Almost 30 million people visit Cape Town annually and no wonder. There’s tons of things to do. Sunbathing, hiking, excellent restaurants, fancy bars and much more. We wrote down 20 things to do in Cape Town, including the top tourist attractions as well as the hidden gems. Check out our Cape Town itinerary step by step.
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The local cuisine is one of the most essential pillars of every country’s notion. As a proper traveller, one needs to engage with all the senses, not just with your sight. Thanks to South Africa's rich mosaic of cultures and history, there are a lot of tastes to come across.
Eastern Food Bazaar is a melting pot of all eastern cuisines as much as an experience in itself. If you like to meet all kinds of various cultures, this is the place you must visit. On the brimming streets of the former fruit market, you’ll find authentic Indian food as well as Chinese, or Turkish. The variety of languages spoken blends with all kinds of people dining there. Don’t expect high class restaurants though. This ultimate street food experience lures the businessmen as well as the travellers, students or local families. The price range is also interesting. The generous portions vary from 20 to 30 ZAR (1 to 2 EUR) per person. It’s your chance to taste the authentic Cape Town atmosphere as well as the food.
In Cape Town, there are plenty of possibilities for your perfect lazy day at the beach. You can choose from the family-suited False Bay, fancy Atlantic Seaboard or more secluded Nordhoek Beach.
False Bay may sound like a suspicious name for a holiday coast, but there’s no need to be startled. It got its name by the early navigators, who mistook the Hangklip mountain for Cape Point. Nowadays, False Bay represents a laid-back area with white sandy beaches and all kinds of facilities. False Bay is also a good choice for families. Muizenber beach in particular is a great spot for the surfers and swimmers...and the colorful cabins are a signature feature for Instagram fanatics.
It’s true you should be cautious when setting off into the Cape Town bustling streets at night. However, if you stick to the tourist places and stay with your group, there’s no reason not to enjoy an evening with your friends.
Village Idiot is a unique bar with the blend of traditional and modern flavours in the inner city. Residing in a large colonial building with a wide open balcony and somewhat peculiar decor (a life-size ostrich at the bar for instance), this bar is a place you won’t forget. The food is tremendous as well as the special fusion drinks and the lively atmosphere. The Village Idiot is no doubt a place where you can party the whole night away.
If you’re done with Village Idiot, just turn around the corner on the Long Street. There are myriads of restaurants and bars stretching along this street in the city centre of cape Town. The Long Street is known for its diverse cultural experience behind the Victorian facades with iron balconies. Live music on every night of the week, stylish bars and an international atmosphere draw tourists from all over the world to spend the night there.
Since the diamond rush in the late 19th century, South Africa has gained the reputation of a gemstone kingdom. There are many others besides diamonds and gold. Search for the minerals by yourself or get a nice piece of jewelry made by local beadworkers.
The Monkeybiz represents the fusion of art and social conscience.It is a non-profit organization uniting the local women, who need to provide for their families, with South African artists. The beadwork on display is an inherent part of South African heritage. You can come across spectacular pieces of art there, so if you’re looking for an authentic souvenir to take home, stop by and support a good cause in addition.
Probably one of the most photogenic sites in Cape Town. The colourful city area with pastel-shaded houses is situated at the foot of Signal Hill, just a few minutes from the city center. The story behind this quarter is rather grimm though. The houses were originally built and leased to slaves collected from Malaysia and Indonesia to work in Cape Town. If you’re interested in its cultural heritage, visit the Bo-Kaap Museum or tip-based free walking tour.
Another interesting spot to visit while in Cape Town is the extraordinary Neighbourgoods Market. Located in the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock it carries a relaxed atmosphere. Yet another buzzing scene full of different drinks, food and also crafts. This Sunday Market is getting wildly popular for its fresh-air feeling, quality products and trendy local businesses.
The Atlantic Seaboard closer to the city center than False Bay and is a much more frantic option. It’s also known as “Cape Town’s Riviera” and no wonder. You can find the splendid residential villas in this area, towering on the slopes of Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles. The whole coastline very much reminds you of a magazine ad for an unspoilt celebrity resort and they do say, there are some of the world’s finest beaches along there. The Atlantic ocean might be a bit chilly for some, but the scenery certainly makes up to it.
Finally, there is the Nordhoek beach. Arguably the most unspoilt beach in Western coast of South Africa. There are usually no visitors, partly because the water is cold and partly because there’s basically no development around there. On the other hand, that makes it a truly romantic getaway for young couples, or a good spot for surfers, as there is strong current and great waves. Thanks to its country-like surroundings, the beach offers a great opportunity for leisure activities on the family afternoon, or a romantic tour on the horseback.
Diamonds are probably one of the first thoughts that come to mind when someone says South Africa (or at least it should be). Being the biggest producer on the diamond market since the 19th century, of course, there is also a museum about diamond history of South Africa. But not just history, learn about the diamonds and Tanzanite and see how are they made on a guided tour. Bookings of tours are necessary, contact the museum on [email protected].
Forget about diamonds, there are also other precious stones to see. And in Cape Town, you can visit the “caves” and look for them by yourself. Prepared for tourists, the stones are already polished and you don’t really need to crawl and dig in the filthy caves for them… but it is fun anyway. Visiting the “gemstone capital of the world”, you can’t miss the Scratch Patch experience. Indulge in the world of minerals and grab some for yourself on the way.
If you’re interested in more of a dance club experience, look for Stones. It’s a bar and club with several branches all around Cape Town (Durbanville, Claremont, Long Street, Observatory, Stellenbosch and Tygervalley). There are sensible prices and all kinds of events such as karaoke nights, student parties, and special-offer days.
