Cape Town is the playground of leisure-lovers, adventurers and jetsetters alike. Famed for its flat-topped mountain (voted one of the New7Wonders of Nature, no less!), white sandy beaches, bountiful vineyards, waddling penguins and a bustling waterfront, it’s not hard to see why our Mother City repeatedly ranks among the best cities in the world.
Visitors can enjoy the scenic Chapman's Peak Drive as it hugs the Atlantic Coast, before eventually reaching the fishing village of Hout Bay. The turquoise waves wash onto the palm-fringed beaches in Clifton and Camps Bay, the city’s own “French Riviera”, while granite boulders divide Clifton into four coves, drawing sun worshippers and beach bums alike.
The waters are chilly but the swells are strong, attracting surfers, kite surfers and bodyboarders in droves. Boulders Beach, in Simon's Town, protects over 3,000 penguins and is a must-visit attraction. Another of which is a boat trip from the V&A Waterfront to Robben Island where struggle stalwart and hero, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned. Whether it’s the brightly coloured beach huts littering Muizenberg, exclusive hotels, the Victorian-style restorations of Sea Point & Green Point or the thrumming pubs and clubs of the City Bowl, Cape Town is a city bursting with excitement, allure and intrigue.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Cape Town
Peak season in Cape Town is from December until April when tourists flock to the city due to the warm and dry weather. If you love the beach and festive atmosphere, this is probably the best time to come to Cape Town. Summer is also a windy time of the year in the Mother City. However, it often settles down through February and March. If you want to skip the crowds but enjoy the great summer weather, then March to May is a great time to visit.
Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate which means the winter months, from June to August, is when it receives most of its rainfall. August to October is a fantastic time to be in Cape Town. Not only is it starting to warm up, but whales are returning, too! It's almost impossible not to spot a whale breaching while driving along the coastal roads during this time, so it's a popular time of year to visit.
The top tourist attractions are spread out across the city. However, when choosing their accommodation in Cape Town, many first-time visitors opt to stay as close to the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront as possible. This is a great central location with many shops and restaurants and the Two Oceans Aquarium.
For a more peaceful setting, hotels on the foothills of Table Mountain offer easy access to the national park, and many have spectacular city and mountain views. Foodies also like to stay near the eclectic eateries of Kloof Street, a popular strip connecting the city centre with the City Bowl neighbourhood.
If you're planning a sun, sand, and sea vacation, Camps Bay, about six kilometres from the city centre, makes a great base. A beautiful mountain-backed beach skirts the shores of this upscale residential area, and chic shops, cafes and hotels beckon along the beachfront.
Cape Town is continually voted as one of the best cities in the world, and for good reason. South Africa's oldest city, it's a truly unique setting with the famous flat-topped Table Mountain hugged by towering city buildings, vineyards and the Atlantic Ocean. It offers a delightful mix of activities and attractions and is an outdoor playground of mountains, pristine beaches, history, fine dining, and plenty of wine farms.
- Table Mountain and Lion’s Head
- Boulders Beach
- Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
- Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
- Signal Hill and the Noon Gun
- The Castle of Good Hope & City Hall
- The Heart of Cape Town Museum
- Iziko Museums of South Africa & Company’s Garden
- The District Six Museum
- Zeitz MOCAA
1. Beach Hop in Clifton and Camps Bay
About six kilometres from the city centre, the beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton lure the buff, the bronzed, and the beautiful – as well as the big bucks. At Clifton, Cape Town's St. Tropez, some of the city's priciest real estate overlooks four gleaming white-sand beaches flanked by smooth granite boulders and washed by sparkling but crisp, blue seas.
First Beach is a favourite volleyball venue and offers decent surf when the conditions are right. Just south of Clifton, trendy Camp's Bay sports another stunning beach, backed by the magnificent Twelve Apostles and the distinctive peak of Lion's Head. People-watching is an art along this pretty palm-lined stretch as well as at the chic cafes and boutiques fringing Victoria Street – especially during weekends and holidays when locals and tourists throng here to soak up the scene.
Camps Bay and Clifton's Fourth Beach boast coveted Blue Flag status awarded for clean water, safety, and environmental management, making them an excellent choice for families as well.
