24 Best Things to Do In Cape Town, South Africa

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Boasting one of the most enviable locations in the world, between the Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town is often listed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is blessed with stunning landscapes, unique adventure opportunities, and rich history and culture. Cape Town is also South Africa’s legislative capital and is otherwise known by its moniker, The Mother City. Ideally, one should spend at least a week here as there is an abundance of things to see and do. Here are the best things to do in Cape Town.


1.Table Mountain

Table Mountain is one of the world’s 7 Wonders of Nature and Cape Town’s most iconic landmark, attracting over 2 million visitors a year. Its name comes from its flat-topped summit which resembles a giant table, and one can enjoy panoramic views of the city and Robben Island from the top. The two main ways to go up the mountain are either via the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway or by hiking. The rotating cableway gives visitors 360-degree views during its 5-minute journey. If you’re fit enough to hike, there are multiple routes to get to the top.


2. Robben Island

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Robben Island was where many of South Africa’s freedom fighters were incarcerated, including the late former President Nelson Mandela. Ferries from the V&A Waterfront will take you to the island, and guided tours are provided there. One can see Nelson Mandela’s former cell where he spent 18 years and the lime quarry where the prisoners were forced to work. Tickets need to be booked in advance.


3. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Lying at the foot of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch is one of South Africa’s national botanical gardens. It was founded in 1913 and covers 528 hectares, housing over 7,000 species of plants. Key features are the Protea Garden, the Fragrance Garden, the Medicinal Garden and the Boomslang, an elevated tree canopy walkway. One can easily spend a full day there. The gardens are popular for picnics and outdoor concerts.


4. Castle of Good Hope

The Castle of Good Hope is a historic fortress built in the 17th century by the Dutch East India Company. It is the oldest existing colonial building in South Africa and has served as a replenishment station for ships as well as a prison. The castle now houses the Castle Military Museum and other exhibitions, and cannons are still fired daily.


5. Bo-Kaap

The Bo-Kaap is one of the oldest and most colourful neighbourhoods in Cape Town. It dates back to 1760 when it was established as a residential area for slaves brought in from Asia and other parts of Africa. The houses in the area are painted in bright colours by the residents as an expression of freedom. One can go on a walking tour of the area and participate in culinary and cultural experiences.


6. Lions Head

If you enjoy hiking, then Lions Head should definitely be on your Cape Town itinerary. One of the city’s best hiking trails, it rises 669 metres above sea level and offers superb 360-degree views of the city and some of its most distinctive landmarks, viz. Table Mountain, the Atlantic Seaboard, the Twelve Apostles and Table Bay. The hike usually takes about 2-3 hours. For an even more memorable experience, and if you are there at the right time, do the hike on a full moon night. However, do go in a group or with a guide.


7. Muizenberg Beach

Cape Town has many beautiful beaches. Muizenberg beach is one of the most Instagrammable ones because of the colourful Victorian beach huts that line its beachfront. The water here is slightly warmer making it suitable for swimming, surfing and other water sports. On the other side of Muizenberg Beach is St James beach which also has some colourful beach huts as well as a tidal pool and there is a walkway between the two which is great for a scenic stroll.


8. Boulders Beach

If you are traveling with children then this beach is a must-visit. Even if you don’t have children with you, it is still worth visiting. Located in Simons Town, Boulders Beach is characterised by ancient granite boulders and white sandy beaches, and it is home to a colony of endangered African penguins that roam freely there. The sheltered beach is also ideal for relaxing and picnicking.


9. Noordhoek Beach

Noordhoek Beach is an 8 km long pristine white sandy beach along the Atlantic Cape coast. The beach is backed by protected wetlands and fynbos-covered mountains. Many of the residents in this area own horses and there are several equestrian centres that offer guided horseback rides through the area, that typically last 1.5 hours, and give one the opportunity to spot marine and terrestrial wildlife, and perhaps even a shipwreck.


10. V&A Waterfront

The Cape Town harbour and Table Mountain provide the perfect backdrop for this bustling shopping centre, which was named after Queen Victoria and her son Prince Alfred. Apart from its many eateries and retail outlets, it has many other attractions including museums, an aquarium, craft markets, a giant observation wheel and numerous boat cruises.


11. Two Oceans Aquarium

Named after the Atlantic and Indian Oceans which meet at Cape Agulhas, this aquarium has over 8,000 marine animals from more than 200 species, including sharks, penguins, jellyfish, octopi and turtles. It is also one of very few aquariums in the world where you can see a living kelp forest, an underwater forest with giant sea bamboos which sway with the currents.


