Cape Town is an incredible city in an incredible setting. Planning your trip? Here are the things to do in Cape Town that you should not miss.
Cape Town is one of those crazy cities that grabs you, picks you up in its whirlwind, and doesn’t put you down until it’s time for you to set off again.
I knew that Cape Town – and South Africa more broadly – was going to be something special, but I didn’t know how special. Everything I experienced was spectacular, from the ridiculously beautiful vistas as the plane came in to land to the moment I watched the sun setting in Camps Bay.
For me, Cape Town is brimming with plenty of magical travel moments that are sure to make a trip worthwhile.
5 Top Things To Do in Cape Town
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Cape Town and are short on time, then you’re in luck. Here is a brief list of our top five activities and attractions.
Hike to the Top of Table Mountain
Hiking to the top of Table Mountain certainly made the cut as one of my favourite activities to do in Cape Town. We tackled the mountain on our first morning in the city, and I would totally recommend that you do the same.
I can’t think of a better way to familiarise yourself with a city than to watch as it unfurls before you, mile after mile, and district after district. The spectacular landscapes from the top are also a sight to behold.
On the right day, the views from the top of Table Mountain stretch out for miles in each direction – out to sea and into the region of the Western Cape.
South Africa isn’t short on natural attractions – from Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape to Kruger and the Drakensberg Mountains. It’s a country that demands you spend time outdoors – and Table Mountain is no exception.
But let’s talk about the hike. For starters, this is no simple walk in the park. There are several routes to choose from – each with its own pros and cons. I opted for the Plattenklip Gorge route – which is the shortest route. Sounds easy, right? Not quite…
But do not worry – the hike isn’t technically challenging (this coming from a renowned klutz).
The path is well marked, and there isn’t any scrambling. Just a relentless (and at times, neverending) pull to the top on a path that starts off pretty steep and gets even steeper.
But one thing is for sure – the views at the top are worth it.I tackled the hike on my own, and I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest that you do the same. However, if you would feel more comfortable doing the hike with a guide, you can book a private guide and customised hike here.
Walk Around the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Rising up the slopes of Table Mountain, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens are popular for being one of the best botanical gardens in the world.
With over 7,000 southern African plant species set out in a series of gardens meandering up the mountain’s side, Kirstenbosch is a sensory feast. I loved taking some time to walk between the different gardens before plopping myself down for a picnic with a spectacular view.
You should totally visit Kirstenbosch, but perhaps avoid making the same mistake as I did and doing it on the same day that you tackle Table Mountain. The slopes in the botanical gardens are gentle enough, but your thighs will still hate you.
Pop Down to the Wineries in Stellenbosch
One of the best activities to do in Cape Town is to visit the many wineries located nearby. For this reason, I’m thankful that I don’t live here. If I did, I’d spend a lot of time in Stellenbosch and to be honest, I’m not sure if my liver would be able to handle it.
Jokes aside, the wine region of Stellenbosch is a mere 50 km away from Cape Town. And in my humble opinion, spending a day vineyard hopping is one of the best ways to experience the city and its scenic surroundings.
For wine and cheese tastings and a tour of Stellenbosch wine estates check out this Cape Town to Winelands tour
Enjoy the Colourful Buildings of the Bo-Kaap
We’ve all seen them, right? Those pictures of the absurdly gorgeous and colourful buildings that liven up our Instagram feeds. While all of Cape Town is picture-worthy, bringing along your travel camera to this area is a must.
So where will you find these colourful houses? Right in Bo-Kaap.
Bo-Kaap is one of the oldest areas of Cape Town – inhabited by the Cape Malays. These people are descendants of the slaves imported by the Dutch in the 16th and 17th centuries.
It was (and still is) largely inhabited by Muslims – who used to paint the houses in bright colours to celebrate Eid. Somehow the tradition stuck and left us with one of Cape Town’s most distinguishable (and striking) neighbourhoods.
Watch the Sunset in Camps Bay
Camps Bay is striking enough at the best of times – miles of fine golden sand, framed with crashing waves to one side and chic bars and restaurants to the other.
