Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa. There is a ton of history and culture to explore and lots of adventures that will give you some epic coastal city views.
In this post, I share 11 highlights or things I experienced in Cape Town and the nearby areas. Perhaps this will inspire you to visit or revisit to see and do some of the things I did!
1. Visit Bo Kaap
I loved visiting the Bo-Kaap ("above the cape") neighborhood in Cape Town. The colorful homes are now mostly rented out to tourists, much to the annoyance of locals who know its history.
These buildings were the homes of many Muslim slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia, and other African countries imported into the quarter when aboriginal tribes originally resisted Dutch colonialism.
Later, liberated slaves became the homeowners and painted the historically white buildings bright colors as an expression of freedom.
If you want to see even more colorful buildings, check out Muizenberg Beach. I ran out of time to see it, but this beach is famous for it’s row of green, yellow, blue, and red beach huts. They are set against a backdrop of white sand and turquoise waters in the bay, which will make for some great photos!
2. Eat At So Many Places
Cape Town is known for its great good. I didn’t spend too much time exploring the restaurants but I did eat at one great place called Kloof Street House. It was very good! I had ostrich (only in Africa!).
There are lots of foods you should try while in Cape Town. Since it’s such a multicultural place, there is lots of variety in addition to some of the traditional African dishes. While in Cape Town, try to find and eat the following:
Fish and chips (go for the Hake or Snoek), game meat (e.g., zebra, kudu, springbok, or warthog), bobotie (minced beef with milk and eggs), biltong and droëwors (dried meat and spices), braai (a traditional African barbeque). For dessert go for some koeksisters, milk tart, or malva pudding.
3. Climb Table Mountain
I chose to climb Platteklip Gorge, the quickest, yet steepest path to the top of Table Mountain. It was exhausting but the views were top notch every step of the way.
Once at the top, you can opt for even more views, specifically of the cape peninsula, by hiking out to the official peak at Maclear’s Beacon.
4. Ride The Cable Car
Don’t feel like hiking up or down Table Mountain? Then ride the Cable Car for R290 (~$20 USD) ! It’s a quick way to see the epic views without all the hard work. And it’s fun to ride!
5. See Views From Signal Hill
While I only went at night, the views from Signal Hill will give you a glimpse at the whole of Cape Town. You can easily drive there and park. Just beware there are lots of tourists walking around here and parking may be difficult at peak times of the day.
6. Dive False Bay
Known for its kelp forest and healthy, soft corals, False Bay has at least 100 dive sites to choose from. The water temperature was quite cold when I went at the start of the South African winter (May/June). So you will definitely need a warm wetsuit, as the temperature ranges between 46°F (8°C) and 62°F (17°C).
7. Drive Cape Hope/Chapman’s Peak
After diving, I was lucky enough to get a ride into Cape Town with a fellow dive buddy. He took us the long, scenic drive around Chapman’s Peak. I’m so glad he did! The views were amazing.
Definitely take your time driving around the Cape Peninsula. Try to go at the “Golden Hour” when the sun is low in the sky to get some really amazing photos.
8. See Penguins At Boulder Beach
One of the highlights for me in all of my time spent in Cape Town was my visit to see penguins in nearby Simon’s Town. You will find the African penguins nesting along the beach at Boulders beach.
This colony of penguins settled here in 1982 and they’ve been squatting ever since!
9. Explore Simon’s Town
Before or after visiting the penguins, be sure to walk into the nearby town. As a suburb of Cape Town, Simon’s Town is is home to the South African Navy’s Naval Base. So if you like big battleships, this is the place to check out!
Best seen on foot, Simon’s Town also boasts some great good spots, street art for sale, and hidden historic gems.
10. Explore the Cape Town Waterfront
You will find the famous red clock tower here alongside some great places to eat.
There are also several Museums to check out here, including the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, Chanonnes Battery Museum, and the Cape Town Diamond Museum. This is also the gateway location to Robben's Island. You walk inside the building just past the clock tower to get your ticket for ferry passage.
11. Visit Robben’s Island
Next time, I will post all about my visit to Robben’s Island—where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s a must see piece of South African history. The best part is a former inmate will be your tour guide so you can be sure to get first-hand information about what this place was like during apartheid.
In only a few short days, I managed to see a lot of Cape Town, South Africa. But truthfully, there is so much more I wish I had time to do! These are just the highlights from my own experience.
Share some of your own experiences by commenting below. I’d love to hear about your adventures in the oldest city in South Africa!