26 incredible things to do in Cape Town, South Africa
Post updated: 11/11/2019: Looking for what to do in Cape Town? Having spent more than six weeks in South Africa’s Mother City, exploring the best that this vibrant, cosmopolitan city has to offer, these are our absolute favourite things to do in Cape Town.
In our humble opinion, Cape Town is one of the best cities in the world.
There’s just something about the way Table Mountain gently rolls down to the bay, decorated by the sprawl of the city and the pulse of a vibrant, multicultural melting-pot society that is totally awe-inspiring.
There are just so many things to do in Cape Town that you could spend weeks there and not even scratch the surface. In one day you could hike up Table Mountain, take a tour through Mandela’s former Robben island cell, float in some of the best beaches in the world, sip wine at Stellenbosch, and watch pastel colours streak the horizon at sunset in Camps Bay - and before your head hits the pillow there’s world-class cuisine to enjoy at the V&A waterfront and cocktails to sip in a secret gin bar (yes. really!).
Oh yeah, and did we mention that it also has a super cool coffee culture that rivals anywhere in the world and street art that will blow your freaking mind?!
In case you need more convincing, check out our favourite things to do in Cape Town - then book that ticket!
OUR FAVOURITE THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN CAPE TOWN
Things to do in Cape Town | nature and adventure
In case it wasn't already immediately obvious, Cape Town is a city made for nature-lovers and thrill-seeking folk alike. From world-class hiking to some of the best sunsets in the world, epic drives to the greatest whale-watching experiences in the world, the Mother City really has it all.
#1 Take the cableway to the top of Table Mountain
If you think the view of Table Mountain from Cape Town is epic, just wait till you’re standing atop Table Mountain and looking out over Cape Town and the city bowl…!
A trip to the top of Table Mountain is a must during your visit to the Mother City, though you’ll have to time your visit carefully as the mountain’s weather can be pretty unpredictable (it basically creates its own weather patterns). You’ll quickly become familiar with the city’s ‘tablecloth’ - a thick blanket of clouds that roll in over the top of and whiteout everything. If you see Table Mountain begin to rise from the city bowl with no clouds nearby - go, go, go!
The Table Mountain aerial cableway has been ferrying passengers to the top of Table Mountain for almost 90 years, and with its 360* rotating floor and epic views its definitely worth taking the ride. Tickets are around $20-25 per adult but are seasonal, so check before you go.
You can also combine your cableway ride with any other Cape Town sightseeing you want to do by purchasing a combined aerial cableway and hop-on-hop-off bus pass here.
BOOK | Organise your Table Mountain cableway and hop-on-hop-off buss passes here
Where | Table Mountain Nature Reserve
Opening hours | Check updated cable car times here
#2 Hike to the top of Table Mountain
If you feel like working off some of the amazing food and drink on offer in Cape Town, we highly recommend opting for the challenge of hiking up to the top, instead.
Table Mountain is thought to be one of the world’s oldest mountains, with rocks dating back hundreds of millions of years ago, and long before the Himalayan mountain range was thrust up from the earth. Hiking through the one-of-a-kind landscape, full of native floral and fauna, is more than just a decent workout; it’s an epic travel experience and somewhat of a rite of passage for outdoor lovers and visitors to the city. The bonus is that if your legs are jelly once you reach the top, the cable car is an equally acceptable method of returning back to sea level again…!
There are hundreds of trails that crisscross Table Mountain to the summit, and you will need a relatively good level of fitness to complete even the easiest of these (you are, after all, climbing a mountain!).
For that reason, plus general safety precautions (sadly, hiking in South Africa can come with some personal safety challenges), we recommend opting for a guided group hike rather than going alone. Our guided hike recommendations are:
This guided hike through Platteklip Gorge (the easiest, and most popular trail to the top) with a qualified mountain guide.
BOOK | See details here
This guided hike through a lesser known, more adventurous trail with a local mountain guide who’s been hiking these trails since childhood - also includes a little picnic at the top.
BOOK | See details here
Where | Table Mountain Nature Reserve
Tips | sturdy shoes, sunscreen, lots of water, don’t hike alone
#3 Watch the sunrise from Lion’s Head
Sunrise is beautiful anywhere in world, but a sunrise from Lion's Head is one of those rare uplifting sights that just makes you so ridiculously grateful to be alive.
While Table Mountain might be Cape Town’s number one attraction, the view from Lion’s Head, the lion-esque rock to its side, definitely provides some of the greatest views of the city imaginable.
Hike up Lion’s Head for sunrise, and you’ll be rewarded with 360° views of the wild beauty of Cape Town as it wakes for the day. We guarantee that watching everything from the Atlantic seaboard to the city bowl, Table Mountain to Robben Island come to life under a vivid sky will be one of the most unforgettable mornings of your life.
It’s important to note that while the hike is relatively short and easy, it definitely shouldn’t be underestimated. It also involves some rock climbing, and pulling yourself up via chain ladders and hand holds. This sounds more daunting than it really is; pretty much anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and sturdy shoes should be able to accomplish it, but you will need to be careful in wet or foggy weather.
