Gorgeous mountain ranges, stunning beaches, and a cultural melting pot of a city; there is no doubt why Cape Town is number one on many a visitors list when coming to South Africa. From the moment of arrival to departure Cape Town will enthrall you with it’s rich heritage, diverse vegetation and a laid-back, yet vibrant flow that many can’t get enough of.
Things to do
Cape town is full to bursting with activities and adventures to enjoy. From water sports to art museums and galleries, there is something for everyone in this deeply historical, yet trendy city.
A must for every first time visitor is a trip up Table Mountain, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world. The majestic mountain gazes across the Mother City, offering unparalleled views from it’s peak. There are several hikes that will lead you to the very top, and are free to access (barring the Skeleton Gorge route). The hikes can be quite grueling and it is advised that you never hike alone, as the routes can become treacherous in parts. However, don’t let that put you off completely - the views along the way are nothing short of spectacular, and neither is the fynbos you’ll find yourself surrounded by. Keep an eye out for the Disa - a little red flower that can only be found in this part of the world. If you’re not wanting to hike up or down, purchase a one-way ticket for the Cable Car - and experience all on it’s own. There are also round trip tickets available for those you do not wish to hike at all.
Table Mountain is not the only place for hiking in the city. There are a multitude of hikes to choose from; ranging from gentle walks to more strenuous climbs. A favourite amongst locals and visitors is Lion’s Head - one of the “baby mountains” close to Table Mountain. During the summer months hikers will do a 'full-moon' hike. This is massively popular, and it’s completely free to participate in. Other fantastic places for hikes and walks include Newlands Forest, Silvermine Nature reserve and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
While hikes are accessible from Kirstenbosch Gardens, including the devilishly difficult Skeleton Gorge, the gardens themselves offer much easier walking in 528 hectares of truly stunning surrounds. The gardens home five of the six biomes in South Africa, which is made up of over 7000 species of plantlife, which include many that are rare and endangered. Visitors to the gardens can also enjoy the sculpture garden, filled with fantastic African Artwork, and the Canopy tour is not to be missed! if you are visit in summer you’ll have the opportunity to attend the Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts, hosted in it’s open-air amphitheatre.
If you’re more comfortable in water than you are on land, then you should definitely get down to one of Cape Town’s many glorious beaches! For first time and beginner surfers, Surfers Corner in Muizenberg is the place to go. Here you can rent gear, have lessons, and just enjoy splashing around in the warm Indian Ocean. For more advanced surfers Noordhoek, Kommetjie and Llandudno beach all provide first class waves. Just remember your wetsuit as the water is from the icy Atlantic Ocean. Surfing isn’t the only watersport Capetonians are big on; Kite Surfing is very popular at the Blouberg Strand, and Big Bay beaches; and canoeing and sailing are done just off Fish Hoek beach.
Of course the beaches in Cape Town are not just for water activities; Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town allows you the rare opportunity to spend the day hanging out with the local penguins. And Camps Bay, and Clifton 4th are the two beaches were the rich and beautiful (and those pretending to be) come out to see and be seen on hot summer days.
After spending a day on Camps Bay beach, there is nothing better than walking along it’s famed strip and finding the perfect place for cocktails and watching the sun go down. There are also an array of restaurants,; several of which turn into night clubs and the evening progresses.
For those seeking a more cultural experience from their visit, they should plan to visit the museums in and around the Company Gardens. From the Natural History Museum, to the South African Art Gallery; there is plenty to discover about the nation's rich history.
For those looking to examine the city’s past during the apartheid era, then the District Six Museum on the outskirts of town is a good place to start. Here you’ll learn that the now empty, grassy slopes of the area above the museum used to be a vibrant bustling part of the city. There are hundreds of stories of the glory days of District Six, as well as the stories of how it all ended, and how it’s people struggled to overcome it.
From District Six to Robben Island; this is the place where South Africa’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela, spent 27 years of his life. The tour of the island, includes the ferry ride there and back from the V&A Waterfront, as well as an informational tour through the prison, and the chance to actually stand inside Mandela’s old cell.
A ferry ride to Robben Island isn’t the only to make from the V&A Waterfront. This modern, bustling waterside hub gives visitors the chance to not just cruise around the bay, but head out on chartered rides along the Cape’s famed peninsula. And if you’re wanting a different view point of the city, then this is the place to organise a helicopter flight over the city or, for the more daring, a paragliding experience that will allow you to take in the Mother City in a totally new way.
Of course there is an entirely different Cape Town to be seen below the ocean. A visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium, at the Waterfront, will show you the world that lies below, and for qualified divers, the chance to experience it with a dive in the Aquarium’s shark tank!
There is also plenty of shopping to be done while at the V&A. From fresh food markets to designer stores, there’s almost nothing you won’t find here. And don’t forget to ride the Wheel of Excellence, and taking in the gorgeous views of Table Mountain and the harbour.
For those wanting an easy way to string all the sights of the city together, your best option will be to go on the Hop on Hop off Cape Town City Sightseeing Tour Bus. Not only do you have access to instant information as you pass historical sights, you’ll also be able to get off at key locations, explore and then hop onto the next bus and head off to the next place of interest. There are two routes to choose from, bother offering different locations and sights. Doing both will give you a fully comprehensive Cape Town experience.
Where to eat
Cape town offers visitors a wide variety of options when it comes to dining out! Of course seafood should be a must, as well as other foods servinfg traditional Cape Town fare!
