Welcome, bienvenida, bienvenue, welkom, willkomen, wamkilekile! Whether you enjoy hiking in wide-open spaces, surfing giant waves, clubbing all night or fabulous fine dining, Cape Town is the place to be!
Here are ten of our favourite places. Enjoy them!
This is a natural world heritage site, and we are very proud that it is now one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. On a clear day the view is fabulous, there are great walks and the indigenous plants are fascinating. Did you know that there are more species of plants on Table Mountain than in the whole of the United Kingdom? Take the cable car, or if you are fit, hike up via Plattekloof Gorge. The cable car is often busy in summer, so our insider trip is to book our ticket online, and to use the free shuttle service as parking is a huge challenge. You can book via the website. Always check the website before going, as the cable car doesn’t operate when the wind is too strong and please never climb the mountain alone and without proper shoes and some warm clothing.
Upmarket apartments, smart hotels, shops and restaurants galore, a working harbour, sunset cruises, a trip on a pirate ship, an excellent aquarium……they all happen here with iconic Table Mountain as a stunning backdrop. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc as the sun goes down. Our tip – find something special and unique to take home with you by visiting the Watershed, a beautiful space with over 150 tenants selling a huge array of creatively designed, hand crafted goods produced entirely in Africa.
Ever since Happy Feet, we have been in love with penguins…
In Simon’s Town you will find a unique land-based colony of African Penguins. Three boardwalks at the viewing centre enable visitors to walk amongst the penguins as they waddle down to the sea or snooze in the bushes. But the best fun of all is to picnic at Boulders beach, a safe and secluded cove, where the penguins sun themselves on the rocks and where you can swim in the sea alongside them. (Keep your distance, because their beaks are sharp.) The beach is small, so try to go at low tide, and in high summer you will need to get there very early to bag a space.
Okay, the two oceans don’t actually meet here, but it certainly looks as if they do. On the one side of this peninsula you have the Indian Ocean and on the other, the Atlantic Ocean. Where else in the world can you swim in two oceans in one place on one day? Catch the funicular to the lighthouse on top of the peak and look down at the huge seas crashing on the rocks below. At the Two Oceans restaurant you can clink your wine glasses and drink a toast to the stupendous seascape view. As you drive home, try and spot some wildlife. Eland, Red Hartebees, Bontebok and Zebra are often seen grazing in the veld, as this is part of the Table Mountain National Park. If you are staying in the city centre, allow a good hour and a half for the scenic drive to Cape Point.
This one of the most famous botanic gardens in the world, and is legendary both for its beauty and for the over 7000 species grown here. There are rolling lawns for kids to run on, a tree canopy walkway, a fern covered natural spring bath, giant trees and strange cycads. Fynbos, the natural flora of the Cape, is so diverse that no matter the season, something is always flowering. We recommend the weekend concerts on the lawns, (between November and April) or on other nights watch open air cinema under a ceiling of stars.
Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27 years in a cell on Robben Island in Table Bay. The tour to the Island leaves from the V&A Waterfront and takes about 3.5 hours with two half-hour ferry trips. On the island, visitors are transported by bus and the tour guides are former political prisoners. The tour route includes the leper’s graveyard, the Lime Quarry, Robert Sobukwe’s house, the Bluestone quarry, the army and navy bunkers and the Maximum Security Prison, but it is the viewing of Nelson Mandela’s cell that you will never forget. It is impossible to see it and not be moved – it is the most powerful testament to Mandela’s triumph over adversity, suffering and injustice.
All of Cape Town’s beautiful people hang out at The Biscuit Mill in Woodstock on Saturday mornings. This market pioneered the trend and over 100 local farmers, bakers, brewers and organic merchants sell their yummy wares here. It’s very popular, so if it is too crowded we suggest you head down the road a few blocks to the Market at The Palms, also in Woodstock. Other fab markets are the Noordhoek Community Market (Thursday evenings), Bluebird Garage Market (Friday evenings) and Hout Bay’s Harbour Market (Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday). In the winelands, Blauwklippen, Oude Libertas, Audacia, Lourensford and Hermanus all host great community markets.
There is a surf spot in Cape Town for every type of surfer, from kite boarding to stand up paddling and everything in between. Your choice will be affected by the strength and direction of the wind so you will need to chat to the locals. If you are a beginner, head out to Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg, the best surfbreak to learn on. There are plenty of schools and places where you can hire wetsuits and boards, and afterwards you can hang out in the vibey coffee bars. If you are a kamikaze tow-surfer and it is bone-crunchers you are after, then visit the legendary Dungeons made famous by Red Bull Big Wave Africa, where monstrous 60 foot waves have been recorded.
Twenty years into democracy our city still has stark divisions, and there are many poor townships around Cape Town with informal or very dense housing, yet these are often places vibrating with life, laughter and music. If you are wondering about it, it is safe to go on a township tour with recognized operators and in doing so you are contributing to the local economy and will be made very welcome. We recommend the bicycle tour in Masiphumelele or the Gospel tour of Langa
Kalk Bay has a little sub-culture all of its own, part village, part harbour, part surfer’s hangout. Home to fishermen and artists, it remained unfashionable and undeveloped until very recently. The village high street is lined with interesting boutiques, shops selling vintage books and bric-a-brac, coffee bars and local restaurants. In good weather the fishing boats return to the picturesque harbour with the catch of the day, part of which is sold to the public from the quayside by noisy fishmongers. Locals from far and wide come to the harbour to enjoy traditional fish and chips at Kalky’s or Lucky Fish.
The Brass Bell has an outside deck right on the sea, perfect for sundowners, and for excellent seafood, we suggest you visit Harbour House. Enjoy a great glass of wine, look out across False Bay (if you are lucky you will spot a whale and her calf or a pod of dolphins) and plan your Tastetrip to the Cape’s winelands.