Cape Town in South Africa is undoubtedly one of the most seductive destinations on the African continent. On the one hand, you’ll find the strong legacy of apartheid in places full of history and on the other, you can observe a dazzling nature. It is a vibrant and diverse city, where you can find things never before imagined.
Although Cape Town is not exactly one of the cheapest tourist spots in the world, with a relatively small budget you can also find many attractions to enjoy your stay. In this article we will tell you about some of those impossible to miss places in the South African city.
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Read on to find out more!
1. Go up Table Mountain with the Cable Car
Table Mountain is one of the most spectacular viewpoints in South Africa. From here you can enjoy a unique view of the city. This enormous mountain, with its flat summit, was included in the list of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World in 2011, along with other great spots such as the Iguazu Falls.
To climb to the top you will have to take the Cable Car, a cable car that offers an impressive view, or do a steep trekking with a lot of patience. It is very common, due to the strong winds, that this cable car is closed.
If you happen to be on a windless day, bear in mind that this is one of the busiest places to see in Cape Town. Try to get there first thing in the morning to avoid long lines.
2. Walk around the Colorful Houses of the Bo-Kaap
Another thing to do in Cape Town that you can’t miss is strolling through the colorful neighborhood of Bo-Kaap. Here they share the street with houses with beautiful pastel colored facades that will make your camera go up in smoke.
When slavery was outlawed in the 1830s, former slaves were housed in this area of Cape Town. Later, during Apartheid, the Bo-Kaap area was decreed for the exclusive use of Muslims, so today they are its main – but not only – inhabitants. Due to the large number of Muslims, the Bo-Kaap area is ideal if you want to visit different mosques.
3. Visit the Famous Long Street
Long Street is always on the list of what to see and do in Cape Town. It is a cosmopolitan, vibrant and multicultural street, which has a large number of ethnic shops, markets with crafts, and varied restaurants. This is a great place to go after visiting the nearby Bo-Kaap district.
4. Take Off from the V&A Waterfront and Fly over Cape Town by Helicopter
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is an ideal place to go out for a drink, a walk or simply to sit down and enjoy the sea. Here you will find hundreds of restaurants where you can eat or drink and many shops that make up the Waterfront shopping complex.
As you stroll around the harbor, you will be struck by the many information booths for helicopter flights. This is one of the most popular activities to do in Cape Town. With different tours of varying lengths, a helicopter tour offers epic views of the city and its surroundings.
5. Fall in Love with the Sunset from Signal Hill
One of the most beautiful sunsets on your entire South African tour will be in Cape Town. Every afternoon, when the weather conditions allow, crowds of tourists and locals alike flock to the top of Signal Hill to enjoy this magical moment.
Before the sun is down, take the opportunity to take some pictures of Table Mountain, illuminated with the last rays of sunlight. Afterwards, take a seat on the slope and see how the star king leaves behind the horizon to bid farewell to the day.
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6. Visit Robben Island Museum and Nelson Mandela Gateway
Robben Island Prison is a historical landmark in South Africa that many do not want to miss out on, as it is home to the prison where Nelson Mandela was held captive, along with other political prisoners, for 27 years.
From the V&A Waterfront you can catch the ferry that will take you to the island in about 45 minutes, offering you unique views of Cape Town on the way.
Once there, your visit will begin with a bus tour from where you will be able to see the mines where prisoners were forced to perform forced labour.
After this you will have the opportunity to see what life was like in this prison, before finishing your visit in the cell that Mandela occupied. Since this activity is very popular, it is recommended that you book your tickets as soon as possible from the official website to avoid running out of space.
7. Dedicate a Day to the Cape Peninsula
The best way to get around South Africa is with a rental car, as it allows you to move around at your own pace without depending on a tour or public transport. For your visit to the Cape Peninsula you will be very grateful.
This route has a lot of places to stop and explore, so it would be great if you could spend a day there exclusively. Some of the places you should not miss on this tour are the beautiful Scarborough Beach, the famous Kommetjie Surfing Beach and the most magical spot on this route is Cape Point.
