Where to Go in Cape Town
It should come as no surprise that our top recommendations for where to go in Cape Town focus on the beaches, mountains and incredible natural beauty of the Cape Peninsula. Take a leisurely drive to Cape Point, stopping on the way to watch the amusing antics of the penguins at Boulders Beach, before returning along the Cape Town coast via the beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton. You could easily spend a day wining and dining in the bottle-green valleys of the Cape Winelands but equally as appealing is a picnic on the fynbos-fringed lawns at the extraordinary Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. And of course no Cape Town holiday would be complete without a trip to the top of Table Mountain.
Below is a list of our must-visit places of interest in Cape Town, but spend any time in and around the city centre and you're sure to find a few more favourites of your own.
- It is somewhat unusual to find a 1 000 metre mountain right in the middle of a big city but then again this is not your average mountain. With its instantly recognisable flat top, Table Mountain stands proudly as one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature and dominates the city skyline. Indeed, as you explore the city, you'll often find yourself reaching for your camera to capture Table Mountain's famous silhouette; the best views however are from the top. Take the cable car up on a clear day or lace up your boots and huff and puff your way up the mountain on one of the many hiking trails - the extra effort really will make you feel on top of the world as you look down on the city and its beaches, the surrounding mountains and the glittering Atlantic Ocean.
- You could spend a week in Cape Town and go to a new beach every day but it's best to start with a few of our can't-miss favourites: the four Clifton beaches and nearby Camps Bay are everyone's top city beaches, located literally a few minutes from the city centre on the Atlantic Seaboard. Camps Bay is perfect if you're in the mood for a sunset cocktail or meal as well - simply pop across the road where a long row of restaurants and cafes await. Further south (but well worth the drive) lies the soft sandy cove of Llandudno, the place to go for a romantic sunset picnic, while across on the slightly warmer Indian Ocean coastline you'll find Boulders Beach with its famous colony of photogenic penguins.
- A firm family favourite, Boulders Beach is a small cove of gently sloping sand studded with enormous granite boulders that were simply made to clamber about on. Sheltered and calm, the glassy-clear, turquoise water makes for safe swimming but the real stars of the show are the thousands of black-and-white African penguins that have made Boulders Beach one of their most important breeding colonies. Wooden walkways run right through the colony so you can get really close to the penguins - great for photography! We'd recommend a few hours on Boulders Beach to soak up the sunshine, and when you're warm enough, to brave the water - you might even find yourself swimming alongside the penguins.
- At the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula lies the wild and rugged Cape Point Nature Reserve. Go on an organised tour to Cape Point and you'll be whisked straight through the reserve to the point itself where you can walk or take the funicular up to the old lighthouse at the very tip of the peninsula. The views are certainly spectacular - a rocky finger of land juts into the deep-blue Atlantic Ocean and vertical cliffs plunge over 200m into a churning sea - but away from the crowds lie fynbos-lined trails across mountains and deserted sweeps of clean, white sand. Our advice? Spend a few hours exploring; it's sure to be a holiday highlight.
- If you thought the V&A Waterfront was just a collection of shops with a harbour-front setting then you're in for a wonderful surprise. While you can certainly shop up a storm at the glamorous boutiques and market stalls, it's only once you venture outside that you really understand why Cape Town's Waterfront has become South Africa's most visited tourist attraction: gaze up at Table Mountain while sipping your morning cappuccino or dining on gourmet cuisine, listen to African drummers and street performers as you watch boats glide by or set sail on a harbour sunset cruise. If you're travelling with children, then the Two Oceans Aquarium is an absolute must-see and remember that the Waterfront is where to go in Cape Town to catch the ferry to Robben Island.
Lying 11kms from Cape Town in Table Bay and accessible from the V&A Waterfront, Robben Island is the site of the infamous prison that held many of South Africa's most remarkable political leaders including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. Spend a morning or an afternoon on a Robben Island tour and be shown around the prison by an ex-political prisoner who will share his personal account of the harsh conditions of prison life during the Apartheid regime - it's a powerful history lesson which provides real insight into the high price that many people paid for South Africa's hard-won democracy.
- Kirstenbosch is without doubt one of the world's greatest botanical gardens but don't think you have to be a botanist to enjoy it: anyone of any age is sure to love the incredible variety of flowering plants and mature trees, arranged in astonishing and informative displays, and set to a dramatic mountain backdrop. Being such a wonderfully peaceful place, Kirstenbosch shouldn't be rushed, so set aside a good few hours to simply wander about - why not bring a picnic with you and find a big shady tree to set up under? Kids will love to run about on the wide green lawns and there are two restaurants within the gardens if you don't bring your own refreshments.
- Less than an hour's drive from Cape Town lie the serene green valleys of the Cape Winelands and the cosy little towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. The crisp country air will help you build up an appetite for all things good as you sample wines at the region's world-renowned estates or go on guided cellar tours; what better then to head to Franschhoek - the gourmet capital of South Africa and home to a handful of the country's top restaurants and one of the world's top 100. The Cape Winelands is an easy day trip from Cape Town but if you've got the time, we highly recommend spending a night or two in these beautiful and romantic surroundings.
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