If there is one city in the world I am dying to return to, it’s Cape Town. It’s a city too beautiful for its own good. Where one can get easily lost in the depths of nature and still have dinner at any sushi, tapas, or bistro they want at night. There are so many things to do in Cape Town, it’s hard to optimize your time there unless you have a full year. We spent two months there and felt we barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer.
Still we like to think we hit many of the tourist hot spots, and were still able to delve a little deeper into the city. From activities like climbing the iconic table mountain, to sipping some delicious Pinotage while overlooking the tip of Africa Cape Town will have enchanted. If you find yourself in the South African city,
don’t tell me because I will be jealous, here are a few amazing things to do.
Fun Things To Do in Cape Town
If a place that has been a fort, leper colony and mental institution piques your interest, then a trip to Robben Island is one of the things to do in Cape Town that you won’t want to pass up. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the place where anti-apartheid crusader Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, probably no other place like it captures the essence of South Africa and its troubled past.
The museum will give you a fascinating and macabre look into South Africa’s history; some of the tour guides are former prisoners, so their accounts will be all the more chilling. Since it’s an island, you’ll need to take a ferry to get there, but it’s included in the cost of admission, which is R360 for adults and R200 for children. The tours take about 3 ½ hours and start every two hours, beginning at 9:00 AM and ending at 3 PM.
After a day spent contemplating heavy issues like imprisonment and apartheid, perhaps a day at the beach would be a nice change of pace. The sun and sand will enthrall you, but don’t bother bringing your swim trunks, because the icy Atlantic water at scenic Camps Bay may be too cold for swimming, unless you’re a penguin. It is, however, a great place to relax, take a long walk, or enjoy some refreshment while indulging in a little sunset or people watching.
There’s no fee to use the beach, and it’s easily accessible from Cape Town. Camps Bay is one of the ritziest areas of Cape Town and is definitely one of our favorite spots to relax in the whole city.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, watching sunset from Table Mountain is one of the most romantic things to do in Cape Town. Cape Town’s iconic landmark, Table Mountain, is a magnificent feature that hovers over the city, making it another one of those things to do in Cape Town that shouldn’t be missed. For those fit and fearless travelers who relish a challenge, it’s possible to hike to the top of Table Mountain, although the weather on the cape can change without much warning, so take a few spare items of clothing and a windbreaker just in case.
For those not interested in burning calories, there’s the unique Aerial Cableway, on which the compartments rotate 360 degrees so that everyone gets the panoramic view of the dramatic city, sea, and mountain. Due to its magnificence, the Cableway can be crowded and it may be a long wait just to buy your ticket especially during peak times, so book ahead of time online if you can.
Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
A hive of activity night and day, the V & A Waterfront was built by Queen Victoria’s son Alfred – hence the name – in the late 1800’s, and was an important port, especially during the colonial era. It’s also a wonderful place from which to view Table Mountain, the ocean and sunset, and really take in the vibe of Cape Town. As the sun fades, the waterfront comes alive with music, laughter and tasty adult beverages served at the many bars and cafes you’ll find here.
There are roving street performers that are sure to fascinate and enchant, and plenty of shopping too. The V&A Waterfront is where we enjoyed many date nights together. There is a movie theatre here as well as a plethora of amazing restaurants. Heading to the V&A waterfront is one of my favorite things to do in Cape Town at night.
Let’s face it, in years past, South Africa wasn’t exactly known as a place where great wine was found. But as far back as the 1800’s, grapes were transplanted here specifically for the country’s blossoming wine industry. The valley is about 10 miles from Cape Town and is as rich in charm and history as it is in wine. The oldest winery is Groot Constantia, which offers tours of its stunning grounds, a glimpse into its history, and a post-tour tasting that’ll make you wonder why you haven’t tried a South African wine before.
All-inclusive, guided wine tours are available, or if you’ve rented your own car, you can drive around the area and see what interests you. Remember that each winery has its own schedules and entrance fees if you’re not part of a tour. If you want to get out of the city a bit more we highly recommend visiting Stellenbosch for a few days.
District Six Museum
In the city’s center, The District Six Museum – like Robben Island – is one of the things to do in Cape Town that you shouldn’t skip as it provides insight on the cities past. Giving another glimpse into the country’s apartheid years, District Six is a part of the town that was declared ‘all white,’ in the ’70s, and from which over 60,000 blacks were forcibly relocated to Cape Flats – an impromptu settlement of rag-tag shanty homes that was not surprisingly a hotbed of anti-white sentiment among the persecuted blacks.
Although it’s possible to tour the museum on your own, you may get more out of it with a local tour guide, many of whom will be able to give you first-hand accounts of what life was like during apartheid. The hours of operation vary on different days, so check out their website. The cost of entry is about R40 per person.
What if I told you there was a place near Cape Town where you can watch thousands of penguins waddle, dance, and talk to you? Well, there is! Okay, they aren’t really “talking” to you, but they do make that noise that penguins make. A half-hour drive from the center of Cape Town is Boulders Beach, a beach where humans can observe wild African penguins at a ridiculously close range. This is one of the most fun things to do in Cape Town for couples!
