With Table Mountain standing guard over the CBD, it’s little wonder that this iconic natural attraction was listed in 2011 as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature but there’s much more for the nature-loving traveller to explore in Cape Town. More than 221 km² makes up the Table Mountain National Park with many other parks and beaches to visit.
Why you should visit: Visitors may be surprised to discover that the area surrounding Table Mountain, from Signal Hill in the heart of the city centre, right down to the stormy shores of Cape Point, is protected Table Mountain National Park territory and a UNESCO World Heritage site. For those who are short on time or want a short-cut to the top, ride the city’s famous cable car to the top of Table Mountain. If you prefer to burn off some calories, hike to the top. You can always take the cable car down again! The most popular hiking routes are Platteklip Gorge and Skeleton Gorge. Follow SANParks guidelines, research the routes beforehand, always hike as part of a group (four+ people recommended) and carry essential safety equipment in the event of an emergency.
How much does it cost: It depends on the season and time of day, but one-way cable car tickets per adult start from R200. Check information and weather conditions at https://www.tablemountain.net/ before setting off on your journey. Occasionally, the cable car is closed due to adverse weather and closes each year for maintenance. Book your ticket beforehand; especially in the peak summer months when everyone and their dog head up the mountain for the spectacular sunset views.
How to get there: Table Mountain National Park is easy to reach from the Cape Town city centre. Each section of the park has a designated entry point where you can pay the SANParks entrance fee.
Why you should visit: The granite boulders of Boulders Beach are surrounded by clear, turquoise water that gently laps the white sandy shores. It could very well be a teeny tiny islet somewhere in the Mediterranean but, just then, an African Penguin will come waddling past to remind you that you’re in Cape Town’s False Bay. It’s one of just a few places in the world where visitors can get close to African Penguins. Tuxedos aside, it’s also a great, family-friendly beach with calm, sheltered waters. Pack a lilo and a picnic basket or visit nearby Simon’s Town for lunch.
How much does it cost: Boulders Beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park, so you’ll have to pay the conservation fee (R39 per adult for SA citizens and residents – bring your ID) and R152 per adult for foreign visitors. Aim to arrive very early on hot summer days as only a limited number of visitors are allowed in.
How to get there: It’s at least an hour’s drive from the Cape Town CBD to Boulder’s Beach.
Why you should visit: Filled with Cape Town’s most beautiful people and trendsetters, the Atlantic Seaboard is a Mediterranean-esque stretch of coastline running from Green Point (adjoining the V&A waterfront area) to the palm-tree-lined stretch of Camps Bay.
Venture out from Chapman’s Peak (connecting Noordhoek and Hout Bay) and then into Green Point for what must be one of the world’s most scenic drives.
In the summer, locals and visitors throng the stunningly white sand beaches to dip their toes or brave the icy waters for a swim. Year-round, runners, families, and dog-walkers soak up the sea views on the Sea Point Promenade.
How to get there: It’s 6-km from the city centre to Sea Point.
Why you should visit: No visitor, local or international, should visit Cape Town without making the trip to Robben Island. Just under 7km west of the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, lies the 5.08 km² island where former president Nelson Mandela served much of his 27-year prison sentence during apartheid. Today, the island is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can only visit via a guided tour. A guide will take you around the island, explaining its 500-year history, culminating with a visit to Madiba’s prison cell.
How much does it cost: Ticket prices are around R400 for South African citizens and R600 for foreign visitors.
How to get there: Ferries leave three times daily from the Robben Island Exhibition and Information Centre at the V&A Waterfront. The ferry ride is about 30 minutes and the guided tour on the island takes about four hours. Note that tours may be cancelled if adverse weather prevents the ferries from leaving the harbour.
Why you should visit: The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront watches over the working harbour of Table Bay near the Cape Town CBD. More than 23-million visitors arrive each year to browse the upscale shopping centre and entertainment complex. It is also home to much-loved tourist attractions such as the Two Oceans Aquarium, the Cape Wheel (Cape Town’s version of The London Eye) and the Robben Island Exhibition and Information Centre. There’s a lot to experience; from dining at world-class restaurants to shopping and watching the yachts and ships sail past. Or simply admire the seals flopping around in the sun in the Clock Tower Precinct.
How to get there: Find the V&A Waterfront on 19 Dock Road. There is ample parking and the City Sightseeing Bus service also stops here.
Why you should visit: Nestled in the leafy setting of Cape Town’s southern suburbs lies the Constantia Wine Route – the oldest wine region in the southern hemisphere. The first vines were planted on the slopes of Table Mountain in 1865 and, today, Constantia wines still enjoy a world-class reputation. Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting are just a handful of the 10 wine farms along the route. If you can only pick one, we recommend Groot Constantia which is the oldest wine estate in South Africa. History lovers will also be delighted to take a step back in time at the manor house museum and wine museum.
How much does it cost: R115 per person gives you entrance to all the estate’s attractions, wine tasting and tours. You can also opt to buy a ticket for the wine tasting or the museum on its own.
Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing bus
Why you should visit: Cape Town’s Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing bus is the best way to experience the city’s tourist highlights without worrying about driving and parking. With more than 30 stops, visitors can enjoy 50 top attractions. There are various routes to choose from, with one and two-day passes. There are also discounted entrance fees to some sites for bus ticket holders.
How much does it cost: A classic one-day tour is priced at R245 per adult.
The farmer’s markets
Why you should visit: Capetonians love a good farmers’ market. Come Saturday or Sunday morning, you’ll find the city’s many markets filled with locals fresh from their neighbourhood park run or sprint up and down Lion’s Head. Bring along your reusable shopping bags and baskets and fill up with fresh from the farm, often organic produce. Grab breakfast or lunch, artisanal food and drinks. There are also souvenirs and arts and crafts handcrafted in Cape Town. The Oranjezicht City Farm Market near the V&A Waterfront, The Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock and the Earth Fair Food and Shopping Market in the southern suburbs of Tokai are just three of the largest.
How to get there: All markets are listed on Google Maps.
You could spend a good couple of months trying to experience all that Cape Town has to offer and, even then, you probably wouldn’t fit it all in. For the culturally-curious, history-seeking and all-rounder traveller, Cape Town is packed with unforgettable, authentic experiences. The city’s complex past is matched by a proud multicultural heritage. From historical sites to museums, galleries and tempting culinary offerings, you’ll need much more than just a few days to see and do it all.
Why you should visit: Located in Cape Town’s City Bowl, Long Street is the city’s premier party street. One of Cape Town’s oldest streets; Long Street is lined with funky restaurants, book stores, trendy shops, bars and clubs. Shoot some pool at Stones or get an ethnic bite to eat at one of the many colourful restaurants. Wherever the night or day may take you in Cape Town, Long Street should be on the list.