Imagine receiving a huge box of desserts. Upon opening the box, different types of treats irresistibly entice you. How do you pick?
This delectable dilemma is similar to visiting Cape Town, a city with a vast array of things to do. With so many options to choose from, there is something for everyone.
Below are some major attractions of Cape Town, as well as tips on how to best enjoy them. Regardless of what you choose, you are in for a treat!
Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
V&A Waterfront is a bustling and lively harbor which attracts 24 million people annually.
Being one of the oldest working harbors in the Southern Hemisphere, it is easy to understand its allure. Historic charm and modern beauty intermingle throughout the waterfront, as both intricate architecture and contemporary art are interspersed throughout.
The waterfront has a unique mix of shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants. It is also is the entry point to Robben Island, the brutal prison that held Nelson Mandela.
Safety at V&A Waterfront: Relatively safe, tourists should still practice caution while exploring this area, as visitors are susceptible to robberies if they are not paying attention to their surroundings. Throughout the city, caution is also advised to being outdoors in the evening. Thus, grabbing a taxi is the best option if you are entering or leaving V&A Waterfront at dusk.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
Acclaimed as one of the greatest botanic gardens of the world, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a lush jewel nestled in the city of Cape Town.
Astonishingly only a 12 minute drive from the city center, being in this vast botanical garden feels otherworldly. Enveloped in nature, you can feast your eyes in natural beauty and find many places to both relax and explore.
You can easily spend an entire day sauntering around this beautiful garden. Many people spend their days picnicking, or simply absorbing the peacefulness that the nature here so effortlessly provides.
One of the more famous areas of Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway. Often referred to as the “Boomslang,” this sinuous and serpentine structure has a snake skeleton design that seamlessly winds over tree tops, offering beautiful green views as Table Mountain lures above you.
Entry fee at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden: As of 2020, the entrance fee to visit Kirstenbosch is 75 South African Rand, which is equivalent to $3.95 USD per person. Check out their website for more up-to-date prices here: https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch/
This incredible beach is located in Simon’s Town, a suburb of Cape Town. It is here where you can closely admire African penguins!
Entry fee at Boulder’s Beach: The entrance fee to the penguin colony is 152 South African Rand, which is approximately $8.00 USD per person (as of 2020). Your ticket not only allows you access to the boardwalk for great views of the penguins, but also to a beach further down the road. Ask an employee for directions if you are unsure how to get to the beach – it is not something you want to miss!
It is on the beach where you can actually sunbathe and even swim with the penguins! Once you reach the main beach, you may notice it is a bit crowded. However, there is a more private and secluded area of the beach – where you can get up and close to these famous residents.
How to reach the more secluded area of Boulder’s Beach: Once you enter the beach, turn left and walk all the way down until you face a wall of boulders. You must get through these boulders in order to access the more secluded area.
You may have to either hunch down or wiggle in between the boulder’s cracks to get through! Depending on the time of day and the tide, you will have to either walk or swim several feet until you reach a sandy enclave. Here is where you can truly get some one-on-one time with the African penguins! It is also a great area to capture some memorable photographs.
I suggest that you allocate an entire day to visiting Boulder’s Beach. Once you swim with African penguins – it’s really hard not to leave! It is important to note that as these African penguins are wild, they should be protected and respected. Never feed or touch them, and make sure to keep a safe distance in order to keep these beautiful creatures safe from harm or stress. If they feel that they are in danger from your close proximity, they will bite!
Extensions: As Simon’s Town is somewhat of a long drive to reach from the city center, a trip to Boulder’s Beach could also be coupled with a drive around the scenic Chapman’s Peak and even a trip to the Cape of Good Hope, if you have the time.
Bo Kaap is a vividly colorful neighborhood with origins dating back to the 1760s. Rental houses were created here specifically for slaves, known as “Cape Malays.”
Formerly known as the “Malay Quarter,” the rental houses were mandated to be painted exclusively white. When slaves were allowed to purchase properties, many homeowners intentionally painted their houses bright colors to express their freedom.
Beyond the multi-colored symbolic representation of liberty, Bo Kaap is also home to the first established Muslim mosque in the country of South Africa, called the Auwal Mosque.
Safety in Bo Kaap & Notes: You should exercise caution, travel in groups, and be alert of your surroundings while visiting this area. We read about many day-time robberies in Bo Kaap while visiting solo. Moreover, it is also important to understand that many locals live in here, and their privacy should be respected if you are taking photographs.
Known as Cape Town’s vineyard, Constantia is the oldest wine-making region in the southern hemisphere. Only a 20 minute drive from V&A Waterfront, incredible and historic wineries await you.
