This Cape Town museum is at the site of the first human heart transplant, Groote Schuur Hospital. The Heart of Cape Town Museum is in the still-working hospital, in the actual rooms where that heart transplant took place in December 1967.
Exhibits include information on the man who received the heart transplant (Louis Washkansky), the woman whose heart was donated (Denise Darvall), and the doctor (Christiaan Barnard) who performed the surgery. There are 2-hour guided tours four times a day. Free entry comes with the Cape Town City Pass, and visits are included in some sightseeing tours, such a full-day tour that visits the museum in the morning and a wine farm in the afternoon.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Heart of Cape Town Museum is a must-visit for those interested in medical history and science.
- There is an admission fee; it’s half price for South Africans.
- If you want to join a guided tour, you should reserve your place in advance as they can fill up.
How to Get There
Heart of Cape Town is in the suburb of Observatory. It’s about a 15-minute drive from the V&A Waterfront, and (for a fee) the museum can arrange hotel transfers for you. If you are traveling by Metrorail, the nearest station is Observatory (on the Southern Line), a 15-minute walk away.
When to Get There
The museum is open every day from 9am to 5pm. Guided tours leave at 9am, 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. Additionally, special pre-arranged tours are available at 5pm. During weekdays, the museum can be crowded with groups of school children.
The guided tour reveals the background stories of the surgeon, Christiaan Barnard, and his patient, Louis Washkansky. It also addresses the ethical issues that arose at the time of the transplant. Highlights of the tour include a model of Barnard's office and a re-creation of the surgery in the actual operating theaters where it occurred. After visiting Washkansky's recovery room, visitors can be assisted by tour guides to register as organ donors.