Cape Town, the coastal city at the most southern point of Africa, is a popular destination for travellers all around the world. Boasting mountain and adjacent beach views, who wouldn’t want to add this to their bucket list?
Luckily for you, this gal had the opportunity to be a volunteer teacher for 8 weeks in this picturesque city. I’m going to give you an insider’s view into the local places to be and things to do in order to get the best of what Cape Town has to offer. By adding these additions to your itinerary, you will be rocking the city in no time!
1. Hike Table Mountain
Table Mountain, natures flat top, is a must-see destination that’s situated near a port and gives breath-taking views of the city. You have 2 options to find your way to the top. The first way is to endure a pretty strenuous hike up the mountain for free, taking advantage of several trails ranging from easy (walking) to hard (climbing).
Most of my friends decided to hike up the mountain via the easy trail but still had difficulty making it to the top. Be aware of your fitness level before attempting and always be sure to bring a jacket no matter the weather. The top of the mountain tends to become extremely windy and cold.
The second and quickest way is to take the 5-minute cable car which costs roughly 310 ZAR (£20/$25/€23) for a return ticket. Make sure to arrive early in order to secure your spot on the cars, as large crowds tend to arrive around 10-11am.
Once you arrive on top of Table Mountain, there are more walking paths and you can have access to a cafe, WiFi centre, and a gift shop.
2. Catch a ferry to Robben Island
Infamously known as the island that imprisoned the late President Nelson Mandela, visiting Robben Island is an experience that should not be passed on. Political prisoners were kept here and treated inhumanely. After catching the ferry to the island, you are guided by ex-prisoners who take you step-by-step through the empty prison grounds, detailing their experiences of both the prison and South Africa’s apartheid era. As a black American woman, I felt connected to these stories and was surprised at the comparisons my own ancestors dealt with in the Civil Rights era. This place was heavy on my heart but necessary for my soul.
Insiders tip: once you arrive on the island, be sure to take the guided walking tour first. After the tour, you will have the chance to take the bus tour around the island but later on in the day they do not go to certain stops… and you don’t want to miss out on seeing Robert Sobuwke’s house.
3. Hangout with the penguins at Boulder’s Beach
In the quaint little area of Boulder’s Beach, you can find penguins vibing out on the rocks and chilling in the sand. The African penguin, formerly known as the Jackass due to the annoying sounds they make, are the most adorable little animals.
March is the breeding period for them so you will find these little guys feeding their young along the beach or under the rocks. Boulders Beach does charge a small entry fee to enter of about 50 ZAR (£3/$4/€4), but the profits go towards the penguin conservation.
Insiders tip: along the sides of Boulder’s Beach are boardwalks where you can see the penguins up close and personal…for free! Follow the boardwalks to cuteness overload!
4. Have a photo-shoot in the Bo-Kaap community
You can never have too much colour! Enjoy the bright colours of this small community near downtown Cape Town. As a former township, this eclectic area has tons of historical value. You can hire a guide for a day or even take a traditional cooking class, as locals are known to open up their home for you.
Insiders tip: arrive early! You wouldn’t want anyone in your amazing shots.
5. Treat yourself at Charly’s Bakery
This eye-catching pink glittery amazingness is the one and only Charly’s bakery. You cannot pass up the chance to taste one of their decadent chocolate brownies dripping in chocolatey goodness, or one of their pirate-painted sugar cookies! It’s a family run business and the customer service is divine.
6. Spend a day at the V&A waterfront
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a shopping, dining, and entertainment port that offers amazing views of Table Mountain. Spend your time gawking at the colourful fish and playful otters, or take in the views on the Cape Wheel! Cruise around the port’s historic harbour or taste authentic foods from all around the world at the V&A Food Market.
Don’t forget to stop by the Watershed to find great quality authentic souvenirs to take back to family and friends.
Insiders tip: you can’t leave Cape Town without trying the local pap which is a maize porridge, native to the Bantu people of South Africa.
7. Have a drink at Hout Bay Market
Hands down, this was one of my favourite places during my 8 weeks in Cape Town. You can find people of every colour laughing and enjoying local music. You’ll get to eat delicious foods such as pulled pork sandwiches, Hungarian flatbread, and vegetarian hamburgers. This market has an energy that is one-of-a-kind and people are just looking to have a great time. The market is only open Friday to Sunday and also sells artsy souvenirs (at a hefty price, so have another read of number 6).
8. Drive through Chapman’s Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of the most scenic routes around the world. Driving through the toll road puts you in the middle of the ocean and mountains. You can rent a car or catch a taxi and ask to stop for photos. Most taxi drivers won’t have a problem with it and will probably take selfies of their own.
That’s how beautiful it is – even the locals can’t get enough. Chapman’s Peak Drive also can take you to popular beaches such as Camps Bay, Clifton Beach, and the popular Brass Bells Restaurant and Bar for Karaoke Wednesdays in Kalk Bay (this is fun karaoke, I promise).
9. Take a Township Tour
I had the great opportunity to visit the Langa and Gugu Township. Townships in South Africa are simply urban underdeveloped communities where black people were forced to live during the apartheid era.
Currently, people are still thriving in these communities despite their living conditions in shacks or proper-style homes. During my tour, a local guide who lives in the township walked us around and explained the dense history behind how these areas came to be. He discussed the rich culture of the townships and how the people are moving forward, trying to create better lives for themselves.
It was extremely eye opening and humbling to have people open their doors to you and treat you like family. You get the opportunity to ask questions about daily life, and what it means to be a part of the township community, without feeling like you are taking advantage. You are welcomed and will leave refreshed and with an open-mind.
10. Surf at Muizenberg Beach
I did not get a chance to surf here because I was too busy taking part in shark cage diving. I simply was not getting back into the water anytime soon but I heard from the locals that fthis is the best and safest place to practice your surfing skills. You can take lessons and grab a bite to eat afterwards at the famous Tiger’s Milk Restaurant across the street!
11. Party on Long Street
This place is where the turn up gets real. Right in the centre of Cape Town, the street consists of wild bars, crazy clubs, and the occasional souvenir shop. The nightlife caters to every type of traveler.
For those interested in hip-hop, R&B, and a little bit of pop would love Club 169, which has an upstairs terrace and dance floor where you can party all night long – for a small entrance fee. Those of you interested in other types of music can take your pick by walking down the streets and following the stumbling partygoers.
Most bars and clubs have an entry fee less than 125 ZAR (£8/$10/€9) and stay open until 3 am. Be sure to leave valuables at home and to keep your phone and money close to you, as pickpockets are aplenty on this street.
Is Cape Town on your bucket list? What attractions have you sold on South Africa?