Video Source: Youtube
Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Sitting on the shores of the southern Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town is the second-largest city in South Africa behind Johannesburg. It is also the first stop for many tourists, and for good reason. Located in the Western Cape, there’s plenty that surrounds the city, including beaches, vineyards, and beautiful scenery for both hikes and leisurely drives. Cape Town is also the home of the Cape Town Jazz Festival and many other cultural events. Cape Town is perfect for any and all kinds of travelers looking to experience the best of southern Africa.
The Top 10: What to Do in Cape Town
1. Robben Island:
Located off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island is perhaps best known as the imprisonment site of Nelson Mandela, Jacob Zuma, and many other political leaders during the apartheid era.
2. Table Mountain:
Cable cars, check. Amazing views, check. From the top of Table Mountain, many of Cape Town’s most celebrated landmarks can be seen, including Robben Island, Lion’s Head, and Signal Hill. Flora and fauna flourish in this area, and people with an outdoorsy inclination can go hiking and cave exploring, too. Just be sure to bring layers of clothing, as the weather can change quickly.
3. White Shark Diving: Attention “Jaws” fans:
a two-hour drive and boat ride from Cape Town takes you to the lovely area of Gansbaai, which offers incredible cage-diving tours with one of the world’s largest predators, the great white shark. For those of you who don’t want to brave the water with these powerful creatures, check out a surface view from the comfort of your boat, where African penguins, cape fur seals, cape gannets, and other sea wildlife can also be spotted. Though the best time of year to go and see great white sharks is from April to October, there is still a high success rate for shark viewing during the rest of the year as well.
4. Twelve Apostles Hotel and Sanctuary Spa:
Need some rest and relaxation? Head over to the Western Cape’s foremost luxury hotel and spa, peacefully situated on the foot of Table Mountain overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Besides presenting the perfect mix of land and sea, Twelve Apostles offers locally inspired therapies, making your spa experience unique to Cape Town. Whether you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a weekend or simply have a romantic dinner on the water, this Camps Bay resort provides a tranquil escape without the hassle of far travel, being only a 15-minute drive from the city center.
5. Victoria and Alfred Waterfront:
Averaging more than 10 million visitors a year, this all-inclusive harbor is easily South Africa’s most visited attraction. With over 400 stores, the famous Two Oceans Aquarium, countless bars and restaurants, and interesting historical landmarks such as the Clock Tower and the original Breakwater Prison, this premiere Cape Town waterfront has something for everyone.
Located on the outskirts of Cape Town’s city center, this quaint suburb is the picture of historical beauty. Predominately made up of descendants of slaves who were brought from Indonesia and Malaysia by the Dutch in the 16th century, Bo-Kaap is also known as the “Malay Quarter.” Take a leisurely stroll through the cobble stoned streets and view the brightly colored homes, sample some traditional Cape Malay cuisine, or visit one of Bo-Kaap’s great attractions, including the Castle of Good Hope, Signal Hill, and the Bo-Kaap Museum. A great activity to do if you’re pressed for time and want to see the highlights of Cape Town.
7. Slave Lodge:
Known as one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town, this landmark, built in 1679, has been home to important attractions over time including the Old Supreme Court and the South Africa Cultural History Museum. Originally earning its name for housing slaves of the Dutch East India Company in the late 1600s, this museum displays a number of art exhibitions devoted to Cape Town’s past as a slave colony. This is a great site to visit for those who want to get the perfect mix of arts and history.
8. Groot Constantia:
For all you wine connoisseurs, this is not only the foremost wine estate in Cape Town, but also the oldest in South Africa. A real can’t miss! Since its establishment in 1685 by Cape Town’s first governor, Simon van der Stel, Groot Constantia has continued to produce some of the best wines in the world, pleasing sophisticated palates such as, Napoleon Bonaparte, Jane Austen and Otto von Bismarck. Take a tour of the estate’s original Cloete Wine Cellar, which dates back to 1791 and visit Bertram's Cellar, where you get a true taste of Constantia by trying an array of their excellent red and white wines.
9. Greenmarket Square:
Widely known as one of Cape Town’s oldest flea markets, this shopping area has long been the place where seasoned locals have gone for hand-crafted goods, specialized art and jewelry. Initially built in 1696 around a burgher watch house for the wealthy elite of the city, this square is now a vibrant display of the diversity and multicultural attitude that Cape Town represents.
10. Castle of Good Hope:
Constructed between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company, this majestic castle originally served as the center of governmental, military and citizen life, and is today the oldest surviving building in South Africa. Besides housing the renowned Cape Town Military Museum and Iziko Museums, the castle offers a number of great activities, including horse-drawn carriage rides and Key Ceremony viewings, where a changing of the guard occurs. Pick and choose from the wide array of attractions, but make sure you see the William Fehr Collection, a series of historical paintings, furniture, and documents that epitomize colonial Cape Town life.
When to Go
Blessed with a balmy Mediterranean climate, Cape Town is a great place to visit any time of the year. During the warm, dry summer season from November to February, people can enjoy up to 14 hours of sunshine. As for the wintertime, the weather is relatively mild but wet. Beginning in May, visitors can expect a cool, rainy season that lasts until July or August. If you want to check the most up-to-date weather conditions in Cape Town before your departure, visit WeatherSA.
Some special seasonal festivals that are worth planning your trip around to Cape Town are the International Jazz Festival in March, the Vodacom Funny Festival from June to July, and ARISE Cape Town Fashion Week in August. For a complete list of year-round events, check out the Cape Town Tourism website.