Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and when you come to South Africa you should definitely include a visit there. There are many things to do and to see and we’ll show you a few here. This is of course not a complete list, but it includes some of the things that just cannot be missed. So here we go: 15 things to do in Cape Town.
1. Watch Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain
Cape Town would not have been so beautiful if it wasn’t situated below Table Mountain. Table Mountain rises a little over 1000 meters above sea level and considering that the sea is so close, this looks really impressive. You can go up with the cable way or hiking to enjoy the amazing view over the city and the surroundings. You will notice that it’s not as flat as it seems from down below.
Table Mountain often has a white ‘table cloth’, which are clouds that drop down over the edge and immediately evaporate.
2. Taste wine in Buitenverwachting
This wine cellar in Constantia shows the typical Cape Dutch architecture very beautifully with its white painted walls and the typical gable. The Cape Dutch style is a combination of Dutch architecture from the 17th century with the walls painted white, since there is so much more sun in Africa than in The Netherlands. As you arrive you can see the main building at the end of the rows of vines. Apart from wine tasting, there is a bar for an easy lunch or coffee and a restaurant for those who want to spend a little bit more time in this relaxing ambiance. Buitenverwachting means above expectation, and I don’t know what the expectations were, but since the vineyards still exist after centuries, might have been more than expected…
3. Have a sundowner on Bloubergstrand (with a view)
From this beach north of Cape Town you have the perfect view on Table Mountain. Blouberg means blue mountain in Afrikaans, which is of course appropriate as Table Mountain often looks blue in the distance. Taking photos on this beach where the rocks and the dunes make for endless compositions, all with the mountain in the background. It is a perfect spot to end the day and watch the sunset. This is also the best time to take photos here. It can be very windy here, and you can really feel the power of the ocean. If you’re looking for a drink sitting on the lawn watching over the ocean, the Blue Peter is for you.
4. Find out what’s behind the next curve on Chapman’s Peak drive
This famous coastal drive is spectacular. It starts in Houtbay and ends in Noordhoek. You will need to pay toll if you go by car (as most people do), but this is definitely worth it. There are many parking spots along the winding road where you can stop to take photos. The road takes you high above the sea and gives you an amazing view on the bay and the surrounding mountains. This is the perfect place for a sun downer, where you watch the sunset having a drink. There are also several picnic sites.
5. Visit the penguins on Boulders beach
This beach is famous for the penguin colony that calls the beach its home since the eighties. It is now part of the Table Mountain National Park, so the penguins have a safe and natural environment to breed and rest. There are several raised wooden walkways that go through the reserve. You have an easy view on the penguins resting, cleaning themselves, arriving and going from the sea. There are also many ‘nest bottles’ that provide a nest for the penguins to breed in. This colony is doing great and is a lot of fun to see. The name of the beach of course comes from the enormous granite boulders that are scattered around this beach.
6. Go to the end of Africa at Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point
Cape Point is the tip of the Cape Peninsula and is also part of the Table Mountain National Park. Going south you will arrive in Antarctica, but only after thousands of kilometres of sea. The vegetation that grows here is fynbos, which is part of the Cape floral kingdom and can only be found in the Western Cape. At Cape of Good Hope you are at the most Southwestern point of Africa. The coast here is rough with several beaches and high cliffs. It’s often very windy and on those days you can easily understand why Vasco de Gama called this place Cape of Storms. Walk up to the lighthouse from which you have a spectacular view all around.
7. Feel the ocean breeze at Slangkop Lighthouse
Just outside Kommetjie stands the Slangkop Lighthouse. The lighthouse was finished in 1919 and is still operative and you can take beautiful photos here. Or you could just take a walk and let your thoughts be blown away in the wind. You are often almost alone here as very few tourists come here. This is a nice spot to enjoy the sunset. It sets in the Atlantic ocean and there are a few benches to sit down if you’re tired of walking. There is also a beach south of the lighthouse which you often have to share only with the sea gulls.
8. Have a picnc in Kirstenbosch botanical gardens
The botanical gardens in Cape Town are situated in a beautiful setting on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Kirstenbosch is all about South Africa’s indigenous plants and trees and there are many of them. Of the six floral kingdoms the Cape floral kingdom is the smallest and the only one that can be found within a single country. Take a walk through the gardens and marvel at the King Protea or any of the other plants. You can have a picnic on one of the many lawns, as many locals do or eat in the on-site restaurant. In summer you can also enjoy concerts here, including the New Year’s concert. You can find more info and photography tips in another blog post here.
