I first visited Cape Town about 8 years ago on a solo backpacking trip through SA (which sparked my first online journals on tumblr), and was the first time I’d intentionally traveled to an African city outside of Cameroon; leading it to become one of my inspirations behind moving back to Africa. Nicknamed "The Mother City", Cape Town is arguably one of the most beautiful and scenic cities in the world. A modern and cosmopolitan city with a landscape dominated by the iconic Table Mountain, a meeting point of both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and varied wildlife gives visitors and locals alike endless possibilities when it comes to things to do. Aside from it's landscapes, I love that you can go from hiking a mountain, to seeing penguins on a beach, to enjoying an artisanal market in the city in less than an hour.
Back this time around with my sister and close friend, it was great to rediscover some old favorites and discover some new ones. Read below to get all my tips and recommendations to help make the most of your trip, put together in partnership with Uber.
some general info + tips
Credit Cards or Cash? My general rule when traveling anywhere in Africa is that cash is king. But Cape Town is one of the few African cities where most retailers and restaurants will accept cards without an issue.
Best time to visit: I personally enjoy the summer months from December to February when the days are longest (sun rises around 5 am!) and warmest, but I would also say the spring months, October and November, are quite nice. But with that said, the winds can get pretty wild in either season, so always carry a light jacket.
Language: English is the most commonly spoken language in Cape Town, though there are eleven official languages in South Africa. You will also hear a lot of Xhosa spoken around Cape Town.
Cape Town is a city where everything is spread out and in different pockets, so you'll definitely need to either rent a car (be prepared to drive on the left side of the road) or use Uber to get around easily and conveniently. Public transportation is also a bit unreliable, while taxis can get expensive - so my solution was to Uber pretty much everywhere since the prices were cheaper and more reliable overall. Most of the time my Uber drivers turn out to be great local guides as well, so it's always a win/win.
WHERE TO STAY
Neighborhoods matter Since the neighborhood you stay in should be based on the kind of experience you want to have, choose your accommodations wisely. If you want easy access to clubs and bars, stay on Kloof or Long Street. If you're looking to live like a baller, stay in Camps Bay. If you want amazing views of Table Mountain but don't want to deal with the noise of Kloof and Long Street, stay in Milnerton. If you're after a more artsy vibe that is a bit more up and coming, choose a place in Woodstock.
Hostels? Cape Town has loads of hostels and backpackers to choose from(which I fully took advantage of on my first trip about 8 years ago). But to be honest, unless you're traveling alone and are open to staying in a dorm, hostel prices are pretty high, you might as well stay in an airbnb or hotel.
Airbnbs I almost always prefer to stay in airbnbs because I always learn about neighborhoods, restaurants, and things to do that I would never have considered from hosts. Some of my favorites from Cape Town are this one in Milnerton (the bestttt), as well as this one that is a stone's throw away from Kloof street (meaning all the convenience with none of the noise) in a secure gated building. PS - book via my link here and get $75 off your first trip.
WHERE TO EAT
Maestros on the Beach This restaurant is on the dunes at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean next to the lighthouse at Milnerton Beach on Woodridge Island and was recommended to me by my Airbnb host - hands down the best brunch I've had in a long while! I loved it so much I went about 4 times during my trip and still could've gone back for more. They also have 180 unobstructed views of Cape Town, Table Mountain, Robben Island, and all the way up the West Coast to Blouberg.
The Old Biscuit Mill In their own words, the Old Biscuit Mill is a vibrant, warm-hearted little village in the heart of Woodstock where talented people come together to share, collaborate and show off heart-felt passion. The Mill is home to day and night markets of artisanal goods, a range of workshops and designer stores, delicious farm stalls, and decadent restaurants. Once a biscuit factory, it now hosts a market featuring more than 100 specialty traders every Saturday and is a great place to meet some of South Africa's most talented, innovative designers, artists, photographers, and connoisseurs of fine taste and decor. Be sure to try local favorites The Pot Luck Club or The Test Kitchen.
The Codfather It's locally heralded as the best seafood in Cape Town, so stop by to try any one of their deliciously prepared fish, prawns, langoustines, and crayfish.
