Cape town is the most glamorous city in South Africa and it’s easy to understand why! Located at the edge of the Indian ocean and enjoying a Mediterranean climate (but with inverted seasons compared to Europe and the U.S.), beautiful landscapes between sea and mountain, it’s a lively city that has good restaurants at affordable prices. The city is modern and has all the necessary infrastructure,!
Here is my 15 best plans about what to do in Cape Town and its surroundings…
- Watch the sunrise or sunset over the city from Lion’s Head
Lion’s Head is a strangely shaped mountain that overlooks the city next to Table Mountain. Located at 669m above sea level, it is a shorter walk than Table Mountain (around 1h30) But the view is as great as from Table Mountain. You’ll enjoy a panorama over all the city, its most beautiful beaches and Table Mountain. Simply my favorite lookout in Cape Town!
I didn’t try the sunset walk but the ascent under the full moon to spot the rising sun at the top was exceptional!
- Visit Table Mountain National Park
Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most iconic natural feature. It is a high plateau dominating the city by 1,000 m that was converted into a national park. There are 2 ways to get there: The cable car or by foot. The cable car costs around 25 euros back and forth. I walked up (3 hours ) and went down by cable car. You’ll ask me why? Well, I wanted to enjoy the sunset, but the last cable car left just before it!
- Enjoy the flora of the botanical garden of Kirstenbosch
It is one of the most renowned botanical gardens in the world. Here you will find an incredible number of native species. A real haven of peace after the excitement of the city. Take all your time to explore the park. The scenery is radiant with Table Mountain in the background!
- Walk around Camp Bay
This is Cape Town’s classy residential area. Great beaches, trendy restaurants and bars… But yeah, be ready for pricy stuff.
- Visit the Vineyard of Constancia
Constancia is Cape Town’s oldest areas. Home to a great vineyard that hosts some of the most prestigious wines of South Africa. Just feel free and stroll through the vineyards of Groot Constancia, the oldest in South Africa. And if you want to indulge yourself, stop by Klein Constancia and taste the “vin de Constance”, consecrated as one of the best sweet wines in the world!
- Explore the colorful area of Bo-Kapp
Located near the city center, this area is fascinating with its many colorful facades. Its inhabitants are descendants of various origins including Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. You’ll also find this diversity in the neighborhood’s restaurants. The best way to get the most of it is through one of the many walking tours available.
- Get in a party mood in the bars of Long Street
“Long Street” is located right in the city centre. It is partying reference. Its streets are already lively during the day but go wild when night falls.
- Take a walk on the waterfront V&A
You will fell amazed by the unusual architecture of this place that witnessed the history of South Africa (Dutch and then the English arrived through this harbour). There are many shops and restaurants on the seaside. A perfect spot for a Sunday walk. You can also go on a boat trip (which usually lasts 90 minutes).
- Enjoy the Neighborhood markets
Woodstock area is very nice and you will find it all here: shops, restaurants, good beer, etc… So why not gathering everything at the same place? Get a closer look at the market at Old Biscuit Mall. A great atmosphere and an incredible variety of products!
And in the vicinity of the city:
- Visit Robben Island
The history of South Africa is linked to the Apartheid and Nelson Mandela. The former President South African was imprisoned in Robben Island (off Cape Town’s coast) for 18 years. It is possible to visit this very special place by taking a boat from the mainland (half-day tour with departure from the V&A Waterfront).
- Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point
Erroneously considered as the southernmost point of the African continent, Cape Point is home to a superb fauna and flora. To get there, rent a car (very cheap in South Africa) and take your time on the way. The road to Cape Point is indeed impressive: you’ll start with Chapman’s Drive, an impressive road between the mountain and Hout Bay, before reaching the fantastic beach of Noordhoek and finally reach Cape Point. On the way back you can go through Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach.
