Nestled beneath the imposing Table Mountain, Cape Town is perhaps one of the most striking cities you will see anywhere in the world.
Perhaps it’s a cliche, but this city is truly one of contrasts. The multicultural faces of Capetonians, the buzzing business district, the cool hangouts of Sea Point and Camps Bay, the shanty towns of Gugulethu and Mitchells Plain and the windswept wilderness of the Cape of Good Hope.
For most, a trip to Cape Town will be too short by at least half.
To make the most of your stay it is very helpful to have a car. There is decent public transport to most places, but having a car means you’ll be able to explore at will and get to certain spots without having to mess around waiting for the minibus taxes.
First things first, you’ll need to head up to the top of Table Mountain and take in that magnificent view. Adult tickets cost ZAR255 return in the cable car, which takes around 5 minutes and is an experience in itself.
Once at the top you’ll be able to wander the network of footpaths spotting local wildlife such as the ubiquitous rock dassies (like big rodents but cuter).
Be warned, this is a mountain and the weather can change quickly. Its often advisable to bring a jumper or jacket, especially in later afternoon or early evening.
It is also possible to walk up the mountain on a day trek. There are websites, books and even tour guides who can tell you more.
Home to a large colony of African penguins, Boulders Beach is one of the most popular tourist attractions in CT, and for good reason.
Watching the penguins go about their daily business is fascinating. This one is a must if you have kids in tow. You can also relax on the beach although you’re not supposed to get close to the penguins as there are designated view points.
Entry is ZAR35 for adults or ZAR10 for kids under 12.
Cape Of Good Hope
Although not the southernmost tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope is where the Indian Ocean clashes into the Atlantic Ocean and is a great spot for some bracing sea air (obviously).
The area is a nature reserve and you’ll likely spot tortoises, zebras, baboons and around 250 species of bird. There are also several cafes and museums in the park as well as an old fort.
Entry to the protected area is ZAR135 for adults or ZAR70 for kids under 12.
Victoria And Alfred Waterfront
Yes it’s a tourist attraction, but you’ll find plenty of locals taking a stroll around here too. The views of the city framed by the mountain are spectacular and there is a glut of shopping, dining and entertainment options.
In the summer you’ll find bands playing al fresco, young people hanging out, outside cinema events and pop up markets. If you come in the winter then there is plenty to do in the sprawling complex to keep away from the rain and wind.
You’ll find bay cruises and ferries to Robben Island departing from here too.
South Africa’s Alcatraz, this island complex was where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for the majority of his time in prison.
The crossing from V&A waterfront takes about half an hour and tours of the island take around 4 hours. Many tours are conducted by former inmates of the island. A fascinating look at the horrors of the apartheid regime.
Tickets including the ferry ride are ZAR230.
Around 15km north of Cape Town proper, Bloubergstrand is a small town with picture postcard views of Table Mountain.
Head here at dusk for some incredible silhouettes of the mountain with the twinkling lights of the city.
The beach here is also great for watersports such as wind surfing, kite surfing and run of the mill wave surfing.
One of the world’s best beach cities, there is a great selection of places to plant your towel and have a dip.
Clifton beach is where the beautiful people tend to hang out for the day and Camps Bay, a little further down, is a very upscale neighbourhood with a great wide beach. Being wide open, Camps Bay can get quite windy so check the forecast.
Be warned, at peak times all of the inner city beaches can get packed, although this can be part of the fun.
Beaches on the False Bay side can often be quieter, for example Fish Hoek.
The South African Winter-Spring (July to December) is peak time to go whale watching. Head to Simons Town or Fish Hoek to take a cruise out into False Bay to see what you can see.
Bo-Kaap (The Malay Quarter) & The Townships
Just outside the CBD, Bo-Kaap is home to many quaint and colourful houses. The museum here is a fascinating look at the colonial history of Cape Town and the Muslim community that was and still is based in the area.
Another option is to see Bo-Kaap as part of a Township tour. This can be a fascinating way to see the non touristed side of Cape Town. Township tours are normally offered at hotels and hostels and can be a great way to provide a bit of tourist money to the areas traditionally away from the main hub of the city.
When visiting the townships, remember that this is a place where people live, so don’t treat it like a safari. Experience and engage with the culture, don’t just stand back and take photos.
No matter how long you spend in Cape Town you’re bound to be captivated by the charm of both the surroundings and the locals.