The Best Things to do in Cape Town, South Africa

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The colorful neighborhood of Bo-kaap in Cape Town, South Africa

Seeing it all in Southern Africa

If you landed on this page but want to see all of the highlights of all of Southern Africa - which includes South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and ending in Zimbabwe - by starting in Cape Town, then you could simply skip this article and go straight to booking the 20-Day Africa on a Shoestring tour instead.  You can thank us later! 

However, if you’re putting together your own trip and sticking to the Cape Town area, you have come to the right place! This is a list of some of the best places to see in and around Cape Town.

Cape Town South Africa Map Overview

Keep in mind that while this is a guide to some of the best places to see while you are in Cape Town, it does not cover the intricate details that could be provided with a tour guide at each of these places. Our goal is to provide you with enough information to make your trip amazing and affordable - and we believe that this article does the trick!

However, if you want amazing details for each location that you visit, as if you had an expert tour guide with you at each stop, then you can save a ton of money on the tour guides by simply picking up your very own personal “pocket-sized” tour guide with the Lonely Planet: Cape Town & The Garden Route book. It’s packed with tons of verified information about every place that you’ll go. (Pro Tip: Wait for the 3 for 2 deals that pop up a few times per year to save even more!).

Additionally, South Africa comes with its own customs and culture that - if you’re not hiring a personal guide - you’ll still want to be aware of by the time you arrive. Thus, we recommend a more affordable solution to a guide - learning the customs, culture, and etiquette through this really amazing guide by Culture Smart. Some of the absolute best information comes from these books and we love to add them to our digital collection for each new country we travel to!

The Best Things To Do in Cape Town
& The Cape Peninsula Area

Cape Town’s most famous locations are known as “The Big 6” and are the first 6 that we mention on this list, but there are also so many other things in and around Cape Town that are worth checking out as well! Apart from the best things to do around Cape Town, you may also want to check out Safaris near Cape Town - including an Inverdoorn Tankwa Chalet with Transportation!

Getting Around in Cape Town  

The easiest way to get around Cape Town is simply to grab the Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus which will get you to just about all of the major locations around Cape Town.

Renting a car in South Africa is the best way to explore Cape Town and the surrounding areas - like the Garden Route - plus driving is relatively easy in South Africa. Having your own car gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and see places that are simply not possible on group tours or public transportation. Plus, it is not advisable to take the public transportation in Cape Town if you don't have to.

We used Budget Car Rental to rent our car and didn't have any issues apart from receiving one traffic violation via email nearly 4 months later for running a red light - which was legitimate because that was during our drive to the hospital on the day our son was born and I recall a situation where that likely happened, but my wife was dilated at 8-9 cm when we arrived at the hospital so I really didn't have time to stop (just missed the yellow light)! Additionally, it amounted to only $22.74, even with Budget Car Rental’s parent company (Avis Budget Group) handling the whole situation. Highly recommended!


Best Places to Stay in Cape Town

If you’re absolutely set on a hotel and you don’t want to try our free travel consultation, these are some of the best value-for-your-money locations: our favorite Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, and Hostel. We honestly don’t think you’ll be able to find better quality and location for these prices - but let us know if you do!

Our pick for the best luxury hotel in the area for the price - plus, an amazing experience in a fantastic location is the Steenberg Hotel, Cape Town. It’s in one of the most relaxing & beautiful areas of the Cape Town region and it’s in the middle of everything.

Another amazing hotel that we recommend regularly is The Andros Boutique Hotel. We recommend this one primarily because it’s great value for the money! But, honestly, it’s on par with the luxury and the location of the Steenberg Hotel.

Also right in the middle of everything there is to do around Cape Town - and perfect for couples - is the relaxing Constantia Oasis. If you are looking for a place that feels secluded but is actually a short drive from everything and in our favorite place in Cape Town - Constantia - then you can’t beat this one for as low as $64 USD per night. What a bargain!

Apart from hotels, you can save quite a bit of money by renting an Airbnb in Pinelands. The area is much more peaceful, quite, and affordable - while maintaining itself in a safe and secure area - than the other areas listed here. Plus, the ones we recommend give you the entire place to yourself, plus washer, dryer, kitchen, wifi, and more!

