The 8 best things to do in Cape Town

These are the best things to do in Cape Town, South Africa.
south africa cape town ocean view

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History. Views. Wine. Wild Animals.

Those are just a few of the things you can expect to experience when exploring Cape Town. The South African city’s urban landmarks are just as impressive as its outdoor marvels. There are few places in the world where you can see a beach full of penguins or a fill-up on BBQ where you pick the meat from the butcher themself. Cape Town is a treasure trove of unique experiences where you can go from a safari to a music festival all in one day.

Keep reading to see the 8 best things to do in Cape Town.

Waddle with the penguins

Yes, you can see penguins in Africa. Head over to Boulders Beach or Foxy Beach to waddle with the two-legged friends. Boulders Beach is the better choice for setting up camp for the day because you can picnic and swim at this beach, but Foxy Beach is better for viewing the penguins. Foxy Beach, on the other hand, is not built for humans and you are not permitted to swim in the area. 

Regardless of which beach you choose, be respectful of the penguins and their environment. Never touch them or invade their space, otherwise, you face the wrath of their razor-sharp beaks.

Take to the outdoors

South Africa is lousy with amazing views and outdoor adventures. Take a hike to see stunning rolling hills, the oceans, and more. Climb Table Mountain with one of the five routes or take the cableway. Before you reach the level plateau, you’ll enjoy the 8,200 species that inhabit the park.

Another great hike is Lion’s head. When you reach the top, you’ll feel like you’re in a sea of clouds and you’ll get unbeatable views of the city and blue ocean for miles. 

Of course, you’d be remiss not to explore the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. The garden is regarded as one of the 7 best botanical gardens in the world and houses many endangered species you can’t see anywhere else.

Visit the Cape of Good Hope

I was this many years old when I found out the Flying Dutchman was not just a Spongebob character. Apparently, the Cape of Good Hope is home to the so-called Dutchman who is doomed to forever try to beat the tumultuous waters that surround the area. The cape is where two ocean currents, one warm water and the other cold water, converge, causing rocky headlands. 

It’s a common misconception that the Cape is the most Southern tip of Africa, but it is only the most southwestern point. If you want to go to the farthest point, you’ll have to head about 90 miles southeast to Cape Agulhas.

You should also note that the Cape of Good Hope is part of Table Mountain National Park, so you can kill two birds with one stone when you go explore the mountain.

Eat up

old biscuit mill cape town south africa
Image: Tripadvisor

If you’re anything like me, the closest you’ve gotten to eating South African cuisine is camping out at the Nando’s at the airport and licking your fingers from the Peri Peri sauce. Personally, the food is one of the main reasons to visit South Africa.

Your dollar can go very far there and, luckily, that means you can spend a little but fill up a lot on all the yummy foods the area has to offer. Visit the Old Biscuit Mill and explore the food stalls, top-rated restaurants, a chocolate factory, and even local shopping.

We also recommend going to Mzoli’s on the weekend to try traditional Braai, AKA South Africa’s answer to BBQ. Imagine meat and beer all day where you get to pick what you want on the grill. 

It’s no wonder that the food is so incredible in the Rainbow Nation. The country hosts many food festivals throughout the year running from chocolate to gin and tonic festivals. The festivals don’t stop there. South Africa also offers up a wide variety of festivals from Afropunk music celebrations to AfrikaBurn, AKA their version of Burning Man. We recommend planning your trip around the one that speaks to you most and leaving enough room for all of the other beauty the country has to offer.

Learn about South Africa’s history

South Africa’s political history is steeped in tragedy and marked by pre and post-apartheid. There’s no better way to understand a nation’s history than through its art, so we recommend checking out the Eyewitness collection to take a look at South African artifacts. Go to the Zeitz MOCAA for exhibits featuring contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. 

Additionally, you can also take a trip out to Robben Island where you can learn more about Nelson Mandela’s time there. Robben Island is where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27-year sentence before becoming President of South Africa.

Get colorful in Bo-Kaap

Venture out to Bo-Kaap to see houses painted in bright pink, yellow, red, and purple. This area of town, formerly known as the Malay quarter, is something to be marveled at. The area is home to the country’s oldest mosque and has a large Muslim population. 

The delightfully painted homes got their colors because when on lease all houses had to be white. When this rule was done away with, slaves were allowed to buy the properties and painted them in bright hues as an expression of their freedom. 

Go get lost in its marvelous streets but keep in mind that this area holds a lot of historical and religious significance so be respectful of people’s homes while picture-taking and consider dressing more conservatively in this historically Muslim neighborhood.

Fill up on wine

Perhaps when you think of wine tours you think of going to France or the port tours of Portugal, but did you know that South Africa has plenty of wine tours? Venture out to Stellenbosch, which is essentially the Napa of South Africa, for a winery tour. There are plenty of vineyards to choose from and some even have wild animals roaming their grounds while you sip on some full-body reds.

Consider the Spier Wine Farm to experience one of the oldest vineyards in the area or head to Waterford Estate for sweeping views of the Helderberg Mountain range. Good wine and amazing views. It’s easy to understand why visiting a vineyard is one of the best things to do in Cape Town.

Go on a safari

Though you may associate safaris more with Tanzania or Kenya, South Africa has some of the best safari parks, namely Kruger Park. Technically, this park is about a 2.5-hour plane ride outside of Cape Town but it’s worth experiencing an authentic African safari. Here you can see the Big Five (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and African buffalo) all in one place.

Another reason Kruger National Park stands out from other safari parks is due to its safari packages. Their packages are curated for every type of travel group from romantic to family trips to private lodges. Everything is planned out for you so you can sit back and enjoy the people animal watching.

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