It’s also home to one of the most incredible sunsets you’ll ever see. I think if I had to pinpoint the moment that I fell in love with Cape Town, it would be the moment I watched as the sun bathed Camps Bay in a fiery display of nature’s red and orange hues.
Best Things to do in Cape Town
For more cool things to do in Cape Town, here are a few more incredibly fun activities and attractions.
Take a Gin Jol Tour with Kiff Kombi Tours
Now, if a tour of the city’s coolest gin distilleries doesn’t deserve a spot on the top of your Cape Town to-do list, I don’t know what does.
There are so many bog-standard tours of any city that it can be difficult to tell the difference between them. Not so with Kiff Kombi’s brilliant Gin Jol Tour.
We started the tour with a tasting of gin cocktails made with homemade tinctures and bitters from regional South African botanicals.
After that, it was a matter of hopping onto the colourfully-painted minivan and embarking on a whirlwind of gin-tasting and more insight into the gin-making process than I’d expected.
The tour treads the perfect balance between being fun, accessible, and informative. Hearing the enthusiasm and knowledge of the distillery owners totally made each sip even better than it would have been anyway.
Feast on an All-out Dinner in Salsify
It’s not tough to eat well in Cape Town. That is just a fact. But, once in a while, you go to a restaurant that really makes your taste buds sit up and pay real attention. That restaurant was Salsify.
First of all, there’s the specular location in the historic Roundhouse overlooking Camp’s Bay. Then, of course, there’s the main attraction – the food.
Settle in, make yourself comfortable and order the outstanding tasting menu. Seven courses of gastronomic indulgence in contemporary South African style skillfully prepared under the watchful eye of two of Cape Town’s most innovative culinary figures Luke Dale-Roberts and head chef Ryan Cole.
The daily-changing menu featured so many stellar dishes that it’s hard to pick a favourite – but the fire-roasted asparagus with sunflower pesto and egg sauce might just take the crown.
Get Behind the Wheel and Tackle the Chapman’s Peak Drive
When I asked my South African friends what to do in Cape, several people told me to be sure to take the Chapman’s Peak Drive.
With so much buildup, it’s safe to say that my expectations were high – nor were they disappointed. Though it’s relatively short, the rugged nine-kilometre drive winding around the coastal bluffs was eye-poppingly beautiful.
It’s also the perfect start to a Cape Peninsula road trip, taking in Cape Point, Boulder’s Beach, and Muizenberg (which all feature below).
Visit Robben Island
I’m going to have to put my hand up and say that I didn’t actually get to visit Robben Island, and I deeply regret it. Poor time management and restricted tour times to the island meant that we couldn’t make it during our time in Cape Town.
I would urge you to do better. The island, situated 11 km north of Cape Town, is at the heart of the city’s difficult and sad history. The island is famous for its prison that held over 3,000 political prisoners during apartheid, including the world-famous Nelson Mandela.
Former inmates conduct the tours of Robben Island which generally include a ride around the island and a visit to Mandela’s old prison cell. If you’re interested in learning about Cape Town’s rich history, check out this Robben Island tour.
Hang Out at the V&A Waterfront
Off-the-beaten-track it most certainly is not, but the V&A Waterfront remains one of Cape Town’s must-see attractions. It is popular for its unique charm – despite being one of the city’s biggest tourist hotspots.
I wouldn’t spend too much time here – particularly if you don’t have a lot of time in Cape Town. However, the V&A Waterfront is the jumping-off point for most Robben Island tours, and it does have some pretty good restaurants (like The Greek Fisherman) to tempt you too.
The V&A Waterfront is also home to a variety of stores and markets. So if you’re looking to shop while in Cape Town, a visit here is worthwhile.
Visit the District Six Museum
With its trendy bars and cool restaurants, it can be easy to gloss over the history of apartheid in Cape Town – The District Six Museum serves as a thoughtful reminder of that past and is well worth a visit.
Located in the former District Six, an area in which over 60,000 residents were forcibly removed in the seventies, the museum highlights individual stories of displacement and resistance from first-hand accounts.
