Before I started an amazing safari from Cape Town to Victoria Falls, I took the chance to relax and explore Cape Town and its surrounding areas. In this blog, you will find my favourite activities in Cape Town to do while enjoying your stay.
If you are interested in learning more about the cool tours or places to visit just outside the city, then check out the “Day Excursions from Cape Town” blog I have previously written. Enjoy these 5 must do or see places and enjoy your time in Cape Town, South Africa.
Climb Tabletop Mountain or Go by chair lift
The first activities in Cape Town are also impossible not to find. The imposing image that is Tabletop Mountain can be seen from almost everywhere you venture. The city is built on the side of this and the misty cloud cover that hangs around the top of the mountain is where the name Tabletop comes from.
While in Cape Town it would be just completely wrong if you didn’t take the time to head to the top of here and take in the full birds-eye views of Cape Town and the wider neighbouring areas below. There are two main ways to climb the mountain and depending on your fitness level and time schedule will determine which option is best for you.
The way I personally reached the top was by the best method in my opinion, it is the rewarding method of climbing it via the designated pathway. It is certainly not an easy climb and you should research or at least know what you are in for before you head off.
The path is well marked, and you will most likely find heaps of fellow tourists doing the trek to the top as well. It is steep in areas and some spots might cause a few issues for people that are sensitive to heights although I’m sometimes one of those people and I managed OK.
The other main safety concern is to not try this when it is windy. The day I completed the trek almost didn’t happen as once near the top you actually finish the climb in the middle of a valley, which happens to be the channel for all the wind from the mountain. I almost had to turn back, many others did the day I did it, so please look at the conditions before starting your climb to avoid disappointment. The climb itself took around the four-hour mark but this could take shorter or longer depending on the conditions you face and how often you stop to admire the views.
The second and by far the easiest method to reach the top is by cable car. I obviously didn’t do this method, but it is easy to see from most places. This is a great option if in a rush or you don’t think you are up for making the trek on foot. 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.
Be warned that when windy the cable car also doesn’t operate as was the case the day I did the climb, this should have been my first clue that wind was going to be an issue on the climb.
Walk through district 6 area and visit the Museum
District Six is an area that will always be a huge part of Cape Town’s past. In the 1970s over 60,000 inhabitants of District Six were forcibly removed by a regime called Apartheid. For those of you that might be unaware, this regime created huge racial segregation in South America between 1948 and can you believe the early 1990’s. This is still a subject that is spoken of carefully all throughout South Africa.
The district wasn’t rezoned until early 2004 when 38 years to the day Nelson Mandela handed the keys back to the first returning residents. It is now partly divided across 3 suburbs and in 1994, 5 years after District Six Museum Foundation was established, the Museum became a reality.
It is designed to serve as a shrine of remembrance to exactly what occurred during those awful years under the Apartheid regime as well as a complete guide to the history and culture of the area before the forceful removal of the residents occurred.
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.
There is also a lovely café on site that served some enjoyable local snacks.
If you want to visit the museum there are some occasional free times to visit although the fee of entry is around $5 so it won’t shock you too much. Book ahead here, there are also other 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.
This is propably the most emotional of the activities in Cape Town I have mentioned. It is incrediable what actually went on in these parts.
Complete a walking tour of Cape Town
One thing I try and complete early on in most big cities I visit is a “Free walking tour” that is almost certainly run by local residents or at the very least trained tour guides. This is no exception in Cape Town and perhaps even more important to many places you visit, not just because of the history but also because of how recent all this “history” occurred.
The particular tour I chose to do was the “Getting to know the Bo-Kaap” tour. For those of you that don’t know this is the area way back in the mid-1700s that houses were built and then rented to slaves. These slaves were brought to Cape Town from other parts of Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The houses are nowadays 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 that the residents inside worked as.
Along with the colourful houses located in Bo-Kaap you will also see the oldest house in the area as well as the first Muslim Mosque in South America. Dotted all throughout Bo-Kaap are also many traditional restaurants offering a selection of great local dishes.
These activities in Cape Town are technically free but remember if you enjoy the tour please show your appreciation with a small tip tto the guide.
This is a lively new part of Cape Town’s city built right on the Atlantic shore in Table Bay Harbour. It is a mixture of residential housing, commercial shopping district, hotels, dining options as well as leisure and entertainment venues. 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 as plenty of unique shops to wander through at your own pace.
If you time it right, you can even see the local residents lazing about near Quay 4 of the establishment. Of course, these local residents are the fur seals that call the local Atlantic waters around Cape Town home.
If you are going on the ferry out to Robben Island to check out the old political prison where the late Nelson Mandela was held at for 18 of his 27 years in prison, then this is the place you will leave from. Be sure to book this tour of the Island or ferry ride in advance as tickets do sell out fast, you can do that here now.
There are also plenty of tours that will combine a visit to Robben Island with other local attractions to give you a full day adventure in Cape Town.
Climb Lions Head Lookout
The other imposing land mass 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 as well and offers just as good if not possibly 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. The sunrise or sunset are popular times to venture to Lion’s head but be warned, a flashlight or best still a headlamp will make this a much easier mission.
Enjoy the views as much as you like before making your way back down to the exciting city of Cape Town below or of course while you are up this far you could always take the option to “paraglide” down from Lions Head.
As an extra piece of friendly advice to people that managed to read the five Activities in Cape Town, I suggested, I’m going to let you in on a cool place I found that offered some amazing salad and healthy food options to enjoy. These really were delicious and super popular with locals and tourists alike.
It’s called the “Food lovers market Café” and offers some amazing salads, sandwiches, fruit, smoothies and pre-cooked meals. Perfect for someone that has been travelling on noodles for a long period and needs some real nutrients.
I hope you take up my advice and add some or all of these great local Activities in Cape Town to your trip. If you have something extra that you suggest or would like to provide feedback on your own trip, then please use the comments section below this blog.
If you would like to learn the “Best Day Trips” from Cape Town follow that link, Cape Town really is a destination with so much to offer the holidaymaker.
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Happy Travels, Brodie
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