Cape Town is the second most populous city in South Africa after Johannesburg and also the legislative capital of South Africa. Colloquially named the Mother City, it is the largest city of the Western Cape province and forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality. The Parliament of South Africa sits in Cape Town.
The other two capitals are located in Pretoria (the executive capital where the Presidency is based) and Bloemfontein (the judicial capital where the Supreme Court of Appeal is located). The city is known for its harbour, for its natural setting in the Cape Floristic Region, and for landmarks such as Table Mountain and Cape Point. Cape Town is home to 64% of the Western Cape's population. The city was named the World Design Capital for 2014 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.
In 2014, Cape Town was named the best place in the world to visit by both The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph. Cape Town was one of the host cities of the tournaments of 1995 Rugby World Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town, as the oldest urban area in South Africa, was developed by the United East India Company (VOC) as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India, and the Far East. Jan van Riebeeck's arrival on 6 April 1652 established VOC Cape Colony, the first permanent European settlement in South Africa.
Cape Town outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at the Castle of Good Hope, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa.
Where is Cape Town
Cape Town, city and seaport is legislative capital of South Africa and capital of Western Cape province. The city lies at the northern end of the Cape Peninsula some 30 miles (50 kilometres), at its southernmost boundary, north of the Cape of Good Hope. Because it was the site of the first European settlement in South Africa, Cape Town is known as the country’s “mother city.”
Cape Town is a city found in Western Cape, South Africa. It is located -33.93 latitude and 18.42 longitude and it is situated at elevation 25 meters above sea level.
Cape Town has a population of 3,433,441 making it the biggest city in Western Cape. It operates on the SAST time zone.
History of Cape Town
The city of Cape Town had its origin in 1652, when the Dutch East India Company established a refreshment station for its ships on the shores of Table Bay. The location was magnificent, on well-watered, fertile soil, beneath the precipitous walls of Table Mountain.
The indigenous inhabitants provided cattle but not labour, and the company imported slaves, mainly from East Africa, Madagascar, and the Bay of Bengal area. The slaves brought with them something of their culture and—especially in the case of the Muslims from the East Indies—their religion. Mixed-race unions took place, but strong racial and ethnic characteristics remained.
In 1781 the French established a garrison to help the Dutch defend the city against British attack, and the French presence influenced local architecture and culture. British occupation in the 19th century brought new parliamentary and judicial concepts and freedom for the slaves. Cape Town was the gateway to Europe’s penetration of the South African interior, and close ties with continental Europe were maintained.
Things to Do in Cape Town
Explore the V. and A. Waterfront
The first thing I typically do whenever I get to a new place is walking to the market. I intended to do this in Cape Town too, and started making my way to Oranjezicht City Farm. This is meant to be one of the places to visit in Cape Town. I thought it would be a good place to get fresh produce to cook dinner at my hostel that night.
But then, on my way there I went to the V&A Waterfront and it was so much fun to explore that I just stayed there for a few hours. Exploring the V&A Waterfront is by far one of the coolest things to do in Cape Town. This is the oldest working harbor in the Southern hemisphere, and the entire area is scattered with interesting attractions (ie the Clock Tower, or Robinson Dry Dock – they can all be visited during the walking tour that departs every 30 minutes from Chavonnes Battery Museum).
Who knew that the food in South Africa would be so tasty? Cape Town is one of the best destinations I have been when it comes to food, and no matter your tastes, your budget, your dietary requirements, you are bound to find something delicious. One thing I recommend doing is joining a braai – a South African style barbecue. It’s not vegetarian friendly, so perhaps not a good idea if that’s your diet. If not, you are bound to have a blast. Needless to say, it comes with lots of wine and beer! I also recommend taking a food tour.
Walk around Bo-Kaap
One of the simply unmissable things to do in Cape Town is visiting Bo-Kaap. This neighborhood is located at the foot of Signal Hill and is famous for the bright colored houses and cobblestone streets. It’s where the Muslim community (the Cape Malay) of Cape Town is concentrated, so it is not uncommon to hear the call to prayer coming from mosques (though I have to say, the area is actually quite multi-cultural).
Bo-Kaap was originally established as a slaves quarter by the Dutch. Here there’s the oldest mosque of the southern hemisphere, Auwal Mosque (which was built in 1793). The area is scattered with nice cafés and restaurants, which serve Cape Malay food – an interesting fusion of local and Malaysian flavors.
Hang out on Long Street
A walk on Long Street is one of the unmissable things to do in Cape Town. I walked along Long Street every day when I was in Cape Town, either on my way to other places, or just to enjoy the interesting architecture (I love the Victorian style ironwork balconies), to browse the many lovely shops, or to get a bite in one of the many fantastic restaurants in the area.
If partying is one of the most fun things to do in Cape Town, Long Street is where to do it. There’s many bars with live music.
Visit Kirstenbosch Garden
Kirstenbosch Garden is one of the most famous places to visit in Cape Town, and quite rightly so: this botanical garden is one of the most beautiful in Africa, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004. The park is enormous, and a fantastic place to have a picnic on a sunny day. It’s a venue for concerts, art exhibitions and more.
Go to Groot Constantia
One of the unmissable things to do in Cape Town is visiting Groot Constantia. This is a fantastic wine estate, one of the oldest ones in the country. It was established in 1685. It is located in Constantia Valley, an idyllyc place named after Governor Simon van der Stel’s daughter which is very easily reached even on the Hop On Hop Off bus.
