Article updated on November 10, 2022
Text: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau
Photographs: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau
With its jaw dropping geographical location between Table Mountain & the Atlantic Ocean, you will need at least three days to explore its ins & outs and soak up its vibes. Spread the activities based on the weather as the ocean can be rough (for Robben Island) and Table Mountain is often covered in a table cloth of clouds. We can assure you one thing, after spending a few days in the “Mother City”, you will want to come back for more!
This article focuses on the city area where all is reachable by cab or Uber.
The most beautiful fitness center for your work out
Given the scenery and the weather, it is not hard to understand why Capetonians are sporty. Join them and run along the shore or explore Signal Hill or Table Mountain if you are looking for a more challenging trail. Be aware that smuggles do happen, so stick to well-trodden running paths and preferably run with a buddy.
Go up Table Mountain
Admiring the view on Cape Town is definitely a must. Hiking up is even more rewarding as you will be discovering the precious fynbos ecosystem of Table Mountain National Park with its sugarbirds and rock dassies. Table Mountain is a hiker’s paradise and many trails of various difficulty levels (from the stairmaster-like Platteklip Gorge to more exposed ones requiring some serious scrambling) lead to its summit. The easy way up and down is by cable car. If you do not feel like hiking, at least make it to McClear’s Beacon for a 360° view on Cape Point, Muizenberg, the Cederberg Mountains and more.
Be careful: as the weather can change very rapidly it is common to start hiking up in the sun and end up in a cloud up Table Mountain. It can get quite cold and rescue units are sent almost on a daily basis for underprepared tourists. Make sure you are wearing proper hiking boots and get layers, food and water in your back pack. Smuggles happen regularly on the less trodden trails, so hiring a guide is your best bet to fully enjoy it.
Visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Not to be missed! Whether you enjoy visiting botanical gardens or are new to it, these are some of world’s best. Do as locals do: pack a pick nick and enjoy it in the grass at sunset after walking these stunning gardens showcasing the local biodiversity. In the summer, movies and concerts are held making the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden the place to be!
Travel back in time & shop at the V&A Waterfront
The V&A Waterfront is the most touristy spot of Cape Town, and it remains a must. From dodgy harbor, the area has been turned into an enjoyable recreational district with great shopping opportunities, quality street performances, and many bars and restaurants. It is also the embarkation point to Robben Island. To know where to start and to learn more about its history click here!
Follow the footsteps of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island
Out of his 27 years in jail, Nelson Mandela spent most of his time on Robben Island. Embark to land on the island and listen to former prisoners guiding you through it. As this is a popular destination you will have to book your tickets in advance during the high season (December/January). This unique place definitely deserves its own article to help you decrypt it, check it out here.
Spice it up in the colorful Bo-Kaap district
Maybe the most instagrammable district of Cape Town, Bo-Kaap and its colourful houses are a visitor’s favourite. Wander its streets with more and more designer stores, listen to the muezzin as you pass by its mosques, and make sure to stop by Atlas to stock up on spices.
Sunbathe at Clifton Beach (and swim for the bravest!)
With its massive boulders, villas on the beach, and chic buildings along the mountain slopes, Clifton Beach is the most stylish beach in town. You will find four beaches to choose from and each with its vibes, from Clifton 1 often visited by locals, 2 for a quiet tan without too much going on, 3 for gay people, and 4 just being the most popular one to be seen so make sure to pack your fanciest swim wear! Choose whatever suits you best and take in the unique setting. Will you dare to swim in the cold Atlantic waters?
Conquer Lion’s Head
From Lion’s Head, the view on Cape Town comprises Table Mountain and the 12 Apostles. The hike and scramble up is fun and a bit challenging (if you are afraid of heights, skip on it and stick to Signal Hill), as well as very, very busy especially for sunset.
Modern African art at its best
If the Zeitz MOCAA, proudly rising at the waterfront of Cape Town, astonishes the visitor by its architecture, the Norval Foundation blends in its natural environment of mountains and vineyards. In the protected Cape Lowland wetland area full of endemic flowers and plants, cherry-picked modern African art is displayed in the galleries and sculpture garden. The quality of the temporary exhibits makes the Norval Foundation a museum to not miss and to visit often.
Our advice: check out the architecture of the Zeitz MOCAA and visit the Norval Foundation for its exhibits.
Enjoy the weekend food markets
Whether in Woodstock or by the Waterfront, weekend food markets are a must. Locals and tourists mix to take a food trip around the world and buy organic goods. Try a red cappuccino (rooibos cappuccino) and pick a delicious treat, then sit at a table to enjoy whether it is the view when you are at the Oranjezicht City Farm market or the live music in Woodstock.
Indulge yourself to some of world’s best restaurants
Not even mentioning the Constantia Wine Route, the food scene in Cape Town has become incredible! With the Test Kitchen that regularly makes it on the list of world’s 50 best restaurants setting the example, chefs have been taking the city to the next level. New fashionable places open regularly so keep an eye out for them. A few of our favourites? The Chefs Warehouse, Thali and Cafe Paradiso!
- Some of these activities are free, others require an entrance fee, some are included in the Cape Town City Pass that will save you lots on your trip to Cape Town!
- Want to have access to this article while walking the city? Download it through GPSmyCity and avoid roaming costs while exploring the city at your pace! Already have the app? Check the mobile version of this article here.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Here is a short tutorial to download it.
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