I kind of feel like Cape Town has it all: beaches, mountains, colorful neighborhoods, and vineyards, all blended together to make one beautiful city. Our Cape Town guide will provide you with all you need to know to enjoy a perfect visit to the Mother City, including our recommendations for things to do, where to stay
Having traveled all around the world, it is without hesitation that I still say that Cape Town is the world’s most naturally beautiful city. The contrast between the mountains, ocean, and beach is unlike anything else I’ve seen. There are so many stunning things to see and activities to do in and around Cape Town, it’s no wonder Nelson Mandela said “The Cape is South Africa’s gift to the world”.
On the one hand, so many people rave about Cape Town and how beautiful the surrounding nature is, how excellent the food tastes, and how friendly the people are. On the other hand, Cape Town is also a place where socio-economic inequality is perhaps the most visible of any country I’ve ever been to. Cape Town is amazing. And also complicated. Five days is just enough to scratch the surface and realize how much more there is to this place.
South Africa is a wonderful and very diverse country. I recommend going there when it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere so you can enjoy their summer. I went to Cape Town, did a road trip in the Western Cape (including the Garden Route), and went to Kruger Park. In this travel blog, I’ll tell you what to do, and where to stay in Cape Town
Table Mountain is perhaps Cape Town’s most well-known attraction and is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Famous for its impossibly flat “table-like” peak (where it gets its name from), the mountain is visible from all of Cape Town. To visit Table Mountain, you can either hike up (1.5 to 2 hrs) or take the cable car. The cable car is a great experience in and of itself, Once at the top, there are gorgeous vantage points of the city, as well as a restaurant/bar. The best views of Table Mountain itself are from Lions Head in my opinion. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see low-lying clouds fall through the mountain.
Hike Lion’s Head
The Lions Head hike is my favorite hike in the city. The views from the top of Table Mountain, the 12 apostles, and the Atlantic Ocean are just mesmerizing. It’s not an “easy” hike but it is the shortest at 45 minutes to 1 hour. It’s also far less crowded and touristy than Table Mountain since the only way to reach the top is by foot. Bring some wine and hike up for the sunset. Find your own little rock and just watch the sun go down. Nirvana!
Signal Hill, Cape Town
Instead of a hike you can also just drive to Signal hill and watch the sunset at this spot.
Signal Hill is part of Table Mountain National Park and is popular as a sunset spot with locals and tourists alike. It’s called Signal Hill because they used to communicate weather conditions and approaching ships with signal flags from up there. Some people also know Signal Hill as Lion’s Rump because of its shape.
Located at the base of Signal Hill, the Bo-Kaap neighborhood is famous for its colorfully painted houses and cobblestone streets. It was formally known as the Cape Malay Quarter, a township during the Apartheid era. The residents of this neighborhood can still trace their roots back to the Malaysians, Indians, Sri Lankans, and African people brought here by the Dutch as slaves back many centuries ago. The inter-mixing of these various groups through the generations resulted in the “Coloured” demographic.
Clifton And Camps Bay Beaches
Cape Town has some amazing beaches in the city. Camps Bay has a long stretch of sandy beach on the main boardwalk. Clifton, adjacent to Camps Bay, is more secluded and offers some fantastic beaches. Some of the most expensive real estate in the country is in these two neighborhoods.
Cape Point Via Chapman’s Peak
Cape Point is the perfect day trip out of Cape Town. Cape Point is located at the southern tip of Africa where the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean meet. The drive goes through Chapman’s Peak and its windy mountainside roads offering some of the most dramatic views you’ll ever see. The highway will take you through stunning coastal views—Muizenberg’s colorful beach huts, Kalk Bay, Simon’s Town, Boulders Beach (penguins!), Sentinel Peak, and the winding Chapman’s Peak Road. Cape Point is located in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve with dramatic views of the ocean and a charming historical lighthouse.
Boulder’s Beach to see the African Penguins
Just a short drive from the city center, Boulders Beach is home to a colony of African penguins. This lovely beach is also a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking. Be sure to bring your camera so you can snap some photos of these adorable animals! up close. Boulders Beach is located in Simon’s Town, a naval base about an hour's drive from Cape Town. It is one of the few places where you can see African penguins up close in their natural habitat. The best time to visit is early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun is not as harsh.
Keep in mind that Boulder’s Beach is a very popular attraction and it gets very busy at peak times. Nevertheless, you’ll always have great opportunities for photos, and often times you can find a penguin wandering away from the pack close to the sidewalks of humans!