As with hiking up Table Mountain, hiking alone here isn’t recommended. It’s generally best to go with a group or a guide for personal safety and weather/route guidance, so check out this guided sunrise hike here
Lastly - every yawn from your early morning start is worth it, we promise! You should be able to complete the whole return hike in about two hours, so you can watch the sunrise then get on with a big day of Cape Town sightseeing easily.
Of course, if sunrise really isn’t your thing, you can hike up Lion’s Head at any time of day too (including sunset - check this tour!)
BOOK | Lion’s Head sunrise hike
Where | Lion’s Head / Signal Hill turn-off from Kloof Nek Road
Tips | Sturdy shoes, lots of water, bring a headlamp, don’t hike alone
#4 Enjoy the views from Signal Hill - then paraglide off it!
Right next to the Lion’s Head is the flat-topped Signal Hill (sometimes also called the Lion’s rump), another of Cape Town's best lookout spots.
In addition to the pretty epic views of Cape Town and surrounds, you can also drive pretty much to the top of Signal Hill - which makes it an extremely popular hang out spot for locals and tourists alike. Historically, the mountain was, funnily enough, a signal hill for ships passing. Signal flags communicated weather warnings to the ships in the harbour below, while ships could fly flags indicating their current status (particularly if in distress).
The famous Noon Gun is fired from Signal Hill each day, an old-fashioned cannon that has been firing over Cape Town every day for hundreds of years. You can hear the boom of the cannon reverberate throughout the city - so we’d probably recommend visiting either side of midday to avoid any unwanted ear damage…!
For those looking for an even more epic viewing experience, you can actually tandem paraglide down from the top of Signal Hill, and while we weren’t fans of paragliding during our time in Cape Town, we’ve subsequently discovered how awesome it is in the Dolomites - and highly, highly recommend getting yourself up into the skies above this incredible city now!
BOOK | Check more details or book your own paragliding adventure here
Where | Signal Hill, Cape Town
Time | Any, but avoid 12pm when the Noon Gun fires!
#5 Embrace Cape Town’s incredible beaches
If surf, sand, and vitamin sea are your remedy, then visiting the beach is one of the best things you can do in Cape Town. There’s a huge laidback surfer culture here, and for good reason - the beaches and surf are truly epic.
The four Clifton’s beaches are the ones to he beaches to both see and be seen at, and take it all in during summer. Every Sunday evening, there are free yoga classes on Clifton’s third beach - find all the details here.
Palm-fringed Camps Bay is equally busy, and also has a tonne of trendy boutiques, cafes, and bars just across the road. Did someone say cocktails in the sun?!
Then there’s Muizenberg with it’s iconic colourful beach boxes and pumping surf, as well as Bloubergstrand and its views back to Cape Town and Table Mountain if you have time for the drive.
MAP OF CAPE TOWN’S BEST BEACHES
#6 Watch the sunset from Camps Bay
As if having one of the world’s best sunrises wasn’t already enough, Cape Town also boasts some pretty epic sunsets too.
What’s more, Capetonians have turned sunset-watching into such a wonderfully social art, most commonly with an alcoholic drink of some kind firmly in hand (known as a ‘sundowner’) that it’s almost impossible to ignore the pull to get out and about to watch the last light of the day somewhere special.
Nowhere is more special for sunset than the Camps Bay area, nestled in the foothills of the Twelve Apostles mountain range. Famous for it's fine white sand and sparkling blue water, the palm-fringed beachfront is also the place to see and be seen; lined with the trendiest of cafes, buzzing beach bars, and some of the most respected restaurants in the city.
Watching the sun fall into the Atlantic ocean from Camps Bay and surrounds is somewhat of a Capetonian rite of passage, and a lovely way to end your day in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Not to mention the pretty epic views back to the city and Lion’s Head!
Where | Camps Bay
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#7 Walk the gardens of Kirstenbosch
South Africa is extremely rich in biodiversity, and there’s no better place to explore this than at one of the greatest botanical gardens of the world, Kirstenbosch Gardens
Set on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the gardens are said to be amongst the most beautiful in the world. Kirstenbosch is also home to over 7,000 plant species (many endangered), and since 2004 has been incorporated into the Cape Floral UNESCO World Heritage Zone.
Visitors can wander along the 130m Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway (nicknamed the ‘Boomslang’ for the way it snakes through the tops of the trees), have a picnic in the gardens or enjoy high tea in the Tea Room, or join a free guided tour through the various themed gardens.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Cape Town in Spring, the gardens are coated in a colourful blanket of cape wildflowers - a sight you don’t want to miss! The amphitheatre is also a popular summer music spot for open air gigs.
Where | Kirstenbosch, Cape Town
Cost | R75 (~$5) per adult
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#8 Drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive
This is one of the most scenic drives in Cape Town, if not the entire world.
The Chapman’s Peak Drive (or Chappies, to the locals!) is a narrow, bendy road between Hout Bay and Noordhoek that hugs the rugged and dramatic cliffs of the coastline on one side, with incredible views out over the ice-blue Atlantic on the other. Constructed during the first World War, closed in 2000 and reopened again (after some impressive engineering feats) in 2003, the road is an absolute must-see attraction on any Cape Town itinerary.
The main thing to do along the drive is admire the views, but there are also plenty of lovely spots to stop for a picnic - or combine your drive with a longer sightseeing day trip down to the Cape Peninsula. The super active amongst you might also be keen on the annual Two Oceans Marathon or Cape Argus Bike Tour too!
