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Design may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think Cape Town.

But the city’s strides in urban planning, energy solutions and social change won it the honour this week of being named World Design Capital for 2014.

Accepting the title in Taipei, Cape Town’s mayor Patricia de Lille explained that through innovation in design, her city has worked to overcome South Africa’s legacy of Apartheid. “In South Africa, cities were designed over decades to divide people,” she said in her acceptance speech. “But since our new democratic era, we have been focused on trying to bring people together, to create a sustainable city that fosters real social inclusion.”

Cape Town’s tourism industry is hoping for a boost from this award. The city plans to launch a marketing campaign portraying Cape Town as a place for businesses, universities and tourists to “visit, invest, learn, live and work in”, said Tourism CEO Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold.

Visitors interested in discovering what Cape Town has to offer in the way of design have a number of attractions to explore. One fascinating place to visit is Lynedoch Eco Village, South Africa’s first sustainably designed intentional community. Located in Stellenbosch, it is a mixed-income community with about 15 residences, an organic farm, a school, a self-sustaining waste disposal system and a community hall.

Cape Town’s museums are also a draw for those interested in the intersection of design and culture. The Iziko Slave Lodge museum participated in the Eco Design Initiative this year, showcasing design prototypes and stories for sustainable concepts. Currently, it is showing the work of photographer Struan Robertson in the exhibition The Cold Choice: Operation Hunger. The exhibit takes audiences into South Africa’s recent past through photographs of rural poverty during Apartheid. These images show a past from which the city is still recovering.

One upcoming event promoting sustainability is the Organic Food, Wine and Craft Festival, celebrating environmentally friendly, handcrafted South African goods. The festival will be held on 6 November. 

Cape Town also offers sustainable transportation in droves – from a green cab service to bike rentals. Tourists can opt to explore the entire city, for example, with a bike tour provided by the eco-friendly company Bike and Saddle.

For a complete guide for design travel in Cape Town, check out the interactive Cape Town Green Map, which maps out all the places a sustainability-minded traveller could ever want to visit. 

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