At the end of a 4,5 week road trip through South Africa we spent three days in Cape Town, the second biggest city in South Africa after Johannesburg. There are many amazing places to visit in Cape Town.
We mention 15 of those below but of course there are many more in this vibrant multi-ethnic city of almost four million people. Visitors are spoiled for historical, culinary and cultural choices so you’ll always find something to do here to suit your taste.
Three days, of course, was much too short but we think that our list of places to visit in Cape Town has everything a short time visitor needs to build a personal sightseeing itinerary. Our days were quite packed, others will undoubtedly prefer a somewhat slower and more relaxed pace.
Whatever way you visit Cape Town, we’re sure you will enjoy the city as much as we did.
Places to visit in Cape Town
No visit to Cape Town is complete without going to the top of Table Mountain (1.086 meters above sea level) that you can see from almost anywhere in the city. Getting to Table Mountain is pretty straightforward: An aerial cableway gets you to the top where the views of the city down below are great.
There’s just one problem: If conditions are too cloudy and windy the cable cars don’t run. You can read our account of getting to the top of Table Mountain here.
Tip: On various locations in Cape Town you’ll find huge yellow metal frames framing Table Mountain. They’re a fun way to take pics of this majestic backdrop to the city.
670 meter high Lion’s Head is a stones’ throw away from Table Mountain, making it one of the best spots for grand panoramas of Cape Town and Table Mountain. Getting to the top following the Spiral Path – it circles the mountain completely – takes just one hour but it’s a pretty tough and sweaty climb. Especially the last stretch is steep and sometimes involves scrambling over rocks and using steel ladders.
Eugénie called it quits after the first steel ladder and a narrow ledge so I had the enjoy the incredible views of Cape Town and Table Mountain in the clouds by my lonesome self. A shame because this is something I would have really liked to share with her.
When hiking Lion’s Head is too much of an exertion and the cable car up Table Mountain isn’t running, then the next best thing for a panoramic view is driving up Signal Hill. The views are a little less spectacular but still amazing.
Long Street is the closest thing in Cape Town to a tourist street. Lined by some pretty Victorian-era buildings featuring wrought-iron balconies Cape Town’s main drag has tourist shops, restaurants and nightlife.
Located on Long Street Mama Africa is one of the most beloved restaurants in Cape Town, especially favored for it’s typical African and game dishes. We really wanted to have dinner here, when there’s live music, but all our days in Cape Town the restaurant was fully booked in the evenings. Instead we had a fantastic lunch trying the mixed grill game platter with crocodile, kudu, ostrich, springbok and warthog meat. The tender Springbok meat was our favorite.
From Long Street it’s just a short hop into Bo-Kaap, the happily colorful Cape Malay Muslim neighborhood that is one of the most amazing places to visit in Cape Town. You can go there on a free guided walking tour (a tip is expected of course) but it’s just as easy to walk around by yourself. To see how colorful Bo-Kaap really is click here.
Woodstock street art
The artsy Woodstock neighborhood has somewhat of a street art scene. It’s still in its early stages and not all murals are top notch, but we still enjoyed it very much. Guided tours are available. Some murals can be found in District Six too. A separate post with examples of street in Cape Town can be found here.
We just stumbled upon it by accident when looking for street art in District Six not knowing that Charly’s Bakery happens to be one of the most famous bakeries in South Africa. It stars in Charly’s Cake Angels, a docu-reality TV series that debuted in October 2011. Customers can choose from a range of brightly colored cupcakes, cookies and cakes. Yummy.
With fantastic game parks, stunning nature and plenty of great outdoor activities we were surprised to learn that the best visited tourist site in South Africa is a shopping center. No shit. On a striking location around a historic working harbor the V&A Waterfront is a collection of shops, restaurants, bars and other tourist attractions. It was not really our thing, but the lively atmosphere – with street artists performing – was great.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
The little over a hundred years old Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the largest of ten botanical gardens in South Africa. The 36 ha open to visitors display southern African plants, flowers and trees including many rare and endangered species.
There’s 2 kilometers of trails and a tree canopy walkway was added in 2013 to celebrate the garden’s 100th anniversary. The gardens were nice enough to walk through, and if you bring your own lunch there are plenty of opportunities to sit and eat, but we wouldn’t have missed it either. Then again: We’re no botanists. ‘Flower people’ will probably appreciate it much more.
We are really sore that we missed out on Robben Island. The (in)famous prison island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for many years during Apartheid is now a Unesco World Heritage site and museum. Regretfully all tickets were sold out many days in advance during the time of our stay in Cape Town.
For the last four places to visit in Cape Town you actually have to get out of the city to the Cape Peninsula which can be visited on a guided tour or rental car (which we highly recommend). We visited the Cape Peninsula coming from Stellenbosch and overnighting at Hout Bay where we wanted to go snorkeling with fur seals (which was not possible because of too much wind).
Just south of Cape Town Muizenberg Beach is a popular sun and surf spot. The beach is best known, however, for its row of extremely colorful Victorian beach cabanas. When we were arrived around noon there was hardly anybody on the beach. The wind was blowing so hard that we got seriously sandblasted. The town is a good spot for a fish food lunch.
Boulders Beach African penguin colony
One of the most popular trips from Cape Town is a visit to the African penguin colony at Boulders Beach, just south of Simon’s Town. Because of its proximity to Cape Town it tends to turn into a bit of a tourist circus though.
The unique attraction here is that you can actually mingle with the penguins, but you have to know how to get to the correct beach. Want to see more penguin pics and learn how to get to the penguin beach check out this separate post.
Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope
We had so much fun at Boulders Beach that we had to rush to get to Cape of Good Hope, which is perceived as the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. We walked the cliff path from the Cape Point entrance to the Cape of Good Hope viewpoint and saw wild ostriches on the way.
Cape of Good Hope sign can be reached by car, though, if you take an earlier turn-off. We didn’t make it to the Cape Point Lighthouse as we were running out of time (we blame the penguins…).
Chapman’s Peak Drive
It’s short but Chapman’s Peak Drive has to be one of the most scenic drives we’ve ever made. The 5 km stretch of toll road is sandwiched between Chapman’s Peak and the sea. We drove it just before sunset when the light was magical.
Tip: It’s best to drive from south to north – Noordhoek to Hout Bay. Since you’ll be driving on the left side of the road this will afford you the best views and easier parking.
We visited Cape Town in November 2016