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10 things you absolutely must do in Cape Town, South Africa

Things to do in Cape Town includie exploring the colourful Bo-Kaap neighbourhood

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, stand in 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!).

Read more: Our definitive guide to Cape Town

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 10 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN CAPE TOWN

#1 TAKE IN THE VIEW FROM TABLE MOUNTAIN

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 a rotation floor which gives you incredible views as you go up and down. Tickets costs around $25 per adult but are seasonal, so check before you go.

You can also purchase a combined aerial cableway and hop-on-hop-off bus pass here

Otherwise, if you’re looking to work off some of the amazing food and drink found in Cape Town (we’re getting to that, hold on!), we recommend the 2.5hr hike to the summit. It’s a tough slog but well worth it.

Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Table Mountain.

Things to do in Cape Town - Climb to the top of Table Mountain

LEARN MORE ABOUT CAPE TOWN: CAPE TOWN: TWO CITIES, ONE MOUNTAIN

#2 WATCH THE SUN RISE FROM LIONS HEAD, THE SUN SET FROM CAMPS BAY

Sunrise anywhere in world is beautiful, but a sunrise from Lions Head is one of those rare uplifting sights that just makes you so grateful to be alive.

Lions Head is situated in the Table Mountain National Park, and is that little Lion like hill you’ve probably seen in photos! The hike to the top is easy (be careful if it’s moist/raining) and once there, 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.

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 practiced 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.

Things to do in Cape Town - Watching the sunset over Camps Bay, Cape Town

#3 LEARN LESSONS IN SOUTH AFRICAN HISTORY

South Africa has a rich but extremely divisive history. One of the best things to do in Cape Town is to try and understand it all, by visiting Robben Island and the District Six Museum

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. Check out this full-day tour of Robben Island, which takes in key locations in the Apartheid struggle.

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. Tickets cost around $3

Check out reviews for Robben Island and District Six Museum on TripAdvisor.

#4 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.

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 a 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.

Things to do in Cape Town - Woodstock art tours

THE FACES OF CAPE TOWN: A TOUR WITH A DIFFERENCE

#5 EXPLORE THE COLOURFUL STREETS OF BO-KAAP (AND EAT SOME CAPE MALAY CUISINE)

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.

Things to do in Cape Town - explore the colourful Bo-Kaap area

#6 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 epic! Check out Clifton’s four beaches – the beaches to 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.

Things to do in Cape Town - Muizenberg beach

KEEP READING: OUR COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO CAPE TOWN

#7 ENJOY AMAZING FOOD AND WINE ON IN THE CAPE WINELANDS

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 a guided tour of the Winelands – with your own guide and driver.

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!

Things to do in Cape Town - Visit the Cape Winelands

#8 WALK THE GARDENS OF KIRSTENBOSCH

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. Tickets cost around $3 per adult

If you’re lucky enough to visit Cape Town in Spring, the gardens are coated in a colorful 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.

Read reviews of the Kirstenbosch gardens on Tripadvisor.

Things to do in Cape Town - Visit the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

MORE ON AFRICA: 10 MYTHS ABOUT AFRICA THAT ARE SIMPLY NOT TRUE

#9 EMBRACE QUIRKY KALK BAY

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.

Cape Town Things to do - Kalk Bay Harbour

#10 GO RIGHT TO THE EDGE OF AFRICA AT CAPE POINT

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. Entry to the Cape Point National Park costs around $10 per adult.

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

Read reviews of The Cape of Good Hope on Tripadvisor.

Cape Town Things to do - Visit the Cape of Good Hope

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Seeing the adorable penguins at Boulders beach, 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.

If we’ve missed anything, let us know what are your favourite things to do in Cape Town are! 

Planning to visit Cape Town? You might like these posts:

Need to book accommodation in Cape Town?

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Things to do in Cape Town

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Shannon Kircher
    January 11, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Great piece! I love, love, loved South Africa and found Cape Town and the surrounding areas to be absolutely incredible. Thanks so much for including the link to my site – the Winelands were a super special place and we had an amazing time delving into the experiences there!

  • Reply
    Bonita
    January 12, 2017 at 4:32 am

    Comprehensive breakdown! I have bookmarked this post for future reference. There is so much to do in Capetown!

