VISITING CAPE TOWN
Cape Town is a colourful, vibrant city with many special things to see and experience. The Mother City of South Africa is easy to explore, rich in heritage, has an amazing geographical position and heavenly nature.
I spent 2 weeks in Cape Town. 10 days before my safari to Victoria Falls, and 4 days after. I would definitely recommend taking your time for this visit. Here is what I discovered about things you can do in Cape Town, South Africa.
Among many things you can do in this amazing area of Western Cape, in this blog post, I focused on those experiences that you can afford on a low budget.
Besides these attractions, depending on the amount of time you have you can also include Kristenbach garden, Robben Island, Cape Point peninsula, Penguin beach and many others. If you want to find out more about how, when and why you should visit these places you can check out my blog Daily trips from Cape Town or if you are wanting to know everything you need to know before arriving in Cape Town yourself find all my Cape Town blogs here.
TRIP TO THE TABLE MOUNTAIN
Table mountain is one of the things you shouldn’t miss while visiting Cape Town. It offers rewarding bird-eye views of the city and its neighbouring areas below. Table Mountain is listed as one of the new seven wonders of nature.
Depending on your physical condition and budget you can choose to do a hike to the top or go with a cable car, I personally opted for the hike.
No matter which option you choose you should check the weather. Since if you want to enjoy the views and are not amazed by dreamy clouds that make you see only the fog (also known as the tablecloth effect), the day has to be clear.
Also, the wind. If it is too windy, the cable car is closed, which it was the day I hiked up, and the hike can get dangerous. So checking the weather is what to do in Cape Town before any decision making. Also, dress well since the wind can be cool no matter how sunny it is especially if you opt for the free hiking option. I learnt both of these valuable lessons first hand.
Find out the tour options that include visiting the top of tabletop mountain
As mentioned, this is the way I personally reached the top. In my experience, this was absolutely rewarding and I would choose this way again without hesitation. There is a designated pathway and it is absolute heaven for nature lovers and adventurous souls.
It is certainly not an easy climb. It can take from 1 up to 4 hours depending on your fitness level, the stops you make to admire the views and the conditions you face. For me, it was a four-hour-long hike as I took plenty of photo stops and really took my time to complete. Make sure that you are ready for it before you decide to walk up, think of the footwear and clothing you are wearing etc. The path is well marked, and you will most likely find heaps of fellow tourists doing the trek to the top as well.
You can even get a hike with a guide to ensure you make it safely
Keep in mind if choosing this method: The wind can be extremely intense when you come to the top. I was unprepared for this because I didn’t know that you actually finish the climb in the middle of a valley, which happens to be the channel for all the wind blowing across the mountain. Even on a calm day, the chances are high that you will come across windy conditions the closer you get to the top.
This is a great alternative to hiking if you feel that you are not ready or you don’t have enough time to do the task of climbing up. You can get to the start of the cable car by taxi or as part of the “hop on hop off” bus route of Cape Town.
Keep in mind if choosing this method: When windy the cableway doesn’t operate. This method is not for free, the price varies depending on the time of the day. During the morning peak (from 8 am to 1 pm) you pay R290 return and R150 one-way. In the afternoon (1 pm onwards) the price is R275 return and R150 one-way.
Get a guided tour to the top of Tabletop Mountain with the chair lift.
WALKTHROUGH DISTRICT 6 AREA AND VISIT THE MUSEUM
District Six is a symbol of Cape Town’s past. In the 1970s over 60,000 inhabitants of District Six were forcibly removed by Apartheid.
The District Six Museum is designed to serve as a shrine of remembrance to exactly what occurred during the awful years under the Apartheid regime.
Throughout the museum, you will find a large map of District Six, hand-written letters from residents, old memorabilia from the area including street signs as well as a meeting place and community centre for those that now call the area of District Six home again.
It creates an emotional turmoil and a strong feeling of empathy for those that were the victims of this severe social order. In case you will feel that you need to contemplate what you just experienced, there is a lovely café on site that can be a beautiful place to do so.
Keep in mind: The fee of entry to the museum is $5. I would also recommend booking ahead, this will ensure you have skip the line access as well. There are also well-operated tours that will show you around the area of district six and explain some of the unimaginable stories that went on there not all that long ago.
COMPLETE A WALKING TOUR OF CAPE TOWN – Bo-Kaap
When I visit places I try not to miss out on the free walking tours that the cities offer. This is certainly one of the best free things to do in Cape Town city centre. It’s an easy way you can begin to feel the culture of the city and discover the inner city history.