The best place to socialize is the DS Backpackers. Although there are cheaper hostels in the area, this one is the best decent hostel in the area and still comes in at a great price (of around $20 USD per night). Additionally, it’s still near most everything!


The Best Things To Do in Cape Town
& The Cape Peninsula Area

1. Cape Point & The Cape of Good Hope

Adult: R303     Child (2-11): R152     Child (under 2): Free
Estimate: 3-8 hours (skipping trails or taking all trails)

Although the Cape of Good Hope is NOT the southern-most tip of Africa, it is a great place to hike for some amazing scenery and pictures.  The nearby Cape Point trails and lighthouse are connected and the trails make this destination easily a 5-8 hour adventure.  Make sure you wear sunscreen and good shoes.  Also, don’t forget to bring plenty of water!  Theres also a quick service & sit down restaurant, as well as a store and restrooms, on location at Cape Point.  You may take the Funicular train to the top of Cape Point for an additional cost.  See more details at Cape Point Visitor Info. You can also grab the “Cape Peninsula Day Tour From Cape Town” to see both Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, as well as Clifton and Camps Bay, the African penguins at Boulders beach, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (no need for a car)!

2. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

Adult: R70     Child (6-17): R20     Child (under 6): Free
Estimate: 2-4 hours (without concert or meal, 4-5 hours with meal)

Probably the most serene and beautiful botanical garden we have ever seen - and not just because of the sheer grandeur of the view of Table Mountain’s cliffs just behind it. “Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is proof that not all gardens were created equal.”  “The most beautiful garden in Africa, and one of the great botanical gardens in the world, a trip to Cape Town is not complete without a visit.” This is the perfect place to enjoy picnics on the lawns, enjoy a glass of chilled Chardonnay before a summer sunset concert, or explore the many shady trails. There are also summer sunset concerts held each week on Sunday. Check out the panoramic views from the “Boomslang” - the Centenary Tree Top Canopy Walkway! Additionally, if you want to eat some amazing South African foods - make a reservation at the Moyo restaurant located inside the gardens!

3. Groot Constantia

Adult: R105     Adult (+Chocolate): R155     Child: R15
Estimate 2-3 hours without meals

"Groot" in Dutch and Afrikaans translates as "great" in English.  Walk around the oldest and most historic wine farm in South Africa, then walk around the vineyards at your leisure to watch wine production in action, visit the historical manor house, do a wine tasting - or a chocolate & wine pairing - and even eat lunch in one of the two restaurants: Jonkershuis and Simon’s - which reflect a rich Cape Malay heritage and a magical old world charm. Enjoy a la carte, deli café, popular picnics, private banquets, or intimate interior fire side dining.  Try the “Visitor Route Experience” where one ticket gives you entrance to the historic Manor House museum, the original Cloete Cellar, a cellar tour, 3 self-guided tours (including a vineyard tour), a tasting of 5 wines (or a pairing of 5 wines & 5 chocolates) and even a Spiegalau Crystal wine glass! Alternatively, you could go on a complete wine tour that visits estates in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl inclusive of wine and cheese tastings or just head out to the Stellenbosch Wine Estate for a cellar tour, wine & cheese tasting, and city tour instead.

4. Table Mountain National Park & Aerial Cableway

Round Trip Adult: R330     Round Trip Child (4-17): R165
One Way Adult: R190     One Way Child (4-17): R90
Estimate 2-4 hours without meals or trails (hikes can add 2-4 hours each way)

Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark of South Africa. To save a little money, round trip cable cars are R40 cheaper for Adults in the afternoon (13:00 to close) and R20 cheaper for Children. One way tickets are always the same price. Hiking up is actually free - but you might need a guide (not free) to keep you safe.  Once you get to the top, there are three easy walks on the plateau – the Dassie Walk, the Agama Walk, and the Klipspringer Walk - for great views. There are over 2,000 species of plants found on Table Mountain and over 1,400 floral species. Many of these plants and flowers are endemic to this mountain. If you are hiking up the mountain, the five dams at the top make for great picnic spots. One of the most scenic hikes to the top is called Skeleton Gorge, which starts in Kirstenbach National Botanical Gardens.  Here are some other hikes to the top of Table Mountain. You can also hire a guide for the Skeleton Gorge or Platteklip Gorge paths.  Abseil Africa also offers a 45 minute abseil experience if you’re interested in bouncing down the cliff.

