Blessed with natural beauty, scarred by history and fuelled by wine, Cape Town is packed with awesome experiences delivered with friendly African culture. Here are our favourites.
There’s no hiding Cape Town’s beauty.
Squeezed between the mountains and the ocean, it’s hard to imagine a more lavish setting for a city. With the towering face of Table Mountain on one side and golden beaches on the other, Cape Town is a tantalising temptress of travel experiences within a stunning natural setting.
Some of our favourite things to do in Cape Town rely heavily on this natural beauty; others remind us of its challenging past. Some are just great experiences.
As with all of our top places to visit in South Africa, Cape Town is a thriving modern city. A trendy café scene sits alongside outdoor activities, epic mountainous road trips, humbling cultural encounters and breath-taking scenery.
While many unmissable Cape Town attractions take place in the city centre, others involve escaping the gaze of Table Mountain and heading further along the southern cape. Here, and beyond, a host of sun-soaked, wine-fuelled, nature-driven experiences await on the other end of a mini road trip.
Here are our favourite things to do, in and around Cape Town. To put it all together, jump to our Cape Town itinerary.
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IN THIS GUIDE / BEST THINGS TO DO IN CAPE TOWN
CAPE TOWN / IN THE CITY CENTRE
The city centre is the cosmopolitan heart of Cape Town and the home of many historical events that have shaped the city you visit today. Many are within easy walking distance of each other and are great things to do in Cape Town to get your bearings.
1 — VISIT THE DISTRICT 6 MUSEUM
The District Six Museum tells the story of the forcible ejection of local multi-racial communities from the Sixth District in inner Cape Town. It has both permanent and temporary exhibitions that provide a painful yet objective look at apartheid in Cape Town.
The local guides, who offer personal insights into the museum, make the experience much more tangible. For a more immersive experience combine it with a tour of Khayelithsa, South Africa’s fastest-growing township.
2 — POP INTO BO KAAP
A popular addition to any South Africa itinerary, Bo Kaap has a rich multi-cultural heritage, thanks mostly to the descendants of slaves who were brought over in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today it’s an interesting neighbourhood to stroll around and admire the colourful houses.
Although the exhibits in the museum are average; a good TV presentation documents the residents of Bo Kaap as they reflect on their life and the development of their community.
It’s one of the most photographic sights in Cape Town, and is included on this whirlwind tour of Instagram-friendly Cape Town attractions.
3 — DINE ON THE V&A WATERFRONT
The V&A Waterfront is the oldest working harbour in the Southern Hemisphere and it’s still going strong – attracting over 20 million visitors a year. Selecting one of the restaurants and having lunch with stunning views of Table Mountain is one of the best things to do in Cape Town.
After lunch, shop in one of the many designer outlets or entertain the kids at the excellent aquarium.
4 — STROLL AROUND GREENMARKET SQUARE
The tourist market at Greenmarket Square is one of the first places we head to when we get to Cape Town. It’s a great way to get a feel for the African spirit in the centre of the city.
The range of colourful art and safari-inspired ornaments always bring a smile to my face and remind me that we are actually in Africa.
5 — TAKE A TOUR OF ROBBEN ISLAND
Robben Island was used by the South African government as a prison for political prisoners and convicted criminals from 1961 until 1991. During this time it held many of the leaders of the anti-apartheid movements including Nelson Mandela.
Today the island is home to a number of former inmates who work as tour guides, providing very personal – and at times – harrowing accounts of their experience in the prison. Ferries to Robben Island depart from Victoria and Albert Waterfront and booking in advance is recommended.
Head over on your own or join a guided tour. The whole trip takes around 4 – 5 hours. Combine it with a tour of a township and it’s a truly eye-opening day.
6 — SHOP ALONG LONG, LOOP & KLOOF
Cape Town is known for thoroughly embracing the cool café and retail scene. The epicentre of this movement can be found on Long, Loop and Kloof streets.
