Heading to South Africa and wondering what are the best things to do in Cape Town? Need some ideas for your Africa bucket list?
You’ve come to the right place!
Cape Town and just South Africa in general has been on my must-see list for quite some time. I’m hoping to make it there this December, fingers crossed, so I’ve asked my friend Lauren from Wanderlust Movement to share with us her favorite things to do in Cape Town. After reading the post full of spectacular views and wildlife, it sounds like Cape Town is my kinda place!
Travelers are spoilt for choice when it comes to the plethora of things to see and do in South Africa’s most popular coastal destination. From adrenaline-pumping activities to wine tastings and scenic hikes, boredom will never be a word that crosses your mind as you explore this unique part of Africa.
Cape Town Pre-Travel Guide
1) How to Get Around
If you don’t want to hire a car, you can get to most places in and around the city by hopping on board the MyCiti Bus. Alternatively, Uber is a popular choice, with most things being within a short travelling distance. In addition, the Cape Town Sightseeing City Bus is a good option as well if you’ve got limited time to explore – only a few bucks for a few days, and it takes you to all of the highlights of the city. Buy it in advance HERE.
2) Important Things to Pack
For the warmer months, pack sunscreen! The weather in Cape Town can change with a drop of the hat, so always make sure you have something warmer or cooler with you when you leave your hotel.
3) Where to Stay
For travelers on a budget, stay at Once in Cape Town. The hostel is conveniently located and has its own bar attached with regular DJs. In addition, theres a ton of other hostels in Cape Town to choose from. Or if you are looking to splurge, stay at The Glen Boutique Hotel in Sea Point and unwind with spa facilities and luxurious rooms.
4) When to Go
The best time to visit Cape Town is during the summer months of December to April. Not only is the weather amazing, but your social calendar will be full with trance parties happening every weekend and an array of events almost every day as Capetonians celebrate coming out of their winter hibernation.
Things to do in Cape Town, South Africa
Here are some of the best things to do in Cape Town, also known as the Mother City.
First things first – if you don’t have a lot of time, don’t worry! You can still see so much in Cape Town! My advice – take an organized tour. Yes, you’ll be with other tourists (hey, you’re one too!), but it’ll ensure that you see the best of the best in a short period of time without worrying about transportation hassles! I recommend THIS ONE as it visits Clifton and Camps Bay, Boulder’s Beach, the famous wineries of Constantia, peaks of the Twelve Apostles, Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, and Kirstenbosch Bontanical Gardens.
1. Hike Up Lion’s Head
One of Cape Town’s most popular hikes, just minutes from the CBD (city center), is Lion’s Head. This short two-hour walk will give you beautiful panromantic views of the city and the coastline below. Aim to reach the summit just before sunrise or join the locals for the popular full moon hike. You just might break your Instagram.
NOTE: If you’re traveling solo and/or would like to take a small-group hike, this three hour Lion’s Head Sunset Hike may be just up your alley. It’s not smart for anyone to hike by themselves, let alone in a foreign country, so joining a hiking group such as this one is not only advisable, but recommended.
Plus, if you’re hoping to reach the mountain top for sunrise, you’ll be inevitably heading down in darkness – not a good idea for first-timers. Check out the group hike HERE – you’re mom will thank you. 😛
2. Conquer Table Mountain
Summiting Table Mountain is another essential on any Cape Town to-do list. Adventurous souls can choose from a variety of routes, the most popular being platteklip gorge – but beware, the route is steep.
Again, if you’re traveling solo and/or would feel more comfortable hiking with someone who knows the area, a group table mountain hike (with cable car descent – YAS!) was made just for you! Because if you’ve hiked before, you know that going down is just as tough (if not tougher) as trekking up!
If you are feeling lazy or don’t have much time, beat the hikers without breaking a sweat by taking a ride up the mountain on the cable car. If you’re lucky you may be greeted by some rock hyraxes (“dassies”).
Psst – feeling adventurous? You can even go paragliding with views of Table Mountain! Something on my Cape Town bucket list for sure.
3. Visit wine country
Can you even say you have “Cape Town-ed” without visiting its world renowned wine region? Just a short drive outside of the city lies Stellenbosch (dubbed a top foodie destination by many!) and Franschhoek, filled to the brim with wineries offering an assortment of delicious wines.
Catch the train or one of the local shuttles to avoid being the designated driver -trust me, the hangover will be worth it.
And if you don’t feel like navigating the public transport system, there are lots of wine tours from Cape Town to choose from. A few recommendations:
- FULL DAY TOUR >> Full Day Wine Route Tour: Not only do you get to visit the charming towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek, but you also get to enjoy three tastings of some of South Africa’s finest wines, along with a cheese tasting!