Boulders Beach – named for the massive rocks that dot the sand – consists of wonderful, semi-private areas formed by the giant boulders. You’ll find the water here pleasantly warm when compared to those beaches on the Atlantic coast. For wildlife and nature lovers, Boulders not only offers great swimming and scenery but is home to a colony of penguins that alternate between basking in the sun and catching fish in the surf.
If you’d like to take a photo or two with them, fear not, they are pretty accustomed to people, but please don’t try to feed them or get too close, they are wild animals after all. Since it is part of Table Mountain National Park, there will be a small entrance fee of about R60 for adults with most of the money going back to the conservation of the penguins. The beach opens bright and early and closes at different times depending on the season. In my opinion this is one of the most things you can do in Cape Town for under R100.
Finding kid-friendly activities can be a challenge, especially when in a strange place. As if they were reading your mind, the people at Bugz Playpark have created a one-stop shop where your kids will get exercise and smiles on their faces all at once. Brimming with hoops, balls, swings, boats, bells and jungle-gym equipment of nearly every make and model, Bugz has a little something for everyone.
At eight o’clock that night, when they’re zonked out in their beds leaving the hotel room perfectly quiet, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you took them there in the first place. Snacks and refreshments are available, and there’s a restaurant too if you want to replenish all those expended calories. This is one of the best things to do in Cape Town for families. Check their website for opening hours.
Le Bonheur Reptiles and Adventures
Don’t let the French-sounding name fool you, this place is South African to the core. Full of crocodiles, snakes, and lizards, if the hairs on the back of your neck don’t stand on their end, you need to check your pulse. There’s even diving with crocodiles available for children nine and older, but if it sounds dangerous don’t worry, only 1 out of 17 children is eaten. 😝 There’s even a place you can fish for bass once you’ve had your fill of hanging around deadly reptiles. This is one of the more unusual things to do in Cape Town and is great for all ages!
National Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch
Boasting nearly 100 acres of beautifully cultivated gardens, the National Botanical Gardens hosts thousands of visitors from all over the world. Near Table Mountain, and with nearly 7,000 species of plants, trees, and flowers, you’ll be amazed that so many different species can all grow in the same place. Scattered through the grounds are seating and viewing areas, explanatory plaques and of course the many insects, birds, and critters that are drawn to such a place.
Remember to get a map, as the grounds are extensive, and plan on setting aside at least a few hours which will be ample time to get your fill. The hours of operation change with the seasons, so ask around or check online before you go. Admission is cheap at R70 for adults for the day!
Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope
Named by mariners who hoped that good fortune lay beyond its treacherous waters, the Cape of Good Hope is part of Table Mountain National Park, and one of most iconic things to do in Cape Town. There are plenty of walking trails leading throughout the park, and lots of interesting African animals that call the park home, like ostriches and baboons.
Cape Point is a narrow isthmus of land protruding into the Atlantic, which isn’t officially the southernmost point of the African continent, but standing on it experiencing the view, wind, and surf, it’ll sure feel like it. The drive from Cape Town is nearly an hour, but the breathtaking experience will more than speak for itself. There’s a relatively small conservation fee to enter the park, but when you see where the money goes, you’ll be happy that you could do your part to contribute.
Conveniently situated only a short walk from V & A Waterfront, Greenmarket’s disturbing beginnings were as a market for slaves bound for the New World. The square’s old streets are home to many vendors selling all manner of goods for locals and tourists alike. There is also a band of roaming street performers who’ll keep you amused between stalls.
Nothing captures the soul of South Africa more than a good game of glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, right? OK, I just made that up, but if you’re inclined to give it a try, you’ll never again think of one without the other. Glowing Rooms SA, in the town of Milnerton, it’s open to everyone regardless of age, and it isn’t too expensive either.
Hike Lion’s Head
Also part of Table Mountain National Park, and sitting squarely between Table Mountain and Signal Hill, Lion’s Head Mountain is one of the most popular things to do in Cape Town for locals and visitors alike. The view from the top will take your breath away – and getting there will burn some calories too. Rising 669 meters above sea-level, it’s a popular place to hike, especially at sunset and during a full moon.
In the summer it gets crazy busy, and sunrise is the best time to avoid crowds. The vistas, rock formations, and varied plant life will make the trip more than memorable, and you may see colorful paragliders circling about, as the mountain is a favorite departure area for these brave souls.
If you’re on Instagram, then chances are you have seen photos of the Bo-Kaap neighborhood of Cape Town. The brightly colored buildings of this Cape Malay neighborhood makes it a popular stop for tourists with cameras and one of the best places to go in Cape Town for a few hours. Bring your camera and a cute outfit as you’ll likely go photo crazy here. This is a residential neighborhood so be respectful.
Snorkle with Cape Fur Seals
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but there are some serious adventurous things to do in Cape Town. From Seal Snorkeling to Canyoneering, and even bungee jumping off the world’s highest bungee bridge there is no way you will go bored in this city. Out of all those adventures in Cape Town, one of our favorite days when we went swimming with Cape Fur Seals.