Note | for safety reasons, the road might be closed during bad weather. Be sure to check it's open on the official website before you go.
Where | Chapman’s Peak Drive
Opening hours | Closes during bad weather - check details here
#9 See the penguins at Boulders Beach
About an hour’s drive south of Cape Town is the incredibly beautiful Boulders beach, beautiful in its own right, but even more famous as the home of over 2,000 endangered African penguins.
The colony is protected by SANParks, and you’ll need to pay a conservation fee when you enter the park. This is the only place in the world where you can actually get close to the little cuties — although as always, please be mindful that these are wild and endangered animals, and should only be observed from a distance. Watch them frolic in the waves (you can also swim with them in the waters around False Bay), wander along the boardwalk over their burrows, or check out the visitors centre to learn all about the African penguin.
If you’re looking for a unique way to get up close with these cheerful creatures, check out this kayaking tour of the False Bay area (including the Boulder’s Beach colony). Alternatively, this full-day small-group tour takes you to the penguins as well as the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point, and more.
Please don’t feed or attempt to touch the penguins; it not only goes against conservation efforts, but their beaks are also super sharp - and they're not afraid to use them! Check out all our responsible animal travel tips here.
Opening hours | 8am - 5pm daily (Apr - Sept), 7am - 7:30pm (Dec - Jan), 8am - 6:30pm (Feb - Mar, Oct-Nov)
Cost | Foreign adults: R160 (around $10), foreign child: R80, SA citizen adult: R40, SA citizen child: R20
#10 Have a whale of a time in Hermanus
Though technically not in Cape Town itself, the city is still very much the gateway to the famous whale-watching experiences on offer in Hermanus, just an hour and a half’s drive away.
Against a backdrop of soaring mountains and the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Hermanus is the heart of the whale route, and is one of the greatest places in the world to watch these incredible creatures. Nearby Walker Bay is the mating and breeding ground for the Southern Wright Whale (June - November), after they’ve migrated up from Antarctic Waters.
There are plenty of places to watch the whales from, including the Cliff Path, a 12-kilometre stretch with endless lookout points and whale-viewing opportunities. For the best views of all though, we recommend booking yourself on this whale-watching boat trip, which gets you up close to these creatures in the their natural habitats
Where | Hermanus
#11 Go right to the edge of Africa at Cape Point
No Cape Town itinerary is complete without a trip to one of its most epic spots: the Cape Point Peninsula.
The Cape Peninsula is where the rocky, mountainous headland collides with the wild Atlantic sea, creating a dramatic landscape teeming with unique flora and fauna. The rocky cliffs and endless ocean views give the impression that you've reached the end of the world, which in some ways, you have, given that this is the most southwestern point of Africa!
There are plenty of things to do around the Cape Peninsula; hike up to the old lighthouse at Cape Point (or take the Flying Dutchman Funicular instead!), hike to the famous WWII SS Thomas T. Tucker shipwreck on the Olifantsbos hiking trail, explore the Cape of Good Hope (there are plenty of hiking and biking trails on offer!), and a tonne of beautiful secret beaches just waiting to be discovered (although a word of caution: swimming isn’t allowed at some of these due to strong currents).
The drive down there will take you past Muizenberg, the Boulder’s Beach colony, and Hout Bay, all worth a visit in their own right. Alternatively, detour along Chapman’s Peak drive and the western coast to take in some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Cape Town.
There are plenty of day tours to Cape Peninsula, we recommend this half-day option for those who are time-poor, or this full-day tour option that includes Boulder’s Beach, Simon’s Town and more
Where | Cape Peninsula
Cost | Entry costs around $10 per person
LEARN MORE ABOUT CAPE TOWN: CAPE TOWN: TWO CITIES, ONE MOUNTAIN
What to do in Cape Town | history and culture
#12 Visit Robben Island for a lesson in South African history
While the Cape Town of today is a colourful, wonderful place to visit as a traveller, the city has also been the epicentre of many of South Africa’s most tragic and significant events.
From the first landing of the Dutch East India Company fleet in 1652 through to the oppressive apartheid policies of the 20th century and their eventual end in 1994, many South Africa’s most significant historical events have happened right here, in the shadow of Table Mountain.
The lasting impact of these happenings are absolutely still present today. We’ve previously written here about Cape Town being a city of extremes, and particularly of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. To really understand vibrant, but divided, Cape Town as a traveller today, it’s imperative that you also also delve into it's history.
One of the most important things to do in Cape Town is to take the ferry out to Robben Island for a tour of the prison where Mandela (along with fellow anti-apartheid fighters) was imprisoned for 18 years. The tour, delivered by a former political prisoner, takes in key sites on the island whilst recounting their own personal story of their imprisonment there - and provides an insight into the oppression of the apartheid regime and the ultimate triumph against it symbolised by the indomitable Nelson Mandela straight from the people who experienced it most harshly.
Eye-opening and moving, it's an important reminder that human rights and justice can never be taken for granted.
We recommend this Robben Island: Ferry ticket and Prison Tour which includes the 45-minute ferry ride, a bus tour around the key sites on the island, and a guided tour through the prison with a former freedom fighter who was imprisoned there. Prices start at USD $38pp; book yours here.