Muizenberg is a small town outside Cape Town and one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets. A largely untapped tourist spot, it’s hard to believe Muizenberg is best known for being one of the most popular beaches with one of the most active surfing communities in South Africa. This beachside suburb supports crowded streets and a bustling beach during the holiday season as locals flock to enjoy this little shoreline town. Though the beach is the main attraction, there’s more to Muizenberg than just sand and water, there are plenty of surf shops, restaurants, and coffee shops located just along the main beach. With a strong colonial history, Muizenberg has great historical attractions along with local hotspots for travelers who are looking to veer off the tourist map and get the most authentic experience.
Head to the beach
While visiting Cape Town, make sure to see one of the many stunning beaches the city has to offer. From Camps Bay to Clifton Beach, there is a beach for every taste and preference. Be sure to pack your sunscreen, swimsuit, and beach towel so you can enjoy a day in the sun! There are so many great beaches in Cape Town that it’s hard to choose just one. Camps Bay is a popular choice for its white sand and turquoise water, while Clifton Beach is perfect for those who want to escape the crowds. No matter which beach you choose, you’re sure to have a great time!
Make Your way around V&A Waterfront
The V&A Waterfront is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cape Town. With over 80 stores and restaurants, there is something for everyone at this vibrant destination. Be sure to check out the Two Oceans Aquarium, the Cape Wheel, and the Nelson Mandela Gateway while you’re here! The V&A Waterfront is a great place to spend a day or two. There are plenty of things to do, including shopping, dining, and exploring the area. The Two Oceans Aquarium is a must-see for animal lovers, while the Cape Wheel offers stunning views of the city.
Chapman`s Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of the most scenic roads in the world, and it’s no wonder that it’s a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The road winds its way along the coastline, offering stunning views of the sea and the cliffs. It’s definitely worth taking your time to enjoy the drive, and there are plenty of places to stop along the way to take photos or just soak up the view. Chapman’s Peak Drive is definitely an experience that you won’t forget.
Go Winte Tasting in Stellenbosch
The wine region of the Western Cape is in my opinion, the most underrated wine region in the world. It’s not undiscovered by any means, but it is lost in the shadows of places like France, Italy, Mendoza, and Napa Valley. I can safely say that Cape Town’s wine region is more stunning than all of the aforementioned.
Get Lost in Kirstenbosch gardens
With over 300 species of proteas, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is home to the largest collection of these unique flowers in the world. The Kirstenbosch Centenary Tree Top Canopy Walkway is also not to be missed when visiting this amazing attraction! Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is an absolute must-see attraction. Opening every day of the year, the admission fee is just R41 for adults. A wide variety of African plants mixed into the garden, with a walking path makes it easy to get lost during the afternoon.
Sundowner at the 12 Apostles hotel
The Twelve Apostles Hotel is truly a sight to behold. With its dramatic setting on the edge of a cliff, the hotel offers breathtaking views of the ocean and the nearby coastline. The hotel’s architecture is also quite stunning, and its rooms are spacious and well-appointed. Despite its luxurious amenities, the Twelve Apostles Hotel remains a warm and inviting place, and its staff is always eager to provide personalized service. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a family-friendly vacation destination, the Twelve Apostles Hotel is sure to please. Looking for a unique drink to sip on while enjoying the views from the 12 Apostles Hotel? So whether you’re enjoying a sunset from the hotel’s rooftop bar or simply relaxing in your room, be sure to order 12 Apostles and enjoy a taste of this one-of-a-kind hotel.
Whale watching in Hermanus
Hermanus is a quaint seaside town about 1.5 hours east of Cape Town that is famous for its whale watching. During the winter months between June and October, Southern Right whales routinely come visit this part of the country. There are multiple daily departures on whale-watching expeditions to see these amazing animals. Also, Hermanus is just an amazing little town with some incredible scenery, and beaches. It is one of the top destinations in the world to kitesurf.
Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned for 27 years of his life. It’s since been decommissioned as a prison and nowadays it is a museum paying tribute to Mandela’s life. It’s a 1-hour ferry ride from Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront to the island where tours run regularly throughout the day. I think for historical purposes, Robben Island is definitely worth the visit.
Need to escape the city? The options are endless around the mountains and national parks. Lion’s Head: One of the more popular hikes in Cape Town is Lion’s Head. It’s a challenging but rewarding climb and is an excellent sunset spot! Skelton Gorge: For a longer hike, make your way up Skelton Gorge. It’s a 4.5-hour trek that will take you through an indigenous forest before ending at the top of Table Mountain. Newlands Forest: There are multiple hikes that you can take inside Newlands Forest. The routes are moderate and will take you through some of the most beautiful parts of Cape Town. Kloof Corner: Only a 20-minute hike up the slopes of Table Mountain is one of the best short hikes in the city. Pack some drinks and enjoy a sundowner while overlooking Camps Bay.
