Lying between Table Mountain and the sea, Cape Town is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Dramatic mountain scenery, lovely beaches, an architecturally delightful city center, designer shopping and that world-famous, flat-topped mountain will both stun and enchant you.
It’s an easy place for tourists, with most attractions clustered close together or linked by a good transport system, with spectacular scenery when you venture further afield. There’s a European feel to the upmarket areas, mixed with African vibrancy in the street life and craft markets.
Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa and is the country’s legislative capital. SA’s main tourist center offers plenty to see and do, as well as a rich history.
Simply, Cape Town has it all; beaches, mountains, shopping, wildlife, great food and great wine and therefore there is ‘something for everyone’ – a phrase often used, but never truer than when describing Cape Town.
For the romantics and honeymooners, there is stunning scenery and exquisite accommodation, adventurers will relish the opportunity to dive with sharks and hike Table Mountain at sunrise. For families, there are endless activities to entertain the entire family and beautiful beaches, one of which is home to the African penguin.
Beyond the city are the world-famous Winelands and a peninsula that eventually tapers to a windswept point, The Cape is world famous for its superb wines, which have given rise to a tourism sector all of its own. Wine estate tours are a must and include tastings, wine sales and excellent restaurants in the wine-growing regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, with some charming towns to visit on the way. All in all, you’re sure to love it.
There are just so many things to do in Cape Town, we can’t possibly list every single activity, but we’ve given it a good go. Here you will find a comprehensive summary of several places to visit and things to do. If there is a point of interest missing that you love, let us know!
You simply can’t miss Table Mountain: its famous flat-topped silhouette is the first thing you’ll see when flying into Cape Town and since this iconic landmark, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, sits at the heart of the city, there’s no excuse not to visit it.
Table Mountain has mass appeal: firstly, it offers unparalleled views of the city and beyond – everybody loves a good view! Secondly, for all the budding botanists, the 57 square kilometre area comprising table mountain and the Back Table is home to more than 1470 floral species, many of which are endemic to the area.
For wildlife fans, there is the possibility of sighting some very interesting animal species. While leopard once roamed the mountain (pre-1920s), the biggest cat you may see today is the rooikat. Other animals that call the mountain home include rock hyrax (dassie), porcupines, mongooses, snakes, tortoises and the very rare Table Mountain Ghost Frog. There are several exceptional raptors which are often spotted such as jackal buzzards, booted eagles, peregrine falcons and African harrier-hawks.
Standing at 1,085 metres, Table Mountain is hike-able providing you are suitably fit. There are several routes, Platteklip Gorge, a prominent gorge up to the center of the main table, is one of the most popular routes up the mountain. While quite steep, the ascent is pretty straightforward and should take between one and three hours depending on your fitness level.
If you don’t fancy all that exertion – after all you are on holiday – there is a cableway, which carries up to 65 passengers per trip. The journey takes about 5 minutes and the cars rotate through 360 degrees during the trip, giving you spectacular views of the mountain below. This is an enjoyable experience in itself. If you want to hike, we’d recommend hiking up and taking the cableway down so you get to try out both experiences. Or, even better – visit more than once!
There is a curio shop at the cableway station and a restaurant. There are also easy walks on the plateau; the Dassie Walk, the Agama Walk, and the Klipspringer Walk. There are also free guided walks that depart – on the hour – from the Twelve Apostles Terrace.
The walk paths cover a distance of more than 2km at the top of the mountain whereby you can walk to lookout points from which you can view spectacular vistas over the city such as Sea Point, the V&A Waterfront, Robben Island, Signal Hill, Cape Peninsula and Devil’s Peak.
If you are feeling energetic and adventurous, there is an option to abseil 112 metres down a sheer cliff, which takes about 45 minutes including the demonstration and a short hike back up to the top.
From the mountains to the beaches, as much a part of the city as Table Mountain, Cape Town’s coastal regions are a buzz of activity and beauty. From bustling nightclubs and restaurants to Blue Flag beaches, not to mention stunning sunset viewing spots.
There are several beaches to visit, each with its own charm and attraction. A favourite amongst tourists and locals is Camps Bay, Camps Bay is the largest white sand beach in Cape Town and is lined by a number of shops and eateries.
Camps Bay is a 15-minute drive from the city center and is a popular spot for a cocktail as well as a host of beach sports. Naturally, the size of the beach lends itself to beach soccer, beach volleyball and games of touch rugby. Away from the sand, the fashionable bars and restaurants beside the Camps Bay promenade buzz both day and night.
