Whether you are staying in Cape Town for a few days or a few weeks, a visit to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront should be on your list. The once historic docklands transformed into a leisure mecca of shops and world-class dining establishments blend seamlessly into the harbour's aesthetics. With Table Mountain as your backdrop, this elegant hub pulses with energy.
Victoria Wharf caters to every heart's shopping desire with over 450 retail outlets featuring local and international brands. You'll find art and jewellery stores near the yellow clock tower overlooking the harbour, while the Watershed's skylight and urban street feel teems with African craft and design. The numerous restaurants are sure to cater to all palates while the outdoor amphitheatre is alive with music, dance, and theatre. The Waterfront's own Cape Wheel offers a bird's-eye view of the surrounding area, including Table Mountain.
Take a leisurely boat cruise around the harbour or head to Robben Island for a bit of history and a view. Sports fans will love the Springbok Rugby Museum, while the Two Oceans Aquarium is home to intimidating ragged-tooth sharks and the endangered Knysna seahorse, among others. Here, you can experience incredible close encounters with penguins, dive among fish, or feel starfish move in the palm of your hand.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting the V&A Waterfront.
The best time to visit the V&A Waterfront is during the South African summer months, between December and February. During this time, the weather is perfect with warm, sunny days, and it's also the busiest time, with travellers visiting from across the globe. This means that the markets are bustling, the amphitheatre is booming with live music and dancing, private yachts are sailing in and out of the port, and the atmosphere is palpable.
A secret season to visit the V&A Waterfront, to avoid the crowds and crowded shopping halls, would be between March and May, South Africa's autumn. During that time, the crowds have fled, but the weather is superb! Springtime between September and November is also a great time to visit Cape Town.
Even during Cape Town's rainy season between June and August, you could still visit the V&A Waterfront as the central building provides cover and houses most retail shops and restaurants. A few shops and restaurants are dotted around the outside area, but if you have an umbrella, you can happily stroll around.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is located in Cape Town's city centre. If you plan to visit this beautiful city during your travels to South Africa, you must dedicate a day to exploring the waterfront's treasures.
Cape Town is not a very large city, and from the centre of town, you can reach most of the city's main points of interest within 15-20 minutes by car. Depending on your interests, there are many accommodation options to act as your base. If you love to hike and be in nature, you might prefer to stay closer to the mountain to have easier access to the walking trails. If the Atlantic Seaboard is the reason you'll be visiting, you might want to spend more time in Camps Bay, Clifton, or Bantry Bay. If you want to feel the heartbeat of the city, then the Waterfront is where you'd want to stay.
Once you arrive at Cape Town International Airport, the drive to the city is between 20-30 minutes. Regardless of where you're staying, the easiest way to get to the Waterfront is by car ride – either by hotel transfer, private taxi, Uber or self-drive. If you're staying in the Waterfront, you might have the option to walk to this city's hub while you breathe in the fresh ocean breeze.
Yes, absolutely! Apart from the well-known toy store Hamleys, where children get lost for half a day, the V&A Waterfront has an array of other child-friendly activities for the little ones to enjoy. For example, outside of one of the main entrances to Victoria Wharf, the shopping district, there is a play centre with structures for kids to jump and swing, along with some fountains for cooling off (don't forget to pack a swimsuit in summer!).
The Cape Wheel, which is only 50 meters high (nothing like the London Eye), is fun for the whole family to enjoy. The wheel takes you above eye level, showing off the spectacular scenery of the location. Gaze across the horizon and spot Robben Island, Table Mountain's iconic peak, as well as Signal Hill – and you might even catch a glimpse of Lion's Head too.
The Two Oceans Aquarium is a must-see for families with children of all ages! Home to some incredible aquatic species, including animals that are endemic to South Africa – this is a great way to allow your kids to get up close to a penguin and learn more about the conservation side of the ocean. There is also a pebble scratch patch, where precious stones can be collected and taken home as souvenirs, as well as miniature cave golf – you could spend an entire day here!
For the children dreaming of becoming pirates, the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship is something you do not want your kids to miss – and you don't want to miss it either! This adventure will take you out of the harbour and onto the seas, where you will be able to see Cape Town from a different vantage point. Seeing Table Mountain from the ocean is something you need to experience while visiting Cape Town, whether it's by yacht, Robben Island ferry, or the notorious Jolly Roger!
Even though it's the most-visited attraction within South Africa, not many people know how the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront got its name. Fun fact, the first lights to ever light up in Cape Town's city was from the V&A Waterfront!
The Waterfront is named after the Victoria Basin and the Alfred Basin located within the harbour. These basins make up the harbour, which is still operational today. The Alfred Basin was named after the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred, and made up the first docks of the Port of Cape Town. The basin was completed by 1870 after ten years of construction after the basin's first foundation was laid down by the prince, Queen Victoria's second son. The Victoria basin was an extension of Alfred's basin and was completed by 1905, whereafter it was named after Queen Victoria.
Today, the Waterfront offers over 13 different hotels in its vicinity, so take your pick. Now that you know how the Waterfront got its name, you can use this knowledge to impress some of the locals during your travels.