The oldest wine estate is called Groot Constantia, founded in 1645. This handsome estate contains a beautiful indoor/outdoor restaurant, museum, and winery.
If you are into wine, take advantage of the wine tasting offered at the winery. You get to keep the wine glasses that you drink out of, which makes a great souvenir!
At Groot Constantia, you can wander around the estate during your wine tasting. My husband and I sat beneath a large tree as we enjoyed an amazing Syrah – it was definitely a highlight of the day.
Cape Town is famous for many beautiful beaches. Some regard the most lovely to be nestled in the ritzy and affluent neighborhood of Clifton.
Four adjacent beaches in Clifton (named 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th!) are famous for their pristine white sands and glamorous aesthetic. Surrounding the beaches is a mountainous landscape, greenery, and stylish beachfront properties.
Clifton 4th is a Blue Flag beach, honored the second best beach in the world by National Geographic. It is the closest beach to Clifton’s neighboring suburb, Camps Bay. This beach also captures a gorgeous view of Lion’s Head, which resembles a crouching lion.
My husband and I rented an Airbnb near Clifton’s 2nd beach. One night, eager to catch the sunset, we grabbed some ice cream and made our way to the beach.
We were surprised by the crowd that happened to share the same prospect. People of all ages were hanging out – picnics, bonfires, drinks, frisbee games, and laughter all surrounded us. It was such a cool vibe! It was a great place to mingle, party, relax and have fun.
Beyond Clifton’s lovely beaches, it is strikingly beautiful and has some exceptional views. Near Clifton’s 1st beach is a lookout point where you can enjoy a lovely view of the Twelve Apostles mountain range.
Camps Bay is suburb adjacent to Clifton, famous for its buzzing strip of restaurants, bars and shops. It also has a beach across the strip.
If you are staying nearby, Camps Bay is a great place to purchase groceries, dine at one of the many fabulous restaurants, or “people watch” as you sit outdoors overlooking the beach.
Undeniably, Cape Town has incredible mountains which lend themselves to extraordinary hikes and views. Some famous hikes that you can take are up Table Mountain and Lion’s Head.
You can reach the famous flat top of Table Mountain by either hiking or enjoying a cable car. Hiking takes approximately one and a half to two hours, and a cable car takes approximately five minutes to reach the summit.
There are various trails and entry points to explore Table mountain. My husband and I took a more unconventional route by walking the “Pipe Trail,” a serene and mostly flat walk with a beautiful view of Camp’s Bay Beach.
We then climbed Kastelspoort Trail, a jagged and inclined trail with incredible views. The top of Kastelspoort Trail has a famous spot referred to as the “Diving Board,” which is a jagged peak offering a stunning and breathtaking view.
Fees at Table Mountain: Entering and exploring Table Mountain on foot is free. If you wish to take a cable car, you can pay for either a one-way or round-trip cable car ticket. Prices tend to fluctuate, thus you can check the current prices here: https://www.tablemountain.net/ If you are driving to the hiking entrance of Table Mountain, there are often people working the nearby roads to help you with parking. You may want to bring some cash with you if you would like to tip them.
Hiking Lion’s Head takes approximately two to three hours to reach the summit. It is a relatively moderate in the beginning, but then requires several ladders, climbing chains and rocky inclines to ultimately reach the top.
The summit of Lion’s Head has a congratulatory sign informing you that you have climbed 669.9 meters and is a great place to rest, explore, and soak in panoramic views of Cape Town.
Sunsets: Many people enjoy hiking Lion’s Head to catch the sunset. Hiking in the dark can be done, but it is vital to bring flashlights and exercise precaution. If it is your first time hiking this mountain during the sunset, you may want to consider going with a guide or experienced group of friends. Signal Hill is a smaller hill near Lion’s Head which you can drive instead of hike to, and is also a great area to catch the sunset!
Fees at Lion’s Head Mountain: Entering and exploring Lion’s Head is free. If you are driving to the hiking entrance of Lion’s Head Mountain, there are often people working the nearby roads to help you with parking. You may want to bring some cash with you if you would like to tip the workers.
There are endless opportunities to explore Cape Town in accordance to your interests, preferences, and time constraints. Truly, it is a beautiful city with so much to do. We are already planning our return!
You won’t regret visiting any of these amazing places, or any other attractions in Cape Town for that matter. The only question is: which treat are you going to try from the chocolate box first?
Have you ever visited any of these attractions in Cape Town? Is there anything that I missed? Leave a comment below!