The particular tour I chose to do was the “Getting to know the Bo-Kaap” tour. This is the area that was built way back in the mid-1700s. It was designed as a neighbourhood for slaves that were brought to Cape Town from other parts of Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia.
This place is a colourful creative melting pot of all kinds of wonderful souls. The famous houses are painted in all different array of bright colours and this was brought about by the fact that originally all the houses were made and forced to stay white while being leased to the slaves. Once the rules were changed and slaves were permitted to buy their houses, they are said to have painted them all different colours as a way to celebrate their new freedom. We were also told that many colours on the front of these houses indicated the profession of their residents.
This area is an extremely creative area. As the houses, people were also forced into leading monochromatic lives, and this suffering pushed them to create colour, to create art. So if you feel inspired, you can attend many interesting workshops and tours; like the beadwork workshop where they teach you how to create traditional African 3D artworks or a cooking tour where they teach you how to prepare traditional Cape Malay food.
Keep in mind: Walking tours are free of charge, but you should remember to tip the tour guide as an act of appreciation of their time and energy.
HOP ON HOP OFF BUS
Taking a hop on hop off bus is a perfect way to get an overview of the city of Cape Town. This way you can get around some parts that are hardly reachable without a car.
It is an affordable option since you pay $15 for the one day ticket. There are various lines, that take you to different sites. You choose what you want to see while learning about the area with an audio-guide.
Keep in mind: It is a cheaper option (20R less) to buy the tickets online, and a mobile voucher is all that you need or if your accommodation has a laptop you can book ahead there.
CAPE TOWN V&A WATERFRONT
It’s a fact that one of the things to do in Cape Town is walking around V&A waterfront. This is a lively new part of Cape Town’s city that sits on Table Bay Harbour offering amazing views of Table Mountain. It is a part of the town that has a lot to offer; shops, restaurants, cafes, a few tourist attractions and more. It is a hip area that is bursting with life.
You can easily walk to it from almost anywhere you decide to stay in Cape Town. There is some impressive architecture to admire as well.
If you get hungry from all that walking, you should certainly visit the V&A food market. It is a perfect place to grab a bite. It offers a variety of foods that are decently priced.
If you are lucky, it can happen that you run into the local residents lazing about. The residents I am talking about are the seals that call the local Atlantic waters around Cape Town their home.
CLIMB LIONS HEAD LOOKOUT
The other imposing landmass that separates parts of Cape Town into two is called Lions Head. Just like Tabletop Mountain which I mentioned above, this is another great area to gain some impressive views of the city below. It is nicknamed the little brother of Tabletop Mountain as it only takes a much more manageable two hours to complete.
It is a far easier hike than its bigger brother and offers just as good if not better views of Cape Town. The reason I say better is that it can give you a complete 360-degree view of the town below, this is achieved by the hiking trail climbing in a screw-top like formation allowing you to climb around the mountain as you go higher.
It is a popular spot to climb and the chances are you will find plenty of like-minded people heading to the top or climbing back down.
Find the many activities that will ensure you climb Lions Head and witness incredible views of Cape Town.
Keep in mind: A flashlight or a headlamp will make this a much easier mission if you opt to climb and witness the sunrise or sunset. The weather conditions safety measures are the same as for Table Mountain. There are different tours that leave at different times of the day, these include sunrise and sunset tours and plenty more.
This street is one of the best-known places in Cape Town to buy good coffee, a snack of something really tasty and new, buy an authentic piece of clothing, find a good music store or just enjoy the local vibe while walking around. Whatever your interests are, this street is long enough for you to find something that will make your heart beat faster.
Long Street in Cape Town is also a place to go if you are up for a drink or a dance. It is one of the points where the Cape Town nightlife happens. It is full of youngsters, different kinds of music, colour and good vibes.
Keep in mind: The safety measures that I talk about below are important to take into consideration when visiting Long Street.
I always think that staying in and around this area is also a good idea for most travellers, there are some nice budget-friendly hostels and hotels for backpackers and families alike in this area.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION TO CONSIDER WHILE IN CAPE TOWN
FOOD YOU WILL FIND IN CAPE TOWN
With such diversity and different influences from all around the world, Cape Town offers a variety of interesting food choices. I would recommend searching for your favourite depending on your diet. There are plenty of dishes to choose from, seafood, fish’n’chips variations, tapas, Indian, national dishes, pretty much anything you could think of.
My personal favourite was “Food lovers market Café” which offers some amazing salads, sandwiches, fruit, smoothies and pre-cooked meals. It is perfect for someone that has been travelling on noodles for a long period and needs some real nutrients.
Go, explore, enjoy yourself!
