A sailor aboard the 16th-century ship Golden Hind saw Cape Town and said, “It’s the most beautiful cape I’ve ever seen.” Almost 450 years later, I can’t help but agree. This is a city that promises a lot and keeps it. Therefore, as a South African expert, I would recommend it straight away without any problems.
Cape Town has it all. The beauty of its natural location cannot be overemphasized. You can see Table Mountain rising on one side and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the other. As South Africa’s first city, it is deeply connected to South Africa’s history and is home to major attractions and some of the country’s best museums.
Then there is the weather. It’s clever enough to ensure you find an excuse to get out most of the time, whether it’s for a day at the beach or a hike. So my pick of the 25 best things to do in Cape Town is not only diverse but unforgettable. If you miss it, please do so at your own risk.
1. Bree Street
Praised by Vogue and others, Bully Street has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings. The name of perhaps Cape Town’s trendiest address comes from the Dutch word for ‘wide’. The oxcart was intentionally widened to allow it to turn.
These days, his street art is getting more attention than animal droppings. For example, it also includes amazing building murals. A place to stay after a lazy afternoon. There is no shortage of cafes and bars. All of them are very small, so you won’t get lost in the crowd. Add to that a selection of chic homemade crafts, from fabrics to pottery, to enhance your leisure time.
2. Signal Hill
Signal Hill is on one side of Table Mountain and is the site of the Noon Cannon, which fires at noon most days. The history of the weapon itself dates back to 1794, making it the oldest weapon in the world in everyday use. The 18-pounder is serviced by the South African Navy and fires every day except Sundays and public holidays.
The hill is also a great alternative to hiking Table Mountain. There is also a parking lot near the summit for those who don’t want to walk. There are a few street vendors at the top and a place where you can rent mats to watch the sunset.
3. Saint George’s Cathedral
The first St. George’s Cathedral was opened to the congregation in 1834. But St George’s Cathedral is more than just a historic place of worship for Cape Town’s Anglican community. It also played an interesting role in the anti-apartheid movement.
The replacement building was designed by the noted British architect Herbert Baker in the early 20th century. Construction is not finished yet. Nevertheless, the ceremony has already entered the history books as cathedral authorities defied apartheid’s segregation laws and welcomed all to worship.
Led by 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Damond Tutu, in 1989 he led 30,000 people to protest against apartheid in the cathedral, which ended just five years after him.
4. District Six Museum
Another link to South Africa’s past racism, the District Six Museum tells the story of one district of Cape Town. Apartheid authorities forced the resettlement of 60,000 non-white residents in the once multi-ethnic city.
Most of the central room is occupied by a map showing the homes of specific residents. Many of these houses were demolished in the course of redevelopment policies, leaving much of the area in disrepair to this day.
What makes this museum unique is its focus on the individual. This makes it a must-do tour of Cape Town, even for those who already know about Cape Town’s apartheid past.
5. Chapman’s Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive is a short but spectacular coastal drive popular with cyclists. Linking Nordhoek and Hout Bay, the road promises sheer cliffs, captivating views of the Atlantic Ocean, and an impressive series of engineering structures that protect the road from falling rocks.
If you count carefully, Chapman’s Peak Drive has 114 turns. This means that you never look at the same view for more than a few seconds. Additionally, a drive south leads to Cape Point Nature Reserve, making for the perfect day trip.
6. Llandudno Beach
It’s not as famous as Clifton Beach, but that’s exactly why we chose Llandudno Beach for those looking for peace and quiet. The beach is nestled within a small arched cove and offers a magnificent stretch of rich golden sand.
Due to Cape Town’s Atlantic coast, the sea can be cold. But there are plenty of other reasons to visit, from sunbathing to building sandcastles. Llandudno Beach also has a reputation as a romantic spot and is popular with couples at sunset. The rock on the left side of the beach is known as Sunset Rock.
7. Old Biscuit Mill
Built-in the late 19th century, the Old Biscuit Mill has been transformed from a factory building into a cool Woodstock hangout. Many craftsmen are based in old buildings. There are also plenty of offices and restaurants for designers. The farm shop sells the best local produce from Cape Town’s farmlands, as well as sweet and savory treats that require no cooking time.
The Old Biscuit Mill hosts a market day and night. One of the most popular markets for locals is the Navergoods Market. This family-friendly event is a gourmet lover’s paradise.
8. Mitchell’s Plain Township
The term “township” refers to a settlement established by the apartheid regime to house the non-white population of South Africa. Although the country has been a democracy since 1994, most of Cape Town’s non-white residents still live in townships. This also includes Mitchell’s Plain. In fact, many residents of District 6 were forced to relocate here.