5. V&A Waterfront and V&A Food Market

Estimate 2-8 hours (dependent on shopping and eating) 

With over 450 retail outlets, including luxury fashion stores, homeware and curios, jewelry, leather goods and audio-visual equipment as well as a full food market and a wide array of restaurants. 

It also features the Victoria Wharf, the Cape Wheel, the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island, Nobel Square, Two Oceans Aquarium, Chavonnes Battery, Breakwater Lodge, and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.

The V&A Waterfront is also still a working harbour and fishing boats bring in fresh fish, and larger container ships are towed in by tugboats. Also try the V&A Food Market for some amazing local and international food!

6. Robben Island

Adult: R360  Child: R200 | Estimate 4 hours

Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. On this tour you will be able to see Mandela's 8x7 meter prison cell. "The experience leaves visitors humbled."

You will also see the lime quarry, the bluestone quarry, the army and navy bunkers, Robert Sobukwe's house and the maximum security prison, where many political prisoners were held.

Robben Island is visited by boat. The boat leaves from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront only at specific times. Tickets should be purchased in advance.

7. Signal Hill & Lion’s Head Hike

Signal Hill is the flat hill that is next to Lion’s Head, and both are a part of Table Mountain. Go for a gentle walk along the top of the hill where you can see some of the best views of Cape Town’s city (without any hiking), critically endangered Peninsula Shale Renosterveld vegetation and the adorable Cape Dassie. Additionally, the famous Noon Gun is fired at noon every single day from Signal Hill. The parking can fill quickly, so do arrive early! You can also go paragliding from here if you wish.

Lion’s Head is the peak that is connected to the southern side of Signal Hill. Consider hiking up Lion’s Head if you are fairly fit and at least a moderate hiker, and you also don’t battle with heights or struggle with climbing. You’ll get to skip the gym, get a few hours worth of exercise, see some seriously unbelievable views, and be back down before lunch time.

8. Bo-Kaap Neighborhood & Biesmiellah Restaurant

Yes, Africa had its share of slavery as well. In fact, the Bo-Kaap Neighborhood is a stark reminder of that - and the late apartheid. The origins of this neighborhood began in the 1760’s when a number houses, all required to remain white in color, were leased to slaves who were brought in from other parts of Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Indonesia by Dutch imperialists. These “Cape Malay’s” as they became known, later painted the houses all in bright colors as an expression of their freedom and the tradition has kept going on ever since.

In this area you will also find the first mosque built in all of South Africa, the Auwal Mosque - built in 1794, and the Bo-Kaap Museum, which is designed as a fully furnished traditional (Bo-Kaap resident) Muslim family home from the 19th-century to give you a peak into history. Additionally, you can pick up all the local spices for cooking Cape Malay-style foods at the Atlas Spices store.

Check out the Biesmiellah Restaurant which serves traditional Cape Malay spiced food such as bobotie, chili bites, bay leaf crayfish curry, samosas, koeksisters, mango lassies and faloodas (milk, rose water, almonds, and ice cream). Alternatively, check out Marco’s African Place, with an African culture atmosphere which includes food, daily live music, special jazz events, and even traditional African art.

Explore the Bo-Kaap area and indulge in a full history of Cape Town on the Historical Cape Town City Day Tour.

9. The Old Biscut Mill & Neighborgoods Market

This is where the city’s best creative talent comes together - small businesses, entrepreneurs, artists, hipsters, and fashionistas. You will find a number of local and artisan shops are selling items such as trendy ladies clothing, locally handmade handbags, accessories and designer jewelry, bean to bar chocolate, travel mementos, interior design pieces, wood and metal furnishings, fine art prints, and other unique Cape Town treasures! It also has a few amazing restaurants, food stalls and entertainment.

Additionally, every Saturday starting at 9AM The Old Biscut Mill hosts the Neighbourgoods Market, which brings in dozens of local food and craft artisans as well for some of the best variety and tastes from all around Africa! You must try the Apple beverage from Piroschka's Flammkuchen!

10. Dolphin Beach Table View

“Table View” is one of the more iconic images that people take of Table Mountain. If you're lucky, you may even catch a layer of cloud rolling off of Table Mountain as if it were a table cloth on a kitchen table!

