Best things to do in Cape Town
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Best things to do in Cape Town

Back to posts

Best things to do in Cape Town

Best things to do in Cape Town

Best things to do in Cape Town - The must not be missed Bucket List

1. Hike Lion's Head for Sunrise

For us, the mountains were always going to be front and centre of our time in Cape Town.

It doesn’t get much better than sitting atop Lion’s Head watching the city wake to a golden glow. The twinkling lights replaced by morning sunshine that hastens the tablecloth across the Twelve Apostles.

Willy’s Cave, a rocky enclave accessible on a small, well-concealed side trail from the main path is also worth a visit.

The 40 minute walk is a popular one for active morning people, but even if like us, you’re not one of those people, it’s definitely an experience worth rolling out of bed in the dark for, however messy haired and un-caffeinated you may be.

There is ample parking at the base of the trail or an Uber from the city centre will cost around 30R (US$2.50).

2. Indulge in the Cape Winelands

On a day that involved walking barefoot through fields of soft camomile, sampling figs beneath shady trees and strolling between a sea of rose bushes, we discovered there’s plenty more to love along the wine route than just wine.

With numerous wineries spread out between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, our only regret was that we couldn’t spend more time here. It’s also incredibly reasonably priced making it the perfect place to indulge, at least a little.

To find out why we think you simply can’t miss a trip to the Cape Winelands, read our tour fact sheet.

3. Soak up the colours and quirkiness of the coastal suburbs: Simonstown, Muizenberg, Kalk Bay

Cute cafes and arty bookstores with an airy bohemian vibe, vibrant pops of colour, a bar to walk barefoot through the sand, minty mojito in hand, and finally, finally a Capetonian beach that won’t nip at your ankles with cold.

We’d even go so far as to describe it as ‘warm’.

Browse the quirky shops, sample the bakeries piled high with pastries – Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay was our favourite – watch the ongoing battle for the fish go down between sea lion and man in Kalk Bay’s marina or simply relax in the sunshine on the wide swathe of sand at Muizenberg Beach.

The southern train line runs from Cape Town along this beautiful stretch of coastline to Simonstown, with stops at Muizenberg and Kalk Bay. Tickets can be purchased at the station.

4. Climb up Table Mountain

After 30 hours of flying and a sleepless night in a dorm of snorers and mosquitoes (the joys of hostel life right?!), we stepped into the blinding sunlight with a maddening urge to climb Cape Town’s most famous landmark.

An hour of incredibly steep hiking later in unrelenting midday sun and barely a spot of shade to be found, we sat down beneath a few scattered branches, our water bottles emptied and it occurred to us that perhaps we mistook that maddening urge for just plain old sleep-deprived madness.

The cool breeze at the top, the scurry of dassies and the views across the Atlantic made us glad we had tackled it though.

There are several trails leading to the upper escarpment, the most popular being Platteklip Gorge – a steep climb that is largely in direct sunshine – though there are many other ways up the mountain. For safety reasons it is recommended to walk in groups, particularly on the less populated tracks.

For those looking for a more leisurely way up, the cable car runs throughout the day, generally between 8AM and 8PM though times vary each month. Return tickets cost R255 (US$17) and it’s best to book online to avoid waiting in the queue. For timetables, rates and bookings, check here. or check out a tour that includes Table Mountain.

5. Visit the Penguins at Boulders Beach

Boulder’s Beach, home to infinitely blue waters, white sand, granite boulders and its most famous inhabitant, the African or jackass penguin.

Confused by the name? Just listen out for their distinctive call.

This perfect stretch of secluded beach is an amazing place to get up close to these penguins in their natural habitat as they move freely between fishing off the rocks and waddling across the sand.

Entering the reserve costs R70 (US$5) and only a limited number of visitors are allowed in at any one time to ensure the penguins are not over crowded. It’s best to go early or late in the day, this is included in our Cape Point Tour.

Don’t forget that the penguins are wild animals and you are in their environment. Do not attempt to touch them or impose on their space. Certain areas are cordoned off specifically for the penguins – respect these boundaries.