Located in False Bay, about 20 kilometers from downtown Cape Town, tourism is used as a means of community improvement. Join an official guided tour and learn the realities of life for most South Africans.
9. Groote Schuur
Groote Schuur means ‘big hut’ in Dutch and was first used as a farm in the 1650s. The Cape Dutch building changed hands over the centuries and was purchased by Cecil Rhodes in 1893. He paid £60,000 for the property, a huge sum for the time.
For nearly 100 years, it has been the home of South Africa’s prime ministers and subsequent presidents, as well as the site of key meetings between striker De Klerk and Nelson Mandela. Open by appointment, the museum offers visitors the opportunity to view surviving furniture and books and learn about its place in South Africa’s history.
10. Wine tasting
Cape Town and the vineyards have worked closely together since the founding of the city. Not surprisingly, most of the big names in the wine industry are based outside the city, in towns such as Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Wellington, and Paarl.
Many tours are organized to visit the wine regions of each of these regions. If I had to suggest one, check out this tour that includes 3 winery visits. However, he doesn’t have to leave Cape Town to indulge in one of Cape Town’s most popular exports.
There are tasting rooms throughout the city, and most wine shops in the city are happy to offer tastings as well. South Africa has more content to read:
11. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are important not only as a place to protect South Africa’s endemic plant species but also as a playground within the Cape Town city limits. Located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the gardens are as close as possible to what the area looked like before the arrival of European colonists.
Kirstenbosch was only founded in 1913 but is still steeped in history. Sights include some of the wild almond hedges planted by South Africa’s first colonist, Jan van Riebeck. One of his more modern versions of the garden is a walkway above the Boomslang trees. Named after a venomous South African snake, it meanders through Kirstenbosch Arboretum. It is 130 meters long and offers intimate views of the gardens, the Cape Flats community, and the mountains.
12. Two Oceans Aquarium
The Two Oceans Aquarium is part of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and owes its name to the fact that the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet not far from Cape Town. Still, there are sea creatures from all over the world here. The Diversity Gallery highlights the role of South Africa’s Benguela and Agulhas Currents through species such as seahorses, moray eels, and clownfish.
The walk-in tunnel now holds 1.6 million liters of seawater and is home to rays, turtles, and more. The shark exhibit celebrates the endangered reef shark. But the biggest exhibit is the Kelp Forest exhibit. Rockhopper penguins represent the natural habitat of a wide variety of creatures, which they use for their daily locomotion.
13. Boulders Beach
To see Africa’s only land-dwelling penguins, just drive to Boulders Beach. Near Simon’s Town, a Cape Town suburb, this beach unexpectedly became a habitat for African penguins in 1982.
Since then, the small colony has continued to grow and now has about 3,000 birds. Boardwalks have been constructed so that visitors can observe these noisy animals. The call is similar to that of a donkey, but another name is the gentoo penguin. If you’re interested in a guided tour, this tour includes Table Mountain, Cape Point, and Boulders Beach.
14. Iziko South African Museum
Housed in an elegant building at the edge of the Company’s Gardens, the Iziko South African Museum houses collections ranging from zoology to archaeology. The world-famous Lydenburgh’s head, some of the oldest Iron Age art found in South Africa, is on display across his four floors.
Nature plays an important role in museums. Classifications of whales, birds, sharks, and mammals are displayed in separate galleries. Level 3 lets you explore his 250-million-year-old reptilian bones found in the country’s arid Karoo region.
15. Muizenberg Beach
Muizenberg is one of Cape Town’s most popular beaches, known for its well-photographed rows of beach huts in primary colors. Located in the suburb of the same name, this beach has been awarded the Blue Flag for its cleanliness and abundance of soft sand, despite the crowds.
Muizenberg is guarded by lifeguards during swimming season and is also the birthplace of surfing in South Africa. A great place to jump on a board for the first time. Waves are rarely big enough to cause problems for beginners. Muizenberg Beach is family fun and a great break from the cultural attractions of central Cape Town.
16. Table Mountain
Table Mountain is more than an impressive backdrop to Cape Town. Located within South Africa’s most visited national park, its slopes are covered with unique fynbos flora, including spectacular proteas. Among these flowers, there are also lizards and cute rock hyraxes. Numerous raptors watch as they make their way up the mountainside using thermals.
Popular with hikers and trekkers, even the easiest route to the summit following the Platteklip Gorge is a tough challenge for the legs. But fear not. The Table Mountain Cable Car provides easy access to the famously flat summit. At 1,000 meters above sea level, it culminates at McClair’s Beacon, and the lookout offers endless panoramas of the city below. It can easily take an hour or more to fully explore. It gets pretty cold at the top, so we recommend bringing a sweater!
