Ten things to do in Cape Town

  • SumoMe

Cape Town ranks (on my list) as one of the world’s most spectacularly situated cities, alongside Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver, San Francisco and Sydney. Its location, fronting an impressive bay and backed by the magnificent Table Mountain, is simply stunning. I’ve listed below ten things you shouldn’t miss if it’s your first visit to this awesome city.

V&A Waterfront

V&A Waterfront

1. Take the cable-car up the Table Mountain. As the car glides up, the platform rotates 360 degrees, offering every visitor astounding views of the mountains, the city and the ocean. The lines at the cableway can sometimes be incredibly long but the views along the way and from the top are definitely worth the wait! If you’re adventurous, try hiking up the mountain. The most straightforward hike to the top of the mountain is via the huge Platteklip Gorge that runs through the centre of the mountain. The trail zig-zags in a gradual ascent and takes an average of two hours to climb. Along the way, stop to appreciate the indigenous fynbos vegetation. A trek up the mountain in spring when the fynbos is in full bloom is especially rewarding.

2. Visit the V&A Waterfront. It’s a great spot to spend the day. The harbour-side setting is stunning while there are many shops, cafés and restaurants to keep visitors busy. Stop by one of my favourite shops: Nwengya Glass and get a truly authentic glass souvenir. Sit at a terrace and watch various artistic groups perform throughout the day, or visit the impressive Two Oceans aquarium.

Bo Kaap

Bo Kaap

3. Take the boat from the V&A Waterfront to Robben Island. The island was for many years a prison camp. It was here that many political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned during South Africa’s apartheid regime. The Robben Island museum is absolutely worth a visit while the boat ride is a great way to see the city from the water.

4. Stroll through the colourful Malay neighbourhood of Bo Kaap. This historic neighbourhood is still home to many Malays and has been lovingly restored. The vivid colours are unforgettable.

5. Get down to the beach at Camps Bay. Camps Bay is a trendy neighbourhood with many cafés and restaurants fronting the beach. It’s a fantastic place to people-watch. When you’re there facing the ocean, look behind you. The views from here of the Twelve Apostles (massive rock humps that form the lofty peaks of the Cape mountains) are awesome!

The Twelve Apostles

Camps Bay & the Twelve Apostles

6. Visit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. The gardens are nestled at the foot of the Table Mountain and are an absolute must. The collection of indigenous flora is unrivalled – fynbos is amply represented whilst the proteas are magnificent.

7. Visit stunning Hout Bay. Hout Bay is one of my favourite bays in the world. It’s beauty is absolutely jaw-dropping. This large bay, with its deep blue water, is surrounded by imposing mountains, while its entrance is guarded by the magnificent Sentinel mountain. Drop by the Mariner’s Wharf for some great seafood and amazing views of the bay. You’ll most probably see some seals frolicking in the water too.

8. Drive the Chapman’s Peak Drive. This spectacular road winds itself along one end of Hout Bay and is arguably one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Drive slowly and make regular stops to enjoy the grand views. During the spring/early-summer months, grab your binoculars – you might spot some whales in the bay.

Hout Bay panorama

Hout Bay panorama

9. Head out to Cape Point. This is not the southernmost point of the African continent (it’s close) but it certainly is one of the most famous spots in the Western Cape. The views from the lighthouse over False Bay and the two oceans are stupendous. Along the way, you may be greeted by baboons on the roadside. Slow down, don’t wind down your windows and don’t get out of the car. They can be quite vicious! Heading back to Cape Town, follow the road via Scarborough. The scenery is stunning! Along the way, stop at the open-air stone sculpture park – you can’t miss it. Make a quick stop along the Scarborough beach and grab your binoculars. If you’re lucky, you may spot some sharks lurking off the coast as the waves roll in.

10. A visit to the Western Cape wouldn’t be complete without a wine experience. If you’re only staying in Cape Town and have no time to explore the winelands around Stellenbosch/Franschhoek or further inland, I recommend touring the Cape’s oldest winelands in the Constantia Valley, just minutes away from Cape Town. There are a variety of wineries that are certainly worth a visit. One of them is Groot Constantia. Housed in lovely Cape Dutch buildings and surrounded by beautiful gardens, this historic estate is simply gorgeous.

Tip: You can combine points 5-10 as part of a 1-2-day drive from Cape Town along the Cape Peninsula loop.

View of Cape Town from Bloubergstrand

View of Cape Town from Bloubergstrand

One more tip: for that terrific panorama shot of Table Bay, the city and the Table Mountain in the background, head for Bloubergstrand, a gorgeous white, sandy beach just north of the city.

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36 Responses to “Ten things to do in Cape Town”

  1. Paulien van der Geest 07/08/2012 9:14 am
    #

    -When in Houtbay we saw the rare site of a sea black of seals chasing fish on to the beach. If you don’t see seals, you can take a boat to seal Island.

    Visit Tea bag design in Houtbay and you will understand why there are teabags lying around to dry in the sun all over Houtbay.

    When doing the Cape Peninsula: go see the pinguins at Boulders Beach, Simonstown

    -Fill up your picknick basket and enjoy the summer concerts at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.

    -Visit some projects on a township tour with Jorvan Community Outreach and do your bit to make the world a little better.

    -When in Rome, do as the Romans and go to the Organic Market at the Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. Ah, and if you plan your trip 6 months in front: Make a reservation for The Testkitchen at the Biscuit Mill…. You won’t be sorry. Its just been proclaimed to be one of the best of South Africa. And boy, do these people know what tastes good…

  2. Paulien van der Geest 07/08/2012 9:08 am
    #

    I am totally in love with Capetown too…

    -If you are heading out on the Cape Penisula: Pinguins at Boulders Beach, Simons town
    At Houtbay we had the rare side of seeing a sea black with seals who were driving the poor fish to the beach. There were hundreds of fish on the Houtbay beach. Locals told us this was absolutely rare. If you don’t see seal, you can take a boat out to seal island.
    Also visit Teabag design at Houtbay. That explains why you see teabags drying in the sun all around Houtbay!

