Things to do in Cape Town: Attractions and places to visit

table mountain Panorama, Capetown (Brian Gratwicke)  [flickr.com]  CC BY 
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The port city on the southwest coast of Africa is one of the most popular destinations worldwide. Cape Town itself offers its visitors many exciting sights, but also the surrounding area is always worth a visit. Miles of sandy beaches invite you to take a dip; and the famous Table Mountain with its imposing view over the city has always been a real tourist magnet.

Cape Town’s centre is bubbling with liveliness – especially at night, when the trendy bars and clubs open their doors. 3.7 million inhabitants chat in the three main languages Afrikaans, isiXhosa and English and warmly welcome their visitors with their warm hospitality.

Below we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Cape Town:

Luftaufnahme aus Helikopter über Kapstadt (Deyan / stock.adobe.com)  lizenziertes Stockfoto 
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Bo-Kaap District (Malay Quarter) (Brian Snelson)  [flickr.com]  CC BY 
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Cape Town (Miltos Gikas)  [flickr.com]  CC BY 
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1. Table Mountain – South Africa’s Landmark

Table Mountain is undoubtedly the most famous part of an entire mountain massif, which uniquely shapes the silhouette of Cape Town and has become the landmark of the entire rainbow nation of South Africa. The total area is about 6,500 hectares, at its highest point, the Maclear’s Beacon, it reaches a proud 1,087 meters. Numerous hiking trails lead up to Table Mountain.

The most beautiful route is the five-hour Königsweg, Skeleton Gorge. Alternatively, you can take the cable car up Table Mountain, which is much less strenuous. Above you will find not only an impressive view over Cape Town, but also a fascinating variety of plants and some animal species (including baboons). In the sandstone crevices live crows and cliff slates.

2. Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

In the course of only 20 years this place in Cape Town underwent a unique transformation. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is one of the most attractive and modern leisure areas in South Africa. Old warehouses became a chic shopping mall, the former pump house is now home to restaurants of the highest quality.

Overall, the Waterfront is one of the most expensive and well-kept quarters in Cape Town today. It is considered to be extremely safe and is therefore one of the most important sights for tourists. The latest highlight is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) with an impressive collection of contemporary art. The museum opened in September 2017.

3. Prison Island Robben Island

One of the most important sights of Cape Town is of course the historical island Robben Island, which lies in the Table Bay in the Atlantic off the coast of Mother City. Until the mid-1990s, this was the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for almost 20 years. In 1996 the prison facilities were closed down, one year later a moving natural and national monument was built here, which can be visited since then.

Robben Island offers a natural habitat for seals and penguins as well as a colourful variety of plants. The starting point for the popular excursions to Robben Island is the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The building is located next to the Clock Tower. Before the crossing to the island you can see photos and get some information. Modern ferries take visitors to the island in about 30 minutes.

4. Trip to the Cape of Good Hope

Even if the Cape Point Nature Reserve is not located directly in Cape Town, an excursion to the so-called “Cape of Good Hope” is of course an absolute must. Here the currents of the two oceans meet and there is plenty for young and old to discover. With a little luck there are even ostriches, baboons and even zebras to be spotted in the surrounding landscape. Whales and dolphins can also be seen from the coast again and again.

Especially impressive is the journey via Chapman’s Peak, one of the most beautiful panoramic roads on earth. It runs with more than 100 curves between Noordhoek and Hout Bay directly along the rocky coast and reveals unforgettable impressions especially in good weather.

The

most famous sight is, of course, the sign at the Cape of Good Hope, where thousands of tourists take their photos every day.

5. Colourful Bo-Kaap

Back in Cape Town a visit of the so-called Bo-Kaap is not to be missed. This interesting part of the city is also known as the Cape Muslim Quarter. In fact, the Cape Malayans are the descendants of Asian slaves who came to South Africa in the middle of the 17th century and were able to preserve their Muslim identity in the colourful quarter to this day. Particularly worth seeing is the historical part of the quarter, which has grown considerably in the meantime.