- HALF DAY TOUR >> South African Winelands Half Day Tour: Don’t have a full day to dedicate to sipping wine? Don’t fret. On this tour, you’ll still enjoy two wine tastings, a wine and cheese tasting, and a cellar tour at Stellenbosch Wine Estate.
4. Watch a concert at Kirstenbosch Gardens
If you are visiting Cape Town during the summer months, your ears are in for a treat. Every Sunday, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens plays host to a line-up of South African bands. Bring your picnic blankets, some wine and dance in one of the city’s most picturesque spots. Who knows? One of the local bands might even just become your new musical obsession.
And if you’re not here on a Sunday – go visit the Kirstenbosch Gardens anyways – they are downright beautiful!
5. Head to Boulders Beach
Boulder’s Beach is no ordinary sparkling blue waters and Instagram-worthy destination – it is home to the endemic African Jackass Penguin. For a small fee, you can get access to a private beach and head further into the reserve to learn more about these critters as you walk through their protected breeding grounds. Included on this Full Day Cape Peninsula Tour from Cape Town!
6. Go Whale Watching
Visiting Cape Town between June to November? Hit the road and drive up to Hermanus – recognised by the World Wildlife Fund as one of the 12 best whale watching destinations in the world.
Not only is the drive there one of the most scenic coastal road trips, but seeing these enormous creatures come so close to the shore is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. Book advance full day whale watching tickets HERE or a 2 hour whale watching tour HERE if you’re pressed on time.
7. Drive Up to Chapman’s Peak
If you are a sucker for a day spent driving around along beautiful coastal roads, grab your GPS and enter in Chapman’s Peak for a scenic drive along the Atlantic Seaboard past Gordon’s Bay. If you continue following the road, you will soon find yourself in a small town called Noordhoek – home to a 7km of white sandy beach, horses, alpacas and of course more wine.
8. Explore The Bo-Kaap
Situated just on the outskirts of the CBD, lies one of the city’s most colourful spots – the Bo- kaap. Spend a few hours walking around the colourful houses of the Cape Malay people and once you have worked up an appetite, head to Bo-Kaap Kombuis. Feast on traditional Cape Malay dishes like bobotie while enjoying majestic views of Table Mountain.
9. Party on Long Street
Discover the pulse of Cape Town’s nightlife by visiting the iconic Long Street. It is packed with bars and live music venues like Beer House (ideal for the hops connoisseur), The Waiting Room, Carnival Court (for trance bunnies), Manila Bar and so much more. Parking here is usually packed, so leave your wheels at home and catch an Uber into town instead.
10. Explore Cape Point
Join a tour or drive down to Cape Point – the south-western most tip of Africa. Entrance is more expensive than other national parks in the country, but it is worth it. Intrepid travellers can sign up for overnight hikes inside the park or enjoy one of the many scenic day trails. For others wishing to take it easy, hop on board the Flying Dutchman and visit the old lighthouse.
11. Paraglide off Signal Hill
In the mood for some adrenaline and incredible views? Sign up for a tandem paragliding trip and fly past Table Mountain and the city below. Flights last up to 30 minutes, and for as little as R200, you can get photos and a video to commemorate your flight.
12. Visit Langebaan
The coastal town of Langebaan is a short 1.5-hour drive from Cape Town’s CBD. Situated on the edge of the West Coast National Park, the flat turquoise waters and cross shore winds make it an ideal spot for water lovers. Choose from exciting activities like snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing, kitesurfing and more!
13. Be a Beach Bum
Within minutes from the city centre, you can find yourself lounging on a pristine beach catching a tan. Clifton 2nd is a firm favorite with the locals and is a fantastic spot to watch the sun go down.
Muizenberg is perfect for those looking to catch a wave, and Oudekraal is a protected cove, surrounded by a thicket of milkwood trees that forms part of Table Mountain National Park.
14. Tag along for First Thursdays
On the first Thursday of each month, the streets of Cape Town’s CBD come alive once the sun goes down. Art galleries stay up late, pop-up shops are selling artisan goods, and the bars welcome the horde that comes to discover a different side of the city. Parking can be impossible, especially during the summer months so Uber in and save yourself the hassle.
15. Learn about South Africa’s history
If you are a history buff and love to learn what makes a country tick – Cape Town will not leave you disappointed. Book a spot on a ferry to visit Nelson Mandela’s jail cell on Robben Island, or stay on the mainland and visit the District Six museum to learn about how the Apartheid regime impacted the locals from the area.