Top 10 Things to Do in Cape Town

Cape Town is a beautiful port city on the western side of South Africa.  The pristine beaches and the iconic image of Table Mountain are just a few images that capture the livelihood of Cape Town.  South Africa had its share of conflict in recent history.  From 1948 through 1993, South Africa was under the system of apartheid (racial segregation).  In 1994 Nelson Mandela became the first South African president elected under a democratic election.

Cape Town is a city that has a lot to offer, but here are 10 things to do while traveling in Cape Town.

Top 10 Things to Do in Cape Town

1.    Table Mountain

Table Mountain is one of Cape Town’s most famous landmarks.  You can ascend to the top of the mountain either by foot or by cable car.  The hike up to Table Mountain is quite strenuous, so be prepared with water and warm clothes. Cape Town’s weather can change in a matter of minutes.  If you prefer the low-key route, the cable car ride takes about 4-5 minutes one way.  While you are in the cable car, you will have a 360 degree view as the platform inside the cable car rotates. The round trip cost is about 180 ZAR (South African rand) or about $25 USD.

Hiking on top of Table Mountain along the trails is highly recommended. You will receive amazing views of the city center as well as the coastline.  You can spend all day on top, but 3-4 hours (if you are not hiking) is sufficient.  Also, check with your hotel/hostel accommodations before making the trip to Table Mountain.  An excursion to Table Mountain is better on a sunny or clear day.

2.    Robben Island

Robben Island, known as the Alcatraz of South Africa, is a World Heritage Site and the setting of political prisoners during the apartheid period in South Africa.  One of the most famous inmates was Nelson Mandela.

The tour, which starts on a boat journey from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, gives you an overview of the island life and prison quarters. The highlights of the tour are the views of Nelson Mandela’s meeting places and cell room.  There is usually an ex-prisoner that provides the tour of the prison.  In addition, there are fantastic views of Table Mountain from Robben Island.

Try to book your tour online a few days in advance as tours to Robben Island are quite popular.  The cost for the tour is about 200 ZAR ($27 USD).

3.    The Beaches

Cape Town has scenic coastlines and silky sands.  You should visit Clifton and Camps Bay as the views are spectacular.  You can take a swim in the water (with a wet suit) or walk along the boardwalk of Camps Bay.  From Camps Bay, you can see a view of the Twelve Apostles, a series of peaks in the mountains.

If you only have a few days, Cape Town also has the Hop On-Hop Off buses which hits all the major sites (including Camps Bay).  For a one day tour, the cost is about 120 ZAR ($17 USD).  For a two-day tour (which includes a free night tour), the cost is about 200 ZAR ($28 USD).

4.    Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve 

The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve has lush vegetation and sweeping views of the coast.  You can also visit Cape Point, the southwestern tip of Africa.  Once you are inside the national park, you can walk along the various trails (including the trail to the Lighthouse and the trail to the Cape Point).  Spend a few hours walking along these trails.  The cost of entering the reserve is about 80 ZAR ($12 USD).  The Cape of Good Hope is a day-trip from Cape Town.

5.    Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch, famous for its wine, is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Cape Town.   Wine tours from Cape Town are quite expensive, so if you have the option, rent a car and take a drive through the scenic countryside.  Try to visit Vergelgen (before stopping in Stellenbosch).  It is a large wine estate where Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth II, and the Clintons have visited.

6.    Kirstenbosch Gardens

Kirsenbosch Gardens, a floral kingdom of flowers, is a popular attraction in Cape Town.  It has over 8,000 of South Africa’s 22,000 plant species.  Purchase a map from the entrance of the gardens and make your way through the grounds.  If you walk up to the area of the Proteas, you will receive a nice view of all the gardens. The cost to enter the gardens is about 37 ZAR (about $5 USD).

7.    Bo Kaap

Bo Kaap is an area in Cape Town that is home to a section of Malaysians (refer to formerly as Cape Malays).  It is probably one of the most interesting areas with the colorful houses and cobbled streets.  You can walk on foot along the streets and take pictures of the whimsical houses.

8.    Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a newly renovated area of Cape Town with plenty of shops and restaurants to keep any tourist busy.  It is one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist attractions.  You will see plenty of tugboats, catamarans, and tourists!  If you are interested in taking a tour to Robben Island, the starting point is from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

9.    Long Street

Long Street is one of the oldest streets in Cape Town.  There are numerous restored Victorian buildings that are planted along the street.  You should stroll along the street and visit the many curio shops, galleries, music shops, clubs, and restaurants.  If you have a chance, stop by Cape to Cuba for some alcoholic drinks or Mama Africa for some traditional African food.

10.  Company Gardens

Company Gardens (on a smaller scale) is similar to the New York City’s Central Park.  This area which is located in the City Center is concentrated with museums and parliament buildings.  From here there is a great view of Table Mountain.

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About Jan

In 2004 and 2010, I set aside time to travel the world in 3 parts. In 2004, I traveled to Thailand, Europe, and Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. In 2010, I traveled to 3 continents: Asia, South America, and Africa. I am not sure if I have a fascination with the number 3, but I seem to be constantly traveling by numbers.
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4 Responses to Top 10 Things to Do in Cape Town

  1. Garson says:

    Excellent Top 10 !!! I’ll definitely hit these up when I’m in Cape Town ! Cheers and safe travels ~

  2. Benita says:

    Looks so beautiful and peaceful there! Looks like for a weekend getaway. Hope I can make it there someday!

  3. Sharon Hodoh says:

    Cape Town is awesome! I was there this past June going back Feb 2013. I have visited most of these locations. Table Mountain is at the top of my list ….too cold to visit in the month of June. The people are very warm and friendly. Great food great shopping….Please do all the tours
    Robbin Iland be prepared ….my heart cried. All and all Cape Town is Beautiful!!!!!
    Sharon Hodoh

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