As reports of pickpockets in the Bo-Kaap have been piling up recently, we recommend a guided tour with a local guide. He can also tell you more about the origins of the district and give you an idea why, in addition to the minarets, the conspicuously colourful, pastel-coloured houses dominate the residential area. They were not only a sign against the black-and-white scheme of apartheid, but above all an expression of the regained freedom of their ancestors.

6. Botanical Garden Kirstenbosch

In Cape Town’s Newlands district is one of the most beautiful sights for nature lovers. The Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is located on the eastern slope of Table Mountain and was founded to preserve the unique biodiversity of the region. Therefore only native plants are to be found here, for example heather herbs, South African silver tree plants and palm ferns, a rock garden, a succulent bed and much more.

Open-air concerts take place here regularly from the end of November to the beginning of April. The Botanical Garden is also worth a visit for hikers: several hiking trails have their starting point here, including the aforementioned “Skeleton Gorge” up to Table Mountain. The Botanical Garden covers an area of about 600 hectares and is home to over 7000 plant species. We especially like the unbelievable silence in the midst of a fantastic nature, only a stone’s throw from the turbulent city centre of Cape Town.

7. The Two Oceans Aquarium

Nearly 100 different species living in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans can be admired in the Two Oceans Aquarium. The journey through the underwater worlds leads past 30 basins and a water tank several storeys high. Here you can see sharks with a length of up to four meters as well as rays. The animals are fed daily at 3 pm by a diver – a great highlight especially for children. Even booking a dive with the sharks in the tank is offered by the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Further exhibitions present plants and fish from both oceans as well as an African river system, frogs, seaweed and other sea plants. The popular sight also offers an interactive children’s playground, right next to the penguin’s outdoor enclosure. Here the children can play and paint to their heart’s content. Their games are inspired by the numerous sounds and images of the Two Oceans Aquarium that surround them. The puppet “Peter the Penguin” supports playful learning with songs about nature.

8. Hippie flair in the Woodstock district

For a long time Woodstock was regarded as a hopelessly dilapidated industrial quarter, around which whites made a wide berth. Crime was as high as unemployment and homelessness in the district. But at the beginning of the 1990s an incredible change began, the old factory halls were occupied by more and more artists and young creatives. Woodstock flourished and is as important for Cape Town today as Soho is for New York.

It’s stylish and hip, especially during the day a stroll through the relaxed Woodstock is a real pleasure. For our editors, the Neighbourgoods Market in particular is one of the best sights in Cape Town. The market with lots of hippie spirit, handmade products and above all countless delicacies takes place every Saturday in the red painted Old Biscuit Mill of Woodstock. It is rightly considered the best food market in Cape Town!

9. Penguins at Simon’s Town

Among the highlights in the Cape region are the penguins in Simon’s Town, just 35 kilometres from Cape Town. Simon’s Town is even connected to the metro network and can therefore be reached from Cape Town without a car. South of the small town, on Boulders Beach, a spectacular sight awaits you in South Africa: a huge penguin colony right on the beach! Up to 2500 animals live here not far from the metropolis and are the only remaining penguins of Africa in the wild.

A visit is always great fun, as the cute penguins usually tap their way through the sand or throw themselves through the waves in search of fish. There is a paved wooden walkway along the penguins, so you can experience and photograph them in a very natural way. With a little luck you can get even closer to the animals, because the neighbouring public beach has no barriers and is visited very regularly by the penguins.

10. Tour of the vineyards of the Western Cape

We admit: Actually we could list 20 more sights in Cape Town (e.g. Camps Bay, Muizenberg, Hout Bay, Blouberg Beach or Constantia). Nevertheless, we would like to try to offer a varied package of attractions and highlights in and around Cape Town. Of course, a tour into the vineyards of the Western Cape should not be missing among our recommendations. First and foremost Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl we would like to recommend you very much!

All three have picturesque historic city centres and are home to the best wineries on the African continent. Our favourite is Stellenbosch, home of probably the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc white wines. If you are not travelling by rental car, you can also join a guided combination tour and do not have to worry about your fitness to drive during the wine tasting. If you travel individually, you should plan at least one overnight stay in Stellenbosch – the place has a lot of flair!

More things to do and activities for your Cape Town holiday

Best time to visit Cape Town

We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of Cape Town:

January, February, March, April, September, October, November, and December

You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for Cape Town.

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