11 things you absolutely must do in Cape Town, South Africa
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's just so many things to do in Cape Town that it's basically a tourist mecca: in one day you could hike up Table Mountain, take a tour through Mandela’s former Robben island cell, float through 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, or gin cocktails to sip in a secret gin bar hidden behind a chocolate shop on Wale street (yes, this exists!).
Essential reading | Our definitive guide to Cape Town: everything you need to know before you go:
Oh yeah, and did we mention that it also has a super cool coffee culture that rivals anywhere in the world (yes, Melbourne coffee-snobs, including Melbourne), and street art that will blow your freaking mind?!
In case you need more convincing, check out our top 10 things to do in Cape Town. Then book that ticket!
OUR FAVOURITE 11 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN CAPE TOWN
#1 TAKE IN THE VIEW FROM TABLE MOUNTAIN - Things to do in cape town
If you think the view of Table Mountain from Cape Town is epic, wait till you’re standing on Table Mountain looking out over Cape Town and the city bowl!
You’ll have to time your visit well, as the mountain’s weather can be pretty unpredictable (it basically creates its own weather patterns). You’ll quickly become familiar with the ‘tablecloth’ - a thick blanket of clouds that roll in over the top and block everything, so if you can see it rise from the city bowl with no clouds nearby - go, go, go! If you're visiting in summer, be prepared to wait, or arrive very early.
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 cost around $25 per adult but are seasonal, so check before you go. You can also combine your cableway ride with any other sightseeing you want to do by purchasing a combined aerial cableway and hop-on-hop-off bus pass here.
Alternatively, if you feel like working off some of the amazing food and drink on offer in Cape Town (we're getting to that part, hold on!), we recommend the 2.5hour hike to the summit. It's generally safer to hike with a group here, so check out this 4-hour guided hike through Platteklip Gorge with a local expert instead.
Location | Table Mountain Nature Reserve
Opening hours | Check updated cablecar times here
Cableway tour | Organise your Table Mountain cableway and hop-on-hop-off buss passes here
Guided hike | Check prices and availability for the Platteklip Gorge hike here
Tripadvisor | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Table Mountain here.
LEARN MORE ABOUT CAPE TOWN: CAPE TOWN: TWO CITIES, ONE MOUNTAIN
#2 WATCH THE SUNRISE FROM LIONS HEAD, THE SUNSET FROM CAMPS BAY - Things to do in cape town
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.
Lions Head is situated in the Table Mountain National Park, and is that little Lion-esque hill you've probably seen in photos! Once you've made it to the top (be careful if it's moist/raining), watch as the wild beauty of Cape Town, the Atlantic seaboard, Table Mountain, and the far-off stretch of beach in the distance, Blouberg, come to life beneath you. Every yawn from your early morning start is worth it, we promise. Again, best to go with a group and a guide, so check out this guided sunrise hike here.
As if the world’s best sunrise wasn’t enough - watching the sun fall into the Atlantic ocean is also a Capetonian rite of passage (generally practised with a sundowner firmly in hand!). Park yourself on the beach at Camps Bay, relax, and enjoy as the sky entertains you with a pastel light-show for the ages.
Note: sunset is also pretty epic from Lion's Head, so if you want to do it in reverse, no worries - check out this 3-hour guided sunset hike!
Location | Lions Head, Cape Town
Tips | Never hike alone, wear sturdy shoes, be careful during adverse weather (particularly the fog)
#3 LEARN LESSONS IN SOUTH AFRICAN HISTORY - Things to do in cape town
Get an insight into the oppression of the apartheid regime, and the ultimate triumph against it that was symbolised by the indomitable Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years incarcerated on Robben Island. Head out on this full-day tour of Robben Island, which also takes in key locations in the Apartheid struggle.
Location | 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 | We recommend you book in advance - Book your Robben Island tour here
Tripadvisor | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Robben Island .
The District Six Museum provides context to a time when this vibrant and multicultural community of freed slaves, artists, merchants, and immigrants was declared to be ‘whites only’ - and over 60,000 of it’s residents were forcibly ejected from their homes. As they were moved to the Cape Flats shantytowns, their houses were reduced to rubble. It’s honest, eye opening, and raw.
Location | District Six, Cape Town
Cost | Tickets cost around $3
Opening hours | 09:00 - 16:00 - Monday to Saturday
Tripadvisor | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of District Six Museum
#4 TAKE A STREET ART WALKING TOUR IN WOODSTOCK - Things to do in cape town
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.
Here, over 100 pieces of colourful street art adorn almost every corner; extremely talented works of art that also bring to life important political or environmental messages. Head out on this guided walking tour to understand who painted them and their meaning in this colourful, eclectic neighbourhood.
Check out reviews of the Woodstock walking tour on Tripadvisor.
Location | Woodstock, Cape Town
Cost | Private tours cost around $28 per person, and must be pre-booked
Tripadvisor | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Woodstock walking tour
Guide | 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
#5 EXPLORE THE COLOURFUL STREETS OF BO-KAAP (AND EAT SOME CAPE MALAY CUISINE) - Things to do in cape town
You probably won’t have ever visited a suburb quite like Bo Kaap before. Nestled under Signal Hill on the edge of the Cape Town CBD, the Malay Quarter of Cape Town could also be confused for a gigantic bag of exploded skittles. Really.
