From the iconic Table Mountain, several hundred million years in the making, to the hip watering holes of Camps Bay, South Africa’s “Mother City” is the brightest light in the reborn rainbow nation. Inspirational landscape, sugary sand beaches, centuries old vineyards, and colonial mansions, plus a host of adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities are among Cape Town’s many blessings. Factor in a colorful creative vibe and a lively social scene—manifesting itself in outstanding places to stay, eat, and shop,—and you will soon realize why the city is South Africa's favorite playground.
Tours: “Don’t miss taking a township tour run by people from the townships, or staying a night at one of the several township guesthouses. Both are good ways to get away from the glossy brochure images of the city, and to experience Cape Town as the majority of its residents do.”
Tipping: “Wages aren’t what they are in Europe and North America. Most workers are poorly paid and unemployment is high, particularly among Cape Town’s most disadvantaged communities. It’s customary to pay tips to those who help you, not just waiting and hotel staff, every little bit helps.”
Preservation: “The Cape’s natural environment is as fragile as it is stunningly beautiful. While walking in Table Mountain National Park, tread lightly and completely banish the idea of lighting a fire or striking a match here as disastrous forest fires can result.”
Local handicrafts and artisanal items to pick up on your trip!
Features items handcrafted by women in the townships. Profits from the sales of their beautiful beadwork items, including a dazzling collection of dolls, help support a clinic for HIV/AIDS-affected women.
Cape Town is brimming with talented potters and ceramic artists, some of whom have emerged from the townships.
Common Cape Town Recipes:
Bobotie: This quintessential Cape Malay dish is a lightly curried beef or lamb mince, topped with an egg custard and is often served with turmeric-flavored rice and a dab of fruit chutney.
Roti: South Africa’s Indian immigrant population has contributed several dishes to the nation’s multicultural menu, including this one for flaky fried bread used to mop up curry.
Cape Brandy Pudding: Brandy was first distilled at the Cape in 1672, and it is likely that this recipe for a warming winter pudding was concocted soon after.
Pick a Place
Table Mountain Aerial Cableway:
“If you have to do one thing, do this. You will not be disappointed.”—Patrick Farrell, editor, Cape I magazine. The no-pain way up Cape Town’s most famous natural landmark, with 360-degree views from cable cars as they rise to within easy walking distance of the summit.
Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve:
The reserve is part of the Table Mountain National Park, this magnificent reserve covers the southern tip of the Cape and includes spectacular hikes, quiet beaches, and great opportunities to view wildlife, including eight species of antelope, zebras, and baboons.
District Six Museum:
This museum is emotionally moving and a very informative exhibition devoted to the people who lived in the once multicultural area of the inner city known as District Six, largely demolished during apartheid. The District Six Museum, established in December 1994, works with the memories of these experiences and with the history of forced removals more generally. Guided tours may be arranged in advance.
"We want the Museum to be a place of healing, but we don't want this to happen again. We dare not forget."
Stan Abrahams, ex-resident and Trustee of the District Six Museum.
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
This artfully restored, perpetually buzzing Waterfront is the shopping and entertainment central for both tourists and locals. Named after Queen Victoria and her son Alfred, it remains, at heart, a working harbor. The waterfront is beautiful when taking a boat tour. The Waterfront Boat Company offers sunset cruises on striking wooden boats. Also, visit the Nobel Square to see statues of Nelson Mandela and other South African Nobel Prize winners!
----------------------------------------------SOME EXTRA TIPS:
Swimming: “The sea looks inviting but can be freezing cold, especially on the Atlantic coast. Remember to swim only at beaches where lifeguards are on duty.”—Marc Zandhuis, editor in chief of Cape Town magazine.
Sunscreen and Hat: “Never go anywhere without them or else the African sun will burn you within an hour.”—Marc Zandhuis.
Tap Water: “South Africa reportedly has the best tap water in the world. It’s perfectly safe to drink it.”—Patrick Farrell.
Weather and Transportation
When to Go:
Peak season is between October and January. Temperatures average 64-80°F (18-27°C) with a cooling wind most days. The coldest months are June to August, when you can expect plenty of rain, usually in the morning and clearing by afternoon. The Cape’s spectacular displays of wildflowers are at their best from late August to September, also the start of whale-watching season.
Renting a car or using taxis, are the best ways to get around the city. The roads are excellent and outside rush hours (7-9 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m.) generally traffic free. Safe, on-street parking is available for a small fee paid to either an official parking marshal or unofficial minder. For weekday visits outside the city, use metro commuter trains. Keep in mind that there are few trains after 8 p.m. Monday-Friday or after 7 p.m. on Saturday.