Hout Bay, or the Republic of Hout Bay as it is affectionately known by locals, is a fantastic sea-side neighbourhood in Cape Town that offers something for everyone. Just 20 kilometres from Cape Town’s central district. It boasts a beautiful white-sand beach where locals laze and walk their dogs, a bustling marina, art galleries, restaurants, and a working harbour that serves its thriving tuna, snoek and crayfish industry.
There is a wide range of outdoor activities to be enjoyed in Hout Bay from hiking and mountain biking through the surrounding mountains to sea kayaking and sunset cruises where you may be able to see kelp forests and lots of sea animals including fur seals.
The famous Boulders Beach is the home of a large colony of African penguins, formally known as jackass penguins, they are the only penguins found on the continent. Boulders Beach has protection from large waves and the wind thanks to surrounding ancient granite boulders, making it an ideal swimming spot for kids.
The beach falls under the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, therefore, it is always clean and safe which further contributes to it being a wonderful place to spend a day.
“The iconic Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognised voluntary eco-label awarded to beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators. In order to qualify for the Blue Flag, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained.” Blue Flag.
South Africa has 46 Blue Flag Beaches, 10 of which are in Cape Town. The following beaches were awarded the status for the forthcoming season:
So, if you want to find a beach which is clean and safe for you and your family then there are plenty to choose from in and around Cape Town.
Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is one of South Africa’s favourite destinations and for good reason: this world-class shopping and entertainment venue sits right in the middle of a picturesque working harbour and has nothing less than Table Mountain as its backdrop.
There are a hundred ways to spend your time at the V&A Waterfront, with activities ranging from helicopter tours of the bay to some of the city’s top-rated restaurants and sightseeing attractions.
V&A is somewhere you can visit more than once, aside from the 80+ restaurants there are several bars where you can mix with locals and tourists over a beer and live music. If you want live music check out Kapstadt Brauhaus and Quay Four Tavern, who regularly have live bands playing.
The V&A Waterfront is also a touring hub. If you find yourself unsure what to do for a day head to the waterfront and see what tours take your fancy including Harbour Cruises, Sunset Cruises, Hop-On Hop-Off Cape Town Canal Cruise, Helicopter Tours, Robben Island and City Sightseeing Bus Tour and many, many more.
Robben Island, lying approximately 30 minutes (by boat) off the coast of Cape Town, is famous, or rather infamous, as the holding place for the imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Mandela served 18 of his 27 years in prison incarcerated on the island’s prison, but Robben Island has also housed a hospital, mental institution, leper colony and military base during its rich history.
Today, Robben Island is a must-see travel destination studded with historical buildings, a key insight into the oppression of the apartheid regime and diverse wildlife, including a flock of adorable but highly endangered African penguins.
Tours to the island leave daily from the V&A Waterfront, you can find out more, here.
Founded in 1913 to preserve the country’s rare flora and fauna, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a 36-hectare World Heritage site renowned for its beauty and diversity.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is an oasis not far from Cape Town’s city center. Nestled beneath Table Mountain’s eastern slopes, the garden celebrates South Africa’s incredible botanical diversity; and in particular, its endemic indigenous plants.
Kirstenbosch includes a fragrance garden, a medicinal garden, 2,500 species of plants found on the Cape Peninsula, a Protea garden (best seen in spring!), a braille trail, a tree canopy walkway, and a cycad amphitheatre. To immerse yourself in all that the Garden has to offer, it is worth taking one of the free guided tours that depart from the Visitors Center at 11 am and 2 pm from Monday to Saturday.
The Kirstenbosch Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway is a new curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum. Inspired by a snake skeleton, and informally called ‘The Boomslang‘ (meaning tree snake), it allows visitors to see the forest and the trees the way a bird or a monkey might.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is a fantastic place to visit, you may want to return as you won’t have time to do all the trails in one day, one of which takes you up Table Mountain. There is a lovely restaurant inside the gardens, it is a beautiful spot to grab a drink, snacks or a full meal. The menu is full of exciting dishes including crocodile and Mopani worms!
No trip to Cape Town is complete without a trip to the serene green valleys of the Cape Winelands. There are more than 20 wine-growing regions surrounding Cape Town but the term Cape Winelands generally refers to the three most popular: Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl, each set in rolling countryside with spectacular views.
The vineyards of the Western Cape yield some of the world’s finest vintages. You can stop by for a tasting session, for a tour of the cellars or a gourmet meal in a farm-to-table restaurant with breath-taking rural views.
Although the Winelands are only a 45-minute drive from central Cape Town, it is worth spending a night at a vineyard to get a more rounded experience of life in this beautiful region.