Start with a carefully crafted coffee in the hip hangout of Yours Truly, followed by a wander through the art galleries of Kloof and Loop streets. After collecting clothes shops, vintage bookstores and trendy restaurants, round out the experience at Village Idiot with a proper braai.
CAPE TOWN / OUTSIDE THE CITY CENTRE
Venturing just outside the urban centre, the beauty of Cape Town’s setting is on full display. Golden beaches, mountainous backdrops, luxurious vineyards and stunning gardens provide the canvas for a range of great activities.
7 — TAKE THE CABLEWAY UP TABLE MOUNTAIN
There’s no better way to get a feel for the impossibly stunning setting of Cape Town than by a trip up the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. At 1,000 metres above the city centre, with the Atlantic Ocean in the background, the views are stunning.
The top of Table Mountain is 2 kilometres from one end to the other, so there’s also some space to have a hike around this geological wonder. Book your tickets in advance to avoid the queues.
8 — TAKE WOODSTOCK STREET ART TOUR
Woodstock is an urban regeneration success story, but one that is still a work in progress. The street art tour unveils the transformation from an industrial wasteland to a creative hub.
Learn about the local community and their battles to improve the safety of the area while discovering some very cool art. In what is still a very impoverished part of Cape Town, the Woodstock Street Art tour is a colourful way to support the locals.
9 — HIKE UP LION’S HEAD
The well-trodden path up Lion’s Head offers spectacular views of Cape Town, Table Mountain, the Twelve Apostles and Camps Bay beach. The views from the top are stunning and it’s one of our favourite hikes in Cape Town.
Arrange to get to the top by late afternoon to have a beer as the sun drops and the surrounding vistas are lit in all their golden glory. The hike is pretty straightforward, however, for peace of mind you could take this sunrise or sunset guided tour.
10 — GO PARAGLIDING AT SIGNAL HILL
If there’s one thing Cape Town has over other cities, it’s location. One of the most dramatic ways to capture it is by Paragliding from Signal Hill.
The views from the flights are incredible and it’s all captured by a GoPro strapped to your head, the footage from which you can purchase later. Prices start from around £60 – and it’s money well spent.
11 — HIT THE BEACH AT CAMP’S BAY
Camps Bay is a curving wide stretch of beautiful white sand, and one of the best things to do in Cape Town. Being on the Atlantic Ocean, the water can be on the refreshing side of downright freezing. But with beautiful surroundings, a bustling strip of bars and restaurants, and a year-round party vibe, Camps Bay is one of the best beaches in Cape Town.
Sunset cocktails at Chinichilla overlooking the beach is a great way to finish a day out on Camp’s Bay.
CAPE TOWN / EAST OF TABLE MOUNTAIN
Cape Town doesn’t end at Table Mountain. Just over the other side, encounter a wide range of experiences from a humbling township tour to an extravagant boozy lunch at some of Cape Town’s wineries. Here are some great things to do in Cape Town, the other side of Table Mountain
12 — VISIT A LOCAL TOWNSHIP
It’s important to understand how many of Cape Town’s citizens still live within the ongoing legacy of apartheid. A township tour is a rewarding and insightful Cape Town experience and a great way to support the community.
There are a few to choose from; we spent a morning learning about life in Langa, a small tight-knit township just east of Table Mountain. It’s a Cape Town experience we highly recommend and can easily be combined with a tour of Robben Island.
13 — HIT THE CONSTANTIA WINE ROUTE
On the Constantia Wine Route, it’s important to stop at a good number of vineyards to ensure you can form an accurate assessment of the South African wine scene. Groot Constantia and Fairview are a must for excellent tastings.
Buitenverwachting is a treat for lunch with an innovative menu and excellent execution. Be there before 2pm or you’ll miss lunch. If driving around the wine route sounds like madness, join a bicycle tour instead.
