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South Africa Travel

The best things to do in Cape Town

Cape Town is such a beautiful, vibrant city and one of my favourite cities in South Africa. Whether you’ve got three days or 2 weeks, there’s so much to see and do for all ages and all budgets. Having been to this stunning city around seven times, here’s the best things to do in Cape Town.

Do you need a car in Cape Town?

We have visited Cape Town before with a rental car, and also many times without one. Depending on where you are staying, your hotel may have a shuttle bus or it will be on the public bus route. South Africa also has Uber so it’s very easy to get a ride when you need one.

Affiliate links disclosure: I may receive a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. This is at no cost to you.

Visit Table Mountain

You absolutely cannot visit Cape Town and not take a trip to the top of Table Mountain. The views from the summit, on a clear day, are just breathtaking. A top tip is to not leave it to the end of your trip as the weather can change quickly and either they will close the cable cars, or you risk low visibility due to clouds. So if you wake up and it’s a beautiful, clear day – head to Table Mountain!

View of Table Mountain from the V&A Waterfront

Why not hike up Table Mountain and skip the cable car queues? We love to hike up when we visit and then get the cable car down. The views whilst walking up are absolutely stunning. Plus you feel such a sense of achievement when you reach the top as it’s not an easy hike – it’s pretty steep!

Walking up Table Mountain

Enjoy lunch at Camps Bay

Every time we visit Cape Town we have to head to Camps Bay for lunch. Not because they have the best restaurants (they don’t…), but because the beach is absolutely gorgeous with views of Lions Head and the Twelve Apostles. If you’re visiting in Spring or Summer it will be hot enough to suntan on the beach but be warned that the water is absolutely freezing as it’s the Atlantic Ocean.

People walking along Camps Bay beach

Explore the V&A Waterfront

The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront is situated in Table Bay Harbour. It consists of a shopping mall, food markets, the Watershed, the Two Oceans Aquarium, an art gallery and restaurants that are dotted around the harbour, offering gorgeous views.

Head to just behind the aquarium to see seals in their natural habitat. They are so entertaining to watch as they jump in and out of the water and play with each other.

The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town

You could easily spend an entire day at the V&A, exploring all the shops, stopping for a drink or a bit to eat. Around the V&A, there are always performers putting on a show that’s either dance, music or both.

There are many boat trips that you can take from the V&A, whether it’s just a harbour tour or out to seal island. They offer champagne sunset cruises too.

And of course you have to get a photo at the famous Table Mountain picture frame!

Kirsty sits on a yellow giant picture frame with Table Mountain in the background

See the African penguins at Boulders Beach

When you think of penguins you think of cold climates, right? Well Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town is home to the African penguin, also know as the Jackass penguin. This colony is one of just a few in the world but sadly is endangered.

When you visit the penguins, not only do you get to see them in their natural habitat but you also help to contribute to their conservation as you have to pay a fee to visit them. The first beach has viewing platforms but if you walk to the last beach you can get to walk right next to them – just don’t try to touch them as they’ll bite! Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the penguins at Boulders Beach.

African penguins at Boulders Beach Cape Town

Learn about history at Robben Island

One of the top historical and cultural things to do in Cape Town is to visit Robben Island, where former President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years in prison. The ferry to Robben Island departs daily (weather dependent) from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. The cost, at the time of writing, is R400 for South African adults and R210 for South African children and R600 for adult international visitors and R310 for children. Check the Robben Island Museum website for more information and to book a tour.

See Africa’s most South-westerly point at Cape of Good Hope

One of the top attractions to see when visiting Cape Town is Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. Around 60km from Cape Town, Cape Point is part of Table Mountain National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s often mistaken that Cape Point is where the two oceans (Indian and Atlantic) meet but that’s actually Cape Agulhas, which is about 255 km away in the western Cape. However you can visit the most south-westerly point of the African continent at Cape Point, which is The Cape of Good Hope.

