Top 10 things to do in Cape Town

Lonely Planet recently named Cape Town as the second must-see city on their “Best in Travel 2017″ cities list. This is only one in a string of accolades that South Africa’s Mother City receives on an ongoing basis. A trip to Cape Town encompasses many aspects – visitors can get the city experience, the nature experience, the winelands experience, and much more. Here are the top 10 things to do in Cape Town on your first visit.

1. Table Mountain

Cape Town’s biggest attraction is Table Mountain, regarded as one of the world’s seven wonders of nature. It is a flat-topped mountain and prominent landmark which overlooks the city. You can ascend the mountain via the aerial cableway or you can hike up, if you’re more adventurous. Once on the mountain, the panoramic vistas of the Mother City, Robben Island and the Cape Peninsula are amazing. You can bring your own picnic basket or buy food on the mountain, for a picnic high above the city. You will also see the indigenous flora and fauna.

Table Mountain from V&A Waterfront

2. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden lies at the foot of Table Mountain. It is one of the most beautiful gardens in Africa and is the perfect place for a day out including a picnic. Concerts are often held there too. A tree canopy bridge takes visitors from the forest floor up through the canopy over the gardens, and gives panoramic views of Cape Town.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

3. Robben Island

Visit Robben Island – where the iconic Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of the 27 years that he was incarcerated. A ferry will take you from the mainland to the historic island where guided tours are available. You can even visit his cell.

Robben Island

4. The Bo-Kaap

This is one of the oldest, and most colourful, urban residential areas in Cape Town. It has vibrantly painted houses, lined along narrow cobbled streets and is a photographer’s delight. Formally known as the Malay Quarter, the residents are mainly descendants of the slaves who were brought over by Dutch imperialists in the 16th and 17th centuries from Asia and other parts of Africa. You can visit the museums here for more insight into its past, go on a tour with a local guide or experience a culinary tour.

Bo-Kaap

5. V&A Waterfront

Named after Queen Victoria and Prince Alfred, the V&A Waterfront is located in the Cape Town harbor and is mainly a shopping destination where you can shop till you drop. However it also has a world-class aquarium, a giant observation wheel, boat cruises where you can see seals, and local markets. The ferries to Robben Island leave from here too.

6. Castle of Good Hope

The Castle of Good Hope is a valuable part of Cape Town’s history. It is also South Africa’s oldest surviving building. Originally a defensive fort built in the 1600, today it is a national monument. You can walk around the castle grounds and see the exhibits as well as a live cannon-firing demonstration.

Muizenberg Beach

7. Beaches

Cape Town’s picturesque beaches are a must visit. Some of the most popular beaches are in Camps Bay, Clifton, and Muizenberg. If you have kids then Boulders Beach is a great choice. It is inhabited by endangered African penguins and children will have fun swimming with them.

Camps Bay, Cape Town

8. Hop-on hop-off bus

Cape Town’s City Sightseeing bus is a convenient way to see the city. It has several routes and will take you to most of the attractions above and more. A running commentary is provided by earphones in 15 different languages. There is also a children’s channel.

City Sightseeing Bus

9. Long, scenic drives

With some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, this is the ideal place to rent a car and take long drives along the Western Cape coastline. Drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive – an engineering marvel, to Hout Bay – an active fishing harbour or the Cape Point nature reserve. Or drive further to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, and the place where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Drive in a different direction and you will reach the picturesque winelands with its world-famous estates and eateries.

Boulders Beach

10. Sundowners at 12 Apostles Hotel

Last but not least, visit the stunning 12 Apostles Hotel for sundowners while you watch one of Cape Town’s most breathtaking sunsets. This is where many celebrities from all over the world choose to stay when in Cape Town.

Sunset at 12 Apostles Hotel

Have you been to Cape Town? What are your favourite things to do when exploring a new city? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Comments (22)

  1. Rich says:

    I understand Cape Town is a good place from which to explore Antarctica? Its on my bucket list of places to visit!

  2. Paul Johnson says:

    You can do that, Rich.. it’s about a 6-hour flight (or a very long trip by sea).

  3. Wow! Amazing Place! The photographs are so beautiful and the places are so picturesque. It seems I would want to visit Cape Town.

