What are the five best things to see and do in Cape Town?

Janelle Schroeder

Cape Town, with its warm sunny days and stunning, mountain-spiked geography, is full of things to see and do, from seeing historic sights to taking part in outdoor adventure activities. These are the ones that will leave you with a well-rounded feel for the city:
 
1. Visit Table Mountain. You can’t come to Cape Town without seeing its centerpiece, the dramatic, flat-topped Table Mountain. Besides, leaving without a trip to the top would make the locals cringe. The round-trip cableway is the fastest and safest way to do that for those who aren’t up for the all-day hike required to reach the summit. Those in the know visit the mountain at sunset (preferably with a bottle of local chenin blanc) to take in the spectacular natural show.
 
2. Drive around the peninsula. A tour of the Cape Peninsula delivers views of beautiful beaches and mountains. Start from the city and head east to Muizenberg, then south to Simon’s Town and Cape Point. From there, go over to Chapman’s Peak and into Hout Bay before heading back to the city. The views are nothing short of legendary.
 
3. Take a sunset cruise.
It may sound mundane, but climbing aboard a boat for a sunset cruise is the best way to see Cape Town. There are several companies that provide tours at sunset, which typically last around 90 minutes and leave from the V&A Waterfront. The boat you choose is a personal preference but we recommend the Tigresse, Africa’s largest sailing catamaran.
 
4. Swim with great white sharks. Jump into a metal cage in the chilly ocean off the coast of Cape Town and find yourself just inches away from the great whites that swim these waters. While the boats leave daily from neighboring Gansbaai, tour operators are happy to play chauffeur to and from Cape Town. Swimming close to these magnificent creatures is not for the faint of heart, but it’s an exhilarating and fascinating experience you won’t forget.  
 
5. Go wine tasting. World famous Stellenbosch, South Africa’s answer to Napa Valley, is just a quick drive from Cape Town's city center. Join one of the local tours to taste the area’s award-winning chenin blancs, or better yet, hire a private driver for the day and create your own.

  • On August 16, 2012
    Janelle Schroeder answered the question: Janelle Schroeder

    What are the five best Cape Town food experiences?

    With the melting pot of cultures that come together in Cape Town comes a vibrant dining scene that delivers a wide array of cuisines. From South African to Indian, you’ll find it in here. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best Cape Town food experiences.
     
    1. Biltong. Similar to American jerky, but less sweet and more tender, the Dutch brought the recipe for Biltong to the Cape over 200 years ago. Play it safe with a beef variety, or be bold and try ostrich or kudu instead.
     
    2. Braai at Mzoli’s. Do as the locals do and braai (the South African version of barbecue) in one of the liveliest townships. Buy your own meat and let the professionals cook it while you sip a cool drink and take in a scene not often viewed by vacationers—or even some natives.
     
    3. Bunny Chow. It has nothing to do with a rabbit, but this popular Indian dish is popular with locals of all nationalities. Consisting of a hollowed loaf of bread filled with curry, the dish is a Cape Town version of soup in a bread bowl.
     
    4. Boerewors Roll. Perfect any time of day, a boerewors roll consists of a spiced sausage in a buttered roll. Try one with chutney or onion relish for some added mouth-watering flavor. It’s one of the cheapest, but most popular snacks, in Cape Town. 
     
    5. The Gatsby. You could call it the leftover special, but the Gatsby is one of the most treasured dishes in all of Cape Town. No place makes it exactly the same, but Gatsbys always includes a pile of meat and fries stuffed in a large hoagie-type roll. Believe it or not, some of the best can be found at local gas stations.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Janelle Schroeder answered the question: Janelle Schroeder

    What is the best thing to bring home from Cape Town?

    Cape Town is a sophisticated, cultured city where you’ll find plenty of antiques shops and art galleries selling pieces unique to the area that make great souvenirs to bring home. Church Street is lined with cafes, galleries and shops and plenty of open-air vendors selling everything from jewelry to ceramics. Be wary of the trinkets peddled by roadside vendors throughout Cape Town, as most are not truly South African and come from other parts of the continent. Springbok purses and belts, available at the Greensquare Market, are not only original but also truly South African – the deer-like animal is the name of the nation’s beloved union rugby team.
     
    If leather goods don’t excite you, visit the Cape Quarter’s Township Patterns Boutique. Fabric items, including dresses, scarves, handbags and mens’ shirts, are constructed by women who operate sewing co-ops in the neighboring townships. The clothes sold here are a unique blend of South African patterns and colors with contemporary lines and patterns, and something you won’t find elsewhere.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Janelle Schroeder answered the question: Janelle Schroeder

    Where is the best nightlife in Cape Town?

    Capetonians love to enjoy their city’s beautiful nights, and there are three very distinct areas of town to join them. Depending on your mood, and your wardrobe, Forbes Travel Guide’s editors suggest visiting at least one of the neighborhoods below during your visit.
     
    Long Street is an eclectic mix of locals and tourists, with the latter accounting for most of the action, especially during the high season. With an array of nightly music at its bars and clubs, which feature everything from rock cover bands to DJs mixing the latest hits, there’s something for everybody. The dress code on Long Street is surfer casual, and you’ll see plenty of locals in jeans and flip flops at the area’s laidback bars.
     
    For something more upscale, head to Camps Bay and Clifton. Several large dance clubs occupy prime real estate; popular daytime joints, including the posh Café Caprice, become even more hip after dark. The vibe is still casual, but most revelers dress to impress in this neighborhood.
     
