There are so many reasons Cape Town should be on your travel bucket list including breathtaking landscapes, incredible foods, vintage wines, trendy bars and cafes, craft beer on tap, and some of the planet’s friendliest people. These are just a few of the things you’ll find in Cape Town.
Cape Town has earned its title the “Mother City” in South Africa. It just has so much to offer! Regardless of your tastes and preferences, there is something in Cape Town for everyone.
It is consistently ranked one of the top tourist destinations year on year. Wouldn’t you like to find out first hand why?
With the weak South African Rand (local currency), there is no time better than the present to come and explore this mother of South African cities.
Oh, and did I mention Table Mountain? The chance to play with cute jackass penguins on white sandy beaches? The vast of amount of classic wines and genuine craft beers?
I think you have enough reasons why Cape Town has to be on every wanderlust traveler’s bucket list.
How to get to Cape Town
First step: how do I get there?
Getting to Cape Town has never been easier! There are plenty of direct flights to Cape Town from all over the world these days.
For the slightly more cash strapped travelers there are more and more cheaper flights to South Africa these days. These usually involve a stopover in the Middle East or further north in Africa. I’ve often seen flights with stopovers less than half the price of direct flights.
Exploring Cape Town
Flying into Cape Town you’re going to notice something pretty quickly:
Cape Town is a really big city! But I guess that is what you get when you decide to develop a city around a mountain.
The easiest and most practical way to explore Cape Town is going to be to hire a rental car. If you are travelling with 2 or more people, travelling with a rental car is also going to be the cheapest way to get around.
As with most major cities, there are plenty of car hire stations at the airport.
If you aren’t going to be able to hire a car, don’t sweat it! There are other ways of getting around.
First of all, we have Uber in Cape Town. This is essentially an app which you can use to get Uber “cabs”. These tend to be substantially better priced than using traditional cabs and really convenient to use as you pay with your credit card via the app.
Secondly, there are sight-seeing buses which have hop and hop services with stops at the biggest tourist spots. This is a great way for solo travelers to see all Cape Town has to offer.
If you are staying in central Cape Town (we’ll get to this just now), it also safe to walk around the busy parts of town during the day!
Where to stay in Cape Town
In case you still don’t believe me how big Cape Town is, take a look at it on Google Maps.
Now try and figure out where you should stay?
The best spot for tourists to stay to get the best Cape Town experience is going to be the area which is known as the “City Bowl”. The City Bowl is the central area of Cape Town which is surrounded by Table Mountain, Signal Hill, and the waterfront.
The two most popular neighborhoods are Gardens and Tamboerskloof. These are very close to a couple of streets you will definitely be spending a fair amount of time in whilst in Cape Town: Bree Street, Kloof Street, and Long Street.
Bree Street is well renowned for having some of the best and trendiest restaurants in Cape Town.
Long Street might even be more infamous than it is famous! This is where the night life happens. From bars stocking craft beers from around the globe to trance party night clubs, this is where the “jol” is at. Jol is South African slang for party. No holiday in Cape Town is complete without a night out on Long Street.
Sure there are other great places to stay in Cape Town which also have amazing views, but none have an atmosphere quite like the City Bowl.
There is plenty of accommodation in the City Bowl: luxury hotels, cozy guest houses, to friendly backpackers.
If you are planning on travelling to Cape Town during December and January, make sure to book your accommodation well in advance to avoid disappointment as this is our busy season!
Cape Town “To Do” List
Who doesn’t love a good list?
Well for those of you who don’t usually (perhaps because you associate them with work, grocery shopping, or chores) hopefully this one can a bring a smile to your face.
There is so much to see and do in Cape Town that it would be impossible to write about it all in a single blog post, let alone to do it all in one vacation.
Below is my personal list of things I think travelers should try their best to do while in Cape Town:
- Table Mountain – Cape Town’s most famous landmark. If you are feeling lazy take the cable car up, but if you are feeling like a beautiful hike with the most rewarding views ever, take a hike up the Platteklip Gorge path.