If you’re headed out to Dolphin Beach to see the “Table View”, you should consider a good place to eat around the area as well. Our favorites for food and views are Ons Huisie for Brunch and On the Rocks.

11. Chapman’s Peak Lookout Point & Bay Harbour Market

The beauty of the Chapman’s Peak Drive, and the Lookout Point, are not to be missed if you’re visiting Cape Town. The drive brings you around Chapman’s Peak which sits on the southeast side of Hout Bay, into the town of Hout Bay, and around to the other side of the bay into Hout Bay Harbour. The roadway was constructed between 1915 and 1922, and has since been re-engineered to protect motorists from rockfall. It has been a toll road since 2005 and now costs R50 to pass through with a regular vehicle or motorbike, or upwards of R200 - R500 for small to medium sized heavy-weight vehicles (minibuses or buses). The drive itself is what makes this worth it, but the lookout over the bay is exquisite as well.

Once you make your way around the bay to Hout Bay Harbour, stop at the Bay Harbour Market - which is open on Friday’s from 5-9 PM and on the weekends from 9:30 AM - 4 PM. Along with The Old Biscut Mill, Bay Harbour Market provides “a wide variety of food offerings, live entertainment, craft beer on tap, cultural curios, organic products, proudly South African clothing items, unique artwork, and an abundance of sweet treats at the Bay Harbour Market – all set in a shabby-chic, reinvented old factory” (Cape Town Magazine). We really enjoyed the Market, but the parking situation is a bit chaotic along the main road into the market.

12. Muizenberg Beach

Muizenberg Beach, or “Muizies” as the locals call it, is one of the most popular family-friendly beaches in Cape Town. It is a very long beach that has shallow, warm water - that is ideal for kids - where you can simply go for a walk, wade in the water, splash around a little, swim or even do what almost every Cape Town surfer has learned to do here - catch a wave! It also has these Instagram-famous colorful changing rooms on the beach, some showers, surf shops and a few amazing restaurants nearby. Plus, it was recently awarded “Blue Flag Beach” status! You can even stroll along the walkway out to St James from here.

For some amazing food in the area, check out Carla’s Mozambique Restaurant, Tiger’s Milk, Knead Bakery, and Oroboros Tapas Bar.

13. Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

R152 per adult R76 per child

In 1982, a pair of African Penguins settled at Boulders Beach and now the colony consists of over 3,000 birds! Boulders gets its name from the granite boulders which surround the beach and form a number of inlets where you can crawl through to different sections of the beach. This is a great, fairly shallow, swimming area - especially for kids - because the boulders shelter the beach from winds and strong currents. You can actually swim in the water at Boulders Beach and if penguins are present you may actually be swimming with them!

Note: Do not feed or touch them as it is a violation of conservation efforts. The penguins also have very sharp beaks and will defend themselves if they feel threatened.

You will be able to see baby penguins from January into February, their nesting season from February into August, and a bit less penguins during their hunting season between September and October. You’ll also likely see more penguins in the early morning or the late afternoon.

If the entrance fee is a bit too steep for you, try going to Stony Point Penguin Colony near Betty’s Bay instead for only R25 per adult and R15 per child. Alternatively, just south of Boulders Beach (and right next to the parking area for Boulders) is Burghers’ Walk, where you’ll find very little tourists, a few dozen penguins, and some fairly magical viewing spots for free!

14. Steenberg Vineyards & Bistro Sixteen82

The Steenberg Wine Estate has a number of wine tasting experiences such as a Wine Tasting Bar, a Tasting Lounge and an Outdoor Terrace. The estate also has infinity pools and reflective water features set in the majestic Constantia area of Cape Town, arguably the most beautiful region in our opinion.

Relax and enjoy a little fine-dining at Bistro Sixteen82, which is a classy place to order lunch, or tapas during the dinner hours. Alternatively, check out Catharina’s Restaurant, which specializes in gourmet local and international dishes.

Additionally, you can stay on the Steenberg Estate during your visit to enjoy some of the most remarkable scenery in Cape Town by making reservations at the Steenberg Hotel, a 5-star luxury hotel, spa, and winery with a full breakfast each day, WiFi, and parking all included. It’s our #1 choice for Cape Town!