9. Grab your fish and chips at Houtbay Harbour
Houtbay is a fishermen’s village south of Cape Town and is definitively worth a visit.It still has an operative port and a beautiful beach. You can’t see anymore why this town was called this way (Hout means wood in Dutch), because most of the trees have been cut for a long time now. The wood was used to repair the ships when they were still made of wood. If you come to Houtbay on a weekend, you should go to the Bay Harbour Market. You can find nice souvenirs and much more here, listen to live music, have something delicious to eat and drink and meet the locals. The creativity of South Africans is evident, situated in an old fish factory, this is now a hotspot for tourist and locals alike.
10. Watch the sun sink into the Atlantic ocean from Signal Hill
Signal Hill lies at the feet of Lion’s Head, but still well above the city. It separates Sea Point from the rest of the city and is a popular spot to watch the sunset. Also here locals bring wine and food to have a good time outdoor watching the sun go down. For those that like an adrenaline rush you can do paragliding (in tandem) from Signal Hill down to Seapoint.
From one side you have a beautiful view on the City Bowl and Table Mountain. On the other side, where the parking place is) you have a view on the ocean and the sunset.
11. Colour you day in Bo-kaap
This Cape Malay quarter lies on the slopes of Signal Hill. This quarter is now famous for its brightly coloured houses. The houses were built in the end of the 18th century to be rented to slaves and houses could be only one colour: white. Once the slaves regained their freedom and the law on the colour of the houses was abolished, they celebrated their freedom by painting their houses in all possible colours. Try the Cape Malay cuisine in one of the restaurants or even get a cooking lesson. The cuisine has influences from Asia, Europe and Africa which makes for a tasty mixture.
12. Chill out on Llandudno beach
Llandudno is not an African name as I initially thought, but it’s Scottish… It’s a little town with beautiful houses overlooking the Atlantic ocean. There a beautiful little beach with fine sand and also here many people come to surf the waves. Here the water is cold, but with a wetsuit surfers even seem to enjoy it! The beach is really stunning with rocks on both sides and plenty of sand in between. Only downside is the limited parking space, but you should really visit this beach at any time of the day.
13. Shop and eat at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
For those of you who love shopping, this is the place to go!
The Dutch built a small jetty when they arrived in the 17th century which has grown to the oldest port of South Africa. A large part of the harbour activities have moved, but what remained became the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront or V&A Waterfront. It is build on the old docks and is transformed to a mixed use area for retail, residential and tourism area. It’s full of shops of all kinds, restaurants and bars, hotels, tourists attractions like the Two Oceans aquarium, the Watershed and the Cape Wheel, just to name a few. If you’re planning a visit to Robben Island (which I advice you to do, you will learn a lot about the recent history of South Africa), you’re boat will leave from the Waterfront. If you’ve come to eat or drink, it will be difficult to choose, there’s so much choice.
14. Count the Twelve Apostles
I never managed to find out if they are actually twelve, but the mountain peaks above Campsbay all the way towards Houtbay are called the Twelve Apostles. One thing is for sure though, they look absolutely beautiful. Driving on Victoria Road that goes from Camps Bay to Houtbay is always a pleasure. You can watch the waves crush on the rocks, the clouds evaporate as they fall over the edge of the peaks.There are several parking places along the road where you can stop to breath the fresh air, take a photo, buy a souvenir, have a coffee or just enjoy the view.
15. Enjoy the surf in Muizenberg
Muizenberg is a famous spot for surfers. It has a long beach on False Bay and the water is warmer than on the Atlantic coast, where it’s freezing… Even if you don’t do any surfing (but you can learn here, there are several surf schools), it is worth a visit. You can have a stroll on the beach and you can find the famous beach cabins that are painted with the primary colours.
Muizenberg means mice mountain in Dutch, but it is apparently not full of mice here. It was named after a commander called Muijs, who stayed here in 1743. Anyway, Muizenberg is all about its beach, so go there for a relaxed day between sand and water!
We hope you enjoyed this list of things to do in Cape Town. There’s much more to do in and around Cape Town, but this gives you an idea. If you want a photography tour for a few days in Cape Town to make sure you come back with beautiful photos, you leave us a message or have a look here.