There is something more than the stats, a certain magic, which sees the accolades roll in and the visitors always eager to return. It’s the combination of innovative restaurants, vibrant festivals, great weather, dynamic people and the feeling that anything could happen around the next corner, which all adds up to make Cape Town a special place, a different city.
And there’s a helluva lot to do. From admiring the breathtaking views from Table Mountain to visiting a wine farm, these are some must do’s while in Cape Town.
1. Table Mountain
Looming high above Cape Town is its most recognisable backdrop – Table Mountain. Visiting Table Mountain is a must when in Cape Town and can be achieved by cable car or hiking to the top.
There’s no getting around that. Or the mountain. Just ask the commuting locals. This popular attraction and natural wonder receives almost one million visitors a year. It’s a great place to watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean with a glass of champagne or spend an entire day exploring.
From the top you get an amazing view of the city and nearby Camps Bay. There are several hikes that you can do on top Table Mountain as well as restaurants, bars, and wildlife to enjoy.
2. Visit The Penguins At Boulder Beach
Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town is home to one of Africa’s only penguin colonies. Boulders is one of the only places in the world where one can actually swim amongst penguins as they tend to explore the surrounding beaches. A popular stop for tourist buses, the penguins look awkward on land but swim like seals.
3. Climb Lions Head
Perched high above Cape Town and dividing Camps Bay and the city is the mountain peak called Lions Head. From the top, exhausted hikers are presented with captivating views of the city, ocean, and neighbouring Table Mountain. It is also one of the best places in the city to see the sun go down.
Be warned though, climbing Lions Head is no walk in the park. Wear appropriate shoes, bring plenty of water, and don’t forget a flashlight or torch for the trip down.
4. Visit Winelands in Franschhoek
The Franschhoek Valley is a spectacularly beautiful wine route. With many of the wine farms sharing a French Huguenot heritage, expect to find overwhelming French influence here and not surprisingly a Champagne-inspired sparkling wine sub-route, the “Cap Classique Route”. The quaint village of Franschhoek is home to art galleries, antique shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. Of the wine farms, we particularly like Babylonstoren, Moreson and Rickety Bridge. There is also the Franschhoek Wine Tram, which is a hop-on-hop-off tour of the wine farms.
5. Kayaking in Three Anchor Bay
Start your day surrounded by dolphins. Kaskazi Kayaks launches its tours from a small beach in Three Anchor Bay and embarks on a 3 – 5 km journey either towards Granger Bay or Clifton Beach. A range of seabirds can be seen on the trips but it is the penguins, seals, dolphins and whales that cause the most excitement. Trips are approximately two hours long. If you have previous paddling experience they can arrange half day kayak trips too.
Cape Town is one of the best places to come face-to-face with the magnificent great white sharks. Gansbaai is home to a larger population of sharks and home of the famous ‘shark alley’. False Bay, however, is where you are more likely to see (if you are lucky) the sharks breach the water – a genuinely breathtaking sight. A general rule of thumb, winter months can be better in False Bay while summer months is better in Gansbaai. It is best to contact the different operators and see what their sightings are like at the time you are there.
8. Robben Island
This former prison is also a former leper colony and is now one of Cape Town’s bigest tourist attractions. Boats leave daily from the V&A Waterfront and take visitors back in time to the days of the Apartheid regime. Guides, many former prisoners themselves, give you an inside look at the lives of prisoners, the most famous among them none other than Nelson Mandela.
9. Visit the colourful Bo-Kaap
Just a short walk from the city centre at the base of Signal Hill, the Bo-Kaap is a colourful array of tightly packed houses and the spiritual home of the Cape’s Muslim community. Many of the residents are descendants of slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and various African countries. The best place to discover the history of the area is the quaint Bo-Kaap Museum, or for more excitement take a cooking class with the locals.
10. First Thursdays
On the evening of the first Thursday of every month, the art galleries around Bree Street in the CBD open its doors to the public. What started out as a small project has exploded into a massive event for the young and the old and has morphed into one of Cape Town’s best nights out. Make sure to visit The Cape Milner’s Glass Lounge it truly is a venue to be seen at, offering an elegant yet relaxing setting in which to enjoy a quiet coffee or classy cocktail catch-up with friends, against the backdrop of the majestic Table Mountain.