No trip to Cape Town is complete without a tour of the Cape Peninsula. The Cape Peninsula is a 52 long rocky peninsula South of Cape Town. A drive along its roads is a full day activity that can quickly become two if you want to partake in the various activities you’ll discover along the way such as surfing in Muizenberg.
The Peninsula is made up of Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Noordhoek, Kommetjie, Scarborough, Cape Point, Simon’s Town, Fish Hoek, Kalk Bay, St James and Muizenberg.
Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of the most scenic drives in the world. This will blow your mind. It’s a spectacular 5 km ocean road linking Hout Bay with Noordhoek. The views are incredible and you will want to keep stopping to take photos.
Cape Point is inside the Cape of Good Hope Reserve, it sits at the tip of the Peninsula, offering some incredible views on the mesmerizing Atlantic Ocean. There are hiking routes, wildlife, stunning beaches, gorgeous roads -loads of options. First thing, climb up the lighthouse in Cape Point for the best views over the Cape of Good Hope. You’ll feel like you’re at the end of the Earth! Then drive down to the actual Cape of Good Hope, 10 minutes from there.
Simon’s Town is famous for its African penguin colony which lives on its shores, and which is an absolutely unmissable stop on any Cape Peninsula route! We’re talking about thousands of penguins here, going about their daily business, preening, cuddling, waddling, swimming and mating.
There are various ways to do the Cape Peninsula including City Sightseeing Tour, a private tour guide and by renting a car. If you travel with Ntaba African Safaris, we can incorporate the tour into your trip.
Sampling the cuisine of a destination is a big part of any holiday experience and many of us get very excited by the prospect of discovering new foods and the excuse to indulge in the foods we love. The food on offer in Cape Town will more than satisfy your taste buds!
Cape Town has a unique multi-cultural heritage that influences much of its cuisine. There are a few dishes or foods that stand alone as “traditional.” Rather, you’ll find a mix of styles, flavors, and techniques—from Cape Dutch to French and Indian. The South African cooking mainly consists of chicken, game, tomatoes, lemons and limes, corn (mealie) in the form of bread and flour, beans as well as ginger, chilli and spices.
Here are some foods you will want to try in Cape Town:
Fish and Chips: Cape Town’s proximity to flourishing oceans and history of British colonial rule has resulted in a vibrant fish and chips culture.
Gatsby: Originated in the Cape Flats and dates back to the mid-70s. The Gatsby is a large submarine-style sandwich that is crammed full of a variety of meats, chips and sauces. This is a no-frills meal available at hole-in-the-wall shops.
Bunny Chow: A classic South African meal that draws on the country’s Indian influence. It’s a filling fast food dish that is essentially half a loaf of hollowed out bread filled with curry.
Bobotie: The South African national dish, bobotie, is a meat pie of coarsely ground lamb with plenty of curry, bay or lemon leaves and fruits, covered with a custard of milk and eggs, as homey and much loved as meatloaf is in the United States.
Biltong and Droëwors: Biltong and droëwors are made by drying meat and adding a special blend of spices. Biltong is simply cured and dried, and then sliced or left in solid sticks. Droëwors is essentially a dried sausage.
Braai: Braai’s are similar to the traditional barbecue, very meat heavy and take place in backyards up and down South Africa. However, there are plenty of restaurants specialising in South African braai food. So, if you’re craving meat, search one of these eateries out!
Traditional desserts: There are a handful of traditional sweet treats worth seeking out to round off your meal. Milk tart, malva pudding, and koeksisters will keep most people with a sweet tooth satisfied.
Cape Town is a year-round destination due to its varying climates and activity opportunities. If there is something specific you wish to do in Cape Town then you should consider what time of the year you visit.
The Cape has beautiful hot, dry weather in its summer months between November and April, therefore, the best time for a Cape Town beach holiday is from late January to late April, the tail end of the city’s dry summer months. While the best time to visit for whale watching is from July to September. The best time for a hiking holiday in Cape Town is from late April to early June when the days are crisp and clear, great hiking weather.
Finding the right accommodation is extremely important when booking a vacation, it is one of the things we dedicate the most time to after deciding on our holiday destination. Great accommodation options are plentiful in Cape Town, you will find well-known international hoteliers such as Radisson Blu, Hilton and Marriot as well as several beautiful, boutique hotels.
Whether you are traveling as a family, a couple, solo or on a honeymoon, you will find somewhere which suits your requirements and budget. For help finding the right accommodation, you can contact us, here.