Where | Robben Island - Ferries depart from Nelson Mandela Gateway, Clock Tower Precinct, V&A Waterfront
Opening hours | Museum 7.30am-7pm daily; Ferries 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm daily, weather permitting
Book | Robben Island: Ferry ticket and prison tour details here
#13 Visit the District Six Museum
Another key historic place to visit in Cape Town is the District Six Museum, which celebrates a once-vibrant community that were forcibly removed from their homes during the apartheid era.
District Six was once home to a lively, multicultural, and bohemian community who were forcibly evicted from their homes during the enactment of the segregating Group Areas Act throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, and relocated to the townships of the Cape Flats areas while their homes were reduced to rubble. another link
The official government line was that the process was ‘slum-clearing’; the reality is much closer to the fact that this thriving and diverse area under Table Mountain was prime real estate that they desired to fill with high-rise apartments and wealthy white residents.
The official District Six Museum was opened in 1994 in the former Methodist Mission Church that once served the district. Today, house interiors have been recreated along its walls, along with testimonials, photographs, handwritten letters, and recordings from former residents of the community. It’s a sobering visit, but one that’s essential to understanding one of South Africa’s darkest periods.
You can either visit District Six independently or as part of this longer half-day tour to some of Cape Town’s townships (including Bonteheuwel, where many District Six residents were relocated to) to explore the rich and vibrant tapestry of these communities. Book your tour here.
Where | District Six, Cape Town
Cost | Guided tour R60pp ($4), self-guided R45 ($3)pp, free for former residents
Opening hours | 9am - 4pm - Monday to Saturday
#14 Discover the rich and vibrant communities of some of Cape Town’s townships
Cape Town’s informal settlements, or townships, are hard to miss - and their presence today is hard to reconcile in a city so beautiful and thriving in so many other ways.
These ramshackle towns that spill out for miles along the highways, under the airport, and in some of the valleys of the city are the most visible scars of the apartheid era, when non-whites were forced out of their homes and placed into informal camps without the simplest of amenities.
To this day, many townships still lack the basic fundamental services that, and many have developed reputations as extremely unsafe, high-crime areas.
As a traveller to Cape Town, it is possible to take an organised tour through some of these townships, to understand what life is really like for more than half of the city’s citizens. However, in recent years, township tours have received some pretty heavy (and at times, very justified) flak for being little more than poverty voyeurism, with tourists crammed into minibuses snapping hundreds of photos of the inhabitants.
But we genuinely believe that, done sustainably and ethically, a township visit is more than a way to develop your own understanding; it’s an opportunity to bridge a social divide, discover rich communities, and remove some of the stigma that surround townships and the people who call them home. What’s more, it’s a chance to share culture and enjoy a truly memorable and authentic experience with a local and their community.
We took a half day tour through Imizamo Yethu (Xhosa for “our collective efforts”) a few years ago, led by young local woman Nandi, and discovered a proudly vibrant community with a rich and diverse spirit. It was an eye-opening experience, and one we’ll never forget from our time in Cape Town.
If you would like to visit one of Cape Town’s informal settlements respectfully and responsibly, you absolutely need to keep these in mind:
Only visit on an organised tour
Choose a tour that has been created by, and supports, the locals and community you’re spending time in. Your tour should be sustainable, ethical, and promote growth and development from within the community you visit (rather than being exploitative or white-saviour esque
Put the camera away. This isn’t a place for sightseeing or snapping hundreds of photos of people simply living their lives. If you do see something you’d really like to photograph, please always ask permission, and be satisfied if the answer is no.
We recommend this walking tour through the Imizamo Yethu township, hosted by two locals who live there themselves. Mhinti, the owner, also runs Sakhisizwe Youth Development Project and Impilo Yethu, an inclusive tourism social enterprise, and donates proceeds from his tours back to these organisations and their communities.
BOOK | Check details and book your own experience here
#15 Take a street art walking tour in Woodstock
Cape Town has an incredibly strong creative culture, and nowhere is it more evident than in Woodstock; a vibrant, up-and-coming suburb just out of the city.
Once a downtrodden, sometimes dangerous part of Cape Town, the area has undergone some pretty significant gentrification in recent years, and has blossomed into new life full of super cool eateries and coffeehouses, hipster boutiques, co-working spaces, and epic street art and murals instead.
Over 100 works of colourful street art adorn the corners and streets of this bustling neighbourhood; extremely talented pieces of art that also give voice to important political or environmental messages.
Either spend some time exploring the colourful streets independently, or head out on this guided street art walking tour ($28pp) and discover the artists behind the art, their meaning, and some of the history of this eclectic neighbourhood. You can also visit Woodstock as part of the District Six half-day tour above
Where | Woodstock, Cape Town
Read | We've also written a comprehensive guide to Woodstock
Cape Town's coolest suburb: The very best things to do in the hipster area of Woodstock
#16 Explore the colourful streets of Bo Kaap
You likely won’t have seen a suburb quite like Bo Kaap before. Nestled under Signal Hill, right on the edge of the Cape Town CBD, the colourful painted houses of the former Malay Quarter of Cape Town could also be confused for a gigantic bag of exploded skittles.