2. Shop at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Stretching around two harbour basins, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is a buzzing entertainment quarter reminiscent of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.
Once a scruffy fishing harbour, this reimagined waterfront district is now one of the city's top tourist attractions, and many of the old buildings have been preserved and restored. Millions of visitors a year flock here to the shops, jazz venues, restaurants, hotels, theatres, drama schools, cinemas, and museums. Sports fans will love the Springbok Experience Rugby Museum, which traces the story of South African Rugby through interactive exhibits.
The Two Oceans Aquarium features more than 300 species of fish from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, in particular from the area around the Cape of Good Hope. Highlights include a touch tank, penguin encounter, predator exhibit, and diving experiences, which allow visitors to view fascinating marine creatures up close.
Trips to Robben Island leave from the Nelson Mandela Gateway on the waterfront, but anyone is welcome to explore the museum exhibits here. West of the waterfront, the trendy Green Point precinct is also home to the lovely Green Point Urban Park with its biodiversity garden and the Cape Town Stadium, which hosted many FIFA World Cup matches in 2010.
3. Drive along Chapman's Peak
About 25 kilometres from the city centre, Chapman's Peak Drive, affectionately called "Chappies" by the locals, is one of the most jaw-dropping driving routes in the world. Cut into the sheer face of Chapman's Peak, which plunges to the sea, this spectacular toll road snakes its way for about nine kilometres between Noordhoek and Hout Bay, passing panoramic Chapman's Peak point along the way.
With 114 curves carved into the rock face, some perched more than 500 meters above the sea, this is not a route for those prone to motion sickness. Around sunset, cars crowd the panoramic viewpoints as sightseers stake a spot to watch the sun sink while sipping a cool drink in the time-honoured South African tradition known as "sundowners." Look for southern right whales and dolphins in the sparkling Atlantic Ocean below, and drive slowly and carefully.
The road was closed on and off for several years due to rockfall dangers, but it has now been stabilised and is open every day – except during severe weather events. As well as being used as a location for TV commercials, Chapman's Peak Drive is the setting for the famous Cape Town Cycle Tour and Two Oceans Marathon. After admiring the magnificent sea views, hungry travellers can feast on fresh fish at one of the excellent seafood restaurants in Hout Bay.
4. Take a boat to Robben Island
For nearly 400 years, Robben Island in Table Bay was a brutal prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in a tiny cell during the apartheid era. Today, the island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see attraction for anyone interested in South African history. Tours to the island begin with multimedia exhibits in the museum at the Nelson Mandela Gateway on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront before travellers board vessels to the island.
The boat trip takes about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on weather conditions, and can be rough during big swells. While on the island, visitors tour the maximum-security prison, Mandela's former cell, and the lime quarry where prisoners were forced to endure back-breaking labour. The interesting part about the tour is that the guides are former prisoners of Robben Island, sharing their experiences and offering insight into the atrocities of apartheid and the power of forgiveness.
5. Whale Watching on the Whale Coast
From June to November each year, the whales are in town! You can try to spot the Southern Right, Humpback and Bryde whales in the deep blue sea during this time. The Whale Coast offers plenty of viewpoints, and the quaint seaside towns provide plenty of arts and culture attractions. Whale season also coincides with the wildflower season, so you can explore both simultaneously.
6. Wine Tasting and Fine Dining
Cape Town is a foodie and wine-lover paradise. The city is home to some of the best restaurants globally and many award-winning wineries. So, there's something to delight your taste buds around every corner.
For first-time visitors, we recommended a minimum of a four-night stay. This will allow guests to experience most of Cape Town's top attractions such as Table Mountain, Robben Island, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Point, the Cape Peninsula and the Cape Winelands. There's so much to see, so you'll never regret spending a few more nights in Cape Town if your itinerary can allow it.
Simply put, Cape Town is the most stunning city in the world. It's hard to explain, but it has a contagious energy you cannot put into words. Once you get here, you'll never want to leave!
Picture imposing mountain ranges, pristine white beaches, turquoise waves, wineries (over 800!), incredible coastal drives, fine dining that competes on the global stage, craft beer and gin, a fusion of cultures, gourmet markets and wildlife. Phew! The list just goes on and on.