A Guide to Cape Town, South Africa's Favourite City
Cape Town is South Africa’s most beloved city and is often seen as a world of its own as it is so different from both the rest of the country and the rest of the continent. Better known as the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town boasts a cosmopolitan fusion of cultures, cuisines, landscapes and design.
This scenic South African beauty really encompasses it all, from its jaw-dropping attractions and terrains to its century-old architecture and its culturally diverse places, spaces and faces.
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A utopian city home to art-house coffee shops and strong winds, where people never seem to work and where driving anywhere longer than 15 minutes is considered a day trip. A city where everyone is overly ‘chilled’ and no one seems to have a ‘real job’ – with every second person being a freelance creative or professional trust fund kid.
A city where drinking coffee and craft beer is not just mandatory but an everyday staple, a city known to its residents as ‘kak cool’ or ‘woke AF’ but slightly pretentious by everyone else. Where being vegan is a political statement and artisanal stores speckled the aesthetic streets of the city – where fashion reigns supreme and summer cocktails are as pricey as they are hard to pronounce. Despite all this, you really can’t overstate the case for visiting Cape Town.
Let’s begin our guide to Cape Town, South Africa’s favourite city.
Cape Town Must See Sites
There is something magical about Cape Town, maybe it’s something in the fresh sea breeze that carries all the feelings of an exotic international holiday destination, its pulsating energy is contagious and the sights make you feel like you’re really living your best life – even if you’re not. The real ‘extra’ of South Africa, Cape Town is filled with human creativity, vibrancy and innovation and home to some of the most iconic landmarks Africa has to offer including;
- Table Mountain
- Robben Island
- District Six Museum
- Cultivated areas like the historic Company’s Gardens
- Green Point Urban Park
- Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
It’s also renowned, yes renowned for its exquisite Winelands where most wines are internationally-acclaimed and even award-winning – yes you heard right, AWARD WINNING. If that’s not a reason to immediately book your ticket, I don’t know what is. There is also the equally gorgeous must-see’s like the;
- Castle of Good of Hope
- The Planetarium
- The recently opened Zeit MOCCA, which is the largest museum of contemporary art in Africa. In fact, there is no better way to get acquainted with the diverse cultures that make up this colourful city than through the curation of a variety of different art forms.
With many pristine white beaches, like the quintessential Clifton 4th, Beta beach, Boulders Bay and the highly acclaimed Camps Bay which are all lapped by the chilly Atlantic and whose curves exhibit ancient granite boulders which protect you from the harsh winds.
Looking for some adrenaline in Cape Town? Then check out this list of 10 ultimate Cape Town adventures.
It’s the ultimate holiday destination no matter what the season and has received many accolades for both its tourism and its quality of amenities throughout the years;
- voted by the Telegraph as the best city to travel to in the world (for the fourth year in a row)
- voted by Lonely Planet as the second best place to travel in 2017
- voted by Conde Nast Readers Travel Awards as the best overseas city for restaurants and bars – as well as the second best destination to travel to.
Not bad for a small third world African city!
A Capetonian Itinerary
The residences of Cape Town are as proud of its sandy white beaches and rolling mountains as if they were made by their very own manicured hands. The appreciation and love for their city is hard to rival, with high desire to blow the minds of any Cape Town virgin the city has to offer – as there are literally millions of ways to do so.
And if you give even the smallest indication that you are in fact, a first time visitor to any Capetonian, prepare for the impromptu assignment as your new tour guide to Cape Town, promising you a first time look at the views from Signal Hill; a trek up Lion’s Head to take that infamous Instagram shot or check out a Supermoon; get raucously day drunk on the train to Kalk Bay; bathe in the sun among the Penguins of Boulders; engorge yourselves in Clarke’s Bar’s twice fried fries, all before finding yourselves at a secret block party or in the wake of the ever growing crowds of First Thursday, only to end the night with a craft beer from P&G, all the while making new friends of the vast array of metropolitan wildlife and colourful personalities Cape Town has to offer.
End up watching the striking sunrise on Beach Road’s promenade followed by a millennial breakfast of poached egg and avocado or the Matcha protein bowl from Nü.
If this scenario sounds like the ultimate holiday itinerary and you’re up for an adventure, then Cape Town is the city for you! As well as an endless list of must-sees, Cape Town is also very diverse from anywhere else in the world. Thus, there are a few things to consider before embarking on your trip – a few helpful insights into manoeuvring the streets like a locale.
Cape Town Weather
Cape Town’s weather is extremely changeable so it’s best to keep your itinerary as flexible as possible – especially because the majority of Cape Town’s activities are weather dependent. Don’t be too despondent if you’ve made plans and the weather disagrees with what you would like to do. It will probably change three more times before the course of the day is over, so you’ll definitely have time to tick off all your bucket list activities before the end of your trip. The key is not to panic and go with the flow – It’s what the locals would do.
Another tip regarding the weather is to curate an outfit that incorporates a warm sweater or jacket in case the chilly wind gets too much, or the weather drastically changes. It’s best to be prepared.
Watch Your Money
Some of the world’s most notorious pickpockets are in and around Cape Town. Ones that make Oliver Twist’s Fagin look tame. They are especially good around the CBD, places like Long Street and Roeland Street being the prime spots of sticky fingers and quick hands. Make sure you keep your money in a place that is easily accessible but easily concealed. Consider the likes of a moon bag as they are the perfect place to keep your things and a new-found trend among the Capetonian ‘Kool Kids’ – making it the ultimate way to keep your money safe and stay fashion forward.
