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This post was updated in December 2018

 

I think Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it is somewhere I always visit when I travel to South Africa.  One of South Africa’s 3 capital cities, Cape Town is overlooked by Table Mountain and sits close to the southwestern point of the African Continent. It offers visitors a myriad of options of things to see and do and spending a few days in the city should be on your South African itinerary.

If you are planning a trip this guide to Cape Town will help you make the most of your visit.

Written by a resident of probably the most instantly recognisable of South African cities this insider guide to Cape Town gives you all the information, tips and advice you need to know to answer your questions about visiting Cape Town and help plan to make your trip the holiday of a lifetime including:

 

What are the top 5  things to do in Cape Town?

Which markets are there to visit in Cape Town?

What are the best beaches in Cape Town?

What are the recommended walking trails in Cape Town?

Which are the top 5 museums to visit in Cape Town?

Transport links in Cape Town (and how to get from Cape Town airport into Cape Town)

Tip for driving in South Africa

Recommended accommodation options in Cape Town

Recommended places to eat in Cape Town

When is the ideal time of year to visit Cape Town?

What should a tourist not do in Cape Town?

Tips to help you make the most of your trip!

 


WHAT ARE THE TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN CAPE TOWN?


TABLE MOUNTAIN


The most recognisable landmark is of course Table Mountain with its spectacular panoramic views of Cape Town.

The cable car operates from 08:30 to 20:30 in summer and 08:30 to 17:30 in winter.

Return tickets cost R330 for adults and R165 for children in the morning 08:00 – 13:00 and R290/R145 in the afternoon from 13:00 until close.

There are long queues in summer and so it is advisable to get there early and make sure you choose a clear sunny day or you won’t see much! If there are adverse weather conditions the cable car will be closed.

TOP TIPS

Website – Table Mountain Cableway

Look out for the dassies!

Do not book your tickets ahead of the day – there is nothing worse than waking up to see Table Mountain sporting its famous tablecloth on a day you have tickets!

A PHOTO OF TABLE MOUNTAIN IN Cape Town South Africa

 


VISIT KIRSTENBOSCH GARDENS


Visit one of the world’s most beautiful gardens with striking mountain views and stunning plants and flowers all year round.

A must see is the Treetop Canopy Walkway or “boomslang” which was built to commemorate Kirstenbosch’s centenary. It is a wooden and steel structure that is over 100 metres long and there are fabulous views of the gardens and surrounding areas.

Make a day of it and wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot to see.  

There are 2 restaurants in Kirstenbosch – the Tea Room for light meals and Moyo, an African themed restaurant. You can also take your own picnic basket. Entrance is R70 for adults and R20 for children.  

Opening hours: 08:00 – 19:00 in summer and 08:00 – 18:00 in winter.

From November – March, there is a concert in Kirstenbosch every Sunday evening at 17h30.

TOP TIPS

Website – Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

How to get there by car – the gardens are 13 km from Cape Town and the route is well signposted.

How to get there by bus – the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus stops at the entrance to the gardens.

TOURS

Buy tickets for the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus here!

Cape Town: Table Mountain Kirstenbosch to Cable Station Hike

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

 


VICTORIA & ALFRED WATERFRONT


A tourist destination with beautiful views of the sea and Table Mountain, the Cape Wheel, boat trips, shops & restaurants.

Spend an afternoon or two browsing the shops, stop for a drink and admire views of Table Mountain.

The shops are open from 09:00 – 21:00 7 days a week.

Website – V&A Waterfront

 

V&A Waterfront Cape Town

 


CONSTANTIA WINE ROUTE


Cape Town produces some of the best wines in the world. At beautiful wine farms such as Groot Constantia, Constantia Glen, Eagle’s Nest, Constantia Mist, Beau Constantia, Constantia Uitsig, Buitenverwachting, and Silvermist you can have lunch and do some wine tasting with amazing views.

BEST WINE TOURS FROM CAPE TOWN

Full-Day Private Cape Winelands Tour from Cape Town

Cape Town: Red Wine Lovers Tour

Cape Winelands: Wine Tasting with Professional Winemaker

WINERIES IN THE CAPE SOUTH AFRICA - VINEYARDS


ROBBEN ISLAND


Now a UNESCO World Heritage site  – Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.  Boat tours leave daily from V&A Waterfront.

TOP TIP

Do not wait to book tickets.  Robben Island is a very popular destination and you don”t want to miss out when you arrive in Cape Town.