On your visit you’ll see the old lighthouse, which you can either walk to or take a ride on the Flying Dutchman funicular. There are also lots of hiking trails and a restaurant if you want a bite to eat.

Posing behind a sign marking Cape Point

Have afternoon tea at an iconic hotel

If you’re partial to a spot of afternoon tea, head to either the One & Only by the V&A Waterfront – which has spectacular views of Table Mountain – or head to the iconic Mount Nelson hotel.

I’ve had afternoon tea at both and they are equally as good. Expect delicious sweet treats, yummy savoury delights, a glass or two of South African bubbly and excellent service.

Afternoon tea cakes arranged on an O

Take a day trip to Franschhoek

Fancy a day trip from Cape Town where you can sample stunning South African wine? Around an hour’s drive is the very pretty town of Franschhoek, which has a really fun wine tram! A ticket on the tram includes a number of different stops at Vineyards and there are ten routes to choose from. Be sure to stop for lunch too.

You can choose to drive yourself to Franschhoek (although not advisable if you’re going to partake in wine tasting) or join a tour. There are many group or private tours to choose from.

The Franschhoek Wine Tram

Visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

The beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are located just 13km from Cape Town city centre and is one of the stops included in the City Sightseeing Hop on Hop Off Bus. It’s considered one of the best botanical gardens in the world. There is a fabulous 130m long steel and timber tree canopy walkway, which has great views of the gardens, the mountains and the Cape Flats.

The wooden tree canopy walkway

Explore the Bo-Kaap

The Bo-Kaap is a culturally and historically significant neighbourhood in Cape Town on the slopes of Signal Hill. It was a formerly racially segregated area known as the Malay Quarter as it’s where skilled Muslim workers from Malaysia and other parts of Asia came to live in the late 1700s.

Brightly coloured houses in the Bo-Kaap with Table Mountain in the background

Now it’s a multicultural residential neighbourhood, although around half of the residents are Muslim. There are many mosques in the area, including the Auwal Mosque which dates back to 1794 and the Nurual Islam Mosque, which dates back to 1844.

The Bo-Kaap is the oldest surviving neighbourhood in Cape Town and has many buildings dating back to the 1800s. If you want to learn more about the history of the area, join a tour or visit the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum.

A Mosque in Bo-Kaap in Cape Town

Visit the markets

If you love markets, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Cape Town. The V&A has a permanent indoor market called the Watershed, which has shops as well as stalls of independent designers, photographers, artists and more.

Also in the V&A Waterfront is the Oranjezicht City Farmers Market, which is open Saturdays and Sundays during the day and Wednesday evenings. It’s a lovely market to have some delicious food as well as to look around the independent shops selling clothes, homewares, flowers and food to take home.

A food stall at Oranjezicht City Farm in Cape Town

In the city you’ll find the City Centre market, which has traditional stalls selling souvenirs for tourists. Here you can pick up art, sculptures, clothing, handbags and jewelry to take home with you to remind you of your holiday.

Market stalls selling souvenirs in Cape Town

Just outside the city centre, in Hout Bay, is the vibrant Bay Harbour Market. It’s open every Friday night and Saturdays and Sundays during the day. It’s a fish factory in a working harbour and has a variety of stalls selling crafts, jewelry, clothing and more. There’s also food stalls to grab a bite to eat and soak up the atmosphere.

The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock has a weekly market called Neighbourgoods Market, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays. Expect local designers and artisans as well as food stalls selling yummy food.

Eat delicious food

Cape Town has a fantastic food scene – from food stalls at markets to fine dining restaurants. We had so many amazing, memorable meals in Cape Town that I blogged about our favourite restaurants. They can be very popular so be sure to make a reservation in advance of your trip.

Seabass dish from The Waterside restaurant

So these are my recommendations for the best things to do in Cape Town. If you’ve been, what are your favourite things to do in and around the city?

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Best things to do in Cape Town

Kirsty Marrins

Reader, writer, occasional runner, travel lover.




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