17. Robben Island
Robben Island, visible as a small oval from Table Mountain, has for centuries been an obvious place for authorities to exile their most troublesome prisoners. From 1964 to his 1982, this included Nobel Peace Prize winner and future South African President Nelson Mandela. The island became a tourist attraction in the 1990s after being imprisoned for high treason against the apartheid state of South Africa.
Tours are often organized by other former political prisoners. This included visits to Mandela’s cell and quarry, where he was forced to split rocks by hand. To understand South Africa’s modern political history, there is no more immersive way to understand South Africa’s modern political history than a visit to Robben Island (which, in my opinion, is a must).
18. Company’s Garden
The Company’s Garden meanders through a narrow strip of central Cape Town and is named after the Dutch East India Company. This was the first organization established by Cape Town. She planted a garden to provide the ships with fresh fruits and vegetables. Established in the 1650s, it is South Africa’s oldest private garden. One of his pear trees was planted in 1652. The garden is a beautiful place to relax listening to the birds chirping and the water murmuring. After exploring monuments such as the increasingly controversial statue of Cecil John Rhodes, there are plenty of shaded benches.
19. Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
One of Cape Town’s newest attractions, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront has transformed a boat-building yard into a vibrant restaurant and shopping district. A mix of modern shopping centers and alfresco shopping in historic harbor buildings, it’s a holiday destination all year round.
It’s hard to just sit with a view of Table Mountain, but the Cape Wheel gives you the chance to take it all in. Nearby, a handful of cape seals, with their striking odor, bask on the sun-drenched walkways before bathing in the harbor.
20. South African National Gallery
The South African National Gallery was founded in 1872, but its current home dates back to 1930. Containing a permanent collection, it mainly showcases British, French, and Dutch art, with a focus on European culture. In recent years, the gallery has used temporary exhibitions to focus on contemporary works, creating an interesting mix of styles.
Artists in the collection include Abraham van Beerstraten and Thomas Baines, known for their colonial South African paintings. His sculptural works include ‘Butcher Boys by acclaimed South African artist Jane Alexander.
21. Castle of Good Hope
Once at the edge of Table Bay, the Castle of Good Hope is now tucked away next to the main train and bus station. Nevertheless, the 17th-century fort is an essential part of any tour of Cape Town.
The castle is South Africa’s oldest colonial building and was built by the Dutch East India Company. It is widely regarded as the best fortress of its kind in the world. Consisting of a star-shaped fortress, it features impressive architecture and an original moat. On-site attractions include a torture chamber, slave barracks, and a military museum.
22. Green Point
One of several upmarket neighborhoods along the coast, Green Point is also known as Cape Town’s Soho for nightlife. During the day a Capetonian visits Greenpoint his park. It includes various hiking and jogging routes, as well as a maze and a biodiversity garden. The red-and-white-striped square lighthouse is a compelling photo spot, as is his nearby art installation, Mandela’s Glasses.
In the evening, the main street draws attention. A variety of relaxed dining options are available here, including burger joints, and Cuban and Italian cuisines. For seafood, consider Seapoint his Promenade instead.
23. Long Street
Long Street stretches from the Harborside Convention Center to the lower slopes of Table Mountain. Along the way, you’ll find a variety of independent cafes, bookstores, and antique shops.
Many buildings are lined with elegant wrought-iron balconies, and the streets retain their Victorian boulevard feel before transforming again in the evening. Many restaurants, bars, and clubs take center stage during this time. Needless to say, the fun continues late into the night…
Colorful Bo-Kaap is perhaps Cape Town’s most distinctive district. Located at the foot of Signal Hill, just 5 minutes from the center of Cape Town. Bo-Kaap’s unique character is due to Southeast Asian immigrants who settled in the area in the 1760s. A mix of Cape Dutch and Georgian architecture, the district’s buildings feature bold color schemes as a tribute to liberation from slavery.
Wale Street is home to the oldest building in the area, now the Bo-Kaap Museum. But in my opinion, the best way to enjoy Bo Kaap is to stroll its cobbled streets. The mood is even better when you hear the sounds of Muzanjin at the local mosque.
25. Zeitz MOCAA
One of the newest additions to the Cape Town skyline is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. His renovated nine-story grain elevator opened to the world in 2017, growing into the world’s largest gallery of contemporary African art.
Supported by an impressive variety of special exhibitions and beautiful permanent collections, visitors are sure to have a lot to experience. From every color of the rainbow to truly thought-provoking new additions, complete your trip to the Zeitz MOCAA and take the elevator to the rooftop restaurant.