It’s also important to familiarise yourself with the currency of South Africa, the R20 look very similar to the R200 and you don’t want to underpay your bill.
Infamous Car Guards
Car Guards are uniquely South African and are a pretty difficult thing for foreigners to wrap their head around. As South Africa is considered a third world country, job opportunities are scarce and the unemployment rates high. And although it is not considered an actual job it has inserted itself in the normality and routine of every day for all South Africans – as if it were.
So don’t be alarmed if you have someone waving ferociously and shouting obscure sentences at you. They are only trying to help and earn some sort of living. The average cash exchange for their um… “services” is anywhere between R2- R10 wherever you feel comfortable.
To Tip or Not To Tip
Tipping is customary in Cape Town. Most foreigners are not aware of this and therefore forego tipping the likes of Bar-men and waitstaff – this is how many of them earn their living, so please make sure to check your bills and reward good service.
Some places will add an extra 10% on to bills and certain services to ensure that those who are providing it get compensated. However, this is only some establishments and others require you to give gratitude at your own convenience – should you feel dissatisfied with your service then, by all means, forgo your tip but if you feel like you had a good experience then tip your staff. The average amount is between 10%-20%.
Table Mountain Advice
Table Mountain is one of Cape Town’s most iconic sites, if not the most iconic. It is a favourite for all visitors and a must-see on their list of things to do in Cape Town. However, this isn’t as easy as it seems. Due to its popularity, its prices are steep, and its lines are long. The key is to get up early, real early, to avoid waiting in the ques. Another little tip is that tickets are half price at sunset. This means you can avoid the maddening crowds and receive half price for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
First Thursday is a new initiative in Cape Town. It is a free and public event that occurs on the first Thursday of every month along the axes of Bree and Church street in Cape Town’s city centre. It’s the ultimate event to get yourself acquainted with the cultural creativity and diversity that Cape Town has to offer, and the importance of celebration and art has on the people of this city.
The event is one where art galleries, live performances, bars, pop-up restaurants, stores, musicians and exhibitions all stay open until 9pm – allowing you to immerse yourself with the movers and shakers of this beautiful city. It is a must-see event and a highlight for just about every local. Try and catch an uber or taxi as parking can be tricky during First Thursday.
Where to Stay in Cape Town?
Cape Town is filled with amazing places to stay. No matter what kind of accommodation you’re looking for Cape Town has it. The only speed bump? Deciding which places to stay. With so much on offer, it can be difficult deciding just where you want to be and where is it in relation to what you want to see.
We know that there is so much to do and chances are you’ll end up staying in more than one place. So in this guide to Cape Town, we have curated a little list of the best spots to stay in Cape Town to help make this part of your itinerary planning quick and easy.
Once-In-Cape Town is situated on trendy Kloof Street in the center of the mother city and in the heart of the trendiest restaurant/bar on the strip – Yours Truly. This vibey hostel-meets-hotel (three stars) has all the good vibes, essential amenities, live music, and free activities you could dream of. Activities such as trips to signal hill, salsa dancing, and Sunday outings to the famous Mzolis.
Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel
This hotel is made for travelers and offers a unique out the box experience for even the most well-travelled adventurers. The hotel is perfectly situated for those seeking authentic experiences and who are interested in exploring characters and Cape Town’s diverse nightlife.
Situated in the heart of Long Street, Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel offers a variety of uniquely designed rooms – each with their own theme and inspiration to make you feel like you are part of an interactive art exhibition.
Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel
One of the oldest most beautiful hotels in the country, Belmond Mount Nelson is the perfect oasis of calm within the pulsating heart of Cape Town. At the foot of Table Mountain sits this piece of colonial grandeur with its irresistible modern twist.
Built in 1918, this exquisitely restored pastel pink – painted as a symbolic representation of peace makes for an unforgettable stay. Indulge yourself at the in-house spa or unwind with a master class in painting. The Mount Nelson makes for a picture-perfect stay.
The Cape Grace is one of the most renowned Hotels in Cape Town. Known for its lavish amenities and its breathtaking views. Situated on a private quay between the V&A Waterfront and the tranquil yacht marine, there is no better place to fall in love with all that Cape Town has to offer. Beautiful, elegant and warm, this is one of the most extravagant hotels to visit transporting you to a historic world with modern twists and extraordinary cuisine.
This is definitely one of the most unusual spots to stay in Cape Town but is undoubtedly the spot with the best view. Situated on top of Cape Town’s most iconic landmark – Table Mount. Yep, on top of. This self-catering cottage is comfortable and stylish and provides the most breathtaking views of the city at your feet and the constellation so close above your head you’d think you could touch them.
The stone cottage sleeps a total of 16 consisting of two four sleeper bedrooms and four two sleeper bedrooms. It is really accommodation like no other. An accommodation that is both remote and naturally beautiful.
Price: R2280 per night for six people. Thereafter an additional charge of R380 per adult and R180 per child will be added. SANpark offers a 20% discount in the months May, June and July.
Whether you like it or not, Cape Town promises an exhilarating out the box travel experience, one that will take you to a variety of different spaces and present to you a variety of different possibilities. It promises complexity, diversity and lots of spirit.
The edgy city is a melting pot of multi-cultures coexisting somewhat peacefully and proudly together. Creating a destination of unique flavours and faces, with an afro-chic decor and an unparalleled natural beauty – Cape Town is a must-see for travel amateurs and professionals alike. The question posed isn’t should I book my next holiday to Cape Town but When should I book – and the answer quite simply is…now.
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This article is sponsored by safari.com