    -When in Rome do as the Romans do. Bring your picknick basket and visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden for the summer concerts.
    When in Kirstenbosch: close your eyes and experience the Garden for the Blind.

    -BoKaap: you can also do the Cooking Safari and end up cooking in somebody’s home.
    -Township tour: go with Brian of Jorvan Community Outreach and do your bit to make the world a bit better

  3. Craig Zabransky 27/02/2011 3:00 pm
    #

    Good list, great city
    Stay Adventurous, Craig

  4. Memory Ferreira 13/02/2011 12:01 pm
    #

    Two things I would like to add:

    Take a stroll down Long Street city centre, with beautiful Victorian buildings, quaint antique shops, galleries, comfy restaurants and go to the nearby market on Greenmarket square.
    http://www.capetown-enchantingcity.com/Long-street-cape-town.html

    Visit the Castle of Good Hope built between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company. This is the oldest colonial building in South and a must see.
    http://www.capetown-enchantingcity.com/Castle-of-Good-Hope.html

  5. Caz Makepeace 04/06/2010 1:15 pm
    #

    Cape Town is my favorite city, it is stunning and has so much to offer. I would also recommend hiking up Table Mountain. There are trails of varying levels of difficulty to suit all types of people. I’d also recommend the penguins at Boulders and having a sunset drink at La Med on Clifton Beach for some panaromic views of the Ocean and Mountains. You have to jump in the ocean water while you are there as well. Extremely cold!

  6. Michael Hodson 22/05/2010 7:00 pm
    #

    The view from the top of Lion’s Head is pretty awesome also. One of my favorite cities.

  7. shereen 19/05/2010 9:28 am
    #

    great article.. and love the pics.. just makes you want to love cape town more.. boulders is def my favourite.. love it..

  8. cape town accommodation 10/03/2010 11:35 am
    #

    Cape Town is really a best metropolis city of south africa and its beauty,most beautiful beaches are really the amazing things.
    Thanks

    cape town accommodation

    Cape Town Accommodation says:
    “Interesting post, we shall be following your blog more closely in future! Best Wishes from Cape Town ”

  9. Fly2 Paragliding 04/03/2010 1:14 pm
    #

    Taking a flight down from Lion’s Head on a tandem paraglider to land at Camps Bay beach is an awesome Cape Town experience and truly unforgettable.

    Have a look at our website for more info http://www.fly2paragliding.co.za

  10. Terence 08/02/2010 8:10 pm
    #

    Brilliant! We’ll be heading there in 2 weeks time, looking forward to a great time. Thanks for the tip!

  11. velvet 25/11/2009 10:04 pm
    #

    One of my fave cities too. I feel happy just being there! Thanks for the fab tips Wouter. Definitely off-the-beaten path, though the shark cage dive is starting to become rather mainstream for crazy, thrill-seekers!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  12. Wouter Blok 25/11/2009 9:34 pm
    #

    Hey Keith,
    One of my fav cities in the World!
    Off the beaten track tips:
    Rent a convertible and drive to Worcester to go sailplane flying. The guys over there love to tkae you up for some Rand.
    Visit Murati wine estate, not touristic like the others, but it’s the oldest and has the wonderful Ansela vd Kaab red wine.
    Go to Hermanus, take a boat and get submerged in the cage. The Great Whites are waiting for you.
    Oh dear I really want to go back again.
    Cheers and tx for the stroll through memory lane.
    Wouter.

  13. steiner marine binoculars 17/11/2009 2:17 am
    #

    someone says that its a lot of fun going in that place, a lot of things to do and a lot of place you can go by to enjoy your vacation.
    binoculars

  14. Sonya 22/10/2009 11:33 am
    #

    Thanks for this informative post, Keith! Cape Town is on my list of future destinations. Now you have inspired me to go sooner and experience it!

  15. velvet 21/10/2009 5:39 am
    #

    Thank you for your comment Brian.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  16. brian 21/10/2009 1:22 am
    #

    I did a lot of what was mentioned in the article and Dorothee’s comments. District 6 and township tours are for anyone who wants to learn about South Africa beyond the gorgeous scenery and delve into its political and social issues.

    Boulder Beach is phenomenal because of the penguins. Not in Cape Town proper, but a nice 45 minute drive out.

    Prices there are great too!

  17. velvet 20/10/2009 2:17 pm
    #

    Thanks for the fab comment and ditto tips Dorothee! I totally agree. I wrote this article with the first-time visitor in mind. You’re absolutely right: Cape Town has so much more to offer. Each time I visit, I feel so at home. I love it there!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  18. Dorothee 20/10/2009 1:29 pm
    #

    Great list Keith 🙂

    I would add a few things:

    – Do the open-top sightseeing tour to get an overvie of Cape Town http://www.citysightseeing.co.za/

    – Visit the penguins at Boulders Beach on the way to Cape Point

    – If you are into arts, go see a play or performance by the Cape Town Philharmonic

    – Visit the District 6 Museum and learn why 60,000 people where forcibly removed fromt his area

    – Do a township tour with one of the locals http://www.nomvuyos-tours.co.za/

    These are just a few additions.
    Cape Town has SO much to offer and could easily fill 6 pages of what to do.
    It truly is a city that offers something for everyone!

    Dorothee

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