- Lions head – Some might feel that you won’t need to do this after Table Mountain, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Enjoy an easy 45 minutes’ walk / hike up Lions head to experience some panoramic views of Cape Town.
- Chapmans Peak – This is the kind of road road-trips are made of. Winding stretches of rugged, beautiful coastline. You need to do this at least once during your stay. I recommend going along this route on your way to our next spot on the “to do” list…
- Cape of Good Hope – Enjoy a scenic drive down to the southernmost point of Cape Town also known as Cape Point. Here you can enjoy more stunning views of the untouched coast of this nature reserve.
- Boulders Beach – Who doesn’t like cute penguins? Boulders beach is famous for its local inhabitants, the jackass penguins. These guys aren’t shy so you’ll get plenty of great photos. Boulder’s beach is also lovely for sun bathing and swimming too! If you are travelling with kids, this is a must as a day trip.
- Robben Island Tour – Just like Table Mountain is the most icon feature of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela is the most iconic person in South African history. And if history is your thing, you should definitely take a boat ride to this island where he was held prisoner for numerous years.
- V & A Waterfront – Shop till you drop at this world class mall which is built right next to a functioning harbor. From international brands to local arts and crafts, this is where shoppers need to go. But it’s not all shops! The water front also has plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars.
- Truth Coffee – Was the Daily Telegraph correct in naming this coffee shop as one of the best in the world? I think you should find out for yourselves. Even if you don’t drink coffee, this coffee shop is worth a visit!
- Mzansi restaurant – Currently the number 1 restaurant on TripAdvisor for Cape Town. I have a feeling it will stay there as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Mzansi is a restaurant on the edge of the Lange Township which serves a buffet meal of authentic African cuisine. Ironically enough, there are so few restaurants which serve African cuisine, but Mzansi does it best. Added to the African meal there are usually locals entertaining guests with traditional music and sometimes dances. I always suggest travelers take a cab to Mzansis as it is a township and getting lost there could be dangerous.
Most importantly just have fun! This is not a sight-seeing competition, so don’t forget to relax and soak up the South Africa sun and vibe while you are here.
A South Africa holiday experience
Chances are that once you’ve experienced Cape Town you are going to want to see more if not all of South Africa. And I won’t blame you!
South Africa is a really great travel destination with so much to see and do.
As amazing as Cape Town is, there are also some really nice spots close by which make for good day trips.
Less than an hour from Cape Town and you will yourself in the heart of the Cape Winelands. There are dozens of vineyards and wineries to visit with hundreds of local wines and cheeses to taste. The two main towns to visit are Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
My favourite is Franschhoek. I just love its old Cape Dutch feel and mountainous backdrop. The Franschhoek Wine Tram is also a really great way to visit the surrounding wineries without having to worry about drinking and driving!
If whale watching or shark cage diving are activities which you think you’ll enjoy, another cool day trip is up the coast to Hermanus and Gansbaai.
Hermanus is where the whale watching happens, while Gansbaai is where you get up close to the great white sharks.
Travelling through this part of the world and having a dream South Africa holiday can get expensive, but it doesn’t have to.
If you want to visit South Africa, but still keep an eye on your bank balance, take a look at this guide: The cheap South Africa Holiday Tour.
A cheap safari holiday?
Travelling all the way to Africa and not going on a safari?
Who does that?
That would be like going to the Oktoberfest and not having a beer!
Unfortunately, safaris can get pretty darn expensive. Especially the ones most people want to go on, where it’s just you and a close group of friends in the bush.
Luckily there are some tips you can follow to experience a top quality safari at a low cost. This cheap safari holiday guide will show you how to see the African Big 5 at a price suited to your budget.
A bit about our tour guide/guest writer – Noel Jansen
Author Bio: After working for a couple of years in England and Germany as an engineer, I decided to quit my job and return to my home of South Africa. Here I’ve set up a holiday business organizing tours to South Africa! When I’m not in the office, you’ll most likely find me on the mountain bike trails, at the beach trying to surf, or standing behind the braai! Braai is a South African version of a BBQ by the way.