The 10 Best Things To Do In Cape Town
Cape Town, or Kaapstad to the Afrikaaners, is the second largest city in South Africa and truly one of the most stunning. With plenty of colourful festivals, breezy outdoor activities and a rich history that’s seen its fair share of rich political and social controversy, this is one global city to add to your bucket list.
1. Conquer Table Mountain
This mountain is the crowning jewel of the Cape Town skyline. The view of the mountain is something special, a megalith filling in the background of the tall city buildings. But it’s the view on the top which is sublime, a totally surreal experience. The famous low cloud cover which hovers across the mountain, dubbed ‘the table cloth’ because of its visual appearance, creates an eerie yet mystic experience. As you gaze down into the city bowl and across the ocean, you will be reminded exactly why you came to Cape Town.
2. Visit Robben Island
The history of South Africa is not complete without learning about one very important man: Nelson Mandela. And where better to do this, than by visiting the island where he was held as prisoner for 20 years. About an hour away by boat, this island is now a living museum to the man himself. See the prison cell, walk the grounds, and take a tour of one of the most historically significant prisons on Earth. The museum is staffed by former inmates, who openly share their stories and experiences with visitors.
3. Enjoy tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel
The Mount Nelson Hotel is a historic highlight of Cape Town, taking its name from a colonial maritime officer and not Nelson Mandela. The hotel is over 100 years old and oh-so-English, offering a world-famous high tea experience in is beautiful grounds. Sit back and take a moment to disappear from Africa while you indulge in a classically British experience, about as far away from Britain as you can possibly get.
4. Join a township tour
Perhaps some of the most misunderstood communities of the world, South Africa’s townships are the remnants of the residential areas once strictly designated solely for black labourers under Apartheid. Go down and see for yourself the sense of community and belonging espoused by these suburbs of Cape Town. Be wary, some areas are definitely not for tourists but many are well receiving. Local tour guides will safely and happily show you around their homes, their local bars, and all sorts of other curious points of interest along the way.
5. Spend a day at Camp’s Bay
The Sandringham or Manly of Cape Town, Camp’s Bay is the affluent beach-side suburb offering a great place to swim, a main street full of restaurants, and a view much like the rest of Cape Town – that is, stunning, surreal, and uniquely African. Enjoy a massage on the beach and take a dip in the chilly Southern Ocean water.
6. Take a day trip to the Cape of Good Hope
Known as the most south western point on the African continent, the Cape of Good Hope holds its place in history as a notorious shipping corridor through turbulent seas. Take a drive along the coast from Cape Town, which is about two hour’s south west, and absorb the rugged scenery. Beware the wild ostriches and definitely do not feed the baboons.
7. Wine and dine in Stellenbosch
Heaped with accolades, Stellenbosch wine is one of South Africa’s most prized exports. Found about an hour’s drive from central Cape Town, the area around Stellenbosch is filled with wineries from here to there and almost everywhere. Book a tour or soberly drive yourself around, and explore the great tastes of these hidden gems. Top tip – most wineries offer a great value tasting platter for around 20 Rand, which generally gets you four decently filled glasses for around $AUD2.
8. See the penguins at Boulders Beach
There is something special about seeing an African penguin. Perhaps it’s the total incongruence of what is typically an Antarctic animal on the African continent, or perhaps it’s just their adorable nature. Boulders Beach is about one hour away from Cape Town when driving, and can easily be attached to any day trip to the Cape of Good Hope.
9. Learn a thing or two about South African politics
While Pretoria has the official title as capital, and Johannesburg is regularly mistaken for it, Cape Town is actually where the Parliament sits. The building is inside the central gardens of the city and features on most walking tours. Join a walking tour to see the many unusual points of interest scattered all throughout the town. Keep a keen eye out for the unassuming archaic references to the Apartheid regime, such as benches dedicated to people of particular skin colours.
10. V & A Waterfront
Remarkably western, the V & A Waterfront is the epitome of privilege and money in Africa. A fashionable, modern and picturesque waterfront promenade, the area is a retail and restaurant hub. While the majority of the city’s residents are priced out of access to it, prices remain relatively cheap for most visitors to the country.
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