Bo Kaap is famous for the vivid multicolour single-story Cape Dutch houses that stand in rows along steep cobblestoned streets. But while the predominantly Muslim suburb’s rainbow instagram-worthy streets might be inviting and cheerful today, the history that underlies them is far more complex and turbulent.
The origins of the area date back to the 1760s, when slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia, and around Africa were imported to Cape Town by the Dutch. Slaves were allowed to lease these single-storied houses (called huurhuisies at the time), which could legally only be painted white. When slavery was abolished in the 1830s, the same emancipated slaves used their homes as a canvas to finally celebrate their long-subdued freedom, expressing their individual rights through the bright colours that you can see today.
Since then, the suburb has survived the forced removals and destruction of the apartheid era, a growing gentrification trend, and also managed to get 19 sites designated as Heritage protected in 2019. It’s a proud, colourful, and extremely culturally-rich part of the city, and if you’re looking for things to do in Cape Town, a visit to Bo Kaap should definitely make the list.
If you're keen to explore the area from a local’s perspective, we highly recommend taking this airbnb experience walking tour with Rafiq, a resident who’s lived in the area his whole life.
In recent years, Bo Kaap has exploded as one of the most popular Cape Town attractions, particularly as an Instagram destination. If you decide to wander these colourful streets, please remember that this is a living neighbourhood with a complex past and a rich Muslim culture - and it’s absolutely not your social media playground! These are people’s homes and livelihoods, so be sure to exercise respect, dress appropriately, and follow our top responsible travel tips when visiting.
Where | Start at the Bo Kaap Museum
Book | This 2-hour walking tour with a lifelong Bo Kaap resident
#17 Visit quirky Kalk Bay
Describing Kalk Bay adequately is a tricky task - mostly because it simply defies definition.
On one hand, it's a sleepy little fishing village; colourful trawlers splashed with rust bob in the harbour, gnarled fisherfolk mend nets or doze in the sun after an early start gathering the day’s catch.
On the other, it’s one of Cape Town’s trendiest seaside villages. The main street is lined with buzzing cafes, quaint antique shops and cool boutiques spilling over with people from all walks of life, from bohemian artists to young families, modern hipsters to old hippies rocking multicoloured hair.
Somehow, the two worlds collide perfectly here without unbalancing the other, and the end result is a charming little town with a creative atmosphere. Hip cafes serve amazing coffee, interesting antique shops sell you bargains you didn’t even know you wanted, and chilled beach bars whisper to you to come enjoy that sundowner you’ve been craving all day.
If you go for a walk along the famous Kalk Bay pier, keep an eye out for the local whiskered residents; seals! These playful little guys are the true bosses of the pier, and judging by the cheekiness of one we witnessed attempting to snap a fish from one unlucky seaman’s daily catch, get up to a fair bit of mischief here too.
Kalk Bay is an easy day trip from Cape Town, but we’d recommend spending at least a night down here to relax and enjoy the area. It’s also on the doorstep to False Bay adventures, so if you’re exploring that way Kalk Bay makes a great base (search for accommodation here).
It’s actually our dream to go back and spend a summer living around here someday…. fingers crossed!
Make sure you check out these Kalk Bay institutions while there:
OLYMPIA | views overlooking the harbour, perfect for a lazy brunch! 134 Main Rd, Kalk Bay, Cape Town (open 7am - 9pm every day)
KALKY’S FISH & CHIPS | Kalk Bay Harbour (open 9am - 9pm every day)
WHALE-WATCHING | If you don’t have time to make it to the more famous Hermanus bay during the whale-watching season, the whales do pass by Kalk Bay - and have been known to rub up against the pier wall!
Where | Kalk Bay, Cape Town
Where to stay | We recommend renting an airbnb if you decide to stay longer in Kalk Bay. Our faves are: this cute self-catering cottage by the sea, this renovated old fisherman’s cottage , and this luxury apartment with Kalk Bay views for the ultimate getaway splurge. Don’t forget to use this link to get up to £40 off your first booking too
The FAces of Cape Town: our inspiring day TOUR through imizamo yethu
#18 Visit the Old Biscuit Mill
Once a bustling biscuit factory, the Old Biscuit Mill (known affectionately to locals as ‘the Mill’) is now a vibrant hub in the heart of downtown Woodstock, where art, design, and gourmet fare can always be found.
The Mill is now home to a bunch of independent restaurants and boutiques, and has become a popular hang out spot in Cape Town for those looking for a great meal, a good coffee, or some locally hand-crafted decor.
Every Saturday from 9am, the Neighbourgoods market brings together even more local designers, artisans, and foodies with the intention of reviving a sense of community, innovation, and cultural promotion within the city. There’s plenty of good grub on offer, and you'll find many a lovely trinket to carry home with you!
We'd recommend bringing cash with you, as the queue for the ATM can get pretty long later in the day.
Where | 375 Albert Rd, Woodstock
Opening hours | 10am - 4pm Mon-Fri, 9am - 2pm Sat, closed Sundays
#19 Hang out on Long Street
Running right through the centre of town all the way down to the foreshore, Long Street is the physical and metaphorical heart of central Cape Town.
