Often selected as one of the best tourist destinations, Cape Town is the city everyone dreams of visiting. Though, it has its confusing moments. Driving from the airport to the city, you will see deteriorating shacks on both sides of the highway. When you reach the ocean, the million-dollar worth of mansions will replace the townships. If it wasn’t for its location on the map, it would be hard to believe you are in Africa because Cape Town is a fusion of Europe, The US, and Africa. Yet, this chaotic atmosphere creates a strange harmony, together with an unmatched nature right by the city. Here is everything you need to know about this cosmopolitan African hub.
Cape Town International Airport receives regular flights from nearly everywhere. Although there are direct flights, these tend to be more expensive. The cheaper flights will have a stopover in Dubai, Doha, or even Johannesburg.
Although public transport is present, it is not as convenient as cities like Tokyo or London. If you want to explore the countryside, such as the wine region, your best bet is to hire a car. All you need is a driver’s license and a little practice for driving on the right side if you are not used to it.
The next most reliable option is Uber. It is convenient, safe, and affordable for your travels within the city.
MyCiti bus runs regularly during the week, but its routes are limited to mostly the central areas. Trains go as far as Simon’s Town, but they experience delays and become dodgy at night due to petty theft.
Things To Do
There are two types of tourist attractions in Cape Town – the ones in the city center, and the ones on the outskirts.
- District 6
This area was once a multicultural neighborhood until non-white people were forced to relocate during Apartheid. The District 6 Museum is very informative and touching, as it takes you back to those years.
- Company’s Garden
The garden is not only a lush getaway packed with cute squirrels, but it is also home to the National Gallery, Iziko Slave Museum, and a Planetarium.
- ZEITZ MOCAA
The largest museum of contemporary art in Africa has been established in 2017, showcasing exhibitions from famous South African artists.
The neighborhood is one of the most picturesque places in the city with its colorful houses. What’s more interesting is the history of the Cape Malay community that has been living there ever since they were brought to the area as slaves during the first colonization period.
With a short ferry ride, you can reach the island that features the old prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his jail sentence.
- Waterfront Shopping Center
As one of the most touristic locations of Cape Town, Waterfront is a massive complex full of fine-dining restaurants, five-star hotels, a Ferris Wheel, museums, and several authentic markets.
This massive fortress remains intact as one of the oldest structures in South Africa.
- Long Street
Ideal for gourmet restaurants, bookshops, and night clubs
- Loop, Bree, and Kloof Street
A more alternative and possibly safer version of Long Street
- Old Biscuit Mill
It is a smaller version of Waterfront known for its quirky galleries, weekend food markets, and live performances. It also features Test Kitchen, the award-winning fine dining restaurant of the city.
- Green Point, Sea Point
These two coastal neighborhoods boast an affluent lifestyle with fancy houses, hotels, a lovely promenade, numerous restaurants of different world cuisines, and magnificent views of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head
- Lion’s Head and Signal Hill
Nestled between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, Lion’s Head is the closest hiking spot to the city, and the easiest. The views of the Atlantic Ocean are breathtaking.
Table Mountain is a natural wonder with its iconic silhouette, comprising various hiking routes with different difficulty levels.
- Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
A tranquil botanical garden, where you can find out about the indigenous Cape fynbos
Outside the City
- Clifton and Camps Bay:
They are a set of scenic beaches resembling the California coast, and offering several spots for surfing and sunbathing.
- Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point
The southern tip of Cape Peninsula (not Africa), where you can find out about the arrival of the European settlers while hiking or driving around breathtaking lookout points
- Simon’s Town
The town is home to the endangered colony of Southern African penguins.
- Chapman’s Peak
Many people consider it one of the most scenic drives of the world, so you must drive through here and pull over at various lookout points to take in the unrivaled views.
It is known for the iconic colorful cabins and its relatively warm waters suitable for every level of surfing.
The mass wine production first started in Constantia with the help of the Dutch and French settlers. The area is full of world-class wine farms, where you can do a wine tasting for reasonable prices.
- Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek
These are the other renowned wine regions just outside Cape Town. They stand out with their historic monuments, Dutch and French heritage, as well as fine-dining restaurants, and lesser-known hiking spots.
Hostels start from 200-300 ZAR per night per person. Starred hotel prices will increase significantly to four-digit numbers, particularly in central Cape Town.
Airbnb and Couchsurfing are also quite reliable options if you want to have your own space. Couchsurfing expat community is very active in Cape Town, which gives you a chance to stay with locals and experience the local life more closely.
Cape Town’s variety of cultures gave rise to a fusion of different cuisines combining the traditional and the western.
Traditional meals include Braai – the South African barbecue, and Cape Malay cuisine. The city also has a rich selection of seafood, with hake, calamari, crayfish, and mussel being the most demanded.
Besides traditional food, you will have the chance to try out restaurants presenting world cuisine, such as Italian, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, and Turkish.
The vegan lifestyle is becoming more common every day amongst Capetownians; so many restaurants have vegan-friendly options.
Wine is an important part of the South African experience. You can visit the wine farms around the city to taste the collection of locally produced wines. There are also several locally crafted beer and gin types.
Things You Might Need To Know
It is usually safe to walk around the central areas and suburbs during the day; however, you shouldn’t walk alone at night under any circumstance. You must be vigilant on the street and avoid flashing your valuables. Pickpocketing and petty theft are common at night, usually targeting tourists.
Public transport might be dangerous at night especially if the vehicle is near-empty. If you are self-driving, you should never leave any valuables in the car in a visible way. The same applies to your hotel room, meaning you shouldn’t leave valuables by the window.
If you are street-smart and aware, it is very unlikely for you to run into an issue.
There are no vaccinations needed to travel to South Africa.
The city experiences typical Mediterranean Climate with warm and dry summers in December-March and mild and rainy winters in May-August. The city is also known for its strong winds especially on the Atlantic side.