14 — ATTEND A CONCERT AT KIRSTENBOSCH BOTANIC GARDENS
A stroll around the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is one of the many great things to do in Cape Town that capitalise on the beauty of the place. But in summer, the Marque Lawn is taken over by live music concerts featuring anything from local Indie bands to huge international artists.
A glass of South African wine, views of Table Mountains from the lush gardens and great live music create an excellent Cape Townian afternoon.
For a bit of adventure join the Mountain Skeleton Gorge guided hike that begins in the botanical gardens, heads up an Afro Montane Forest ravine and climbs all the way to the summit of Table Mountain.
15 — WATCH THE CRICKET AT NEWLANDS
With Table Mountain keeping a watchful eye over proceedings, a visit to Newlands Cricket Ground is a classic Cape Town activity and a great day out if you don’t like to miss out on sport while your travel.
Outside cricket or rugby season, tours of the stadium includes a peek inside the President’s Suite and the very posh South Club.
However, the best way to experience Newlands is with a beer in hand watching Australia thrash South Africa in the cricket.
CAPE TOWN / CAPE PENINSULAR & THE COAST
One of the many great things to do in Cape Town involves a classic road trip. Visit cute bohemian towns, explore rugged coastal landscapes, enjoy thrilling activities, and dine on some of the freshest seafood you’ll find anywhere. Drive yourself or join a guided tour of the peninsula’s highlights.
16 — TAKE THE CHAPMAN’S PEAK DRIVE
For one of the most spectacular drives anywhere in the world, it’s hard to go past Chapman’s Peak Drive. For a small fee, buzz along a windy road that clings to the red rock boulders of the southern South African coast.
It’s superb road trip territory with both a fun road and sensational scenery. For a great day trip from Cape Town, collect Chapman’s Peak after lunch at Hout Bay as part of a South Africa road trip itinerary.
17 — SNORKEL AT HOUT BAY
Affectionately known as the Republic of Hout Bay by locals keen on maintaining their uniqueness on the tourist-friendly Cape, this traditional fishing harbour is a great outing from Cape Town. Dive into the bracing Atlantic Ocean on a snorkelling tour with the Cape Fur seals before feasting on excellent seafood in one of the many relaxed places lining the harbour.
18 — HIKE CAPE POINT & CAPE OF GOOD HOPE
The Cape of Good Hope is a rugged corner of coastline with howling winds and the occasional opportunity to spot whales.
From the carpark at Cape Point, a short walk takes you around to the new lighthouse where you can get an appreciation of the dramatic rugged coastline in this part of the world, while keeping an eye out for aquatic life. There are regular tours from Cape Town.
19 — DEVOUR THE SEAFOOD AT KALK BAY
Kalk Bay is a small seaside town with a relaxed bohemian vibe and a vibrant collection of weird and wacky independent shops. Having a particular penchant for brunch, there are a number of cool cafés to choose from.
But lunch or dinner at Livebait – a great, reasonably priced seafood restaurant so close to the front your feet are likely to get lapped by waves if you’re sitting on the deck – is still one of the best things to do in town.
20 — SEE THE PENGUINS AT BOULDER’S BEACH
The big attraction at Boulder’s Beach is the areas diminutive star, the African Penguins. Sadly now listed as endangered, the penguins are under the protection of the Table Mountain Protected Area.
Boardwalks have been built to keep the penguins safe, which also provides easy access to get up close to these cute little creatures. Allow a couple of hours to stroll around getting some shots.
21 — SURF AT MUIZENBURG
Muizenburg, or Muizies as you’ll be calling it after a day or so, are the waves in which many budding surfers come to cut their fins.
The shallow waters and regular schedule of family-friendly classes provide the ideal environment to learn how to surf. With great fish and chip joints and a thriving local community, Muizenburg is a great day out with a noticeably different feel to Cape Town.
The best time to surf is from September to November – a great time to visit South Africa for many reasons.