Packed full of eateries and boutiques that are thriving during the day, the area is also known as a nightlife hotspot once the sun drops down below the Atlantic. The street is almost always buzzing with people from all walks of life; tourists and locals of every shape, size, colour, and age flock to the area to enjoy the atmosphere and famous eateries, shops and the Long Street turkish-style baths.
Some of Long street’s more famous spots include:
Mungo & Jemima | Cute boutique selling local South African designers
Long Street Cafe | A Cape Town institution set in an old Victorian-style building
Mama Africa | Serves up food from all over Africa in a chilled out setting
Royale Eatery | Retro diner-style eatery serving up all the standard diner faves
Masala Dosa | We had some of the best Indian food (outside of India) right here on Long street
Lola’s | Arty bistro serving up locally-sourced goodness
If you haven’t quite got your shopping fix after this, we’d also recommend hitting up Greenmarket Square just around the corner, which, while admittedly very touristy, is also full of plenty of fun trinkets from all over Africa.
plan your trip: OUR COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO CAPE TOWN
Things to do in Cape Town | food and drink
Capetonians know good food - and they do it bloody well. One of our favourite things to do in Cape Town is to explore the insanely good gourmet scene. Think fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, the fusion of cuisines from all over the world, and all washed down with exquisite local wines.
We can also promise you that Cape Town will never, ever, EVER leave you wanting for tasty food. We were stuck in an endless cycle of food heaven / coma!
#20 Take a Cape Malay Cooking Class
Bo Kaap is a melting pot of African and Malay culture and tradition, and with that fusion comes, of course, scrumptious food.
The best way to discover the source of the aromatic and spicy scents that waft down each colourful sweet is to take a Cape Malay cooking class right here in Bo Kaap. We joined the wonderful Gamidah Jacobs at Lekka Kombuis, the cooking school (see the class we did here) that she runs from her brightly painted turquoise house in Wales Street.
After taking a walking tour through the neighbourhood to learn about its history, we returned to her warm kitchen and learnt how to make rich, aromatic curries, delectably crisp but impossible-to-fold samosas, and a zesty onion and tomato sambal. The flavours were intense, exotic, and richly complex - a true reflection of the incredible culture that was born from the former turmoil of this area.
Our cooking class with Gamidah was one of our favourite things to do in Cape Town!
BOOK | Book your own cooking class here.
Where | Bo Kaap, Cape Town
#21 Enjoy amazing food and wine in the Cape Winelands
South Africa really knows how to do wine. If you’re a person who enjoys a good drop yourself, then a) we like you already and b) you need to get yourself to the Cape Winelands.
Only a scenic hour’s drive from Cape Town and home to many of South Africa’s famous wine estates, the wine region is all rolling vineyards, towering mountains, and historic colonial architecture. Spending a day here sampling some of the insanely good local wines is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Cape Town!
The most famous town of the Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch, is beautiful and definitely worth a visit; but for an equally delicious day trip with just as much eye-candy, we recommend spending more time in Franschhoek. One of South Africa’s oldest towns, it’s got splendid wines, delicious food, epic scenery - and you can enjoy them all minus the large crowds of Stelly.
If you're keen to indulge in a tipple or two, we recommend booking this guided tour of the Winelands and enjoying a relaxed day out with your own guide and driver.
Keen for a total splurge? This helicopter tour of the area and a gourmet lunch in Franschoek is a dream day out.
Where | Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, Cape Town
Book | Guided tour of the Winelands, or an extravagant heli tour of the area and a gourmet lunch in Franschoek
#22 Visit Groot Constantia Winery
If time isn’t on your side but you still want to get a taste of Cape Town’s long wine traditions, make the trip out to Groot Constantia, just 20-minutes from the heart of Cape Town instead.
Groot Constantia is the oldest wine estate in South Africa, having produced wines here since 1685. The estate is now a national heritage monument, and visitors can explore the original Cape Dutch Manor House, famous historical cellars, visit the wine museum and cultural history museum, and enjoy gourmet food and wine tastings too. It’s a great introduction to the prestige and heritage of South African winemaking, without having to leave the city's borders!
If you're keen to discover more of Groot Constantia’s wine-making history and how it shaped the industry within South Africa, this private guided tour takes you through the entire estate and details the winemaking process.
Where | Groot Constantia Rd, Constantia
Opening hours | 9am - 5:30pm every day
#23 Sample the chocolate at Honest Chocolate
What’s better than treating yourself to good chocolate? Treating yourself to good chocolate that also does good in the process.
The team at Honest Chocolate might be small, but they’re highly skilled artisans of the good stuff (chocolate, obvs!), and are wholly committed to their ‘positive chain of production’. That is, growing and sourcing their beans with ethical, organic, and fair consideration for people and the environment, and handcrafting their chocolate using traditional methods.
They also use natural sugars and flavours, to avoid compromising the quality of the chocolate by over-sugaring and over-flavouring it with nasties.
We can vouch for Honest Chocolate being some of the best chocolate we’ve ever had, and if we’re being truthful, our mouths are watering right now just thinking about it again.
Opening hours | 9am - 6pm every day
#24 Enjoy some gin cocktails at the Secret Gin Bar
Tucked away in the courtyard behind Honest Chocolate is one of our favourite spots to spend an evening in Cape Town: the secret Gin Bar.