This is one of the most spectacular places on the Cape Peninsula, both for the beautiful scenery it offers and the different legends that revolve around it. The legend of the Flying Dutchman scares the little ones, but you should be much more concerned about the baboons that populate the place. If you get lost, they will take any piece of food you bring with you.
8. See the Flowers in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are, along with Wellington, one of the most famous botanical gardens in the southern hemisphere. Situated on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, this garden awaits you with more than 36 hectares of flora and forest that is home to many endemic South African species.
Depending on the time of year you visit it, you will get to know some of its different faces. In winter, the heavy rains make the vegetation grow exuberantly. In summer, it is an ideal time to have a picnic while you enjoy the different outdoor concerts that take place there.
9. Escape to Hermanus in Search of Whales
Only an hour and a half away from Cape Town by car there is a getaway that is well worth the effort. The small coastal town of Hermanus awaits you with one of those unique experiences you will never forget, whale watching.
Walking along the Cliff Path, it is very common to see these incredible animals jumping and breathing. If you want to go further, join one of the different boat tours that go around the bay and get close to the cetaceans.
The whale watching season runs from June to December, and is certainly one of the most exciting things to do in Cape Town if you can afford the tour.
10. Tour the City with the City Sightseeing Bus
This excellent transport offers promotional passes and other advantages, making it an excellent alternative to get a glimpse of all the city’s sights. There are six routes, including a city center tour, Cape Peninsula bus, sunset bus and a tour along the Cape Wine Route.
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11. Visit the District Six Museum
If you want to learn more about how the apartheid was lived, the District Six Museum is a fantastic opportunity to discover more details of what happened during this period in South Africa, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. Not only is it a super interesting and very well done museum, but it has a highly developed emotional side.
District Six was a lively, multicultural neighborhood in the heart of Cape Town.
In the 1970s, as part of the policies of apartheid, it was destroyed and its more than 50,000 inhabitants forced to move to the suburbs. In the early 1990s, and based on an association of former District Six residents, the museum was created. There are replicas of the houses and businesses that were in the neighborhood, photos, testimonies and objects of the time. The price is only 45 Rands to see it alone, and 60 Rands if you want to have a guided tour by an ex-resident.
12. Visit the Greenmarket Square
The heart of Cape Town’s Central Business District is Greenmarket Square. It was built at the end of the 17th century as a food and slave market, and today it is an open-air market, mainly for tourists. There you will find souvenirs, clothing and South African handicrafts.
On the other hand, in one of the corners of Greenmarket Square is Old Town House, which is one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town: it was opened in the mid 18th century. Today it no longer acts as a town hall, but is a museum and exhibition hall. In a corner of the same square you can also find a Methodist temple.
13. Visit Camps Bay and Clifton
Camps Bay is a very busy beach with a lot of bars and restaurants and is also visited by many people.
If you prefer quieter places, a visit to Clifton First Beach is recommended. This beach (one of four small beaches in Clifton) is one of the quietest. If you plan to visit this site you will have to plan to bring something to eat, since there are no restaurants or bars.
14. Meet the Penguins at Boulders Beach
The African Penguin is endemic to Southern Africa and is especially adapted to life in a warmer climate. You can get a close look at these charismatic birds at Boulders Beach, a penguin colony located on the Cape Peninsula – about an hour’s drive south of Cape Town city center.
Here, a boardwalk allows visitors to stroll around the penguin nesting site without causing too much of a disturbance. On the beach itself, an observation platform provides ring-side seating for penguins’ antics as they fight on the white sand or play with each other in the crystal blue water.
15. Visit The Old Biscuit Mill
The Old Biscuit Mill is an old factory converted into a craft fair and multicultural food court, where you can find crafts of all kinds, from typical souvenirs to designer clothing. There is even a chocolate factory (CocoaFair) that is also very worthwhile.