Cape Town is a vibrant city with a mix of cultures, beautiful landscapes, beaches, and plenty of activities. With these activities, you should be able to get a good feel for the Mother City and what it is all about. We’ve included activity costs and some safety precautions to help you plan your trip. Here are our 8 fun things to do in Cape Town.
Everyone goes to Table Mountain as the views from the top are incredible. When visiting Table Mountain, you can either hike up or take the cable car. We did both as we hiked to near the top on our first attempt, and turned back because it was clouded in. There are several hiking routes up the mountain, some are longer, some more difficult, but all get you to the same spot. It can be more cloudy in the winter and even rainy, so plan accordingly on your route and know when to turn around if things get rough.
A week later we took the cable car up as we felt we already hiked enough the first time and the weather improved. At the top is a beautiful view of the ocean and the City Bowl District. The ride up was pretty cool as the entire cabin spun in a circle so it didn’t matter where you were standing; the views would eventually come to you. There are plenty of small trails near the cable car that offer different vantage points. On days when it is too windy, the cable car will be closed and you will have to hike both ways. This closure can even happen mid-day, so if the wind starts picking up, getting back down quickly should be a priority.
Fun Fact: Table Mountain is over 260 million years old, which is older than the Andes, the Rockies, the Alps and the Himalayas.
The cost is free if you hike one of the many trails leading to the top. For the cable ride, the price varies depending on the time of day, citizenship, and the age of the person. The latest pricing information is on their website here.
- Make sure your car is parked in a well-traveled area and you leave absolutely nothing visible in the vehicle. Lock your doors, and physically check that they actually did lock. We learned this lesson the hard way.
- If you have a nice camera, you can take them, but be discrete and don’t leave it on your shoulder. If thieves see you have this, you may make yourself a target. Do not take any valuables you do not have insured.
- Travel in a larger group if possible, especially if you have expensive equipment with you.
- Bring as little as possible. If you don’t need it and don’t want to lose it, leave it at your locked accommodation in a room safe.
- Check the weather before you go and plan according, things can change very quickly.
- If possible, let someone know you are going and when to expect you back.
Boulders Beach is near Simon’s Town which is one of South Africa’s oldest towns and a former naval base. The beach itself is loaded with thousands of cute little penguins doing what penguins do. Entertaining humans! The beach also has boulders that are 540 million years old. While we were there, the area was crowded with people so we suggest you go early to beat the tour buses. Seasonality does matter, although it was still busy during the off season of winter.
Experiencing the massive amount of penguins in the colony was pretty amazing. We have heard that you can go to nearby beaches and avoid the fee, but you will not see as many. That may be okay for some, but for us it was completely worth it to get closer to them. So cute!
Fun Fact: When African Penguins dive, the go down to 30m on average, but as deep as 130m.
Do not get to close to the penguins as they have razor-sharp beaks that could hurt you.
Cape Point was a lovely place to go see as it is the most southwestern point on the continent. It is not however the southernmost point as some may claim. It is home to some beautiful beaches, a lighthouse, and sea cliffs 200 meters above sea level (656ft). It also has a funicular, but we like hiking, so that was out of the question. You can hike to the point at either the Lighthouse Keepers Trail or the Cape of Good Hope Trail. Either route will get you to some stunning views.
We spent quite a bit of time here hiking around and getting blown away by the scenery. The mix of clouds, sun, and the light sea breeze were magical. We sure were tired as we didn’t follow the tourist route the whole time; we like the odd pathways.
Fun Fact: Cape Point air is among the cleanest in the world and houses an atmospheric research center.
The cost to get into the park is quite expensive for international visitors at R303 per person ($21). There are additional costs if you want to ride the funicular. See all of the latest pricing info at this website.
Beware of the baboons that hang around the parking areas. They like to steal things, so do not leave any windows open and be careful when opening doors. They like to charge in, take your things, and run off with them. They are cute to look at, but most deserve some prison time. These are mostly in the lower parking lot near the water, but can be anywhere around the cape.
