Join me as we explore Cape Town in South Africa – Even if you know very little about the African continent, you’ve likely heard of Cape Town. It’s a vibrant, welcoming, safe locale—teeming with beautiful beaches, lovely weather, and a thriving nightlife scene—making it an ideal spot to visit for both local Africans and international travellers alike. Today, I’m serving up an at-a-glance overview of this popular and populous South African city. Read on for the ultimate Cape Town travel guide.
Cape Town Overview & Fun Facts
The second most populous city in South Africa, one of South Africa’s three capital cities, and a locale that’s consistently voted “The Best City in the World” by Telegraph Travel, it’s no wonder Cape Town is known—and revered—by history buffs, Africa obsessors, and discerning travellers alike all around the world.
Known as “The Mother City” for the sense of home it offers and the fact it gave birth to civilization as South Africa’s first city, Cape Town is the largest city in the Western Cape province and is home to iconic sites like Table Mountain and Cape Point. Afrikaans is the most widely spoken language in this beloved land—with English coming in second.
If you’re thinking of visiting, the best time to plan a trip to Cape Town is October-April, with ideal beach weather all but guaranteed February-April. Fancy yourself a toboggan enthusiast? You’re in luck. Cape Town is Africa’s one-and-only tobogganing hub, with Cool Runnings Toboggan Family Park (aptly named for the 1993 Disney movie) a perfect place to start sledding away.
What to do in and around Cape Town
There are so many enriching, exciting experiences awaiting you when you travel to Cape Town, South Africa—below are just a few of my favourites.
Visit Table Mountain
A flat-topped mountain that overlooks both Cape Town and Table Bay, this beloved landmark looks almost as if the top was sliced right off it. With a flat 3-kilometre (2-mile) long plateaued top—a result of horizontal layers of sandstone being exposed to strong winds and erosion—the looks of this distinctive-as-ever mountain certainly draw in plenty of people, but it’s the activities it offers that keep them there.
Visitors can embark on an adventure on off-road scooters, take a ride on the cable car, explore hiking trails, or even enjoy high tea at the Cableway WiFi Lounge.
Take a quick trip to Robben Island
Robben Island (which takes its name from the Dutch word for “seals” and translates to “seal island”) is most known for being the location President Nelson Mandela was jailed for a majority of the 27 years he was imprisoned. Visitors can take a ferry out to the island and enjoy a day of walking tours where they can learn all about the rich history of this infamous locale.
Go for a wine tasting in Cape Winelands
With hundreds of wine estates and vineyards all within driving distance, Cape Town is well known for its vibrant wine country. Spread over 64,00 kilometres (40,000 miles), the Cape Winelands cover a variety of regions and span beautifully diverse landscapes. You can find everything from bright new wines produced with an emphasis on natural winemaking methods by younger vintners in Swartland—to deeply heritage-rich wines at Cape Town’s oldest wine estate, Groot Constantia, which has been producing wines since the 1600s.
Spend a day shopping at the V&A Waterfront.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (also known as “V&A”) is an exciting, vibrant scene that offers everything from live music and waterfront adventures (think: sailing, cruising and houseboat rentals)—to incredible dining opportunities. My personal favourite thing to do at the V&A Waterfront, though, is shop. With over 450 retail storefronts, it’s the perfect place to find authentic African fashions, incredible skincare products, artisan food products, and so (so!) much more.
Explore Lion’s Head.
Situated between Table Mountain and Signal Hill, Lion’s Head is a famous mountain in Cape Town, which—unlike its flat-topped neighbour, Table Mountain—culminates in a sharp, 669-metre high peak. Its silhouette is striking—and visitors can enjoy a moderate 90-minute hike to the top, where the photo opportunities are nothing short of spectacular.
Visit the Cape of Good Hope.
The southwestern most point of the entire continent, The Cape of Good Hope is a narrow peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic. This popular promontory offers an exciting excursion opportunity for Cape Town visitors—you can spot baboons and penguins as you soak in the untamed beauty of the land (or, if you’re visit during June-November, you might just be lucky enough to spot some whales). Head up to the lighthouse for the best views of the stunning rocky coastline and turquoise waters—and be sure to read up on the Cape of Good Hope’s fascinating history before you go (which includes stormy shipwrecks and the legendary story of “The Flying Dutchman” ghost ship).
Tour the Castle of Good Hope.
A fortress built by Dutch colonists in the 1600s, The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest colonial building in all of South Africa—and it holds a rich history to its name. With three museums, the Kroata Memorial (a memorial that celebrates the female leader of the Khoi nation), and a gift shop—you can easily spend an entire day here touring the expansive grounds, soaking in stories of its role in the Spice Trade, and enjoying the incredible architecture.
Where to eat in and around Cape Town
No trip to Cape Town is complete without tasting authentic food. Below are a few of my favourite spots to pull up a chair and dig in.
Located at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town’s Cooked serves up Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes inspired by generational familial recipes. I especially love, though, how the chefs put a contemporary African twist on classic dishes. A few favourites include their beloved baked cheesecake—as well as their variety of Khoubiz (Lebanese flatbreads).
Another iconic spot at the V&A Waterfront, Emazulwini is a modern Zulu restaurant that celebrates Nguni cuisine and highlights classic South African ingredients. Consistently top-rated by critics and diners alike, this acclaimed spot is the place to go for an authentic taste of Zulu cuisine.
The Sunshine Food Co.
All about creative, healthy dishes—the Sunshine Food Co. serves up vegan eats via a limited menu in a bright-and-cheery atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to swing by for a quick, fresh-as-ever pick-me-up.
Overall, I truly hope you get a chance to explore Cape Town and all it has to offer. It really is such a vibrant, welcoming city full of rich experiences, stunning landscapes, and tasty cuisine.
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Until next time, happy travels!