Where: 71 Wale St, Bo-Kaap
When: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
More info: +27 (0)21 481 3938; Facebook


Irma Stern Museum

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The renowned artist Irma Stern, who spent much of her life traveling around Europe and southern Africa, found a home of inspiration and stimulation in Cape Town. After she passed in 1966, the University of Cape Town took over the management of her residence in Rosebank. Now the Irma Stern Museum, most of the house's rooms are kept the way she had them; the decor as well as her own paintings, sculptures and ceramics tell the vivid and intricate story of a woman who was captivated by people and their surroundings. The museum further celebrates and promotes other local artists by hosting regular exhibitions and launches.
Where: Cecil Rd, Rosebank
When: Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
More info: +27 (0)21 685 5686; irmastern.co.za


Franschhoek Motor Museum

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Hop into your roadster for a jaunt out to wine country. At the Franschhoek Motor Museum on the L’Ormarins estate you'll get a world-class education on the technical and mechanical evolution of the automobile. A collection of rare, vintage and new collectible cars and motorcycles pays homage to the precision, science and beauty of motorised vehicles and the long journey they’ve been on. A McLaren F1 and Bugatti Type 35B under one roof? This is an art museum if we've ever seen one.
Where: L’Ormarins estate, R45, Franschhoek
When: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
More info: +27 (0)21 874 9002; Facebook

By Suzette Leal

Suzette only stays at home to watch Orange Is The New Black. She limits her fluid intake to water, wine and champagne and she absolutely doesn't get the selfie trend. Burma is next on her to-do list. That, and salmon fishing in Iceland.