The grounds of Groot Constantia are simply gorgeous (beautiful views, impressive vineyards). There’s two fantastic restaurants (Jonkershuis and Simon’s) and historical buildings to explore. I was a bit unfortunate with the weather when I visited, so I just took it easy having lunch at Jonkershuis (I think I had one of the best salads ever!) and then went for the wine tasting tour (one of the best things to do in Cape Town, anyways!).
Take the Hop On Hop Off Bus
I’ve never been keen to take the Hop On Hop Off bus, until I actually tried it, in Cape Town, and finally got the point. It’s a super easy way to get around town, get to all the most important Cape Town attractions, while listening to some explanations about them, and it saves a lot of time and effort (and money) to move around.
There’s several places around town where to get the tickets and where the bus stops. There’s also various routes. I got on at Long Street and took the blue line, that goes to Mount Nelson, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Constantia (where I connected with the pink line to explore the valley), as well as Mariner’s Wharf (Hout Bay) and the V&A waterfront.
Explore Cape Point Peninsula
One of the most popular things to do in Cape Town is touring around Cape Point Peninsula – this is part of the Cape Floral Region, a UNESCO site. It’s a full day trip, and a great one I should add. The first place to stop when exploring Cape Point Peninsula is Hout Bay. From Mariner’s Wharf it’s easy to access the harbor and get on a ferry that goes to a fur seal colony – they are a fun sight.
To be fair, there are also a few hanging right at the harbor, along with some guys who claim to be their owners and demanding money in order to take pictures.
guins at Boulders Beach
I had seen the penguins years ago when I went to Peninsula Valdes, in Argentina. They are such cute animals, I like them so much, that when I found out that there’s a penguin colony at Boulders Beach, in Cape Town, I told myself I could not miss the opportunity to see them. Yes: going to Boulders Beach is one of the things to do in Cape Town.
Boulders Beach is gorgeous: it has incredibly fine, white sand and the clearest waters one could possibly hope for. Sure enough, the penguins got themselves a sweet spot. The whole area is invaded with them. They are highly protected, but as they are everywhere it’s very easy to take good photos. Going to Boulders Beach is what to do in Cape Town to admire some wildlife (on a side note, depending on the season it’s also possible to see whales and whale sharks).
Go to Table Mountain
Hiking Table Mountain is possibly the best of all the things to do in Cape Town. I wish I could say I did it – except I haven’t. As it was impossible to hike, I decided to go up on the cable car, only to realize that all I could see was fog. I couldn’t see anything around myself, let alone the iconic view of the city.
Hike up Lion’s Head
Going up Table Mountain is a must to take in the views from there. But where are the best views of Table Mountain itself? It’s a fact that one of the things to do in Cape Town is hiking Lion’s Head, from where the views of the city below and, most importantly, of Table Mountains are stunning.
My first tip for those who want to hike Lion’s Head is to go there only if they can see it – if the weather isn’t ideal, if Lion’s Head is actually covered in clouds, chances are that the view from there will be covered and the hike will end up be a struggle more than anything else. Provided that the weather is nice, hiking Lion’s Head is one of the most fun things to do in Cape Town.
Visit Robben Island
Once again, this is one of Cape Town attractions that is highly subject to weather conditions. The ocean in this part of the world can be really rough, and when that happens, the ferry to Robben Island doesn’t run. There’s 3 ferries (and 3 tours) daily, the first one departing at 9:00 am from the dock at V&A waterfront. This is the one that always has the highest chances to go, as the sea conditions tend to worsen as the day goes by.
Go to Muizenberg Beach
One of the loveliest small towns that are part of the greater Cape Town is Muizenberg. Chilled, fun and simply beautiful, visiting is a must. This is the kind of place where on a sunny day (well, really on any day!) people go to the beach to play, hang out, surf or just relax. The beach itself is beautiful: long, the sand as white as it gets. The small cabins where people get changed add a touch of color and are an unmissable sight! Visiting Muizenberg is definitely one of the things to do in Cape Town.
If there is one thing you shouldn’t miss on when you visit Cape Town, that’s surfing. To be fair, the water in this part of the country is very cold, and you will definitely need a dry suit or else you’ll freeze. If you are a pro-surfer, head straight to Muizenberg and join the crowds. If you just want to give it a try, you can even take some lessons.
Drive around the greater Cape Town
One of the nicest things to do in Cape Town is visiting its metropolitan area. Indeed, the Mother City is surrounded by a bunch of smaller ones that can all be visited in one day. The best way to do it is by car (renting one is fairly cheap!). The obvious first stop would be Muizenberg, followed by Simon’s Town where there is a beautiful penguin colony.
But there’s way more! Fishhoek is nice and chilled, especially on a Sunday. Kalk Bay is packed with small vintage, antiques and art shops and there are some lovely cafès to enjoy an excellent brunch or lunch (my favorite is Olympia, and judging by how packed it is every time I go, locals love it too!).
Take a day tour to Stellenbosch
Stellenbosch deserves way more than a day tour from Cape Town. This lovely city is the heart of the Wine Country of South Africa. I spent 4 full days there, and visited the nicest vineyards. Yet I understand that some people have limited time to travel. If that’s the case, then a day trip to Stellenbosch is one of the nicest things to do in Cape Town, to have at least an idea of what it is all about.
|Languages spoken||Xosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, English|
|Currency used||South African Rand (ZAR)|
|Area (km2)||2,455 km²|
|Country name||South Africa|