15. Blue Route Mall

Hours: Monday to Saturday | 9am – 7pm Sunday & Public Holidays | 9am – 5pm

While the V&A Waterfront and the Canal Walk Mall are more popular with tourists visiting Cape Town, the Blue Route Mall in the southern suburbs is an amazing gem as well! It is located just 10 minutes from Claremont and 20 minutes from Cape Town’s city center.

It has over 120 stores for all of your shopping needs, a fairly decent food court, and amazing panoramic views of the Constantiaberg Mountains! Additionally, if you’re in the mood to relax, the Ster Kinekor movie theater has the latest movies with very comfortable seats and ticket prices of only about $6 per person - and if that’s not a great price, you can get them for half price on Tuesdays!

This mall is a great place to get clothes, jewelry, groceries, pharmacy items, snacks, travel & camping gear, cameras, and even passport photos! Our favorite places to eat at Blue Route Mall were Kauai, Ocean Basket, and Mugg & Bean (the muffins are amazing!). Parking can be underground (time based fee & parking attendant tips) or at ground level (parking attendant tips are expected at R5-R10 per vehicle). Note: Parking attendant tips are expected just about everywhere in Cape Town.


Best Cape Town Tours

Only have 4 or 5 days to explore Cape Town and prefer to have a guide show you around? The Best of the Cape Tour includes Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point, and Boulders Beach on day 1, up to the top of Table Mountain via cable car and out to Robben Island via ferry on day 2, Wine tasting at three different estates in the Cape Winelands on day 3, and the amazing Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens as well as a catamaran ride to Seal Island on day 4. It covers the most important sights and experiences in Cape Town. However, if you have an additional day, consider the same plan as above with a fifth day exploring the District 6 museum, the Slave Lodge, through the Company Gardens and then to the Bo-Kaap area, witness the Signal Hill noon-gun, and then head off to the V&A Waterfront with The Complete Cape Town tour. We highly recommend checking them out - especially if you have 4 or 5 days in your schedule!

If you only have a single day, we recommend grabbing the 1-Day Best of The Cape (Small Group Tour) to fit in the best highlights. Enjoy!


Best Places to Stay in Cape Town

If you’re absolutely set on a hotel and you don’t want to try our free travel consultation, these are some of the best value-for-your-money locations: our favorite Hotel, Resort, Bed & Breakfast, and Hostel. We honestly don’t think you’ll be able to find better quality and location for these prices - but let us know if you do!

Our pick for the best luxury hotel in the area for the price - plus, an amazing experience in a fantastic location is the Steenberg Hotel, Cape Town. It’s in one of the most relaxing & beautiful areas of the Cape Town region and it’s in the middle of everything.

Another amazing hotel that we recommend regularly is The Andros Boutique Hotel. We recommend this one primarily because it’s great value for the money! But, honestly, it’s on par with the luxury and the location of the Steenberg Hotel.

Also right in the middle of everything there is to do around Cape Town - and perfect for couples - is the relaxing Constantia Oasis. If you are looking for a place that feels secluded but is actually a short drive from everything and in our favorite place in Cape Town - Constantia - then you can’t beat this one for as low as $64 USD per night. What a bargain!

Apart from hotels, you can save quite a bit of money by renting an Airbnb in Pinelands. The area is much more peaceful, quite, and affordable - while maintaining itself in a safe and secure area - than the other areas listed here. Plus, the ones we recommend give you the entire place to yourself, plus washer, dryer, kitchen, wifi, and more!

The best place to socialize is the DS Backpackers. Although there are cheaper hostels in the area, this one is the best decent hostel in the area and still comes in at a great price (of around $20 USD per night). Additionally, it’s still near most everything!

The Movies & Music of Cape Town

Cape Town is much more amazing than you can imagine - and many people are starting to notice! That’s why season 11 of Doctor Who was filmed here, as well as a number of other films including Safe House (2012), 24 Hours to Live (2017), Zulu (2013), the fourth installment of Free Willy: Escape from Pirate's Cove (2010), and it was also the shooting of the award winning classic The Cape Town Affair (1967).

What better way to get yourself in the mood to arrive in Cape Town than with the Cape Town Revisited album! Turn this on while scouring your Lonely Planet: Cape Town book for information and you’ll already feel like you’ve arrived!


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