Website – Robben Island

BOOK TOURS

Robben Island Ferry Ticket with Hotel Pick-Up

Robben Island By Air Scenic Helicopter Flight

 

Robben Island South Africa

 

If you are planning to take a safari at one many of the game parks in the Cape then make sure to consider what to take (and not) to take when planning and packing for your holiday. This great packing guide will help you make the most of your safari!


WHAT CRAFT MARKETS ARE THERE IN CAPE TOWN?


Craft Markets are an excellent place to buy quality handmade goods to take home for gifts. The best craft markets in Cape Town are:

  • Made in the Cape: Held in Cavendish Square on the first weekend of each month
  • Kirstenbosch Craft Market: Held on the last Sunday of each month (9am – 3pm) at the stone cottages opposite Kirstenbosch Gardens
  • Route 44 Market – Held every Saturday and Sunday in Stellenbosch.

WHICH ARE THE BEST BEACHES IN CAPE TOWN?


Clifton Beach – trendy

Camps Bay Beach – family oriented

Long Beach in Noordhoek – great for walking

Boulders Beach near Simonstown – view penguins

Muizenberg Beach – surfing

Blouberg Strand – kiting and iconic views of table mountain.

 

Blouberg Strand Cape Town South Africa

 


RECOMMENDED WALKING TRAILS IN CAPE TOWN


Cape Town has some magnificent walking/hiking trails and entry is free to many of them. Have a look at the All Trails website for a comprehensive list.

Remember to take plenty of water and sunscreen with you!

Seapoint promenade: Fabulous and safe paved walkway alongside the sea in Seapoint where people of all ages can walk, run, cycle, and skateboard.  

Franschhoek and Stellenbosch are wineland towns an hour from Cape Town and are worthy of a day trip.  Each town is rich in history and has lovely shops, award winning restaurants, and excellent wine farms.

Wild flowers – if you are visiting Cape Town in August/September, you must go and see the beautiful wild spring flowers on the West Coast.  Good viewing places are the West Coast National Park  near Langebaan as well as a number of smaller reserves around the town of Darling.

 

A guide to Cape Town South Africa written by a resident of the city

 


TOP 5 MUSEUMS TO VISIT IN CAPE TOWN


My choice of the top 5 museums to visit in Cape Town are:

Robben Island Museum

Iziko South African Museum

District 6 Museum

Irma Stern Museum

Bo-Kaap Museum

TOP TIP

Some of the museums are free on the first Thursday evening of each month. See their website for more information.

Bo Kaap houses in Cape Town South Africa

 


TRANSPORT LINKS IN CAPE TOWN


Cape Town International airport is 15 minutes from the city centre. If you are not hiring a car, I recommend that you organise an Uber to collect you from the drop-off zone at the airport to take you to your accommodation as standard taxis are generally very expensive.

An excellent way to see the main attractions of Cape Town is the hop-on hop-off red bus .  There are 4 different routes – Red City Tour, Yellow Downtown Tour, Blue Mini Peninsula Tour and Purple Wine Tour.

CLICK HERE to book tickets for the hop-on hop-off red bus!

During the day, visitors can use the My Citi buses to get around but it is important to purchase a myconnect card first as no cash is taken on the buses. Load your myconnect card at selected station kiosks.  For information regarding the My Citi routes and costs, visit their website

Uber taxis are an easy and cost-effective way of getting around, especially at night.

 

aerial view of Cape Town South Africa

 


TIPS FOR DRIVING IN SOUTH AFRICA


It is recommended to hire a car if you wish to travel outside of Cape Town to towns such as Stellenbosch and Franschhoek which are an hour’s drive.

Driving is on the left side of the road.  There are parkades at shopping malls and the V&A Waterfront which charge a reasonable hourly rate.  Parking on the street is allowed in most areas and informal parking attendants are tipped R5 – R10.

If you planning to visit Cape Town why not include it in a two week itinerary of South Africa? 

 

Baboons
Be careful when driving – there may be more on the roads than just traffic!!

 


ACCOMMODATION IN CAPE TOWN


Where to stay in Cape Town? The top hotels in Cape Town are:

THE BELMOND MOUNT NELSON

In central Cape Town. 5-star colonial style hotel (and a fabulous High Tea!)

CLICK FOR UP-TO-DATE PRICES AND TO BOOK A STAY AT THE MOUNT NELSON HOTEL

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TWELVE APOSTLES

On the coastal route between Cape Town and Hout Bay with beautiful sea and mountain views

CLICK FOR UP-TO-DATE PRICES AND TO BOOK A STAY AT THE TWELVE APOSTLES

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THE ONE AND ONLY

Located on the V&A Waterfront. Views of the Harbour and Table Mountain

CLICK FOR UP-TO-DATE PRICES AND TO BOOK A STAY AT THE ONE AND ONLY

 

By Geoffrey Hancock - Mount Nelson HotelUploaded by Yarl, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24849500
By Geoffrey Hancock – Mount Nelson HotelUploaded by Yarl, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24849500

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For the more budget conscious:

safarinow.com is an excellent site for B&B and self-catering accommodation to suit all budgets.

