An insider guide Cape Town in South Africa
A huge thank-you to my friend Marie for completing this “insider guide 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?
What do you do?
I am self-employed and I design, make and sell funky handmade fabric bags! (see facebook.com/hotpinkfrogdesigns) Cape Town is a very creative city and is often referred to as a design capital. (Photographs courtesy of Marie)
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.
Could you recommend activities/attractions/things to do where you live?
My top 5 recommendations for my insider’s guide Cape Town are
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 R55 for adults and R15 for children. Opening hours: 08:00 – 17:00 in summer and 08:00 – 18:00 in winter. From November – March, there is a concert in Kirstenbosch every Sunday evening at 17h30.
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. Tickets are available online at tablemountain.net. Return tickets cost R255 for adults and R125 for children. 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!
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
A tourist destination with beautiful views of the sea and Table Mountain, the Cape Wheel, boat trips, shops & restaurants. The shops are open from 09:00 – 21:00 7 days a week. For more info, have a look at waterfront.co.za.
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.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage site – Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Boat tours daily from V&A Waterfront robben-island.org.za.
Craft Markets are an excellent place to buy quality handmade goods to take home for gifts. The best Craft markets 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.
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.
Cape Town has some magnificent walking/hiking trails and entry is free to many of them. Have a look at everytrail.com 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.
Ratanga Junction – theme park. Consult web site for different ticket options and opening hours ratanga.co.za
Franschhoek and Stellenbosch are wineland’s 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 (sanparks.org) near Langebaan as well as a number of smaller reserves around the town of Darling.
Museums – Top 5 museums in Cape Town are:
Some of the museums are free on the first Thursday evening of each month. See first-thursdays.co.za for more information.
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 (citysightseeing.co.za). A one-day ticket costs R170 for adults and R95 for children and can be purchased online. There are 4 different routes – Red City Tour, Yellow Downtown Tour, Blue Mini Peninsula Tour and Purple Wine Tour.
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 web site myciti.org.za
Uber taxis are an easy and cost-effective way of getting around, especially at night.
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.
Accommodation when staying in Cape Town
Top hotels in Cape Town are:
Mount Nelson – central Cape Town. 5-star colonial style hotel.
Twelve Apostles – on the coastal route between Cape Town and Hout Bay with beautiful sea and mountain views
The One and Only – V&A Waterfront. Views of the Harbour and Table Mountain
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.
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 morning food markets are:
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.
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 (thetestkitchen.co.za)
Best fish and chips – Mariner’s Wharf Hout Bay Harbour.
Formal restaurants – La Colombe (Constantia Nek), Kitma (Hout Bay), Catharina’s (Steenberg Wine Estate)
Seafood – Willoughby & Co at the V&A Waterfront (Willoughbyandco.co.za)
For the BEST
Sea view – the Brass Bell in Kalk Bay
High tea – Mount Nelson
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 to visit?
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.
Where to avoid?
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 and keep electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets hidden in your bag in public places and when using public transport.
An insider’s guide Cape Town by Marie