In short, it’s a thought-provoking and poignant destination every visitor to the city should visit at least once.
Spend Time On and Around Cape Town’s Supercool Bree Street
If you’re looking for some cool and crazy things to do in Cape Town, then be sure to pay a visit to Bree Street. This is one of the coolest streets in the city. And you know that when a street gains a reputation for being pretty cool, it’s going to be something.
Bree Street (and its immediate surroundings) is a part of what makes Cape Town’s city centre so quirky and wonderful.
Many of the best places to visit in Cape Town can be relatively spread out. But one of the beauties of Bree Street is having so many incredible stops in one place. This includes boutique shops, brunch hangouts, and bars – all within short proximity to one another.
Brunch at Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room is practically a must, as are alfresco drinks at La Parada. You can also go all in and splash out on a fancy lunch in the opulent Shortmarket Club, which is still one of the best meals I’ve had to date.
Hike Up to the Top of Lion’s Head
So you’ve conquered Table Mountain and you fancy another challenge (and yet more stunning views)? Let me introduce you to the Lion’s Head hike.
This is another moderately-challenging two-three hour hike but the views from the top are absolutely incredible, particularly if you go up at sunrise or sunset. Expect stunning panoramic views of the Mother City laid out before you.
I’ll warn you – there is a little section with metal ladders and climbing chains, but you can avoid this by taking a longer route on the path. The last section also involves a bit of rock scrambling, so skip this if you’re not a confident hiker.
Peep at the Penguins at Boulders Beach
Cute alert! The penguins at Boulders Beach will melt you into a puddle atop the beach’s soft white sand.
Boulders Beach is the home of one of the world’s two mainland colonies of African Penguins. A visit to this beach gives you a chance to get up close and personal with the cute penguins via a series of boardwalks suspended over the sand.
Sure, you may have to battle the crowds to get a prime spot by the railings, and penguins are actually kind of mean to each other. But, how could you resist this?
Seeing these creatures waddle along the beach is a sight to behold. It’s just a pity you can’t take one home with you.
For a better chance of seeing the penguins, consider going on an organised tour. This penguin colony full day tour is a great way to do so. You’ll also get to explore the Cape Peninsula and much more.
Hang Out on the Beach at Muizenberg
Another stone-cold Instagram classic, the beach at Muizenberg is famous for two things: great surfing and the brightly-coloured beach huts that line the beach.
What’s so special about beach huts, I hear you ask? Well, these Victorian beach huts feature all kinds of eye-catching colours and are something of a local institution.
Plus, there’s always the attraction that when you’ve taken the obligatory picture or two, you can hang out on one of the best beaches in the Cape Peninsula.
Soak up the Scenery at Cape Point
Cape Point might not be the most southerly point in Africa, as is commonly thought (that plaudit actually goes to Cape Agulhas, 300 km to the east), but it is undoubtedly a must-do in Cape Town.
Rough and rugged, the views here are something else – not to mention the gigantic waves thrashing against the rocks.
It’s a sensational (in the true meaning of the word) experience. With the wind whipping your hair and sea spray drenching your clothes, it’s not hard to believe that you’re less than 4,000 kilometres away from the South Pole.
If you want to explore Cape Point and grab some epic photos, check out this Cape Point Instagram group tour.
PS: Watch out for the baboons. They might look cute, but they can be aggressive and terrifying – particularly when it comes to food.
Soak Up the Art at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA)
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) made serious waves when it opened in 2017 as the largest museum of art from contemporary Africa and the diaspora.
The building alone is striking – a former grain silo turned architectural showpiece just across from the V&A Waterfront.
Inside is where it gets really exciting though. The museum showcases some of the continent’s brightest stars – like Admire Kamudzengerere and Frances Goodman – and most exciting pieces, visiting it is a must.
Top Tips for Visiting Cape Town’s Attractions
So there we have it, 15 of the best places to visit and things to do in Cape Town. Are you excited? You should be. Now that you know where to go, here are a few handy tips for planning your trip.
