Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with a melting pot of cultures, food, and landscapes. The city is full of must-sees and must-do’s for both tourists and locals alike. With such a diverse mix of people flocking to the city, there is something to do for everyone.
The UK Telegraph Travel Awards voted it Best City in the World five times in a row, from 2013 to 2017. According to us it should definitely win again this year. There are so many things to choose from, but here’s the top 10 things you have to do when visiting this wonderful city.
This list was inspired by the Bucket List Journey’s post.
Annette White is the author of The Bucket List Adventures, exploring 10 epic adventures to experience before you die. She is also the co-owner of Sugo Trattoria, a contemporary Italian Restaurant in California, and the creator of the amazing award-winning travel blog, Bucket List Journey. She is passionate about travel, an experience collector ticking off bucket list items from around the world.
In her book Bucket List Adventures , Annette takes you along for the ride, and shows you how to live your adventures, too.
It is not only a practical travel book – sharing detailed information on lodging, helpful resources. – but also an inspiration for people to step out of their comfort zones.
Buy her book on Amazon.
#1 Table Mountain
Table Mountain, flanked by both Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head, is always a spectacular sight to see from anywhere in Cape Town. Whether you’re exploring the V&A Waterfront or watching the sunset from the beach, the views of the mountain are always incredible. Table Mountain was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2011, and is a must-see for anyone visiting Cape Town.
There are several different ways to get up the mountain. One option is to take the cableway, which is a 5-minute trip to the top in a 360-degree rotating car. Cars depart every 10-15 minutes from the cable station on Tafelberg Road. Find more information about the cableway on our post. If you’re more adventurous, you can hike up the mountain taking one of these top 5 hiking routes: Pipe Track, Platteklip George, Woodstock Caves, Skeleton Gorge, or Kasteelspoort. Read more about these routes in our post.
The Tranquility Cracks, one of the many hidden gems of Table Mountain, are considered one of Cape Town’s best-kept secrets and are definitely worth exploring. They are a series of interlinking deep and narrow slits and fractures between rocks. Read more about it on our post here.
#2 Signal Hill & Lion’s Head
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Pack a bottle of wine, snacks, and a blanket when you make the short hike, or drive, up to Signal Hill to watch the sunset and enjoy what is arguably some of the best views of Cape Town. As the sun starts to set and the city lights twinkle, a visit to Cape Town is not complete without stopping at Signal Hill.
For a more adventurous hike, you can catch the sunset on Lion’s Head. Located between Table Mountain and Signal Hill, Lion’s Head is part of the Table Mountain National Park and is considered one of the most popular hiking destinations in Cape Town. Lion’s Head offers stunning views of Camps Bay, the Atlantic, Table Mountain, Twelve Apostles, Sea Point, Signal Hill and the City Bowl. Starting at the car park on Signal Hill Road, the hike to the top takes about an hour and a half. Read more about Lion’s Head in our post.
#3 Cape Point National Reserve
With dramatic and beautiful scenery, great hiking trails, and some of the best, secret beaches (which you can find in our post here), Cape Point National Reserve is without a doubt one of South Africa’s most magnificent attractions. Located an hour’s drive outside of the city, the reserve is home to both Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope.
#4 Chapman’s Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive, also referred to as Chappie’s by locals, is one of Cape Town’s most infamous landmarks. With 114 seemingly never-ending curves and nine-kilometers of steep inclines, the drive takes you from Noordhoek to Hout Bay. There are several rest areas along the way to take pictures, have a picnic, or to simply take in the breath-taking views. Remember to have some cash ready for the tollgate, entrance to the drive will cost you R31 for a motor cycle and R47 for a motor car. Keep an eye on the annual increases on the official Chapman’s Peak Drive website.
While driving along this iconic stretch, be sure to stay for sunset. Sunsets play a major role in the life of Capetonians, but it can be a challenge to find the best spot. Look no further—Chappie’s holds one of the best viewing points in the city. The Look-out Cave, located just below the designated viewing point, provides an unbeatable view of the ocean and the sunset.
