Visitors from Brazil touching down in Cape Town are in for a treat. Here’s what to do and see in the city and surrounds if you have a week to explore.
Getting to know a new city can be overwhelming, so a good way to understand the lay of the land is with some guidance. This is where the red City Sightseeing bus is extremely helpful. Catch it at the V&A Waterfront.
This shopping centre complex is well worth the time you’ll spend exploring over 450 retail outlets. The City Sightseeing bus offers several routes and packages, so it all depends on your interests.
Heading to Table Mountain, one of the world’s new seven wonders of nature, take the aerial cableway to the top where gorgeous views await you. The mountain chain forms part of the Table Mountain National Park, which stretches from Signal Hill and Lion’s Head to Cape Point and the coastlines of the Cape Peninsula. The park forms part of the Cape floral region, a World Heritage Site. Facilities at the top of Table Mountain include a restaurant and Wi-Fi.
Once you’ve gone to the top of the mountain the easy way, you may be interested in exploring the mountain range via a hike. There are many trails with varying degrees of difficulty, but it’s best to go early, with at least one other hiker for safety. Take water and snacks and always check the weather, which can change very quickly.
The beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton along the Atlantic Seaboard are incredible and the bars and restaurants along the strip have views for days. You could also rent a bike on the Sea Point promenade from the upcycles.co.za drop & go station (they also have stations at Silo 5 at the V&A Waterfront and at The Bay Hotel in Camps Bay).
Another spot to soak up the spectacular beauty of the area is Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. The lawns are perfect for a relaxed picnic and it’s perfectly possible to spend hours exploring the gardens. You could also try one of the hiking trails.
Lesser known is the Biodiversity Showcase Garden in Green Point Urban Park and the new dome-shaped educational facility housing a Khoi education programme. The design of the dome draws inspiration from the traditional dwellings of the Khoi people, paying homage to their rich heritage as a First Nations group.
The educational facility helps to establish meaningful connections to the existing Khoi structures and informational resources (Khoi food garden, medicinal plants, veld type display and more) in the Biodiversity Showcase Garden within Green Point Park.
Historic wine country
The Cape is renowned for its award-winning wines, so your visit to this part of the country wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the winelands. The region has five main wine routes. Many of the wine estates have fine-dining restaurants on site, while others have pre-packed picnics or more casual eateries.
The Constantia Wine Route is just 20 minutes away from the city and is home to some of South Africa’s oldest and most prestigious wine farms dating back to the 1650s. The Stellenbosch Wine Route has 148 wine farms, and this route is one of the country’s six most popular tourist destinations. The Franschhoek Wine Route offers the hop-on hop-off Franschhoek Wine Tram that allows you to enjoy the day’s tasting without worrying about driving.
The area has stunning landscapes and with many of the wine farms sharing a French Huguenot heritage, you’ll notice the French influence everywhere. The Helderberg Wine Route’s wineries are all in and around the Somerset West area, a 30-minute drive from the city, while the Durbanville Wine Route is a short 20-minute drive north of the city. One of this region’s many virtues is the spectacular views back across the ocean towards Table Mountain.
With a view of False Bay, the train to Kalk Bay will take you along one of the most beautiful train routes around. Of course, a train isn’t always the most convenient so you might opt for a car rental or a tour operator instead.
You’ll have a scenic trip regardless of the mode of transportation. Kalk Bay has a quaint seaside village vibe, and you can eat at any of the many restaurants, browse the quirky shops and explore the harbour.
Carry on in the direction of Simon’s Town where you can hang out at Boulders Beach with the colony of African penguins, visit the Scratch Patch for semi-precious stones and visit the naval museum.
Whatever you do, don’t miss out on a visit to Cape Point. Falling with the southern section of Table Mountain National Park, you’ll find a spectacular sight with rugged rocks and sheer cliffs towering more than 200 metres above the sea and cutting deep into the ocean, endemic fynbos, breathtaking bays, beaches, and rolling green hills and valleys.
Try to get there by opening time to see the sun rise over False Bay. There are few sights as spectacular. Facilities include a funicular (if you don’t want to hike to the top), a restaurant with phenomenal views, a food shop and other retail shops.
A rich history
Cape Town has a rich history to explore, and it is worthwhile to visit the many museums and monuments to learn more.
Completed in 1679, The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in South Africa and was once a fort. Several museums are located in The Castle, including The Camissa Museum, which tells the stories of the peopling of the Cape. It reveals the complex history of Camissa Africans, those classified as ‘Coloured’.
Make time to visit Robben Island where former president Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were imprisoned during the apartheid era.
The Bo-Kaap with its colourful houses is a historic neighbourhood in Cape Town. Many of the residents are descendants of enslaved people from Malaysia, Indonesia and various African countries who were forcibly brought to the city in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Bo-Kaap Museum recreates the life of a typical Malay family, among others, and the building itself dates to the 1760s. For a more personal perspective, book a cooking experience with Fayruza Abrahams owner of Taste Malay in the Bo-Kaap. She teaches guests to prepare traditional Cape Malay dishes, while sharing the story of her and the community firsthand.
The Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum is housed in what was an original hostel, built in 1958 with the establishment of Lwandle, 40 kilometres outside of Cape Town. It’s a memorial to the system of migrant labour, single-sex hostels, and the control of black workers through the identity document that controlled the lives of black South Africans under apartheid.
The District Six Museum tells the life stories and history of District Six’s residents who were forcibly removed from the area during apartheid.
Other museums to consider include The Iziko Slave Lodge, The Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome (the most advanced digital planetarium on the African continent), or The Koopmans-de Wet House (furnished as a home for a well-to-do Cape family during the late 18th century), but there are many more (visit iziko.org.za).
The Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) in the V&A Waterfront’s Grain Silo (a historic building itself) spans nine floors and houses the most significant collection of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora.
The Iziko South African National Gallery in the Company Gardens houses a large and critically engaging collection of historical, modern and contemporary artworks from South Africa and abroad.
Other galleries include the Everard Read, The Cape Gallery, the AVA (Association for Visual Arts) and many more. If you’re unsure about where to start, artroute.co.za creates custom art tours showcasing the best art galleries in and around Cape Town with a knowledgeable guide.
Geared for tourists: It’s well worth getting a City Pass. This digital pass gets you free entry to more than 80 attractions, free transport with City Sightseeing, and up to 65% discount on entrance fees.
Getting around: The MyCiti bus rapid transit service is very convenient, e-hailing services such as Uber and Bolt are available, as are taxi-cab services. Alternatively, use the City Sightseeing bus or if you’re in Franschhoek Valley, the Franschhoek Wine Tram hop-on hop-off tour. To take the train to Kalk Bay, you’ll need a ticket for the Southern Line.
Getting there: SAA flies between Cape Town and São Paulo twice a week, as well as from between Johannesburg and São Paulo twice weekly.
Cape Point National Park: Standard entry fee is R376, but discounts apply to children, South Africans and SADC nationals.
Visit www.capetown.travel for more information.