Airbnb is becoming increasingly popular.

 


RECOMMENDED PLACES TO EAT IN CAPE TOWN


Food markets are upmarket, trendy, hip, and extremely popular in Cape Town.  They are great places to stock up on quality organic fruit, vegetables, cheese, free-range meat, honey, artisan breads etc and also to enjoy a tasty breakfast/lunch with barista coffee or a glass of wine or craft beer. 

 

THE BEST SATURDAY FOOD MARKETS 

 

The Oranjezicht Farm Market (V&A Waterfront)

The Neighbourgoods Market at the biscuit mill (Woodstock)

The Earth Fair Food Market (Tokai)

The Stellenbosch Slow Food Market (Ou Libertas Wine Estate in Stellenbosch)

Lourensford Market is held every Sunday at Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West.

The Hout Bay Harbour Market is open on Friday evenings, and all day on Saturdays and Sunday’s for quality food and crafts.

 

BEST RESTAURANTS IN CAPE TOWN

 

One of the best restaurants in Cape Town is the Test Kitchen in Woodstock which has won many awards.  It is essential to book a couple of months in advance for an evening meal and at least a month in advance for lunchtime 

Best formal restaurantsLa Colombe (Constantia Nek), Kitima (Hout Bay), Catharina’s (Steenberg Wine Estate)

Sea view – the Brass Bell in Kalk Bay 

Best fish and chips – Mariner’s Wharf Hout Bay Harbour.

High TeaMount Nelson 

SeafoodWilloughby & Co at the V&A Waterfront 

Tea and scones   –   Jonkershuis at Groot Constantia Wine Estate

Cheese and Charcuterie platter   –   Constantia Glen Wine Estate

Cakes  – Charly’s Bakery in central Cape Town

Long Street in central Cape Town is a hip and trendy place to go for a night out.  It is packed with restaurants and night clubs.  If you would like to try something different, I highly recommend Addis restaurant in Long Street which sells traditional Ethiopian cuisine.  The food is delicious! 

Tips – restaurant and bar staff are generally tipped 10 – 15% of the total bill.

 


WHEN IS THE IDEAL TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT CAPE TOWN? 


Spring – September-November

Summer – December- February

Autumn – March-May

Winter – June-August

The summer is hot and dry with temperatures reaching as high as 37 degrees and the winters are cold and wet.

Cape Town gets extremely busy in December as many South Africans from other cities visit at this time.  

The best time to visit Cape Town is in Spring or Autumn.  The climate is warm and sunny during these seasons with occasional rainfall.

Beach huts in south africa = Things to do in Cape Town

 


WHAT SHOULD A TOURIST NOT DO IN CAPE TOWN?


As with all major cities, it is best to avoid walking along quiet streets at night.  

It is safer to go on walking trails in small groups and do not take any valuables.  

Do not flash cash or jewellery and keep electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets hidden in your bag in public places and when using public transport.

Read my post for further tips about keeping safe in South Africa. I also have a post about theft proof bags and backpacks which you may find helpful.

 

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YOU MAY ENJOY THESE POSTS ABOUT TRAVEL IN AFRICA

AFRICA – FROM CAPE TOWN TO CAIRO

SOUTH AFRICA – ESSENTIAL TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITORS TO SOUTH AFRICA * 10 REASONS TO VISIT SOUTH AFRICA

TOP TIPS FOR YOUR SOUTH AFRICAN SAFARI * WHAT TO WEAR ON SAFARI IN SOUTH AFRICA

THINGS TO DO IN CAPE TOWN AND CAPE PROVINCES * 10 SOUTH AFRICAN FOODS YOU HAVE TO TRY * 10 BOOKS ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA TO READ 10 MOVIES TO WATCH ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA * THINGS TO DO IN CAPE TOWN

BOTSWANA – AN AFRICAN SAFARI IN BOTSWANA

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PIN FOR LATER!

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An insider’s guide Cape Town written by Marie


Meet the author 

A huge thank-you to my friend Marie for completing this “insider guide to Cape Town” for me! Marie and I have been friends for nearly 37 years and were best friends in the last few years of secondary school.

  • Where do you live?