Please be aware that Cape Town has a tricky water situation. The SA fresh water is decreasing in quality because of pollution caused by urbanisation, deforestation, industry, mining and other destructive actions. Every drop counts. It is utterly important that, while in Cape Town, you spare water in every possible situation. Drinking only when you are thirsty, taking showers only as long as necessary, closing the pipe when it is not being used, and so on.
If you want to find out more about this topic, here is a short documentary that describes it all; “Scenes from a dry city”.
Getting around Cape Town is pretty easy. You have a few choices.
When going by foot, more or less everything in the city centre is easily reachable if you know the routes. In case you get confused, there are plenty of people on the street that you can ask for help. Citizens are super friendly and helpful.
Remember that a walking tour of the city is a great idea when first arriving as this gives you a chance to get comfortable in the area with a friendly local guide. Find a guided walking tour.
Keep in mind: Walking around at night time is not recommended because there are fewer people and the environment is not that friendly when it turns dark.
If you choose to use a taxi; you can take an Uber or an UniCab (or other local taxis).
My personal choice was taking an Uber. It is affordable and very easy to use. I found it perfect to move around Cape Town. This way I was sure that I am not getting scammed since I got my price and the personal details of my driver right away.
If you decide to use a Rent-a-car be aware that in SA they drive on the left side of the road and that the traffic in the city centre can get pretty hectic. My advice would be to look at the people and their behaviour on the road rather than just following the rules. I hired a car a couple of days in Cape Town and had a really great time exploring nearby locations. Many of the locations I visited can be found in my daily trips from Cap Town blog.
And, of course, public transport or MyCiti Bus. This is a good option to move around the city bowl during the daytime and the prices are affordable. but it is also known that they are often not on time.
CAPE TOWN SAFETY
Is Cape Town safe? That is a question every traveller will think about before his or her trip since SA is generally known as a little of a dodgy country.
This topic was extremely interesting to me since it is not uncommon that people spread fear to each other when talking about safety in SA. But, like everywhere, nothing is black and white. There are many things to take into consideration when talking about this.
Firstly, Cape Town is a city that is still evolving, you will run into many contrasts. There is a huge gap between wealth and poverty, it is a melting pot of different cultures. So, anything can happen when you walk around a city that makes up a population of around 4.5 million people.
But, keep in mind, everything is up to you. You should be conscious of your surroundings, be observant and be vigilant just as you should be in any foreign city, to be honest. Depending on your attitude, you will get a certain response to a possible threat.
When it comes to your belongings, my advice would be to pack your things up. It is not necessary to carry cash around since you can pay almost everywhere with your card and the town is packed with ATM’s.
So, smile, observe and enjoy your trip.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CAPE TOWN
Honestly, it will be nice at all times throughout the year. The weather during the spring/summer period from November to May will certainly make you spend more time outside and connect with nature more easily. Although the winter in SA is also wonderful. You will see that the South African Sun feels very close to your body and to your heart.
ENJOY YOUR TRIP!
Feel free to share your own experiences or leave feedback. If you wish to find out more about the daily trips and Cape Town tourism, you can read my blog on the Best Day Trips from Cape Town or main Cape Town blog.
Organise Your Trip: Travel Advice and Tricks I Personally Use
Book Your Flight
Heading to either Skyscanner or Momondo are my methods of choice for this. They are my favourite as they search for flights from different companies all over the world. You can filter the results to suit your needs and ensure you land the best price every-time.
Book Your Accommodation
This is an important part of any holiday you’re going on. Read all the reviews and get the right accommodation via TripAdvisor. They even show you the best prices available at the time for that room from suppliers like Booking.com.For booking a hostel your best bet is to start with HostelWorld or possible even use CouchSurfing if you’re on a real budget.
Find the best valued accommodation options for your stay in Cape Town.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance is a must these days so you have a piece of mind you’re covered for anything that could go wrong while on your trip. I now never go on a trip away without travel insurance. I’ve been using World Nomads for the past few years.
My favourite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (little more expensive but covers everything)
- SafetyWing (cheaper option to just cover you for health issues)
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
As I have been travelling frequently over the last few years I’ve learnt some great tools to use for saving money when travelling. I have a travel resource page that lists all the trusted companies I personally use and rely on. I think you will find them good as well.
The Best Place To Book Your Tours
If you are someone you likes to have the best tours in one place and read reviews from other travellers about their personal experiences of each different tour then the best platform to use is GetYourGuide.
They offer the best tours, have money-back offers in case your trip is cancelled and ensure the price of each tour is the lowest possible.
Find a great fishing charter and make some memories while in Cape Town.
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