Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa (January 2023)

We enjoyed our stay in Cape Town. Framed by majestic Table Mountain on one side and the blue Atlantic Ocean on the other, picturesque Cape Town is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Africa looking very European. 

Lots to Do in Cape Town, South Africa
The climate in Cape Town is year-round mild Mediterranean that graced us with long summer days (October to March) to explore what this interesting city has to offer including beautiful white sandy beaches, good restaurants, numerous attractions, and outdoor adventures. With a population of about 3.5 million, Cape Town still reflects the diversity and vitality of Africa with many West and Central Africans and Zimbabweans calling the city home - many having fled conflicts elsewhere.

Stellenbosch Wine Region South Africa
Stellenbosch Wine Region
South African wine is considered among the best (and most affordable) in the world and the beautiful Stellenbosch Wine Region (click here to view) is just an hour away from downtown Cape Town. Day trips for ‘Big 5’ game viewing as well as whale watching (seasonal) can also be easily organized from Cape Town.

Table Mountain V&A Waterfront Cape Town South Africa
Table Mountain from V&A Waterfront
While in Cape Town, do not miss visiting one of the ‘7 New Natural Wonders of the World’. Rising 3,558 feet above the city, the impressive Table Mountain is the famous backdrop of Cape Town and dominates its identity (see photo). The views are spectacular from the flat top. 

Cape Town from Table Mountain
Cape Town from Table Mountain
You should plan a trip up this iconic landmark when the wind isn’t blowing hard and the cloud cover is gone. Be aware that cloud cover, known locally in Cape Town as the 'tablecloth', can appear suddenly and completely obscure the view (check the cableway's website for updates). There is also a short circular walking route to follow while you’re up there as well as a restaurant and gift shop.

Table Mountain Cable Car Lowe Cable Station Cape Town South Africa
Table Mountain's Cable Car from Lowe Cable Station
Table Mountain’s expansive 360-degree view cable car departing from the Lowe Cable Station (see photo) quickly moves people up to the top in 5 minutes - pre-purchase your tickets to avoid ticket lines. The energetic may prefer to hike taking 2-3 hours depending on your fitness level - although most hikers do it on their own, guides are suggested to insure you don’t get lost. While in Cape Town, you may also consider hiking up to Lion’s Head for amazing views. Adventure lovers will enjoy arranging paragliding with a guide from the top of Lion’s Head landing at Clifton Beach.

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Cape Town South Africa
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront - Cape Town
We loved the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (V&A Waterfront) returning several times (see photo). It is one of Cape Town’s most visited sites… for good reasons. You will find many good restaurants, interesting boutique shops, malls, markets, and entertainment options located on the scenic working Table Bay Harbor with fantastic views of Table Mountain. 

Map Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Cape Town South Africa
Map - Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Exciting African performers provide entertainment and harbor cruises leave from here. Located near the well-done Two Oceans Aquarium (stunning displays of the regional marine life), we found the Watershed craft market to be very nice for quality local items. There is also a U.S. style mall for shopping. You can purchase tickets and join the CitySightseeing Cape Town Hop On Hop Off bus here.

V&A Food Market Hall - V&A Waterfront
The V&A Food Market Hall (see photo) at the Waterfront is a fun place with a great vibe to wander and enjoy all kinds of food, craft beer, and live music. We also enjoyed the Baia Seafood Restaurant by the harbor - it’s a bit pricey but the good seafood and views overlooking the harbor and Table Mountain are worth it. Sevruga is also very nice. Reservations for popular restaurants in the V&A Waterfront are important. We recommend staying near the V&A Waterfront area because it is close to other Cape Town attractions and you can enjoy going to dinner here.

Robben Island Prison Museum
South Africa’s first elected President, Nelson Mandela, served much of his 27-year prison sentence at Robben Island, along with hundreds of other political detainees. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Robben Island Prison Museum (see photo) is a site of major historical importance. Visitors are welcome on pre-booked tours leaving from Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront - book ahead because it sells out. Former inmates provide part of the tours, offering direct insight into what it was really like during the struggle against apartheid.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens Cape Town South Africa
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
We had a wonderful experience visiting the scenic Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens (see photo). It is rated one the best botanical gardens in the world and is one of Cape Town’s top attractions. With 1,300 acres of stunning botanical gardens located at the eastern foot of Table Mountain, the garden covers five of South Africa's six different biomes (savanna, fynbos, karoo, and others).

Tree Canopy Walkway Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens Cape Town South Africa
Tree Canopy Walkway - Kirstenbosch
Founded in 1913, Kirstenbosch places strong emphasis on the preservation of southern Africa’s indigenous plants. Don’t miss the Tree Canopy Walkway (also known as ‘the Boomslang’ or tree snake) for bird-watching and wonderful views (see photo). There are benches throughout the garden to sit and enjoy and people bring picnics. Kirstenbosch has a gift shop and a nice restaurant. Purchase a map when entering and while in Cape Town check the events schedule if you want to catch a trail run, craft market, or the Summer Sunset concert series featuring top entertainment.