The Cape Fur Seals are massive, smell pretty bad, and can out swim a boat. Regardless any marine fan and even divers will love the experience of snorkeling with them and having a great adventure in Cape Town. Hout Bay has long offered tourists the chance to take a big boat out to a small island just outside the harbor where 15,000 Cape Fur Seals reside. The brave can now jump into the chilly waters of the Atlantic and go swimming with the furry animals. Wetsuits are provided as the water is generally bone-chilling cold.
Bay Harbour Market
Every weekend at 31 Harbour Rd the town of Hout Bay takes on some of the finest bakers, artisans, artists, and food creators in Cape Town. You can come here to get just about anything to eat, but perhaps the fish is what many of the booths specialize in. Don’t come full or with an empty wallet because everything in sight looks delicious, and the handicrafts are unique.
Drive Chapman’s Peak
If you are without a car in Cape Town, I highly recommend renting one for at the least the day so that you can drive Chapman’s Peak. This is one of the world’s most scenic drives and is definitely worth the R42 toll to drive on this beautiful road together. One of the most romantic places in Cape Town is the Tintswalo Atlantic hidden along Chapmen’s peak. It’s definitely a splurge-worthy stay for a romantic weekend getaway in Cape Town.
Woodstock Street Art Tour
Woodstock is a hip neighborhood in Cape Town undergoing some serious gentrification right now. What does that mean? Amazing street art in the city! We enjoyed an afternoon of walking around and snapping photos of all the impressive street art in the area together. There are plenty of cafes to duck into including the Old Biscuit Mill, which is best visited on Saturdays.
Surf in Muizenberg
Muizenberg is right outside of Cape Town and is the heart and soul of surfing culture in South Africa. The vibe is even more laid back here than in Cape Town. There are dozens of cafes, yoga shops, and beach shacks to wander into. If you’re feeling adventurous then rent a surfboard and wetsuit and try a hand at surfing together. Be sure to check out one of the many yoga studios for some yoga on the beach!
Take a Helicopter Ride
Cape Town is such a beautiful city, we just had to explore it by air. We’ve each have been wanting to ride in helicopter ever since we were teased in the Seychelles earlier in the year so we knew we had to book with NAC Helicopters. NAC offers a few different routes. We went with the Atlantico tour that took us around Hout Bay. The mountains, city bowl, and crystal clear waters all together barely looks real and is something that should be seen in person by everyone traveling to Cape Town. I’m not sure there is a better city in the world to splurge on a helicopter ride in.
How to get around Cape Town
We came to Cape Town thinking it would be a big city with big city transport options available. This was NOT the case and there really is no efficient way to get around Cape Town. The best way to see all of the amazing things this city has to offer is by car. There are many options to rent in South Africa for an affordable price. A rental car is a great way to see South Africa and Cape Town. Trust me you will want a car if you are visiting the city and want to get to places like Cape Point and Muizenberg. Check out a few of our rental car tips here. Thinking about diving around South Africa? Here’s a perfect South Africa road trip itinerary.
Uber is also a really popular and safe option in the city and is incredibly affordable. If you are on a major budget then the MyCiti bus is always available to get you to your destination. Is it your first time driving abroad? Check out our tips!
Where to stay in Cape Town
There are so many options for accommodation in Cape Town it may make your head spin. We were in the city for over two months and hopped around from business hotels, to romantic lodges, and a few Airbnbs. Here are some of our favorites:
- The Tintswalo Atlantic: Due to its charm, class, level of service, intimacy, character, and stunning location, The Tintswalo Atlantic takes our top accolade (read our full review here). It’s one of those dream worthy properties that is every bit charming as it is romantic. It’s definitely not budget but is great for anyone looking to splurge for a special occasion. Book here.
- The Capital Mirage: We stayed here on our first four nights in Cape Town and loved it. Think of it as a long term business hotel with style and in the middle of the city. The studio apartment allows for a more like home for those needing to stay a week or more. Amenities like real high-speed internet (our tests got 26mbps), washer and dryer, full kitchen, multiple restaurants on site, and a TV that connects to your laptop set it apart from other hotels. Book here.
- Airbnb: We have traveled around the world and the one place I always say has the best Airbnbs for the best prices its Cape Town. Seriously there are some pretty cute and modern Airbnb’s in the city for much less than a hotel room. Here are the exact two we stayed at in the city (HERE and HERE). Check out a few of our Airbnb tips before booking. Here’s an Airbnb promo code for your first booking.
Plan Your Trip to Cape Town
- Accommodation in Cape Town: To feel more at home we use Airbnb you can check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code here. Or just take this coupon for your first stay!
- Rent a car: Compare car rental prices here.
- Flights to South Africa: Compare airlines, dates and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
- Water: At the time of writing we found the water in Cape Town fine to drink, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle
- Guide Book: Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.
- Adaptor: You’ll need this adaptor in Southern Africa.
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