12. City Sightseeing Bus Cape Town

The City Sightseeing Bus is a great way to get an overview of Cape Town, especially if you don’t have much time there. It will take you to many of Cape Town’s key attractions, while the onboard commentary gives you insightful information and entertaining anecdotes about your surroundings, in your choice of 15 languages.


13. Sea Point Promenade

The Sea Point Promenade is an 11 km long paved walkway along the beachfront in Cape Town, which stretches from Mouille Point to Bantry Bay. It is well-frequented by local joggers, walkers, cyclists, and dog-walkers. There are public swimming pools, kids’ play areas, outdoor gyms and art installations along the promenade.


14. Chapman's Peak Drive

The road between the Hout Bay and Noordhoek areas of Cape Town, Chapman's Peak Drive, is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world. It winds between the ocean and the mountains, providing spectacular views along the way. One can stop at the viewpoints to enjoy the views or go on hikes in the area.


15. District Six Museum

The District Six Museum is a memorial to the 60,000+ residents who were forcibly removed from District Six in the 1970s during the apartheid era. It is housed in a former Methodist church and features exhibits on the history and demolition of District Six, as well as photographs, personal relics, and oral anecdotes from former residents.


16. Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA)

The Zeitz MOCAA is the largest museum dedicated to contemporary African art in the world. Located near the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, it is housed in a repurposed grain silo, which was once the tallest building in South Africa.


17. Weekend Markets

Cape Town has an abundance of shopping centres and boutique stores but if you want to shop like a local, then visit the vibrant markets. They can be found everywhere, from the beachfront to the city centre to the surrounding winelands, and are best for buying fresh produce, sampling artisan delicacies and shopping for uniquely South African gifts. Some of the best-known markets are The Old Biscuit Mill Market, the Oranjezicht City Farm Market and the Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock.


18. Boat cruises

A boat cruise is a must in Cape Town and there are many different types to choose from. One can go on sunset cruises, harbour cruises, boat trips to see seals, private luxury yacht charters, whale watching cruises (in season between June and November) and even, pirate boat cruises.


19. Hout Bay

Hout Bay is a pretty seaside town on the Atlantic seaboard, between the mountains and the ocean. It has a beautiful beach, a working harbour, a bird sanctuary and numerous restaurants where you can indulge in fresh, delicious seafood. One can also go on a guided walking tour of Imizamo Yethu, an informal settlement in the area.


20. Steam Train to Elgin

Operating over weekends, this steam train from Cape Town will take you on a three-and-a-half-hour ride to the Elgin Railway Market, a refurbished apple warehouse, where you will spend some time before returning to Cape Town. The train passes through some of the most picturesque landscapes in the province, past hills and mountains, farmlands and orchards. At one point, it ascends Sir Lowry's Pass, one of South Africa's steepest railway lines.


21. Cape Point

Cape Point is a promontory at the southwestern tip of Africa that protrudes into the Atlantic Ocean. Part of Table Mountain National Park, the surrounding nature reserve is rich in flora and fauna. The old lighthouse is one of the main attractions there and the views from there are breath-taking. One can take a walk up or ride the Flying Dutchman Funicular. There are several hiking trails in the reserve where one may see seals, dolphins, whales, and shipwrecks.


22. Atlantis Dunes

Also known as the Witsands Aquifer Nature Reserve, this is an outdoor adventure destination approximately 45 minutes from Cape Town. Its towering sand dunes provide the perfect background for a range of adrenalin-pumping activities like quad-biking, sandboarding, and off-road driving experiences.


23. West Coast National Park

A stunning nature reserve with a wide variety of plants, wildlife, and bird life, this park is about an hour away from Cape Town. Although it welcomes visitors all year round because of its incredible landscapes, exquisite lagoon, scenic hiking trails and secret beaches, the best time to visit is in spring when the park is covered in wildflowers.


24. Explore the winelands

Cape Town is surrounded by winelands like Franschhoek, Stellenbosch, Paarl and Constantia, most of them within close proximity of each other. Characterised by lush vineyards and charming towns with Cape Dutch buildings, they are worth a visit. The Franschhoek Wine Tram offers a hop-on hop-off experience in the Franschhoek region on old-fashioned trams which enhance the experience.

 

 

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