The site of the unfortunate past of South Africa may be a tough experience, but it is a must if you’re in Cape Town and have any social values. The former prison site where Nelson Mandela and many others were kept as political prisoners lies just 9 km from Cape Town’s shores on the Robben Island. Learn about Apartheid history with one of the former prisoners for a chilling but valuable experience.
Regardless of whether you’re a kid or an adult, the Two Oceans Aquarium is one of the top tourist attractions in Cape Town. At the meeting place of two great oceans (Indian And Atlantic) you can meet over 8 000 creatures. Apart from the ordinary tour, there are many more experiences to be found—diving with sharks and stingrays, zen exhibit of kelp forest, unique endemic species, breathtaking jelly gallery, interactive touch pool and many other.
If you’re looking for a comfortable hike and you don’t want to miss any views, go to the Signal Hill. It doesn't involve that much hiking and climbing as Lion’s Head (we’ll talk about that one later) and you can enjoy the city views just as well. If you refuse to sweat even a little bit, the view point is accessible even by car. The upper parking lot tends to be full, so I recommend leaving your car down at the beginning of the Table Road and going by foot for the rest of the route.
The route is approximately just as long as the one to Lion’s Head, but the elevation is only about 70 m, so it’s much more comfortable. There are facilities on the top as well as the coffee truck and a big yellow frame for taking photos with Table Mountain.
Fun Fact: The Signal Hill is sometimes called Lion’s Rump. Consider the Lion’s Head on the other side of the hill… well, you can figure out the rest of the story by yourself.
The Signal Hill is also the venue of one of the oldest traditions in Cape Town. Every day, at noon, there’s a gun fire from one of the canons (they always load two, in case one of them fails). The tradition began in 1806, when the firing allowed the ships in the bay to check their chronometres to the exact time. And it has survived to this day. You are perfectly capable to hear the firing all around the city, but if you want to see the ceremonial, you need to get at the South African Navy’s Lion Battery, where you can see the canons.
Warning: The gates of the Battery might be closed temporarily due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Under the Parliament houses, stretches a large public park with a view of Table Mountain. The Company’s Garden, as it’s called, was planted by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 (hence the name), nowadays providing the shaded haven for outdoor lunch right in the city center of Cape Town. The inviting rose bushes and sounds of urban buskers create a unique atmosphere worth visiting. It’s free to visit, with free wireless connection on top of that. Just be cautious with your food… there's a bounty of hungry squirrels.
There are many interesting venues when it comes to cultural experience. However, there are two places representing the past and contemporary South African culture you need to visit while you are in Cape Town. One of them is the Zeitz Museum.
Located in the former grain silo at the V&A Waterfront, the Zeitz Museum is dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. Besides the art, you can find a restaurant or even accommodation there. If you decide to visit, don’t miss the picture frame in front of the museum with a view of the Table Mountain.
When it comes to marvelous scenery and beautiful surroundings, Cape Town has much to offer. And you don’t even have to travel far, there are hiking trails just behind the corner of the city center. Some of them are suitable even for children and some of them more demanding, if you wish to work out a little. Let’s now take a look at one of the most popular hikes: Lion’s Head.
On the opposite side of Table Mountain stands a hill called Lion’s Head (and no, don’t imagine the cliff from Lion’s King). It’s the most popular tourist destination in Cape Town and guess why. Yeah, by logic, there are the most spectacular views on the Table Mountain and the town lying underneath.
There are two main roads to the top of the Lion’s Head, but both start at the Signal Road parking lot. The first one, and most popular, leads right to the top. It’s a gravel trail twisting around the mountain, so you get spectacular views of the city, Camps Bay, Table Mountain and Twelve apostles along the way. The last part is a rocky path with ladders, chains and rocks, so there is a bit of climbing at the end. It’s about 2,5 km up with 387 m elevation gain, so count an hour or so to get up (depending on how fit you are).
According to the Telegraph, The Truth Coffee Shop is the very best in the whole world. And two years in a row on top of that. Well, I cannot function without a proper coffee, so of course this was on my itinerary in Cape Town. I’m not trying to put off, but I must say I was quite disappointed by my visit there. For my taste, the coffee was too sour and generally not my type. However, when the Telegraph says it’s the best, there must be something about it. So in the end, I guess you need to make your own conclusion.
To be fair, I must admit, the environment is quite eye-catching. The interiors are steampunk-themed and richly decorated I must add. There are pipes and wheels everywhere as well as all kinds of vintage details. So, it’ll be an interesting experience, whether or not you enjoy the coffee itself.
Kirstenbosch is a huge botanical garden stretching from Cape Town suburbs to Table mountain. There are many spots to relax in Cape Town, but not one quite this ravishing.
The Tree Canopy Walkway is just one of the highlights. The 130 m long tree snake provides the best views over the trees of the garden and great spot for selfies. If you’re lucky enough you can also catch a ticket to one of the summer concerts taking place in Kirstenbosch every Sunday from November to April. Make sure not to miss the King Protea flower on your way there, as it is a national flower of South Africa.
Undoubtedly the number one site in Cape Town, every tourist has to visit. The Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark of Cape Town you can see on every postcard. There are more than 200 trails leading to the summit, however the most popular is Platteklip Gorge. It starts from Tafelberg Road and takes about 3 hours until you get to the top. It’s a bit of a work out, so if you’re not much of a sportsman, consider the easier way up by cable car. The route is rocky and demanding so it would be better to leave your flip flops at the hotel and take some serious boots.
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