Routinely lauded as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, a Cape Town holiday offers visitors a breathtaking array of natural and cultural attractions.
The City Bowl is enclosed by the lofty heights of Table Mountain to the south, the dramatic outcrops known as Lion’s Head and Signal Hill to the west, and the choppy waters of the Atlantic to the north.
Cape Town is endowed with some fine colonial architecture, more than a dozen museums reflecting every facet of its complex multicultural history, and the culinary and retail delights of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.
Cape Town also provides an excellent base for day trips to sites as diverse as Table Mountain, the Alcatraz-like confines of Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years), the peaceful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, the historic wine estates of the Constantia Valley, and the wave-battered cliffs of Cape Point.
Highlights of Cape Town
Rising to an altitude of 1,086m (3,563ft), iconic Table Mountain, sometimes basked in golden sunlight, other times enveloped in a misty shroud known as the tablecloth, dominates the city’s southern skyline.
The ‘tabletop,’’ accessible through either the cable car or hiking up Table mountain, offers travelers stunning views and reveals the Cape Peninsula’s geological drama.
Cape of Good Hope
South Africa’s oldest working building, the pentagonal Castle of Good Hope, situated in Cape Town, was constructed over 1666-79 and served as the seat of the Dutch colonial government for more than a century.
The Cape of Good Hope now houses a military museum and art gallery and makes for a perfect cultural experience for people on holiday in Cape Town.
Of the countless beaches in and around Cape Town, the first choice among fashion-inspired travelers in Cape Town is a Camps Bay holiday, set below the spectacular Twelve Apostles formation.
At the same time, families tend to head to suburban Muizenberg for their family holiday.
You can’t do better for a scenic beach walk and spectacular views of Table Mountain than the aptly-named Bloubergstrand (Blue Mountain Beach) north of the city center.
Bloubergstrand is a hotspot for a beach holiday in Cape Town because of the picture-perfect Table Mountain.
The award-winning District Six Museum is arguably the city’s most engaging and poignant installation. Taped recollections, possessions, and photographs donated by former residents evoke everyday life as it was in the cosmopolitan multiracial suburb of District Six prior to it being bulldozed by the apartheid government in 1966 and rezoned as a whites-only area.
District Six is the perfect place to add to your Cape Town holiday itinerary if you’re looking to have a cultural experience in Cape Town and learn about the history of South Africa.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Set on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the 528-hectare Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is serviced by a network of well-marked trails passing through thematic beds of indigenous flora – most notably a lush cycad garden.
Other attractions include a fascinating collection of ‘useful plants’, and a conservatory containing succulent species typical of the arid Kalahari and Namaqualand.
Kirstenbosch is also famous for its Kirstenbosch summer concerts. Enjoy an electric atmosphere in the most relaxed setting you can imagine.
The Bo-Kaap (Upper Cape) is the spiritual home of the Cape Malay community, whose colorfully painted houses include the Bo-Kaap Museum. This beautifully restored 1760s homestead explores the history of this fascinating suburb.
The photogenic Bo-Kaap is popular among travelers for its iconic colorful houses and traditional Cape Malay meals.
The most-visited tourist attraction on a South African holiday, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, is a vast harbor-front development comprising 50-plus restaurants, hundreds of shops, and boats offering sunset cruises around Table Bay.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Robben Island gained infamy as the site of the maximum-security block where Nelson Mandela and other prominent anti-apartheid leaders were detained at the height of the struggle.
It can be visited on a South African holiday by a boat-and-bus excursion that leaves from Victoria & Alfred Waterfront several times daily and includes a visit to the tiny cell Mandela called home for 18 years.
The birthplace of Cape wine, the Constantia Valley houses some of the country’s most historic and beautiful estates, among them Groot Constantia, centered on an original 1680s homestead now preserved as a museum.
Now part of Table Mountain National Park, the 77km2 (30 square mile) Cape of Good Hope protects the most southerly section of the Cape Peninsula. The main focus is Cape Point Lighthouse, which stands atop a steep windswept cliff that rises 250m (820ft) from the rocky beach below.
Cape Point is also good for fynbos endemics such as the Cape sugarbird and Orange-bellied sunbird, while mammals in the area include Cape fur seals and half-a-dozen antelope species, notably eland and bontebok.
Just five minutes drive south of Simon’s Town, Boulders Beach supports a permanent breeding colony of several thousand penguins, which you can watch strutting, surfing, squabbling, and sunbathing from a network of boardwalks and viewing platforms.
Travel Tips for Cape Town
- A Cape Town holiday includes all the amenities you’d expect of the country’s leading urban tourist destination. A world-class dining scene and selection of cosmopolitan shops are complemented by an array of overnight Cape Town Accommodations, ranging from five-star city and boutique hotels to backpacker hostels and B&Bs.
- Cape Town is served by an ever-increasing number of international flights and several dozen daily flights from Johannesburg and domestic flights to all other major centers in South Africa. All flights land at Cape Town International Airport, which lies 20km (12mi) east of the city center.
- The city lends itself to casual exploration using public transport such as the MyCiti bus service. The popular Cape Town Explorer is also an option as a hop-on-hop-off bus service that connects the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront to all the major museums and the Table Mountain Cableway, Camps Bay, Sea Point, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Also worth considering is the Metrorail train service, which connects the central railway station on Adderley Street to Simon’s Town via the Southern Suburbs and Muizenberg. Picking up a rental car at the airport is also a viable option.