    If you are looking for something in between the two, try Greenpoint’s Somerset Road. You won’t get the ocean views, but the crowd knows how to enjoy themselves whether it’s for after-work happy hour or a late-night cocktail. 
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  • On August 16, 2012
    Janelle Schroeder answered the question: Janelle Schroeder

    Where is the best shopping in Cape Town?

    To find the best shopping in Cape Town, steer clear of international fashion brands and electronics (which are typically less expensive elsewhere) and focus instead on the deals that can be found in South Africa on jewelry and local crafts—the exchange rate for foreigners means bargains can be easily found. We found an array of eclectic shops and high-end boutiques sprinkled throughout the city that made us wish we had bigger suitcases.
     
    The newly-built, multi-level Cape Quarter shopping center boasts everything from home decor to modern fashion to a Sunday farmer’s market. It’s open seven days per week and is one of a few retail outlets located in the city center. For one-of-a-kind jewelry, a dress for Saturday night or a pair of jeans, the boutiques on Kloof Street know how to delight. The visual displays are inviting and the prices are low enough to turn window shopping into much more.
     
    The best place to bargain shop in the city and one of Cape Town’s most colorful spots, Greenmarket Square is where local vendors set up tents daily to hawk a wide variety of goods to visitors. Jewelry, leather goods and beadwork are the most popular items—and this is the best spot to practice your negotiation skills.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Janelle Schroeder answered the question: Janelle Schroeder

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Cape Town?

    1. See the penguins at Simon’s Town. Drive south from the city center and relax among a myriad of black and white beauties. A colony of African penguins congregates here on Boulders Beach, where you can view the birds from wooden walkways or learn more about them at a new information center. Our advice is to go early and spend the day at the southern viewing area where you can enjoy the beach as well as the birds. Don’t forget a waterproof camera and sunscreen.
     
    2. Picnic in the Company Gardens. Located next to Parliament, this stretch of green is a great spot to spread out a blanket and enjoy a touch of nature in the middle of the city. Bring a Frisbee for the kids or spend your time playing amateur birdwatcher. Bring your own lunch or enjoy a casual alfresco experience at the garden’s own gourmet snack bar.
     
    3. Visit the Two Oceans Aquarium. Not just for a rainy day, Cape Town’s aquarium is full of ocean-dwelling species that your kids may have only read about in books. The touch pool exhibition lets kids get their hands on ocean plants and species, while the predator exhibit gives you an up close view of the ocean’s survival pecking order. Be sure to visit during one of the daily penguin feedings.
     
    4. Fly high in the Wheel of Excellence. Located at the V&A Waterfront, the Wheel of Excellence is a Ferris wheel with air-conditioned cars that deliver great views of Cape Town. The line is rarely long—perfect for short attention spans.
     
    5. Take surfing lessons in Muizenberg. On the Indian Ocean side of the peninsula, surfers flock to Muizenberg beaches to catch a few waves before beginning the rest of their day. Join them by taking a family surf lesson from one of the local instructors and paddle out among the regulars.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Janelle Schroeder answered the question: Janelle Schroeder

    What should you pack for a trip to Cape Town?

    No matter which time of year you visit, Cape Town is consistently casual. If it’s summer in the southern hemisphere, you should pack lightweight clothing and sun protection like a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. During the rainy fall and winter seasons, don’t forget a rain jacket, which will protect you from the blowing rain better than an umbrella. Comfortable shoes are a year-round must, because Cape Town is a city that’s easy to navigate on foot. For nighttime, men are safe with shorts and a collared shirt at most locations and women are seen in everything from cotton dresses to sequined shorts. Unless you plan on hitting one of the city’s upscale dance clubs, leave the heels behind.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Janelle Schroeder answered the question: Janelle Schroeder

    What are the five best things to see and do in Cape Town?

    Cape Town, with its warm sunny days and stunning, mountain-spiked geography, is full of things to see and do, from seeing historic sights to taking part in outdoor adventure activities. These are the ones that will leave you with a well-rounded feel for the city:
     
    1. Visit Table Mountain. You can’t come to Cape Town without seeing its centerpiece, the dramatic, flat-topped Table Mountain. Besides, leaving without a trip to the top would make the locals cringe. The round-trip cableway is the fastest and safest way to do that for those who aren’t up for the all-day hike required to reach the summit. Those in the know visit the mountain at sunset (preferably with a bottle of local chenin blanc) to take in the spectacular natural show.
     
    2. Drive around the peninsula. A tour of the Cape Peninsula delivers views of beautiful beaches and mountains. Start from the city and head east to Muizenberg, then south to Simon’s Town and Cape Point. From there, go over to Chapman’s Peak and into Hout Bay before heading back to the city. The views are nothing short of legendary.
     
    3. Take a sunset cruise.
    It may sound mundane, but climbing aboard a boat for a sunset cruise is the best way to see Cape Town. There are several companies that provide tours at sunset, which typically last around 90 minutes and leave from the V&A Waterfront. The boat you choose is a personal preference but we recommend the Tigresse, Africa’s largest sailing catamaran.
     
    4. Swim with great white sharks. Jump into a metal cage in the chilly ocean off the coast of Cape Town and find yourself just inches away from the great whites that swim these waters. While the boats leave daily from neighboring Gansbaai, tour operators are happy to play chauffeur to and from Cape Town. Swimming close to these magnificent creatures is not for the faint of heart, but it’s an exhilarating and fascinating experience you won’t forget.  
     
    5. Go wine tasting. World famous Stellenbosch, South Africa’s answer to Napa Valley, is just a quick drive from Cape Town's city center. Join one of the local tours to taste the area’s award-winning chenin blancs, or better yet, hire a private driver for the day and create your own.