Atlantis Sand Dunes
Located an hour outside of Cape Town, the Atlantis Sand Dunes are the city’s best-kept secret. It’s an excellent place to go sandboarding, quad biking, or on a 4×4 tour. Be aware that no tripods or drones are allowed in the park
Where to stay
There is no shortage of amazing accommodation options in Cape Town. The city has options for travelers of all budgets ranging from the $20 hostels to the $2000 luxury villa in Clifton Beach. The cheaper options will likely be in the city center whereas the options with beach views in Camps Bay, Clifton, Seapoint, and Greenpoint will command a premium. More about our stays in Cape Town
The Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront is a beautiful seaside hotel. From this hotel, you will see striking ocean views. The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle bus to and from the Cape Town Waterfront. Treat yourself to both local and international dishes at the on-site Tobago’s Restaurant, where you can enjoy your meal with a stunning ocean view. Alternatively, you can relax next to the heated rim-flow pool while having a cocktail at Tobago’s Bar & Terrace. You may spot dolphins swimming past while you are eating! Rooms are around 300 a night depending on the season
Located in Cape Town’s trendy suburb of Green Point, Dysart is a 5-star Boutique Hotel offering luxurious and stylish accommodation. The small Hotel has 10 rooms and is just minutes from the V&A Waterfront and De Waterkant. Rooms are around 120 Euro a night depending on the season.
Flanked by South Africa’s iconic Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles mountain range, the stunning Twelve Apostles hotel is on the scenic route just outside of “central” Cape Town. Built around a Dutch-style hunting lodge dating back to 1929, it’s made up of three low-rises, white-washed buildings, connected by skylit walkways with a stay at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town (Oudekraal), you'll be within a 5-minute drive of Table Mountain National Park and Camps Bay Beach. Rooms are around 300 Eur a night depending on the season
This little slice of heaven is a premier location, offering luxury accommodation surrounded by natural Fynbos and a private pathway to the Beach. With uninterrupted views of Table Mountain, Table Bay, Robben Island, and the Atlantic Ocean as far as the eye can see
Situated 20 minutes from central Cape Town, so you aren’t too far from the hustle and bustle of the city but are far enough to get a little breathing room and enjoy the peace and quiet of Sunset Beach. Rooms are around 120 a night depending on the season
Perfectly located pet-friendly lifestyle Suites slap bang in between the bustle of Sea Point’s social hub – with top eateries, Sea Point promenade, V&A Waterfront, and all the buzz of Cape Town’s CBD right here on your doorstep, it’s the hippest place to hang. Rooms are around 120 a night depending on the season
Language: South Africa claims a whopping eleven official languages but the most common you’ll hear in and around Cape Town is English—the lingo of business and media—followed by Afrikaans and Xhosa on the streets.
Currency: The currency in South Africa is called a Rand.
Credit Cards and Banks: The majority of retailers and restaurants accept debit cards as payment.
Climate: Humidity is quite low in Cape Town, so while the summers are hot, they aren’t too muggy. Wintertime, however, is chilly with the ocean winds blowing in from the southeast. The best times to visit are the cusp months, October and November, springtime in South Africa, or from December to February when the days are at their longest and warmest. Winter from June to August tends to be rainy and cold.
Plugs: Most plugs in South Africa are 2-prong or 3-prong so be sure to bring both power adapters so you’re prepared wherever you go.
Safety: Cape Town is one of the safer cities in South Africa, but there are still some petty crimes. Be sure to lock up your valuables and keep important belongings on your person.
Uber: Uber is one of the best ways to get around Cape Town. The distances between most of the top attractions are short, making it a cost-effective option for your trip. You can also request a ride from Cape Town International Airport by using the free WiFi.
My CitiBus: Another affordable way to get around the city is with the My CitiBus service. You can buy a transport code from one of the stations and top it up as you go. There is a free app that you can download that lists the timetables for each stop, fares, and a route planner.
Rent a Car: Cape Town is rather spread out and with many things to do around the Cape and beyond, I recommend renting a car. Remember that you drive on the left side of the road here! The street signage can be a bit confusing, but you’ll find that the city is auto-friendly with ample parking and not a lot of traffic. Gas stations accept both cash and credit, but not all. There will be a sign outside telling you if they accept credit or not, but it’s a good idea to always have some cash on you just in case. You will also need small changes for tolls on major roads.
Rent a Scooter: Scooters and Vespas are very popular in Cape Town. They’re a very fast and convenient way to get around, just remember to wear your helmet!