As you might’ve already guessed, this speakeasy style establishment celebrates all things Gin, serving up incredible, unique cocktails in the quaint Italian piazza-esque courtyard. Grab some friends, enter through Honest Chocolate on Wale St, choose your cocktail (Head, Heart, Ambition, Soul, or a weekly special), and cosy up for a joyful night out!
Better yet, Honest Chocolate is open till 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, so you can also get dessert to go with your cocktail. What more could you want?!
Opening hours |3pm - 12am Mon - Thurs, 3pm - 1:30am Fri - Sat, 2pm - 8pm Sun
#25 Sip coffee at Truth coffee roasting
The Telegraph voted Truth Coffee the world’s best coffee shop in 2015, and take it from these two Melbourne coffee snobs: the place, and its coffee, is damn brilliant.
Hand-roasted on site in a vintage cast iron drum, coffee is taken extremely seriously by owner David Donde and the cafe actually supplies many of Cape Town’s best hotels too. We were stoked to discover that Cape Town is a city that loves and understands good coffee, and Truth is definitely deserving of its top spot here.
While you’ll come for the coffee, it’s likely that you’ll stay for the too-cool decor too. Inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery, this former warehouse turned coffee house is the stuff of vintage steampunk dreams; all exposed brick and piping, copper contraptions, and ornately gilded furniture.
Opening hours | 6am - 6pm Mon, 6am - 11:45pm Tues - Sat, 7am - 4pm Sun
#26 Lunch along the V&A Waterfront
The V&A Waterfront might be Cape Town’s famous shopping mall, but with the harbour a stone’s throw away, epic views to Table Mountain, fresh produce in abundance, and locals who appreciate the good stuff (i.e. tasty food); the waterfront has also become one of the city’s best-loved eating spots for tourists and Capetonians alike .
After shopping all day, you’ll definitely want to stop in at one of the restaurants here to replenish your energy. Whether you’re after world-class cuisine or a quick caffeine hit, seafood fresh from the Atlantic, asian fusion or modern dishes with all the flavours of Africa, there’s something for every palate here.
Where | V&A Waterfront
Travel essentials: What to pack for your African adventure (And what to leave behind!)
CAPE TOWN ESSENTIAL travel INFORMATION: everything you need to plan your trip
Staying safe in Cape Town
We’ve written a comprehensive guide to safety in South Africa here, but overall, we found travelling in South Africa no more or less dangerous than most popular tourist destinations around the world.
Our key advice would be to be cautious but not afraid as a traveller there. Keep your wits about you, take the usual precautions you would anywhere in the world (don’t walk alone at night, don’t visit unsafe parts of town, don’t flash expensive jewellery or cameras, be aware of your surroundings, etc.).
It goes without saying that when you travel in South Africa, travel insurance is super important.
Where to stay in Cape Town
Whether you’re into lively hostels, delightful guesthouses or absolutely luxury, Cape Town has the perfect accommodation for absolutely every traveller.
Airbnbs in Cape Town
We generally prefer to stay in airbnbs when travelling. On our last trip to Cape Town, we opted to stay near the Seapoint Promenade. Close enough to all the action of the CBD and the V&A Waterfront, but with the more relaxed feel of a beachside town, Seapoint is one of our fave spots to be in Cape Town.
BOOK | We recommend this 2-bed apartment, with everything you could need (plus a great coffee shop within walking distance - winning!). Check current prices and availability here
Don't forget to use this link to get up to £40 off your first airbnb booking too!
Hostels in Cape Town
If you’re a backpacker, budget traveller, or solo traveller looking to meet new people on your South African adventures, there are plenty of awesome hostels in the city with a good social vibe too. Whether you want to be in the heart of the party on Long street, right next to the waterfront action in Greenpoint, or chilling by the beach in Muizenberg, these are our top picks:
ONCE IN CAPE TOWN | awesome vibe, minutes from the bars of Long street and all the best things to do in Cape Town, ONCE has a peaceful meditation area and they also run free daily activities like group hikes up Lions Head. Perfect for those looking to get social and go on epic adventures during their stay!
BOOK | Check prices and availability here
ATLANTIC POINT BACKPACKERS | Right by all the action on the V&A Waterfront, Atlantic Point also has all a backpacker could possibly want, from a pumping on-site bar and swimming pool, to a TV lounge and BBQ area (perfect for cooking a braai with your new hostel buddies!). They also do free breakfast - perfect for those on a budget.
BOOK | Check prices and availability here.
STOKED BACKPACKERS | This one’s for the water babies. Muizenberg, home to Cape Town’s iconic colourful beach boxes, is also one of the city’s best beaches for watersports. Surfing, kitesurfing, paddle-boarding, sea kayaking - you name it, you can do it all here. Stoked Backpackers is also close to False Bay and Surfer’s Corner, so you can get your surf fix all morning then chill in the communal area with awesome people all afternoon.
