I am lucky enough to live in Cape Town now, but up until 3 years ago I was a regular visitor to this fabulous city, and during my “tourist” days I made time to really explore all the town has to offer, and I would love to share some of my “insider” information with anyone thinking of coming to visit the Mother City, as Cape Town is affectionately known by SA locals. How much you get to see will depend on how much time you have, but here is my personal list of the absolute “must sees” or best things to see and do in Cape Town.
Best things to see and do in Cape Town
Cape Town attractions
If you are a first-timer in the city, or have very little time, one of the best things to see and do in Cape Town is to take the Jump-on-jump-off bus tour which will give you the opportunity to get your bearings and also to visit most of the major attractions without worrying about driving yourself. There are two routes, one which takes you around all the historic sites in the city, while the other takes you around the spectacular coastline; both are great and in summer you can sit on the open top deck for some incredible views, and you can stop off for some sun-bathing on Clifton Beach.
Taking the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain is a fabulous outing and you should book in advance to make sure you go to the front of the queue! Once on top of this UNESCO World Heritage site you can go on a guided walk (Free!!) which will take you to all the view points, or just walk around on your own; If you are in Cape Town in Summer, you can go up the mountain after 6pm for half-price; watching the sun set from the top of the mountain is a sight you will not forget in a hurry!
Day trip to Penguin Colony and Cape Point
The Penguin Colony and Cape Point; for this one you really need your own rental car; the route follows part of the very scenic coastline and then heads south to the tip of the peninsula were the two oceans (Atlantic and Indian) meet; it is actually a really amazing sight! Along the way you will see the baboons; be careful, they will invade your vehicle in an instant and steal everything in sight – make sure to keep the windows closed! On your way back you can visit the Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach, close the Simons Town; (this little town is the Navy Headquarters in South Africa and well worth a visit, but to my mind the main attraction is the Penguins!) You can walk along wooden boardwalks surrounded by these comical little creatures and see where they nest and raise their young; if you are lucky you can even swim alongside them in summer. Give yourself enough time here to enjoy their antics – you’ll be reluctant to leave!
Cape Town the food capital of South Africa
Did you know that Cape Town is the undisputed “Foodie” capital of the country? 8 of the country’s Top 19 restaurants are to be found in and around the city and many are in the fabulous Cape Winelands; a daytrip, (or more is you can), through the beautiful rural vineyards and olive groves should not be missed. If you enjoy great food and wine be sure to spend a night or two in Stellenbosch, Franschoek or Somerset West, all of which are in easy reach of a great culinary experience. You can even do a 4 day in-depth walking tour through some of the wine producing areas – a great experience for the fit, but too energetic for my liking!
Great outings from Cape Town
Other great outings would include a visit to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was famously incarcerated for many years during the Apartheid era; you can see where he was held and chat to some former political prisoners, and it is a pleasant boat trip from the V @ A waterfront harbour. Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens are one of the most visited attractions and in summer you can attend an open-air concert there; if you are travelling with children (or even without children!) be sure to visit the Two Oceans aquarium at the V&A Waterfront – I have visited several aquariums all over the world and this is one of the best!
Tips: Cape Town can be cold and wet in winter, but you also get fabulous bargains during this off-season, and there is still plenty to see and do on the rainy days; most accommodation in Cape Town can be booked at reduced rates, and even the very best restaurants have Winter Special menus to tempt locals out of their hibernation. The winters are fairly mild by European standards and it is rare for the temp. to drop below 6 degrees. In summer, you are almost guaranteed long, hot and sunny days, but the wind can be a nuisance in Jan and Feb particularly. If you are thinking of a trip to sunny South Africa, be sure not to miss Cape Town!