For fresh fresh fish, divine sushi and a full gourmet menu to choose from; the Beluga and Sevruga restaurants are a Cape Town must! Sevruga is situated along the water’s edge at the V&A Waterfront, while Beluga is place in a leafy courtyard in Greenpoint.
For a truly Cape Town fish and chips experience Kalky’s in Kalk Bay is the place to go. Here you’ll tuck into fresh caught fish, and the best Slap Chips you’ll ever have, while looking across the crystalline harbour.
Alfresco dining, deliciously baked goods and a child-friendly environment await visitors to Cafe Roux in the Noordhoek Farm Village. There are also plenty of little curio shops to pop into before or after your delish meal.
Charlie’s Bakery in Gardens is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth! This artisan bakery has gained fame for it’s delicious baked goods, and uniquely South African cake and cookie designs. They also have the best brownies in the city.
For a truly refined, five star dining experience, book a table at Pigalles in Greenpoint. Live music, an extensive drinks menu and mouth-watering food in the trend restaurant setting make it one of the best fine dining experiences in Cape Town.
A more than casual (slightly hipster) setting, and massive burgers await patrons at the Dog’s Bollocks in Gardens. Open between 5 - 10pm, Mon through to Fri, it is advised to get there as early as possible, as only 30 - 50 of their awesomely huge and tasty gourmet burgers are served.
For a meal with zing, head to Poncho’s, a Mexican restaurant in Observatory. Ridiculously large portions of nachos and the best bacon chilli poppers who will ever have await you! Just remember to book, as it is extremely popular.
Drinks and a good time are to be had at Jamaican themed restaurant Banana Jam in Harfield Village. Their famous happy hour cocktail menu can simply be described and sumptuous, and the gents will be kept happy with their massive range of local and international craft beers. And if you’re feeling hungry, give one of their gourmet pizzas a try.
For a truly South African vibe and meal head to Mzolis in Gugulethu. Everyone is friends at this uber popular spot, and the food is as local as it comes - straight of the massive braai! It’s the ideal spot to spend a Saturday afternoon chilling with friends.
Dinner and show is taken to a whole new level at Stardust Restaurant. Here you’re waiters will serenade you the menu, and each course comes, quite literally, with a song and dance! It’s a fun, unique theatre experience that happens to come with fantastic food!
For truly artisanal coffee head to Cape Town’s very own Steampunk coffee Bar - Truth! Here the coffee, the setting and the goodies to eat, will truly blow you away!
Where to stay
Cape Town offers a massive variety in locations and forms of accommodation. It is easy to find something for every kind of budget, in every part of the city.
Hotels: For those just wanting a base from which to explore the city it is best to opt for one of the inner city hotels. If you want just a bit more than your average hotel experience however, consider staying at the Fire and Ice hotel - it’s full themed and add just that much more to your stay.
Self Catering: Whether you’re visiting with a big group, or just want to do your own thing, there is an astounding amount of self-catering options throughout the city. For gorgeous views and easy access to the beach, it would be worth staying in Camps Bay or Fish Hoek. If you wish to be closer to the city, then consider the city’s Southern Suburbs.
B&Bs: There are a variety of B&Bs throughout the city, from the Northern Suburbs to the Southern Suburbs. For easy access to the city via public transport, it is best to stay in the Southern Suburbs, where train, bus and taxi transport can easily be arranged.
Air: Cape Town International airport is one of the gateways into the country, as well as being a gateway to the rest of the country. It is possible to reach all the major cities from this airport as well as a few of the smaller ones.
Car: Getting around Cape Town is much easier by car due to overcrowded and unreliable public transport. It is very easy to book a car rental online or at the airport.
Taxis: Taxis are great for short distances, but anything over 5 kilometers it begins to get pricey. It is best to avoid using taxis for longer trips and rather look into renting a car for your stay.
Uber: Uber is a cashless taxi service. Once you have signed up, and downloaded the Uber app you can order an Uber taxi to fetch you where ever you are in and around the CBD. You'll be able to track your Uber taxi to make sure it's on its way to you, and it'll know exactly where you are. The trip is then paid for from your credit card details on your Uber account. It's an easy and safe way to get around the city without paying ridiculous fees and having to have cash on you!
Buses/Trains: The local trains are limited in their access to the city and surrounds and are often late. The bus service is a much better option and is well priced. The MyCiti bus service that runs throughout the city centre, and to and from Tableview and the airport.
Did you know?
Cape Town is also called Kaapstad, Cape of Goodhope, the Cape of Storms, and the Mother City and is often mispelt as CapeTown, Captown, Caape town, Kapstaad, Kapstad.
The second most populated city in the country, Cape Town is called ‘home’ to nearly 4 million people.
Cape Town was first home to the Khoisan people before the arrival of the first European settlers in 1652.
The city is a peninsula, and surrounded by water on three-sides.
There are two oceans that surround Cape Town on either side, the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. They meet at Cape Point.
Cape Town’s motto is Spes Bona - which is Latin for Good Hope.
The University of Cape Town is the oldest in the South Africa, and the second oldest extant university in Africa. It is ranked in the top 200 universities in the world.
The largest individually timed cycle race is held here - The Argus.
Famous Capetonians include Nobel literature Laureate J.M Coetzee, and Paraympic Gold Swimmer, Natalie du Toit.
Cape Town is the capital of the Western Cape as well as the country’s legislative capital.