Visiting Cape Town - What to See and Do
(Cape Town International Airport CPT, South Africa)
With the wild ocean on one side and a wall of mountains on the other, Cape Town
enjoys some of the most dramatic scenery in South Africa
. The unique situation of the city allows it to offer a full range of activities, from outdoor recreational attractions to wine tasting and chilling on the beach.
Cape Town also boasts one of the country's most ethnically diverse communities. Its lively atmosphere involves everyone from Zulu dancers to Muslims. There is amazing dining and shopping along the immaculate V&A Waterfront, and world-class partying in Greenpoint's nightclubs.
The weather is almost legendary in Cape Town, making day activities like hiking around Table Mountain or taking the ferry over to Robben Island a reliable sun-drenched pleasure. There are museums to browse, aquariums to marvel at and one of the world's most underrated wine-growing regions in the city's backyard. Boredom is a word you simply don't hear bandied around in this understandably popular South African destination.
Ten things you must do in Cape Town
- The V&A Waterfront is where it all happens in Cape Town. The city's historic core has slowly been revitalised into the coolest (and most scenic) part of town. The Victoria Wharf Mall has some 30 places to eat and over 500 shops, along with movie theatres and other entertainment. The Two Oceans Aquarium and boats to Robben Island are also here.
- More than 3,000 species of ocean creatures are swimming around just inches from your face at the top-flight Two Oceans Aquarium. This is the star attraction of the V&A Waterfront, being well worth a lingering visit. There are predator feedings, a kids' touch pool and even the chance to get in the water (in a cage) with a shark.
- On the eastern flank of Table Mountain is one of the world's most beautiful gardens. The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are a top attraction in Cape Town, offering a sublime display of nature in every season. There are audio self-guided tours or you can join a group. Summer sunset concerts are also a big draw from November to April.
- Cape Town boasts a true wilderness right in the middle of the city at its Table Mountain National Park. Cable cars whisk you up to the flat top of Table Mountain in just four minutes. Once on top there are hiking trails galore, scenic restaurants and an endless supply of mind-bending views over the ocean and the city below. Cape Point, the Boulders and the city's exquisite botanical gardens are also part of the massive park.
- The notorious Robben Island is a great excursion from Cape Town if you have any interest in apartheid history or nature. The 25-minute catamaran ride from the V&A Waterfront to the island is worth the trip alone. Once on the island, the 45-minute bus tour gives you a look at the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years.
- The best place to check out African artwork in the city is at the South African National Gallery. It is the nation's top art museum, featuring a full array of creativity that portrays the troubled heritage, as well as its natural beauty. Besides the art, this intimate gallery also displays some amazing ethnic craftsmanship, such as beadwork.
- The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is where you can stand on the southernmost point of Africa. Scenic drives and pullout points offer chances to see wild zebras, baboons and other creatures romping around. The views of the ocean are as dramatic as they come, and the beaches nearly always empty. This is nature at its wildest. If you don't use a car to explore, you can hop on the Flying Dutchman funicular railway and get right to Cape Hope as most tourists do.
- South African wine is gaining in notoriety and the neighbouring Constantia Wine Route is the ideal way to get acquainted with some obscure vineyards. Along this insanely scenic route are eight wineries open to visitors, including both Groot Constantia and Steenburg. Most can be reached in roughly 30 minutes from the city, and several have outstanding restaurants attached with expansive vistas.
- Cape Town's city centre is also a highlight, with its engaging blend of Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture. There are lots of neighbourhoods worth exploring here, including Long Street for shopping, Greenmarket Square for coffee and Adderley Street for everything in between.
- There are lots of outdoor recreational attractions on offer around Cape Town. A sunrise hot-air balloon ride over the Paarl Winelands rarely disappoints, and the range of golf courses in the area is among the best on the planet. There are also some superb beaches on the Atlantic side, especially Clifton, Camps Bay and Bakoven.