22 — SWIM AT ST JAMES TIDAL POOL
Just 30 minutes from Cape Town, St James Tidal Pool is one of the best, hidden beaches in South Africa. Tucked away behind the railway line and in front of a chorus of colourful beach huts, a protected stretch of sand provides a relaxing spot for a swim.
If it’s not quite warm enough to brave the water, late afternoon is a great time for some gorgeous sunset photography. Make your way here yourself or join a day trip from Cape Town, whichever you choose, it’s one of our favourite things to do in Cape Town.
CAPE TOWN / OVERNIGHT EXCURSIONS
Pack your bags for a mini excursion from Cape Town. This part of South Africa is perfect for a good old fashion road trip and here are some of our favourites.
23 — TAKE A TOUR OF THE WINELANDS
A stay in Franschhoek – a cute town in the centre of the winelands – is a rightly popular Cape Town attraction and the perfect way to sample excellent wines in beautiful scenery.
There’s nothing better than a slow meander along the roads of Franschhoek, stopping off at whichever wineries take your fancy. We loved Delaire Graff Estate for a posh boozy lunch and Tokara for their excellent modern tasting hall.
24 — ENJOY COASTAL ACTIVITIES AT HERMANUS
Hermanus is perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea southeast of Cape Town and from June to December is the best whale-watching spot in the country. An afternoon walk along the coastal path that runs for about 10 kilometres from New Harbour to Grotto beach is ideal for trying your luck these mighty mammals, or hop into a kayak and try to get even closer.
Bientang’s Cave Restaurant and Wine Bar does superbly fresh fish and chips literally meters from the spray of crashing waves. It’s long day trip from Cape Town, but a goodie.
WHERE TO STAY IN CAPE TOWN
Tamboerskloof and Camps Bay are both excellent locations but for different reasons. Tamboerskloof is younger and cooler, close to the city centre with access to the café and bar scene of Kloof Street. The views up to Table Mountain are pretty great as well.
Camps Bay on the other hand is a bit older, but stunningly set on one of the most beautiful city beaches in the world. A number of cocktail bars and restaurants line the front.
CENTRAL & MODERN
Clean lines and contemporary finishes in the heart of the Cape Town action with impressive sea views. The on-site restaurant, Sótano served up well-prepared Mediterranean dishes with an impressive cocktail list.
JARDIN D’ÉBÈNE GUESTHOUSE
This quaint five-bedroom guesthouse in Tamboerskloof is decorated in modern African style with luxurious organic textiles. Breakfast on the deck beside the plunge pool is the perfect way to start your day.
Located along Camp’s Bay’s stunning promenade, The Marly is great for unwinding on Cape Town’s most popular beach. With an enviable location, this is an excellent option for some boutique indulgence.
MAP / THINGS TO DO IN CAPE TOWN
We’ve listed our favourite things to do in Cape Town based on four main areas that make up city and it’s surrounding areas: the city centre; outside the centre; the area east of Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsular.
WHEN TO VISIT CAPE TOWN
Cape Town can be visited all year but it is best to avoid the wet colder months of July and August. If you want to spend time on the beaches then the summer months of December to March bring temperatures in the high twenties and longer days, but also higher crowds.
We recommend mid-January to mid-March to get good weather, long days, fewer crowds and the opportunity enjoy wine festivals and outdoor concerts.
For more information about visiting Cape Town, read our 5-day Itinerary.
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As one of our favourite places to visit for winter sun, great hiking and incredible wildlife opportunities, we’ve been to South Africa several times. Find all our writing on our South Africa Page or read these guides next.
Constructing the perfect South Africa itinerary
When to visit South Africa
The best things to do in Cape Town
10 reasons to visit the Drakensberg Mountains
Driving a 4×34 up the Sani Pass
Cathedral Peak, Drakensberg
EAST SOUTH AFRICA
Visiting Kosi Bay
The wetlands of St Lucia, South Africa
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