- Meet the Penguins at Boulder’s Beach
A little trip along the coast (you can use the interurban train if you don’t have your own vehicle) till Simon’s Town. Don’t miss the beautiful spot of Boulder’s beach where you can share a moment with the countless penguins chilling near the beach.
- Enjoy one of the most beautiful vineyards in the world
Whether you are a big fan of wine (as I am) or not, the South African vineyard will surprise you. First of all the scenery is impressive, and then the wine’s quality is pretty fair at a very reasonable price… And finally, the tasting system is simply amazing. For a small fee (a few $), you are entitled to 4/5 by the glass tasting (actually glasses are fully filled). You can enjoy the beauty of the surroundings while sipping your wine. Only downside: the access is only by vehicle, which means tricky way back 🙂
Spend a few nights in Stellenbosh, the capital of the South African Vineyard (and students). Don’t forget Paarl and Franschhoek, the landscapes are of incomparable beauty!
- Go whale watching in Hermanus
If you are visiting the are in the winter season (from May to July), you may observe these giant mammals in Hermanus. This town is also the starting point for the Garden Route.
- Explore the Garden Route and ride an ostrich in Oudtshoorn
The Garden Route is a coastal road of about 200km which has a wide variety of vegetation and landscapes. It starts at Mossel Bay and ends in the vicinity of Port Elizabeth.
On the way, you can discover the South African countryside and visit one of the many ostrich farms of Oudtshoorn. I was skeptical about riding an ostrich, but it was fun…
Finally, some practical information about Cape Town:
Cape Town has its own international airport and many intercontinental flights. Otherwise, you can also come from Johannesburg by bus or by train (I did this latter option: a 29h comfortable train trip with beautiful scenery!)
If you only have a few days I recommend you the City Sightseeing bus: There are 2 itineraries that cover most places of interest I found it actually much better than that of Johannesburg), including Constancia and the starting points of Lion’s Head and Table Mountain hikes. Expect to spend around 20euros for two days.
If you have more time, use the MiCiti bus: a fast and modern urban service. You’ll need a user card (people usually leave their card for the next user at the hostels). if you feel like going local, try the “Disco” local vans. It’s a lot of decibels, but quite a lot of fun.
For activities outside town, you can choose between booking tours (relatively expensive and not flexible) or rent a car. The car is cheap (as from $20 per day) and the fuel too. South Africa is the perfect place for a road trip. I definitely recommend it!
It depends on your budget and your preferences. Downtown and Longstreet are rather for young backbackers who want to go out every day.
Greenpoint and especially Seapoint are a little more exclusive (and much quieter) areas. I stayed at Never @ Home hostal in Green Point an loved it (I spent a month there!). Great atmosphere! Rooms starting at $60 and dorms at $16.
Cape Town is one of those places where it’s easy to indulge. The city is set with restaurants for all tastes and all budget (but much more affordable than in Europe!)
South Africa is known for its meat and South Africans are crazy about “Braai” (BBQ). You will find all required BBQ facilities in most hostels. And wines are a good value for money.
My Steakhouse recommendation: “The Hussar Grill” (Camp Bay)
To have a drink: head to Longstreet!
In addition to the activities mentioned before, there are the extreme ones: bungee jumping (located on the Garden Route, it is the highest in the world), paragliding, “cage swim” with the White sharks, etc.
Yes, South Africa is a dangerous place, and Cape Town is no exception. Use common sense and you’ll be ok. Never wander alone in the streets late at night, always take a taxi when it’s dark (you’ll find Uber everywhere!), avoid townships and secluded areas alone, don’t show material belongings, etc.
Cape Town is not the cheapest city in the world, but given the infrastructure, the many activities and the food quality, it’s quite a good deal. You should indulge yourself! A great part African travel budget stayed there, but hell yeah it was good!
The high season (and high prices) is in January/February. You’ll enjoy nice hot weather (we reached 43°C!).
Winter months are rainy but quiet. It is also the season to spot whales.
So I hope you’ll enjoy your trip to Cape Town… Have a good and contact me if you have any question!