Should you choose not to enter the reserve, you’ll still be able to find these little fellows nesting in the bushes along the boardwalks, some warming their eggs, some dozing in the afternoon sun and if you’re lucky, they may even swim over to the neighbouring beaches to say hi.

6. Eat your way around the city

We didn’t eat out as often as we would have liked during our time in Cape Town, but when we did we were always left with full bellies and a serious temptation to lick every delicious morsel off our plates.

From the simple and wholesome touch of oven-fresh bread, whipped butter and freshly picked fruit in the Cape Winelands, to a menu serving all things bacon at Bacon on Bree, we found some seriously delicious eats around the Cape Town.

With the melting pot of cultures that call this great city home, there’s also enough international fare to keep even the most adventurous foodie satisfied.

7. Learn the History of the city and the nation

Cape Town is a city with an undeniably tumultuous past.

From European colonisation to the days of apartheid, we’ve mentioned some noteworthy places to visit below, however a more extensive guide to the city’s historical sites and museums can be found here.

Since its first sighting in the 1400s, Cape Point and its notoriously rugged seas claimed the lives of many European explorers searching for a passage east to open up a sea-trading route.

Aside from the tales of storms and shipwrecks, the windswept beaches and fynbos-covered plains of Cape Point also make this a stark and beautiful place for a day trip and a picnic.

No history lesson of Cape Town would be complete without touching on South Africa’s apartheid era.

District Six, once a vivacious and lively community centre, was razed to the ground in order to purge the area of people of colour when it was declared a ‘white only’ zone. The District Six Museum now stands to remember the years of apartheid and the forced removals that happened throughout the city.

Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, sits just offshore of the city. Tours are guided by ex-political prisoners who talk of theirs and Mandela’s experience in the prison. Tours last around 4 hours including the ferry trip each way.

8. Go Colour Crazy in the Bo Kaap - included in City Tours

Few neighbourhoods in the world are as colourful as Cape Town’s Bo Kaap area.

Centred around Wale Street, this neighbourhood is home to a large portion of the city’s Cape Malay population and the scents of simmering curries and exotic spice can be smelt wafting through the brightly coloured streets.

Trust us, you won’t want to put your camera away.

Don’t miss a stop at the Atlas Trading Company, a spice bazaar piled high with fragrant spices and traditionally prepared snacks.

To delve a little deeper into the Cape Malay culture and learn how to make those spices sing, you can join a Cape Malay cooking class. We spent a wonderful afternoon cooking up a perfectly spiced storm and sampling some delicious comfort food with Gamidah Jacobs of Lekka Kombuis.

9. Drive Chapman's Peak

The most scenic of Cape Town’s coastal roads, Chapman’s Peak Drive hugs the rugged cliffs between Noordhoek and Hout Bay.

Come in the hours before sunset when the cliffs are aglow and conditions are best for the many, many photo opportunities that will pass you by. We found driving northbound, when you’re in the outer lane, easiest for stopping and a road toll of around R40 is charged per car.

If you visit between July and November you may also be lucky enough to spot whales in the bay. Southern right and humpback whales pass by Cape Town on their yearly migration from Antarctica seeking warmer waters to calve.

10. Sundowners at Camps Bay Beach

On our very first day as we stood atop Table Mountain, hot and sweaty after the swelteringly steep hike, we gazed down on Camps Bay Beach. The impossibly white sand was dotted with a dozen colourful beach umbrellas, the glittering blue water looking oh so inviting, and yet, not a soul was actually in the water.

We soon found out why… it’s bloody freezing!

It may not be a great spot for swimming (unless ankle-bitingly cold water is your thing), but luckily Camps Bay is good for something else – sundowners. This word used so much in South Africa pretty much sums up everything a good sunset should have – good vibes, a perfect beach setting and an ice cold drink in hand.

To top it off, the backdrop of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles doused in gold and pink as the sun fades away, time and time again creates a perfect end to another day in Cape Town.

The boulders at the northern end of the beach are a great place to watch the sun melt away, otherwise the strip along the waterfront is scattered with cafes and bars with water and sunset views.