  4. Skye says:

    What a great list. Love all the colourful photos too. It looks like there really is a lot to do there and it’s all so varied. Looks like the perfect place to learn about the history and get out the camera for some beautiful shots.

  5. Raghav says:

    Just starting to plan a safari trip and South Afrika will be on the list so this will come in really handy. Bo-Kaap looks great and so colourful. Similar towns are mushrooming all around the world with their colourful buildings and make for amazing photo options. The 12 Apostles hotel seems to be very strategically placed. Shall check if it comes in my budget. Thanks

  6. Saretta Louw says:

    Just north of Cape Town lies the suburb of Durbanville which is the beginning of some of the best wine routes of the region. Visit our historical farms, each with a variety of activities and experiences which will delight you for days. Durbanville also lies central to all the historical towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Tulbagh that you must visit. Ample accommadation, shopping malls, restaurants, sport facilities and other entertainment make this a safe tourist destination.

  7. Jean says:

    I’ve always wanted to go and see Table mountain. Well the dream is to have a coffee there and then go see the penguins. I had no idea about the Castle of Hope. It’s another item added to the list!

  8. Christina says:

    The photos certainly give you a good idea of what to expect. Cape Town looks colourful and vibrant. It’s a place I definitely have on my list to visit. I like you post idea. I did a similar post about Lonely Planet’s number one destination in 2017.

  9. You pictured the Cape town in a very pretty way. Thanks for sharing the information. VEry handy for the ones who want to travel there.

  10. Sara Essop says:

    Thank you Milan. Cape Town is often listed among the top cities in the world, and it makes a great holiday destination.

  11. Sara Essop says:

    Thank you Skye. I can assure you that your camera will be kept very busy in Cape Town as there is so much beauty to photograph.

  12. Sara Essop says:

    Hi Raghav. A visit to Cape Town and a safari trip are two of the must-dos when visiting South Africa so do include both in your itinerary.

  13. Sara Essop says:

    Hi Jean. Table Mountain is one of the unique mountains of the world and you will certainly be able to have a coffee there. The penguins are adorable. The Castle of Good Hope is not as well known internationally but is also worth a visit.

  14. Sara Essop says:

    Thanks Christina. It’s a good idea to have a list to refer to when visiting a news city so that you don’t miss anything important – and after seeing everything on the list, venture further and explore the lesser-known gems.

  15. Sara Essop says:

    Thank you Medhavi. I’m glad you find the information useful. Cape Town is a very photogenic city and it is easy to take great pictures there.

  16. Kreete says:

    What a great list! I would definitely hike up the Table mountain instead of getting a cable car! It would be cheating ha! A visit to Robben Island would be great too, I would love to see the cell where Nelson Mandela was held. The beaches looks magnificent too! I have many South African friends and I can’t wait to visit this beautiful country one day!

  17. Iza Abao says:

    I love your list and would want to visit Cape Town someday. I am eager to see the penguins. When I think of South Africa, I would think of the safari and wildlife immediately, so it is great that there so much more to do. I would like to know Cape Town cuisine too.

  18. Vanessa says:

    Cape Town looks so cool with so much to see and do. We love the colourful houses Bo-Kaap. They’re out of a story book. But those penguins steal the show. We would love to sit on a beach as penguins march by. Magic.

  19. Trinh Le says:

    Table Mountain was my favorite place on my visit last year. It provided very magnificent views from the top, you can see surrounding mountains and blue ocean. I did hiking to get the top but actually It took a lot energy but It was worth hiking. When you reach the top, make sure the weather is good and clear

  20. Laura says:

    Yes, as mentioned above by others, the colourful houses are simply gorgeous. What a wonderful idea. I was in Tobermory for Christmas but it’s not as vibrant as these colours.

  21. Lisa Casey says:

    Just got from South Africa and had a wonderful time in Cape Town. The wineries are great as well. I am sure there are tours out to the wineries but we just used Uber Black and it was great.

  22. Greg says:

    I am pleased to remember a trip to Cape Town and I recommend this city to everyone. It was there that I discovered the South African wines and the first time I ate ostrich meat dishes. It is also a city that I would like to return to. The first time I did not have time to climb the Lion Head or swim in a cage surrounded by sharks :)

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