Cape Town has got to be one of the most spectacular cities I’ve ever visited. Nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking beauty when you arrive and I have to admit I fell head over heels in love on my first visit.
Things to do in Cape Town
Unfortunately with the reign of overhyped media South Africa is a place many people still fear exploring. Once I’d booked my trip I faced a lot of questions from family and friends like ‘Is it safe to travel there?’ and ‘Are you really taking the kids?’ – Hell yeah! Of course going off the beaten track isn’t really advisable, but there really is no need when there is so much to experience ‘on’ the track. I guess you need to be sensible just like on any other holiday. Let’s be honest, in the world we live in having your wits about you is a prerequisite for any travel nowadays.
Cape Town is one of the few cities in the world to have it all – beaches, mountains, colourful neighbourhoods and vineyards, creating a beautiful city. Here are my top 10 things to do in Cape Town and the 10 reasons it stole my heart!
Magnificent Table Mountains Africa
The city’s most iconic landmark looms over Cape Town. Table Mountain’s impressive level plateau measuring around two miles is flanked by Devil’s Peak to the East and Lion’s Head to the West, forming a dramatic backdrop. Although it’s not always possible to see the full splendour of the mountain as we discovered on the one morning we’d set aside to experience the aerial views from the top. It can often be covered by a layer of cloud, locally called the tablecloth.
Even though nature scuppered our plans, it does add a mystical, magical aura around the mountain and is still very picturesque. If the weather does play ball you can head up on a rotating cable car or choose one of the five different hiking trails.
The small downtown neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap is nestled at the base of Signal Hill and has history as vibrant and colourful as its houses. Its become one of the most instagrammable places in the city, with each house painted in the most vivid shades of pinks, greens, blues and purple.
The muslim community that resides in Bo-Kaap are descendants of Cape Malays, slaves bought by the Dutch settlers from Malaysia, Indonesia and numerous African countries.
A huge melting pot of cultures makes it a fascinating place to visit. Bo-Kaap is also reknowned for its food, you’ll find the best Cape Malay curries here!
Standing on the tip of Africa
This has been a life long dream of mine. Standing on the edge of the African continent and looking out to sea knowing the next land mass is Antarctica – it’s pretty blooming amazing and had to be included in my top 10 things to do in Cape Town.
The Cape of Good Hope is Africa’s most southwesterly point (not the most southerly point as many believe).
You can enjoy a full day trip by taking in some spectacular sights on the western coast by a detour along the exhilarating Chapmans Peak drive. Head over to my Cape Peninsula tour with CAT-AFRICA for the full lowdown.
African penguins on a beach
There are not many places in the world where you can sit and watch penguins go about their daily life on a beach! An hour from Cape Town in Simon’s Town you will find a colony of African penguins on Boulders Beach.
There are hundreds scattered along the beach and they’re supposedly descendants from two penguins left behind during a migration season.
It’s well worth a stop off to see the endangered penguins in such a unique setting when touring the Cape Peninsula.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
On the slopes of Cape Town’s towering Table Mountain is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world.
Kirstenbosch houses more than 7,000 indigenous species, many of them rare or threatened. It’s a great place to explore and the canopy walk is worth a stroll.
The lively V&A waterfront
The bustling harbour built in the late 19th century is now also a shopping and entertainment mecca. Full of things to do with trendy al-fresco cafés, live music, energetic street entertainers and the obligatory city centre Ferris wheel.
It’s possibly the most expensive place to shop in Cape Town too, but that doesn’t stop the tourists and locals gathering to enjoy the incredible views and the buzz of the harbour.
Ohh the gastronomy
Cape town is home to some of the world’s best gastronomy, which certainly surprised me when I started researching our holiday. Its hotchpotch of cultures and cuisines has helped create one of the most exciting foodie scenes on the planet. Condé Nast also recently named it the best food city in the world in their Readers Choice Awards. Foodies now flock to the South African capital with the knowledge that value for money and top-notch dining is standard fayre. Bursting with trendy markets, gourmet dining, food trucks, and a thriving coffee culture visitors are completely spoilt in this city.
We found Kloof Street House a dining oasis in a fabulous Victorian mansion surrounded by a fairy lit garden – Magic! Its quirky decor throughout the various rooms and eclectic cuisine makes this a must on your foodie list.
Then there was Luke Dale-Roberts The Pot Luck Club, located on the top floor of the Silo at the Old Biscuit Mill in trendy Woodstock. The unique flavour combinations of the small plates will have your tastebuds in an eating frenzy. It’s sister restaurant The Test Kitchen was also recently credited in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
The quiet, peaceful town of Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands, is often referred to as the gourmet capital. Due to the high number of outstanding restaurants in the area, despite being a small town. Our family fine dining experience at La Petite Ferme was definitely a meal for the memory banks. Not often you enjoy incredible food with fresh mountain air and fabulous vineyard vistas.
My only regret from my visit is that I didn’t book enough days in the city just to sample more of the amazing Capetonian restaurants.
A scenic hours drive away from the city centre lies the Cape Winelands. Home to many of South Africa’s famous wine estates you’re transported to a land of rolling vineyards, historic architecture and majestic mountains.
I highly recommend a private tour, so you can handpick where you go especially if you have kids with you. And yes, it is perfectly acceptable to take your young ones with you. They’re even catered for with their own grape juice tasting whilst the adults get their tastebuds around the real stuff. We enjoyed a fantastic day trip with Cape Wine and Leisure Tours to Stellenbosch, one of the most famous towns and Franschhoek one of the oldest.
South Africa knows how to do wine. Team it with delicious food and epic scenery and trust me you’ll never want to leave.
With a dynamic clash of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, South Africa’s coastline boasts some of the most impressive beaches in the world. Each has its unique appeal, so there is something for everyone, surfers, paragliders, shark divers and also penguin lovers.
There are Clifton’s four beaches often referred to as the ‘French Riviera of South Africa’. It’s the place to be and be seen! And if four beaches was not enough right next door is Camps Bay. The area is full of dream beach houses, trendy restaurants, cafés and bars.
The award for the longest beach stretching an amazing 20 kms along the coastline goes to Muizenberg. Famous for its iconic colourful beach huts. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to head down to the actual beach but saw it from a viewpoint.
Described as the Rainbow Nation by former Archbishop Desmond Tutu. South Africa’s complicated and dark history has resulted in a melting pot of cultures, making Cape Town home to a fascinating mix of citizens. With 11 official languages and people with African, European and Eastern heritage, it’s a wonderful place to immerse yourself and experience the different heritages. Add to that the friendly and hospitable nature of the Capetonians and it will be a place that I promise will steal your heart too!
Where in the world has your heart? Let me know in the comments box below.
Below are more posts from my South African adventures:
Here are some easily bookable activities to help plan your trip:
Where would we be without our Lonely Planet Guide!
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