#5 Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
The V&A Waterfront is a hot spot for both tourists and Cape Town natives. With various restaurants and their unbeatable views, local and international shops, and an endless variety of entertainment—the Waterfront has a little bit of everything. If you’re looking for something to do, read our post on the Top 10 Things to Do at the Waterfront here.
If you’re looking for a different way to catch the infamous Cape Town sunset, hop on board a sunset champagne cruise. With the seemingly endless ocean stretched out in front of you, the sun slowly setting in the background painting the sky with the soft glow of sunset, and a glass of rosé champagne in hand—there’s simply no better day to end the day.
#6 Boulders Beach
Cape Town has some of the most beautiful beaches, with even more stunning views of Table Mountain and pink-painted sunset skies in the distance. Choosing one to visit can be difficult. However, Boulders Beach has some very adorable, unique reasons you must visit—it’s home to the South African penguins. Also known as jackass penguins because of their distinctive braying, Boulders Beach has some of the only penguins on the continent. While summer is the best time to visit the beach, you can still see the penguins all year round.
Located just outside of Simon’s Town on the False Bay coastline, Boulders Beach falls under the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, so the beach is always clean and safe. You can catch a few glimpses of the infamous inhabitants from afar, or you can choose to pay the small entry fee for access to the reserve and to enjoy the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. (R75 adults and R40 for children)
#7 Kalk Bay
This little seaside village made it into Forbes list of “12 coolest neighborhoods in the world“. The other South African neighbourhood that made the cut, is Johannesburg’s Maboneng. It’s roughly a 35 minute drive from the city center. Located on the False Bay coastline, the area has a constant holiday vibe hovering in the air. Restaurants range from five-star chic like Harbour House, to down to earth like Kalky’s Fish & Chips. Browse through the little shops and galleries, or watch a show at the Kalk Bay Theatre.
Fun mini roadtrip idea: take the train to Kalk Bay and continue on to Simon’s Town to go visit the penguins. Visit metrorail.co.za to plan your trip.
#8 Robben Island
The name means “seal island.” in Afrikaans. It’s situated in Table Bay, 6.9 kilometres from Bloubergstrand. During the previous political regime it was used as a prison, specifically for political prisoners. It’s most famous prisoner, was former president Nelson Mandela. Madiba was imprisoned on the island for 18 of his 27 years sentence. Other South African presidents that were imprisoned here are Kgalema Motlanthe, and Jacob Zuma.
The little oval island is 3.3 km long (North-South) and 1.9 km wide. In 1991 the maximum security section was closed, and the medium security closed down five years later. By 1999 it was declared a World Heritage Site and an official museum was created for visitors. Ferries depart from the Waterfront at the Nelson Mandela Gateway, close to the Clock Tower. Visit robben-island.org.za for more information.
Did you know? Robben Island was also a leper colony in the 1800’s and an animal quarantine station.
#9 Sipping and Exploring
Although a trip to the Cape Winelands is an amazing experience, you don’t have to drive that far to experience good wine. There is now a new special inner city wine route, hosted by Tuning the Vine. A great midweek wine tasting adventure to embark on with friends. It is hosted on the Wednesday after First Thursdays. The tour starts at 5.30pm and ends at 8.30pm. Visit tuningthevine.co.za for more information.
Not such a big wine fan? Not to fear, there’s also a gin tour or a craft beer tour for you to try. Both gin and craft beer brewing is becoming more and more popular. These tours will give you a chance to try out the special drinks, as well as find out more about the behind the scenes processes.
#10 Walking Tours
There is a variety of free walking tours throughout the city. Exploring a city by foot, is the best way to get a true feel for a place. Tour options include District Six, Historic Cape Town, and Bo-Kaap. The tours work on tips only. Average tour length is between 90 and 120 minutes. The starting point is Motherland Coffee Company, at Mandela Rhodes Place. Visit nielsentours.co.za for more information.
Another option is to use VoiceMap. The app offers you self-guided audio tours, with your own personal tour guide chatting to you in your ear. It uses your phone’s location services to guide you through the city. They offer both free and paid tours. Prices ranges from R26 to R80. Tours cover various regions including Cape Town City Center, Cape Point, and Constantia. Visit voicemap.me for more information.
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