I love traveling the world. It’s one of life’s great pleasures to explore new places and experience new cultures.
But one of the best vacation destinations is just an hour flight from my home city. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and even though I lived there for a year, it never fails to excite me.
Go in spring or summer (September through February) when the weather is perfect. It’s hot and does not rain, but the regular South Easter cools it down just enough so that it’s not too oppressive.
Winter can be cold, and that’s when Cape Town gets most of its rainfall. While there are still things to do and beauty to be seen, it’s not quite the idyllic holiday.
These are my favourite 6 places to go in Cape Town.
Every list starts with Table Mountain, so I’ll keep this short.
Table Mountain is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It’s the number 1 tourist attraction and the pride and joy of the locals. You can see it from most of the touristy parts of the city, and its beauty can catch you by surprise over and over again. But, of course, you absolutely have to go to the top.
It’s an easy 2-hour hike, for those who want the exercise. For the rest of us, a cable car will take you up in minutes.
Try time your trip for late afternoon. That way, you can see the city in all its glory, before watching the spectacular sunset.
*If you want a nice, relatively short hike, Lion’s Head is another great location (and free!). People flock there at the full moon, but you’ll get great views no matter when you go. You can paraglide off Lion’s Head if you’re looking for a thrill.
Clifton Beach and the Atlantic Ocean
Clifton is consistently named as one of the best beaches in the world. Its beauty is astonishing. So are many of the sunbathers. Beautiful people tend to flock to Clifton!
As Clifton is on the Atlantic Ocean, the sea is freezing no matter the weather. In other words, it’s not the best place to swim, unless you enjoy feeling numb, or really need a break from the summer heat.
Keep in mind that Clifton is not the only beautiful beach in the vicinity. Camp’s Bay is just down the road and is lined by trendy restaurants. There’s more space and more parking available.
If you’re a bit more adventurous, Sandy Bay in Llandudno is a short drive away. It’s Cape Town’s only nude beach, but don’t expect it to be crowded. And don’t go in the water unless you want to freeze your balls off (or be bashed against the rocks)!
This is the amazing spot where the two oceans meet. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans come head to head. You can literally see where the water changes colour.
It’s something you have to see at least once. Unfortunately, you never know when a low mist will hover over it, impeding your view.
So, I recommend making Cape Point a stop on your way to another site, such as Boulder’s Beach.
Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town
Simon’s Town is a quaint little town on the Indian Ocean. Its most famous locale is the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. True to its name, there are boulders everywhere, along with a massive amount of penguins.
I actually prefer Seaforth Beach which is just down the road. Unlike Boulders, which is a nature reserve, Seaforth is a more natural place to take the time to sunbathe and swim. You’ll still see plenty of penguins, but you’ll have much more space to spread out.
Since it’s on the Indian Ocean, the water is refreshing, rather than cold.
Cape Town’s most popular non-beach destination. If you love beautiful greenery and stunning flowers, this is the place for you. Pack a picnic and take the family along.
The best time to visit Kirstenbosch Gardens is during their summer concert season. Every Sunday afternoon around December / January has a different band or artist. These range from Symphony Orchestras to South African rock bands and kwaito stars.
Book in advance for the concerts, and get there early if you want to lay claim to some of the sparse shade.
Bands to look out for:
CAPE TOWN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA: they play at Kirstenbosch once a year and it’s worth it!
The Parlotones: one of the best rock bands to come from (and stay in) South Africa
Mi Casa: South Africa’s favourite house band
Lira: multilingual performer with a golden voice
Goldfish: Cape Town’s best dance and electronic group
If you’re a wine lover, you have to go to Cape Town’s wine country. The stunning town of Stellenbosch is ideal, but it’s 2 hours outside the city, so it’s best to spend a couple days there. Alternatively, you can go just a 20-minute drive to Constantia Valley, Cape Town’s oldest wine route.
There are various tours for whatever you prefer, but if you’re renting a car, the roads are good and your phone’s GPS will get you where you need to go.
A few years ago, you would almost definitely have had to connect through Johannesburg. Lately, most international airlines have started flying directly to Cape Town. O.R. Tambo (Johannesburg) International is a good airport, and a couple hours between flights is bearable. But if you have to connect, make sure the stop is relatively short or you’ll get bored, quick.
Cape Town has fantastic hotels, but they come at a high cost. On the other hand, you can find absolute gems on Airbnb for far cheaper. A lot of South Africans own holiday homes in Cape Town, which they rent out most of the year. Rich Capetonians also tend to live in absolute luxury, and when they travel abroad in December, you can stay in their beautiful houses.
Shopping at V&A Waterfront
The V&A Waterfront is a popular tourist destination. It boasts a range of great restaurants and bars, as well as boat trips from the harbour.
If you want to do some clothes shopping, this is the place to go. Keep in mind, however, that most of the brands you’ll find are international. And South African outlets are unreasonably expensive – even though our currency is relatively weak, you may find that it’s cheaper to buy clothes at home. In fact, the low prices of European brands which have set up shop here are putting SA outlets out of business.
Wining and Dining in the Town
Town is the best place to find restaurants and bars offering a wide range of international and South African cuisine. Bar hop along Long Street or visit Kloof Street for some of the best food.
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