WHAT TO DO
Visit Robben Island Visiting the former political prison on Robben Island is one of the most important and sobering things you can do when visiting Cape Town. A former inmate typically personally guides everyone around the prison which makes it that much more intense and personal. While it is emotionally taxing, it is also inspiring to see first-hand how humanity can triumph over horrendous and systemic acts against it. It was incredible to also learn Modiba (Nelson Mandela) from people who actually knew him at that time and listen to their stories of survival against the worst conditions. Make sure you book your tour online at least 3 days ahead of when you hope to visit because as you can imagine, they are always full. The ferry typically leaves a few times a day from the V&A Waterfront.
Boulder's Beach Stop by this sheltered public bay to see a free-roaming colony of African penguins. Insider tip: instead of paying $5 to enter the park and see the penguins from a boardwalk, go to the public free beach instead and see the penguins roaming freely. You're welcome :)
Road trip to Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope Take a drive along the beautiful coastal road to scenic Cape Point which is located in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and has dramatic views of the ocean, a charming historical lighthouse, and rugged rocks and sheer cliffs towering more than 200 meters above the sea. Once you get to the top of the point, go the extra mile and hike to the end of the track, to get a sense of feeling like you're on the edge-of-the-world.
Chapman's Peak Drive This is probably one of the most scenic and stunning stretches of rocky coastline in Cape Town, located between Noordhoek and Hout Bay. If you can, do this on the same day as Boulder's Beach and Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope as they are all on the same route.
Learn at Guga Sthebe Culture & Arts Center A center in the Langa Township where you can learn about some of the history of Cape Town that is dedicated to the empowerment of the people of Langa and improving their socio-economical situation. In their strategy to improve life in the township of Langa from Guga Sthebe focuses on Arts & Culture where people are trained in several art forms as metal work and Pottery.
Visit Table Mountain This should probably be the first on your to-do list when in Cape Town. You can either hike it (you should be physically fit and not scared of heights!) or take a five minute cable car trip to the top of the mountain. Wear comfortable shoes and take a jacket, because you never know when the winds will roll in bringing with it the "tablecloth" aka the rolling blanket of clouds that cover the mountain. I highly recommend you go for sunset for a view that honestly cannot adequately be described with words - only experienced.
Hike Lion's Head Table Mountain can be a bit of a challenge to hike, but Lion's Head is a great alternative. Rising high above the city skyline, it provides incredible views of the city, sea, and Table Mountain and takes about 45 minutes to reach the top. I would highly recommend a hike here at sunrise as opposed to sunset to avoid getting lost.
Explore Bo Kaap is a historical area of cape Town formerly known as Malay Quarter. Stop by this colorful and vibrant neighborhood in the morning to watch the town come alive and take a few photos. You can also check out South Africa’s first mosque, Auwal Mosque, and grab a bite at one of the best Cape Malay restaurants in the neighborhood, Bo-Kaap Kombuis.
Muizenburg Beach Muizenburg is a southern suburb of Cape Town famous for its colorful boardwalk and surfing scene 30 minutes outside of the city center. I loved the laid-back beach bum vibe and was grateful to discover that the water is much warmer on this side of the city than in Camps Bay.
WHAT TO DO (CONT'D)
First Thursdays If you're in town on the first of the month, explore the art galleries and shops in Cape Town's central city that stay open until late.
Helicopter Tour Fly over Cape Town and enjoy the stunning views of the city, Cape of Good Hope, Robben Island, Atlantico, Two Oceans and Full Peninsula.
Shark Cage Diving If you're looking for an adventurous thrill, you can go shark cage diving in the Atlantic.
Zeitz MOCAA is museum is first African museum to showcase art strictly from the continent and the diaspora and is also is the largest contemporary art museum in Africa. It's located in the V& A Waterfront just next to The SIlo hotel and truly something not to be missed while in Cape Town.
Camps Bay Located on the Atlantic coastline, Camps Bay Beach is well known internationally for it's white sand and blue tranquil (but freezing!) waters. There are great views of Table Mountain and Twelve Apostles mountain from here since they tower above it. I found that the beach got a bit too crowded and windy for my taste though, and opted to spend more time on one of the secret coves I found while walking along the coast.
Green Market Square This artisanal goods market is in the heart of the business district and the best place to go haggle for amazing souvenirs.
Stellenbosch Winelands South Africa is known for great wine, so take a drive up to the Stellenbosch Winelands and have a delicious lunch and wine tasting at any of the beautiful farms or estates. My personal favorite was Delaire Graffe, which I highly recommend.
Photography by yours truly
Photos of me by Eplleseed
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