Where the majestic Table Mountain meets the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean lies the fascinating South African city of Cape Town. Whether you’re looking for adventure, history, nature or world-class cuisine, Cape Town delivers on every level.
In our latest travel guide, we will take you on a journey through some of our team’s favourite things to do in and around Cape Town, including the city’s iconic landmarks and also some gems a little bit further afield. Cape Town is an essential stop on any South Africa Multi Centre Holiday.
Cape Town’s strategic location and transport connections make it an ideal starting point for combining your South African adventure with other captivating destinations, such as the Garden Route, Winelands, and Kruger National Park. You can also combine your Cape Town experience with a sun-soaked beach getaway in Mauritius or the enchanting shores of Zanzibar for the ultimate twin-centre city/beach holiday.
If you’re ready to plan your dream holiday, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of travel experts – we’d love to help you craft your perfect holiday to South Africa.
Table Mountain: The City’s Natural Wonder
Table Mountain is undeniably Cape Town’s most iconic natural feature, an unmistakable presence that graces the city’s skyline from virtually any vantage point. Its distinctive flat summit is often covered by a veil of cloud known as ‘the tablecloth,’ and a trip to the top of this geological wonder is one of the definite must-visit attractions in this city.
The easiest way to get to the top is via the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, which offers breath-taking 360-degree views as you make your way up the side of the mountain, with glimpses of the city, the Atlantic Ocean, and the surrounding landscapes. For those looking for more of a challenge, there are multiple trails that lead to the summit, including the popular Platteklip Gorge route, which takes approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours depending on fitness levels, and offers fantastic views along the way. Whichever way you choose to reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with amazing panoramic views from every direction, with Cape Town sprawling to the south and the Atlantic Ocean stretching to the west with plenty of fabulous photography opportunities.
One of the best times to reach the summit is late afternoon, when you can stay and watch the sunset, capturing the dreamy view of the sun dipping below the horizon.
Robben Island: A Glimpse into South Africa’s History
Robben Island is an isolated island off Cape Town’s coast which holds an important place in South Africa’s history and is recognised worldwide for its role in the struggle against apartheid. To reach Robben Island, you’ll need to take a ferry from the V&A Waterfront (in high season make sure you book these tickets well in advance). On arrival on the island, you can take either a guided or private tour to learn about this fascinating former maximum-security prison and the harsh conditions that political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela had to endure. You’ll also see the lime quarry where prisoners were subjected to gruelling work and hear about the inmates’ powerful stories of resilience and courage. One of the highlights of the tour is a stop at Nelson Mandela’s former cell, where you can see the tiny space where he spent the largest part of his imprisonment. You can also explore the leper graveyard, church and army and navy bunkers.
Boulders Penguin Colony: An Encounter with African Penguins
The opportunity to witness penguins in their natural habitat is nothing short of magical, and this can be achieved by a trip to Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, where a colony of African penguins has set up their home.
There are three specially constructed walkways that surround the colony, allowing you witness the birds in their natural habitat without getting too close as to interfere.
There is something particularly heart-warming about watching the endearing penguins walking about with their characteristic waddle, and dive and play in the crystal-clear waters of False Bay. The visitor centre in Boulders Beach is close by and provides valuable insights into the conservation efforts aimed at protecting these charming penguins including the challenges they face in the wild and how dedicated people and organisations are working to safeguard their future.
V&A Waterfront: Shopping, Dining, and Entertainment
The V&A Waterfront is a bustling hub of activity, featuring a wide range of shops, restaurants, and attractions that has become an iconic symbol of Cape Town.
The history of the V&A Waterfront dates back to the mid-17th century when it was developed as a strategic harbour by the Dutch colonialists and served as a vital port for ships travelling along the spice trade route between Europe and Asia. However, by the late 20th century, due to the emergence of larger ports, it became underutilised and so the area was transformed into a vibrant, mixed-use waterfront that completely rejuvenated the area and also marked a period of significant political change with the end of apartheid. Today, the V&A waterfront offers fabulous shopping, dining, cultural and art spaces, live theatres, an aquarium and historic landmarks such as the Clock Tower. Spending a day wandering round the waterfront and enjoying a leisurely meal or stroll along the harbour is a definite must-do.
Dining in Cape Town: A Gastronomic Delight
Cape Town is often hailed as the culinary capital of South Africa and offers a vibrant and diverse dining scene that caters to every taste and budget. One of the standout features of dining in Cape Town is its fusion of flavours which is thanks to the city’s multicultural heritage which has resulted in a melting pot of tastes and cooking techniques. These range from African dishes to Malay curries, and from Mediterranean-inspired seafood to world-class wines.
If seafood is your thing, the V&A waterfront is the main hub for some amazing fish restaurants where you can enjoy the catch of the day, from succulent prawns to grilled fish, whilst looking out at the bustling harbour. Camp’s Bay, another coastal gem in Cape Town also offers great seafood in its upscale beachfront restaurants where you can enjoy the food whilst watching the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean. For something a bit different, the bright and colourful Bo-Kaap area is renowned for its Cape Malay cuisine, featuring aromatic snacks and dishes including samoosas (or samosas), daltjies, half moons and slangetjies.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: A Botanical Paradise with a Canopy Walk
At the eastern foot of Table Mountain lies Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden which spans 36 hectares of meticulously landscaped gardens, indigenous flora, and diverse plants offering a space where you visitors and locals can connect with nature within this busy city.
One of the garden’s standout attractions is the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway affectionately known as the “Boomslang” (meaning tree snake). This extraordinary curved steel and timber is not only a functional walkway but also an architectural marvel that takes you on an immersive journey through the garden.