Bo-Kapp Colorful Buildings - Cape Town
Bo-Kaap, formerly known as the Malay Quarter, is known for its brightly colored homes and cobble stoned streets (see photo). Painting their homes and businesses with bright colors was a celebration of gaining their freedom from slavery in 1834 (see photo). Drop into one of the stores selling spices - the aroma is wonderful.

CitySightseeing Cape Town Hop On Hop Off Bus
We had a fun time riding the CitySightseeing Cape Town Hop On Hop Off Bus (see map). It is a great way to obtain a narrated overview of Cape Town as well as transportation to many ‘must-see’ Cape Town attractions. The double-decker tour buses allow you to sit outside when the weather is nice. The Red and Blue Tours do some of the similar route going to the V&A Waterfront and along the upscale beach communities of Camps Bay, Clifton, and Sea Point overlooking the beautiful coast. You can purchase tickets at the Tour Offices located at the V&A Waterfront outside the aquarium, Long Street, and Camps Bay stops.
Choose the Red City Tour if you want to visit downtown Cape Town attractions and museums  as well as Table Top Mountain (also purchase your cable ticket to avoid the ticket line). 

Lookout Restaurant Mariner's Wharf Hout Bay Harbor
Lookout Restaurant - Mariner's Wharf
Choose the longer Blue Mini Peninsula Tour if you want to visit Cape Town's Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Camps Bay for wonderful lunch at the beach (see below), World of Birds & Monkey Jungle (fun walking through enclosures with birds from around the world and seeing monkeys up close), and have lunch at Mariner’s Wharf at Hout Bay Harbor (tip: walk to the end to the nice Lookout Restaurant (see photo) overlooking the harbor with good food and service).

Constantia Valley Wine Tour
For an opportunity to taste some South African wines visiting some beautiful wine estates, the Purple Wine Tour can be accessed from the Blue Tour visiting the Constantia Valley, the oldest wine making region in South Africa with nice wine tasting and restaurants. CitySightseeing Cape Town also offers a Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, & Paarl Wine Tour and LaGuGu Township Tour. Downtown walking tours are available starting near the Greenmarket Square.

Wine Tasting Near Franschoek
Wine Tasting Near Franschoek
South African wines are very nice and well priced. The Cape Vinelands Stellenbosch Wine Region (click here to view) is just an hour away from Cape Town and day tours are available visiting popular wineries around the picturesque countryside and wine towns of Stellenbosch, Franschoek, and Paarl.

Long Street Cape Town South Africa
Long Street - Cape Town
Cape Town’s downtown nightlife can be found on Long Street, known as a bohemian hang out. Long Street comes alive at night. Long Street’s restored Victorian buildings house book stores, cafes, various ethnic restaurants, and bars reflecting South African culture. Restaurants include African Zula and Indian Masala Dosa. A significant landmark is Long Street Baths (close to the corner of Long and Orange Streets). This building is home to an indoor pool and Turkish style baths. 

Greenmarket Square Cape Town South Africa
Greenmarket Square
The Cape Town flea market at nearby Greenmarket Square (see photo) offers souvenirs from all parts of Africa. Long Street can be a bit seedy when visited - be cautious.

The white sandy beaches in Cape Town are popular during Summer months (opposite seasons then North America). For beach lovers, here are a few you may want to check out…

Camps Bay Beach Cape Town South Africa
Camps Bay Beach - Cape Town
Often truly beautiful beaches tend to be remote-island destinations. A big exception is where we stayed - upscale and family-friendly Camps Bay Beach (see photo), located at Cape Town and is rated Blue Flag status (that’s good for health, cleanliness, and safety). 

Camps Bay Beach Twelve Apostle Mountain Cape Town South Africa
Camps Bay Beach & Twelve Apostle Mountain
Backed by iconic Table Mountain and the beautiful Twelve Apostle Mountain (see photo), the beach offers a large expanse of soft sand and beautiful blue water. Camps Bay is the usual Cape Town go-to recommendation due to its nice beach, cleanliness, beauty, and easy access to bars and good restaurants.

Primi Seacastle B&B Camps Bay Cape Town South Africa
Primi Seacastle B&B - Camps Bay
Camps Bay is also where people from Cape Town come for the nightlife and Cape Town’s celebrities hang out. We greatly enjoyed Camps Bay staying at Primi Seacastle - nice B&B (see photo) close to the town and beach with comfy rooms and gorgeous views of the beach.

Upscale Restaurants Camps Bay Cape Town South Africa
Upscale Restaurants - Camps Bay
The restaurants at Camps Bay are great and good for people-watching. Located along one end of the short town main street of Camps Bay is a group of very nice upscale restaurants run by the same owner (see photo). We found every one we tried of the following to be very nice for lunch and dinner being less than half the price it would be in our home of San Diego (so why not spruce while in Cape Town’s Camps Bay)… Paranga, Zenzero, Bilboa, Surf Shack, and La Bella Bristol and Bakery (which is also open for breakfast). Try the crispy sea bass - amazing!

Seafood Platter Codfather Seafood Camps Bay Cape Town South Africa
Seafood Platter at Codfather Seafood
At the other end of the Camps Bay, there are more casual restaurants and bars offering drinks looking out the beautiful beach and lively nightlife. Codfather Seafood and Sushi is a very special seafood restaurant you should make a reservation when in Camps Bay or Cape Town. You design your own delicious seafood platter (see photo) from an array of fish and shellfish or pick from the sushi belt.