Each house is cheerily painted in vivid colours - pinks, blues, purples, green - transforming the suburb into one of the most instagrammable places in the city.
It’s also a melting pot of muslim culture, and with that comes scrumptious food! Enjoy the aromatic spices that waft through the air, join a cooking class with Lekka Kombuis and learn more about the distinct Malay culture - while mastering the delicious Cape Malay cuisine! Read reviews of the Lekka Kombuis cooking class on Tripadvisor.
Location | Bo Kaap, Cape Town
Tripadvisor | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Lekka Kombuis cooking class
The FAces of Cape Town: our inspiring day TOUR through imizamo yethu
#6 EMBRACE CAPE TOWN'S INCREDIBLE BEACHES - Things to do in cape town
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 epic!
Check out Clifton’s four beaches - the beaches to both see and be seen at, and take it all in during summer. Palm-fringed Camps Bay is equally busy, and also has a tonne of trendy cafes, restaurants, 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 Bloubergstrand with it’s views back to Cape Town and Table Mountain if you have time for the drive.
A MAP OF THE BEST BEACHES IN CAPE TOWN
plan your trip: OUR COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO CAPE TOWN
#7 ENJOY AMAZING FOOD AND WINE IN THE CAPE WINELANDS - Things to do in cape town
South Africa knows how to do wine, and if you’re a person who enjoys places that do wine well (we like you already!) - 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.
The most famous town of the Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch, is beautiful and definitely worth a visit - but for an equally delicious day trip with 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 all minus the crowds of Stelly.
If you're keen to indulge in a tipple or two, consider booking this guided tour of the Winelands - with your own guide and driver. Or, if you're feeling like a total splurge, how about a heli tour of the area and a gourmet lunch in Franschoek?! We promise the views are absolutely worth it.
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 and food coma!
Location | Stellenbosch and Franshoek, Cape Town
Tours | Guided tour of the Winelands, or an extravagant heli tour of the area and a gourmet lunch in Franschoek
#8 WALK THE GARDENS OF KIRSTENBOSCH - Things to do in cape town
Cape Town is extremely rich in biodiversity, and there’s no better place to check some of this out than at one of the greatest botanical gardens of the world, Kirstenbosch.
Now home to over 7,000 plant species (many endangered) these gardens have been around since 1913, and are the only botanical garden to be housed within a UNESCO World Heritage Zone.
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.
Location | Kirstenbosch, Cape Town
Cost | Tickets cost around $5 per person, and must be pre-booked
Tripadvisor | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Kirstenbosch gardens on Tripadvisor
MORE ON AFRICA: 10 MYTHS ABOUT AFRICA THAT ARE SIMPLY NOT TRUE
#9 EMBRACE QUIRKY KALK BAY - Things to do in cape town
Kalk Bay might be a little fishing village at heart, but it’s also one of Cape Town’s trendiest seaside villages.
The pace of life is slower here, and beats with a chilled out, bohemian atmosphere and quirky street scene. 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.
Make sure you check out these Kalk Bay intsitutions while there:
- Kalky's Fish and Chips - Kalk Bay Harbour (open Mon - Sun 10:00am - 20:00pm).
- The Brass Bell - Main road, Kalk Bay
- Bob's Bagel Cafe - just off the main Kalk Bay road
Location | Kalk Bay, Cape Town
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#10 GO RIGHT TO THE EDGE OF AFRICA AT CAPE POINT - Things to do in cape town
Standing on the edge of a continent is a pretty boast-worthy claim, but here, at Cape Point, you’re able to do just that, by planting your feet firmly on Africa’s most southwesterly point - the Cape of Good Hope.
This is a full day’s trip, so detour along Chapman’s Peak drive and the western coast to take in some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Cape Town. Again, if you'd prefer someone else was in the driver's seat, consider a full-day guided tour of the Peninsula.
Location | Cape Point, and The Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town
Cost | Entry costs around $10 per person
Tripadvisor | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of The Cape of Good Hope
#11 See the penguins at boulders beach - Things to do in cape town
Located about an hours drive south of Cape Town is the incredibly beautiful Boulders beach, famous for being home to over 2,000 endangered African penguins. Here is the only place in the world where you get close to the little cuties, with visitors to the public beach allowed to swim with the penguins in the surrounding waters of False Bay.
There's also a visitors centre where you can learn all about the unique African penguin, and provides a boardwalk through the small national park, allowing visitors to see the Penguins' burrows up close.
Location | Boulders Beach, Cape Town
Cost | Entry costs around $10 per person
Shopping at the V & A Waterfront, walking the city streets and Company's garden, the wineries of Groot Constantia and eating fresh fish and chips in Hout Bay.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN cape town
The list of cool things to do in Cape Town is basically endless - check out some of our fave day trips and tours (and prices!) below!
CApe town essential information
WHEN IS 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 Uber as we found the service safe, cheap and abundant.
We’ve listed all transport options below:
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
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/FROM SOUTH AFRICA
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.
Check Skyscanner now for the best flight deals in and out of South Africa.
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.
Let us know what are your favourite things to do in Cape Town are in the comments below!