As you walk along the Boomslang, you’re greeted with breath-taking views of the lush garden below and the backdrop of Table Mountain. The walkway winds its way through the branches and canopies of the trees, offering a unique perspective of the garden’s plants and a close encounter with birdlife, butterflies, and the occasional sunbathing lizard.
Bo-Kaap: A Colourful Slice of Cape Malay Culture
Just a short walk away from Cape Town’s city centre lies the vibrant and colourful town of Bo Kaap – an area known for its rich Cape Malay culture and colourful houses, framed by the backdrop of Table Mountain.
Originally settled by freed slaves in the late 18th century, Bo-Kaap boasts a unique cultural atmosphere that has been heavily influenced by its diverse inhabitants. Its houses are painted in a kaleidoscope of bright colours and are expression of the previously enslaved people who wanted to celebrate their newfound freedom. The colourful facades of the buildings not only preserve the community’s history but also add to the town’s unique charm.
To truly immerse yourself in Bo-Kaap, consider joining a guided walking tour where local guides will lead you through the cobblestone streets and share stories of its past and present. The fascinating Bo-Kaap Museum also provides in-depth insights into the town’s heritage. Bo-Kaap is also home to the country’s oldest mosque, the Auwal mosque.
As mentioned above, indulging in the food here, renowned for its aromatic spices, is an absolute must, and many restaurants and local kitchens offer cooking classes, allowing you to learn the secrets behind the Bo-Kaap’s culinary delights.
Camps Bay: Sun, Sand, and Surf
For beach lovers, Camps Bay is the perfect destination.
Here you can enjoy sunbathing on the pristine sandy beach, swimming in the clear waters, or strolling along the vibrant promenade lined with cafes and restaurants, all framed by the towering Twelve Apostles mountain range. As the sun sets behind the mountains, the promenade comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene of trendy bars and restaurants.
Cape Point: Where Two Oceans Meet
Situated within the Table Mountain National Park, Cape Point is a headland that offers dramatic landscapes and the remarkable convergence of two mighty oceans.
Getting to Cape Point is an experience in itself as you wind along a coastal road that offers up amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and the rugged cliffs. Upon arrival at Cape Point, you can choose to either walk or take the funicular railway to the iconic Cape Point Lighthouse from where you can look out over the dramatic meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, with their swirling currents and crashing waves. Beyond the lighthouse, there are a network of well-maintained walking trails that lead to secluded beaches and panoramic viewpoints.
Day Safari: A Wildlife Adventure Beyond the City
While Cape Town itself offers plenty of natural beauty, a day safari takes you deeper into the South African wilderness. Several game reserves and wildlife parks are within a few hours’ drive from Cape Town and are suitable for a day trip. A popular choice, just a short drive from the city centre, is the Aquila Private Game Reserve which can be reached either by an organised tour and transportation from Cape Town or by renting your own car or hiring a private driver to take you there. The park is a serene contrast from the hustle and bustle of the city and allows you to catch a glimpse of some of the most majestic animals in Africa, all in the safety of this highly organised reserve. The Big Five of Africa are all here and it’s these incredible species that draw many tourists from the city to Aquila each year, so keep your eyes peeled for African elephants, rhino, Cape buffalo, leopards and, the most impressive of all, the mighty lion. As well as these graceful beasts, you will also have the chance to see hippos, giraffes and the endangered black eagle, from which the park gets its name. What’s more, there are over 170 different species of birds at the Aquila park, due to its huge natural wetland area. This type of land is an ideal place for birds to thrive and so the skies are full of interesting creatures for you to spot.
Winelands: Wine-Tasting in the Cape
A short drive from Cape Town takes you to the Cape Winelands, one of the world’s most renowned wine regions. As you venture into this captivating landscape, you’ll encounter picturesque towns like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl, each a jewel in its own right, renowned for its wineries and the opportunity to embark on vineyard tours.
All the wineries invite you to partake in tastings, allowing you to explore the nuances of their vintages, from robust reds to crisp whites. To complement your wine journey, indulge in the gourmet cuisine offered at the vineyard restaurants, where farm-to-table freshness and culinary expertise combine to create memorable dining experiences.
The Winelands aren’t just about wine and food though; they also offer breath-taking views of rolling vineyards that stretch to the horizon. These landscapes are often framed by historic architecture, such as Cape Dutch homesteads and charming colonial buildings, which contribute to the overall allure of the region.
Hermanus: Whale-Watching Extravaganza
Just over an hour and a half’s drive east of Cape Town will bring you to Hermanus, a small town that is said to be one of the best whale-watching spots in the world.
The area has been recognised by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) as one of the 12 best places in the world to spot these spectacular sea mammals, particularly the Southern Right whale which is known to frequent the waters around the Western Cape.
A majestic, fascinating beast, this breed of whale is now listed as endangered species. There are a multitude of whale-watching safaris available in the area, and the best times to see these incredible marine creatures are the months of September, October and November, when you are all but guaranteed to spot Southern Rights in groups.
The Southern Right earned its name through rather unfortunate circumstances due to its inability to dive for long periods and slow swimming speed, making it very easy prey for whalers. Because it was so easy to kill this graceful creature, hunters started to call it ‘the right whale’, which has stuck to this day even though legal whaling has been banned for more than 20 years.
Although their speed and diving limitations have certainly had dramatic consequences for the species, today it’s these factors, coupled with their formidable average size of 14 metres, that makes them so easy to spot in the wild and such an enthralling experience when you do spot one.
Whether you’re considering a visit to Cape Town for a romantic escape, family holiday or honeymoon, Cape Town has it all! If you’d like our team of experts to help you organise your adventure to Cape Town or beyond, simply get in touch with us and we’ll take your ideas from dream to reality.
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