Clifton Beach Cape Town South Africa
Clifton Beach - Cape Town
Next to Cape Town’s Camps Bay, Clifton Beaches 1-4 is a series of four beautiful white-sand beaches where there’s a little something for everyone (see photos). The beaches are protected from strong winds that sometimes occur. 

Clifton Beach Cape Town South Africa
Clifton Beach - Cape Town
Clifton 1st Beach has a more upscale vibe, Clifton 2nd is popular with the LGBTQ crowd, Clifton 3rd has a younger party vibe popular with college students, and closest to Camps Bay Clifton 4th, a designated Blue Flag beach, is where you’ll find the most families. At Clifton, we liked the Bungalow Restaurant next to the Glen Country Club.

Camps Bay from Table Mountain Cape Town
Camps Bay from Table Mountain
Travel Tip… While in Cape Town, it’s better to stay in Camps Bay then Clifton due to the better availability of accommodations and many good restaurants as well as easier access to the beach. It is an inexpensive Uber ride to get to the Clifton beaches.

Muizenberg Beach is another popular city Blue Flag beach which functions as the main Cape Town surfing beach due to its warmer waters and big waves on False Bay. Muizenberg Beach has also gained popularity due to its family-friendly vibe, soft sands, and laid-back atmosphere.

Wayne Pat Dunlap Cape of Good Hope Cape Town Bay South Africa
Wayne & Pat at Cape of Good Hope
We enjoyed the breathtaking views at the Cape of Good Hope in the Table Mountain National Park after a beautiful scenic drive from Cape Town along Chapman’s Peak’s gorgeous rocky cliffs to this rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of South Africa. Several scenic hikes can be taken from here. Be careful of the baboons here - they can be dangerous.

Cape of Good Hope South Africa
Cape of Good Hope
Interesting fact… A common misconception is that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa. Actually the southernmost point of Africa is Cape Agulhas about 90 miles southeast and is the dividing point between the cold water Atlantic and warm Indian oceans. The Cape of Good Hope marks the point where a ship begins to travel more eastward than southward. The first modern rounding of the cape in 1487 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a major milestone by the Portuguese to establish direct trade with the Far East.

Penguins Boulders Beach Cape Town South Africa
Penguins - Boulders Beach
Who doesn't love penguins? It is fun to visit Boulders Beach (see photo) along False Bay, a sandy stretch of shoreline on the Cape Peninsula with rocky outcrops, near the quaint Dutch Simon’s Town (see photo). The main draw is the colony of about 2,200 wild African penguins that settled here in 1982 from just 2 breeding pairs and are the only penguin species that breed in Africa. 

Simon's Town
Simon's Town

While visiting Cape Town, this is a rare place to see these endangered penguins closeup in a natural environment. They are under the protection of the Cape Nature Conservation.


We Loved Visiting Cape Town, South Africa
Driving is on the left side of the road and there is 10% tipping in restaurants. We felt safe visiting the plance we want to in Cape Town. Cape Town International Airport is about 12 miles from Cape Town’s city center and there are taxis and public buses available - allow about a half hour. Because locals drive or use public transportation, taxis may be hard to find in some areas in certain parts of Cape Town. Uber works well in Cape Town and is very affordable.

Entertainment Camps Bay Cape Town South Africa
Entertainment - Camps Bay
A word about ‘Load Sharing’ in South Africa… periodically electricity is lost randomly day and night  in Cape Town. Hotels, restaurants, attractions, etc. are prepared for this because it happens daily. Commonly there is a light powered by a battery that you can turn on (we could read with it) and some places.have backup generators. It would be good to bring a small flashlight to use at night.

Cape Town Township
Seeing the poor shanty towns (Townships - see photo) on the drive from Cape Town’s airport to downtown reveals a lesson of South Africa’s modern history. During the 1960-70’s Apartheid, the South African government created hierarchy classes of White, Indian, Colored, and then Black. They did mass relocations to separate these groups that were living together and built nice homes for Whites. The Blacks were relocated to shanty towns Townships of metal containers while the privileged white live in modern homes. Those considered colored fared just a bit better than Blacks. Black people still come to Cape Town for the promise of a better life and live in these shady towns of limited electricity and water and infested with crime and unemployment. If you want to learn more, you can take a Township Tour or visit the District 6 Museum.

While visiting Cape Town, do enjoy the many things to do in this area including others not included in this post. HAVE FUN!

Click on these links to view other places we visited in Southern Africa...

Garden Route, South Africa

Stellenbosch Cape Winelands Wine Region, South Africa

Port Elizabeth & Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa - A Safari Day Trip

Richards Bay and Hluhluve Game Reserve, South Africa - A Safari Day Trip

Durban and uShaka Marine World, South Africa 

Oudtshoorn & Cango Caves, South Africa

Hermanus, South Africa

Chobe National Park, Botswana - A Safari Day Trip

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe & Zambia

Walvis Bay, Namibia 

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