BOOK | Check prices and availability here
Alternatively, search for more hostels in Cape Town on Hostelworld here
Hotels in Cape Town
| Budget hotels in Cape Town |
THE B.I.G BACKPACKERS | Technically B.I.G is a hostel but with plenty of private rooms and doubles with ensuite too. Also has a pool, braai facilities (perfect for indulging in the Capetonian BBQ tradition with new friends!) and a hearty free breakfast too. Five minutes walk from Sea Point Promenade and the V&A Waterfront
BOOK | Check prices and availability here
INNSCAPE ON CASTLE | just a few minutes from the buzzing scene on Long street and with super friendly staff to boot! Every room has TV, microwave, and breakfast is also available for around £7.
BOOK | Check prices and availability here
| Mid-range HOTELS IN CAPE TOWN |
CAPE HERITAGE HOTEL | Located in Heritage Square, in the centre of Cape Town, Cape Heritage Hotel is full of character. This is where the best of European and African style and hospitality collide; rooms are uniquely decorated with special touches from all around the continent. They also do a tasty breakfast, with everything you need for a big day of exploring.
BOOK | Check prices and availability here
PROTEA HOTEL, SEA POINT | Owned by the Marriott Group, the Protea is just 150m away from the lively Sea Point Promenade and ocean views. There’s also a plunge pool, while the V&A Waterfront is just 10 minutes away.
BOOK | Check prices and availability here
| LUXURY HOTELS IN CAPE TOWN |
ONE&ONLY CAPE TOWN | This is the ultimate celebrity luxury splurge; right on the V&A Waterfront with panoramic views over the lagoon and Table Mountain. One&Only are all about world-class service, and with so much to see and do (plus their outdoor infinity pool!) you’ll be thoroughly spoilt.
BOOK | Check prices and availability here
TAJ LUXURY HOTEL | Located right in the heart all the action of Cape Town CBD, in the grand old Reserve Bank building, the Taj Hotel is all about combining tradition and heritage with new luxury.
BOOK | Check prices and availability here
When’s the best time to visit Cape Town?
It’s no secret Cape Town comes alive in summer, and it’s not hard to understand why: with its incredible outdoors lifestyle, this is a city made for warm weather. It does, however, become incredibly busy so you need to plan and book ahead for all accommodation, attractions and tours.
In our opinion, the season you should visit in is spring. Not only are the temperatures very mild, the whole western Cape comes alive with the wildflower season, which is completely unique to this region. Picture the beauty of Cape Town, then add a huge array of colourful wild flowers and you’ll understand why you should visit then! It’s also whale-viewing season, if you’re not already convinced.
How to get around Cape Town
Cape Town has a pretty comprehensive transport network, including buses, trains, taxis, shared taxis and Uber, so getting around the city easily really isn’t a problem. From our personal experience, we highly recommend using either the Hop-on Hop-off services, or Uber as we found the service safe, cheap and abundant.
We’ve listed all transport options below:
Hop-on Hop-off bus | Pretty much all of the main Cape Town tourist attractions can be accessed via the Hop-on Hop-off tourist bus. Purchase your 1 or 2-day tickets in advance here.
Uber | Economical, safe and generally exceptional service
Taxi | Quite expensive and only an option if Uber is not available
Shared Taxi | An extremely cheap way of getting around. Be aware, they’re usually crowded with reckless drivers behind the wheel - we don’t generally recommend these.
Myciti Bus | A safe option if you wish to travel by bus. An extensive network connecting Cape Town from Table Bay all the way to Hout Bay. You must purchase a MyConnect card to ride
Golden Arrow Buses | Very cheap but can sometimes be dangerous. Service most of the city
Cape Metro Rail | Only use the train service as a last resort (or for a ride down along the coast to Simon’s Town), and be very careful.
How to get to and from South Africa
Getting to Cape Town by air
All international and domestic flights land at Cape Town international airport, about a 20 minute drive from the city.
Emirates, British Airways and South African Airways are the main international carriers connecting Cape Town with the world.
Domestic airlines such as Kulula and Mango connect Cape Town with many South African cities and towns.
Getting to Cape Town by bus
International and interstate buses arrive at the bus terminus next to Cape Town train station, in the heart of the city.
Major bus companies connecting Cape Town with the rest of South Africa and beyond include:
Translux | For backpackers looking to explore the rest of South Africa, we recommend the Baz Bus. It’s a unique hop-on-hop-off, door-to-door bus service between 180 backpacking hostels in 40 different towns in South Africa, and follows the coast, via the Garden Route to Johannesburg.
PLANNING a VISIT to Cape town SOON?
We have a whole of essential reading before you travel to Cape Town:
CAPE TOWN GUIDE | Our guide to the stunning city of Cape Town
WOODSTOCK, CAPE TOWN | Our guide to Cape Town’s coolest suburb, Woodstock
SOUTH AFRICA SAFETY | How to travel safely in Southern Africa
AFRICA TRAVEL TIPS | Everything you need to know before you travel in Africa
PACKING FOR AFRICA | Our ultimate Africa packing list (what to pack and what to leave behind!)
TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t leave home without travel insurance (seriously, don’t!). Click here to get the best deals with World Nomads, our trusted travel insurance provider
PHOTOGRAPHY | Love our photography? Wondering what gear we use to get all of our photos around the world? Click here to view our detailed photography gear guide, as well as our top travel photography tips!
ECO FRIENDLY PACKING ESSENTIALS | Don’t leave home without our favourite eco-friendly travel essentials
Let us know what your favourite things to do in Cape Town are in the comments below!