Cape Town, South Africa

  • How long have you lived there?

5 years

  • What do you do?

I am self-employed and I design, make and sell handmade leather bags!  (see Hot Pink Frog Designs on FaceBook. Cape Town is a very creative city and is often referred to as a design capital. (Photographs courtesy of Marie)

 

Hot Pink Frog Designs Cape Town

 

  • What is the best thing about where you live?

For me, the best thing about Cape Town is the striking natural beauty of the sea and the mountains.  It has some of the most dramatic scenery in the world and some beautiful beaches and walking trails.  It is also a bustling cosmopolitan city and many people from the UK and Germany have settled here which gives it an international flavour. The shops and restaurants in Cape Town are world class.

CLICK FOR EXCLUSIVE ACCESS TO MY RESOURCE LIBRARY

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Author: Tracy

Over the last 50 years I have lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to many more. I enjoy exploring and learning about new places and meeting people on my travels. History, reading, photography, nature and wildlife are my interests and I am ALWAYS researching and planning my next trip (preferably by train)

With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, I share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help YOU travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Come and join me as I travel the world one country (and train journey) at a time!

This post may contain compensated links. Please read our disclaimer for additional information.

150 thoughts on “Things to do in Cape Town South Africa – an insider guide

  1. Anda says:

    I’m so happy for stumbling over your interview with Marie, Tracy. Cape Town has been on my list for such a long time and I hope to see it soon. Getting first hand information about it is priceless. Thank you for it.

  2. Rusha Sams says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more about the “must-sees” of Cape Town. I have to admit, though, my favorite is Kirstenbosch Gardens — so commanding and awesome. You’re fortunate to be able to live there for a while — we tourists only get glimpses of life as it is in Cape Town. #MondayEscapes

    • Tracy Collins says:

      I love them too – I included them in my 2 posts about botanical gardens around the world. I have visited a few times – Marie is lucky enough to live there (though it is on a potential long-term stay in the future for us)

  3. Daisy - DaisLikeThese says:

    This is a very comprehensive list – thank you to you and your friend! The walking trails and beaches look fab.
    My husband travels to Cape Town a few times year for work and we plan for me and the kids to join him on one of his trips.
    #MondayEscapes

  4. Cathy (Mummytravels) says:

    What a fantastic guide – I do love Cape Town: I’ve stayed on the waterfront which is fabulous and in the winelands, visiting for a day, and I never get tired of the city. I do keep forgetting to book Robben Island far enough on advance although I did a great township tour and visit to Bo Kaap last time as well which I’d definitely recommend. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  5. Bumble Bee Mum says:

    I love this guide! So concise and useful! I’ve pinned it up and I’ll be back when I finally get those air tickets to Cape Town. I absolutely love the mountain scenery!! #CityTripping

  6. Corey with fifi + hop says:

    I was just reading about Cape Town today as it really does seem to have it all with its mountain meets sea landscape, as well as the culture of the city. I am hoping we can plan a trip there in the next couple of years, so def saving this, thanks. #citytripping

  7. Kat says:

    Hi Tracy, thanks for sharing this post – great tips and recommendations for Cape Town, excellent! I’m going to bookmark this post for future reference 🙂 Cheers! #citytripping

  8. Monique says:

    Cape Town is so high on my bucket list. It looks fantastic and with mountains and the ocean nearby has everything you need. Now that I know it’s also a creative city I gotta jump over asap! Great article thank you 🙂

  9. Erica says:

    I love love love Cape Town! I wish I had an “in” like this when I went, though. I didn’t have much time and didn’t prepare enough, so there is definitely a lot I missed. Saving this for when I plan my next trip there!

    • Tracy Collins says:

      I love Cape Town too its such an amazing place. I am lucky to have great friends all over the world who have agreed to be interviewed by me! Marie’s guide to CT is invaluable I think!

  10. Van says:

    Cape Town seems like the perfect mixture of everything from sandy beaches to gorgeous mountains! I would love to spend a vacation there one day 😉

  11. Karen says:

    What an amazing guide! I always love a local guide and South Africa is super high on my list. Bookmarked. The Kirstenbosch gardens as well as Table mountain look amazing–and I definitely plan on doing both when I visit! I can’t wait to see it for myself.

  12. Dariel says:

    Amazing views (and photos by the way), South Africa is definitely on my list of places to visit – my South African colleague kept asking to go! Love those gorgeous mountains in Kirstenboch Gardens.