When’s the Best Time to Visit Cape Town
Most people agree that the best time to visit Cape Town is during autumn and spring, so March to May and September to November, respectively.
The southern hemisphere seasons are the opposite to ours here in the UK (and also in the US), so December to March is summer and peak season in the city.
We visited Cape Town in mid-November and early December and loved it – the weather was absolutely perfect for outdoor activities. Yes, prices were higher than other seasons, but still excellent value for me travelling from the UK.
How To Get to Cape Town
There are a large number of direct flights to Cape Town from national and international airports. I didn’t fly directly, but I would recommend you do – the time saved is well worth the extra money spent.
How To Get around Cape Town
We pretty much walked and Ubered our way around the city. Getting Ubers was so simple (unlike in other countries like Bali) and affordable.
You can also hire a car and drive around. It’s easy enough, particularly if you’re from the UK, as it’s the same side of the road (hooray, no constant terror of driving around a roundabout in the wrong direction).
Another unique way to get around and experience Cape Town is aboard the famous Red Bus. This double-decker hop-on hop-off tour takes passengers to many of the city’s top attractions. This includes Camps Bay, Kirstenbosch, and many more of the places covered on this list.
Where To Stay in Cape Town
While you partake in all these fun activities in Cape Town, you will need a place to stay. Luckily, the Mother City is home to a wide range of accommodations ranging from charming B&Bs and apartments to five-star hotels.
To follow is a list of accommodations – this includes a budget, mid-range, and luxury option. So you’re sure to find something to suit your travel needs.
106 On Adderley
If you’re seeking affordable accommodation right at the heart of Cape Town’s city centre, then check out these lovely apartments at 106 On Adderley.
The property boasts minimalist urban decor and offers a variety of rooms equipped with everything you would need for a comfortable stay. This includes free WiFi, a desk, flatscreen TV, a bathroom, and a kitchenette.
You’ll also find a lovely coffee shop on the property. Grabbing a cappuccino and pastry to-go is a great way to fuel up before heading out to discover all the fun activities Cape Town has to offer.
HOTEL SKY Cape Town
HOTEL SKY is a four-star accommodation in Cape Town’s CBD. For those looking for a place to stay nearby many of the city’s top attractions, this is the place to be.
The hotel offers a number of modern rooms. Each of these are well furnished and provides a wonderful place to rest.
While you’re not out exploring the city, spend time enjoying the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool and fitness centre. There’s also an on-site restaurant and bar, and a terrace with views over the city.
Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa
One of Cape Town’s most prestigious hotels is the luxurious Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa. The five-star oceanfront property sits along the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range, overlooking Camps Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. So yes, the views from here are truly breathtaking.
These scenic surroundings are also visible from the Rooms at the Twelve Apostles’ elegantly-appointed rooms. Each of these comes equipped with modern amenities.
The Twelve Apostles is also home to the award-winning Sanctuary Spa, as well as the popular Azure restaurant. So you’ll be able to indulge all your senses during your stay.
Things To Do in Cape Town: What To Pack for Your Trip
I’m not going to give you a full list of everything that you’ll need for your Cape Town trip, as you’ll find many of them here on our list of travel gear essentials. However, here is a gentle reminder of items you may need to bring along when visiting the Mother City.
- Hiking boots or walking sandals for tackling Table Mountain. You will definitely want something with a decent grip, and I found the added ankle support provided by my boots to be invaluable.
- Suncream, a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Particularly if you’re visiting in the summer.
- Bathing suit – especially if you’re visiting during the spring or summer.
- A warm outer layer – even warm days have some chilly evenings. I regretted not bringing my softshell jacket and had to make do with borrowing all of Jon’s jumpers instead.
What to do in Cape Town: Final Thoughts
Cape Town is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Not only for its breathtaking scenery but for its lovely neighbourhoods and diverse cultures, too. I hope that you will also take the time to experience all that the Mother City has to offer.
Whether you’re hiking Table Mountain or taking a leisurely tour through the Cape’s wine lands, you’re bound to have a memorable experience. For your next South African adventure, check out our Garden Route itinerary.
Best Things to do in Cape Town Map
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