  • Reply
    Birthe (from Wandering the World)
    January 12, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    South Africa, including Cape Town, is still on our (ever growing) bucket list. I hope we make it there someday! I pinned your post for when we get down to planning that trip. 😉 Love the colourful houses and the street art. Who knows, maybe we’ll decide to hike up the table mountain. 🙂

  • Reply
    Cory Varga
    January 14, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    South Africa has long been on my bucket list. What I am wondering tho is, did you feel super safe? I have a South African friend who always tells us not to go visit because of this and that reason. But to be honest with you, where in the world is safe, right? Everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The view of the sunrise is superb <3

  • Reply
    roxannereid1
    January 14, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Love that you’ve included less mainstream things like the Woodstock street art and a visit to Kalk Bay. Cape Town is amazingly diverse with tons of things to do and you’ve given a great selection.

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      January 22, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Honestly, spending time in Kalk Bay was one of our best days in Cape Town! Thanks so much Roxanne 🙂

  • Reply
    Danielle Wisniewski
    January 14, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Wow! Cape Town was never on my radar until recently and man it looks amazing. A combo of food, wine, and outdoorsy vibe makes me want to hop on a plane right now. And your pictures are doing wonders for my wanderlust. 🙂

  • Reply
    Ealine
    January 14, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    Cape Town is my fave! Love the scenery, the colours, the energy and all the places on your list!

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      January 22, 2017 at 1:54 pm

      It just has the most incredible feeling of life to it, doesn’t it!? Glad you agree with our list too! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Reply
    Renee - Renee Roaming
    January 15, 2017 at 9:52 am

    ah Lions Head looks so beautiful!! Great post, I’d love to get to Cape Town one day!

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      January 22, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      Oh, pictures don’t do it justice! It’s incredible. Hope you get to see it some day soon! 🙂

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    January 16, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Cape town looks amazing!
    Hope I am lucky enough to visit it someday 🙂
    x

  • Reply
    Mrs Ayla's Adventures
    January 19, 2017 at 7:41 am

    My favourite city in the whole world! This post makes me want to go back so much ❤️

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      January 22, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Ours too! How amazing would it be right now, all those summery vibes!
      Hope you get back there sometime soon 🙂

  • Reply
    Chetan Jadhav
    January 21, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Hey Miranda, I loved the featured image, waiting long to have such images of mine with that colorful background I simply love it and yeah all the 10 things to do is bang on. Loved your article keep posting such amazing destination.
    Cheers 🙂

  • Reply
    Camila @ Adventitious Violet
    January 22, 2017 at 3:28 am

    Love this post! Gosh I love Cape Town! Table Mountain is so impressive!! I spent a week at a friend’s vineyard in Stellenbosch and it was amazing! Though I got to point out (pedantically sorry!) that Cape L’Agulhas is technically the tip of Africa and it’s free! 😉

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      January 22, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      Hey Camila,

      Thanks for the comment. A week in Stellenbosch would have been an absolute dream!
      Actually, our post refers to the most southwesterly point of Africa (which is the Cape of Good Hope), rather than the tip. But thanks! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sarah - Chasing the Rainbow
    February 2, 2017 at 4:12 am

    Wow! What a great list – we are so happy that you fell in love with our mother city ???????? I would definitely add a visit to swim with the penguins at Boulders Bay.

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      March 6, 2017 at 11:49 pm

      The Mother City is the best city! Boulders beach is also a must do, we agree!

      Mark and Mim x

  • Reply
    Stephanie Perry (@Vaycarious)
    February 12, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    Great list, beautiful pictures! Pinned for my March trip. 🙂

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      March 6, 2017 at 11:41 pm

      Hi Stephanie,

      We’re stoked you liked the post and you’ve got it pinned for your trip. It’s the best city ever!

      Mark and Mim x

  • Reply
    bcvoyage2015
    March 16, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    YES YES..Bucket List destination! When did you guys visit? We are thinking on going later this year. Also debating about how long should we stay? And definitely wanting to visit some of the neighbourhood countries!
    Beautiful Photography guys 🙂

    Telma @ Blank Canvas Voyage – Adventure Travel & Lifestyle Blog

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