  13. Elizabeth (Wander Mum) says:

    A really great guide, some invaluable insider tips wth little things like getting around, when to visit and how much to tip being very helpful. I’ve not been to Cape Town although I have visited other parts of SA. I’ve wanted to go there and do the Garden route for a while. This has inspired me. Off to pin. #citytripping

  14. Jurga says:

    A great post with so much practical info. Definitely saving it for our next trip. We saw and done a lot from this list, but tips from a local are always very welcome. This post made me miss South Africa so much. Favourite place in the whole world!

  15. Brown Gal Trekker says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Cape Town when I was there even if it was only for a few days. The views on top of Table Mountain are splendid! Love reading this as it brings me back to my travel experience there.

  16. Katy says:

    Insider tips are always the best. Love this guide to beautiful Cape Town. The natural beauty of the area is incredible. Pinning and sharing. Thanks for joining us on #FarawayFiles

  17. Garth says:

    This is brilliant, love all these comprehensive tips, and great timing as we’re thinking of visiting South Africa in September, Do you think we would see the penguins you mention on Boulders Beach in September?

  18. Simona Barbu says:

    Such a useful guide! South Africa gain its place on my bucket list with those lovely and funny penguins, and with the incredible views! Thank you for sharing all these local tips!

  19. Allison says:

    The garden sounds absolutely wonderful. And those ocean views are stunning! I’ve wanted to go to South Africa for awhile but now I want to go even more! Thanks for piquing my interest! #weekendwanderlust

  20. Anisa says:

    I really want to go to Capetown! I really like the natural beauty too and I want to go visit some of the vineyards. So nice to have tips from a local! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  21. Katie says:

    Wow this is a fantastic guide, Cape Town is on my travel list but not sure if we will make it this year 🙁 It looks amazing and how fantastic would it be to come across some monkeys having lunch in the middle of the road! I also didn’t realise how may penguins there are, cuteeee!

  22. SamH Travels says:

    To be honest I haven’t previously given Cape Town a thought as a travel destination, but after reading this I am very keen to visit. I love mountains so find that very appealing and I also really enjoy hiking trails. Thank you to Marie for her great insider knowledge.

  23. Oana says:

    Great local tips in this post. I cannot believe I haven’t crossed South Africa of my list yet. I would love to see the penguins ? on the beach, they are such cuties. Gosh, I need more holidays in one year -21 days are not enough!

  24. Sarah says:

    Amazing!! I never knew Cape Town was so well known for Crafts & Design! That makes me want to visit so much! Super informative post. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  25. David says:

    I’ve heard such great things about Cape Town from people that have visited but its nice to read about it from someone who has actually lived there. It’s probably my most anticipated place in South Africa so this comprehensive guide will definitely come in handy when I eventually get a chance to go there. Thanks to you and Marie for sharing

  26. ThriftyTrails says:

    I love this idea of interviewing friends/locals about their view on the city! Great recommendations and information for Cape Town for people with all different types of travel styles. Pinned for future reference!

    • Tracy Collins says:

      Thanks Pam – I have a few interviews on my site and a few more to come (I seem to know people all over the place!) Marie’s is very detailed – makes me want to get on a plane and go right now!

  27. Erin Gustafson says:

    Really beautiful! I adore the mountains that loom over the beautiful beaches. I am definitely interested in visiting this part of the world. Design. AND PENGUINS!? Done. Thanks for sharing and thanks to your friend Marie! #FarawayFiles

  28. Kreete says:

    I have been reading and watching movies about Nelson Mandela recently and would love to go and see the country I have heard so much about. There are some great recommendations here and interestingly enough even some places have been named after him. I would like to visit Robben Island and see Table Mountain up close. The abundance of hiking trails is a huge bonus too!

  29. Kana says:

    Wow, Cape Town looks amazing! Such a great guide too; detailed and tons of options! I’d love to visit someday! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you again this week!

  30. Chloe says:

    This is amazing! I’ve been hearing so many things about Cape Town and want to go so badly. I especially would love to see the penguins and do a safari!! Looks amazing!

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  35. Herma says:

    I’ve been living in Cape Town for 23 years and this is an excellent post on our beautiful city.
    Something special to consider is the hike up Lion’s Head, during full moon (especially January) watch the sunset over the Atlantic and the moon rising over the mountains – spectacular!
    For visitors wanting to go on a Big 5 safari , there’s the Aquila Private Game Reserve aquilasafari.com (2 hours from CT) and Fairy Glen Game Reserve fairyglen.co.za (+- 1 hour’s drive).
    Herma xx

  36. Frank says:

    Great Guide! We spent 3 months there a couple of years ago. After 4 years of travel still the most spectacular place we’ve been. And the wine is frigin fantastic.

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