This waterfront area is home to many shops and restaurants. It is the gateway to many tourist activities as well. Boats leave here daily to Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was held). You can book helicopter tours or boat cruises from this location. We spent most of our time here shopping and having a nice meal. It is a little slice of Europe on the South African coast. It was a good place to relax from all of the hiking and sightseeing
Fun Fact: The clock tower in V&A Waterfront was built in 1882.
This area is very safe compared with many areas of Cape Town. It is one of the most protected areas of town with security everywhere. Still, you aren’t immune to theft, so keep your belongings safe and know your surroundings well.
This was one of our favorite places to visit in Cape Town. The Kirstenbosch Gardens are well maintained and very beautiful. There are so many exotic plants to see in this garden, and you get a wonderful view of Table Mountain in the background. There is a bridge that acts as a viewing platform to get a top-down look at some of the gardens. With so many paths to explore that it isn’t hard to spend a whole day here. There is also a restaurant in the gardens in case you get hungry.
Fun Fact: It is the first garden in the world to be included in a natural world heritage site.
Cost R25 for South African residents ($1.75) and R40 for non-residents ($2.79)
This place is fee-based and full mostly of tourists. We were there with our expensive cameras out the whole time, and it felt pretty safe. When hiking to Table Mountain from here, be extra cautious as it is a less populated route.
Truth Coffee and Bo-Kaap
We started our day going to Truth Coffee. They have an excellent menu for breakfast and the coffee is very good too. The shop is steampunk-themed where all staff members are decked out in steampunk clothing (awesome), and the decor of the shop matches. It is not far from Bo-Kaap and completely worth the experience.
Bo-Kaap was built largely for artisans of Cape Town, but subsequently occupied by people of Muslim faith. Bo-Kaap is known mostly for its colorful buildings. Most people go here for the photographs, but there is also a museum to learn some of the history of the area and its influences. Definitely get the photos there, and go early to avoid the crowds. This place doesn’t require a lot of time, so you can keep exploring the city for the rest of the day.
Fun Fact: The houses in Bo-Kaap were originally painted white. The houses were painted different colors as a symbol of freedom by former slaves.
Cost R20 for Adults for Museum Only ($1.40)
Inside Truth coffee and around Bo-Kaap exercise normal safety precautions. Feel the areas out and keep your valuables safe.
Stellenbosch Wine Tour
Going to Stellenbosch can be overwhelming with so many vineyards to choose from. We went to Jordan Wine Estate, and that was a great choice. It had a view of the countryside and it was a good place to sip wine while we relaxed. We got a flight of wines so we could get a good sampling. This area has the perfect climate for wine and also for visiting year-round.
Fun Fact: Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa. Cape town was the first.
Just the obvious; do not drink too much and drive. Other than that, you should be fine in the vineyards. Enjoy yourself!
Castle of Good Hope
The Dutch settled the area near the Cape of Good Hope to use a stopping point for ships traveling from Asia to Europe. The castle was put in place to help defend the port in case of an attack from the British. Today there are two museums in the castle that take you through the history, and you can also walk most of the grounds of the castle and tour the inside as well. We spent a lot more time here than we expected, but it was worth it. If you time it right, they also fire off canons a couple times per day. We unfortunately didn’t get to see this.
The castle grounds were fun to explore. The roof of the building was accessible so it was easy to get a feel for the place. We spent plenty of time up there, as well as the courtyard area. The place wasn’t overcrowded with tourists either, so it was easy to navigate.
Fun Fact: They painted the castle yellow to survive the African sun
Cost R50 for adults ($3.49) and R25 for seniors and children ($1.74)
Inside the castle grounds, you should be fine. Outside of the grounds exercise the same precautions you would at Table Mountain as it is near the central station where petty crimes happen often.
Things for Next Time
- Township Tour – Langa or Khayelitsha (go with a guide)
- Drive the Garden Route and Chapman’s Peak
- Hike Lion’s Head
- Robben Island Tour
Where have you been in Cape Town? Let us know some other places to see when you visit.
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