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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 04 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Richard Holmes

One of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town is a melting pot of diverse cultures and ideologies with a fascinating past. While it attracts visitors year-round, the city is at its most seductive in summer when locals and tourists come out to play.

It offers dramatic landscapes, glorious beaches of golden sand, and a kaleidoscope of multicultural entertainment attracting everyone from outdoor adrenaline junkies to nightlife-loving party animals.

But where Cape Town truly excels is in its culinary adventures, with world-class restaurants and street markets to explore, alongside terroir-driven wines from the nearby Cape Winelands.

Orientation

In the shadow of Table Mountain lies the business district and neighbourhoods of the colourful ‘City Bowl’ – though the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is the city’s main hub for shops and restaurants.

Along the coastline from the Waterfront are the picturesque coastal suburbs and idyllic beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay.

The Cape Winelands, including gourmet capitals Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, lie an hour’s drive inland. The other wine region of Constantia is just 20 minutes away.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Abseil down Table Mountain

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

One of the world’s great abseils – a one-hour descent down the iconic Table Mountain. Comes with unforgettable views of the city and Atlantic coastline.

Best for ages: 13+ | £23 | 1 hour

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Table Mountain

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

The iconic flat-topped mountain – sometimes covered with ‘tablecloths’ of clouds – that towers over the beautiful coastal city of Cape Town. Cable car or hike to the top; cable car or abseil down.

Best for ages: 10+ | £18

Stellenbosch Wine Region

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

One of the world’s greatest wine regions, home to more than 150 wineries producing numerous world-class wines, gorgeous Cape Dutch architecture, superb restaurants and top-notch art galleries.

Best for ages: 6+ | Free

Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Distant view of people whale watching during the daytime
Experience

Hermanus Whale-Watching Festival

Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa

Held in late September/early October each year – the peak season for whale watching – this usually sleepy-town is host to a colourful festival of art, adventure and fine food across a festive long weekend.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free | One weekend

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Exterior view of the restaurant during the daytime
Experience

Neighbourhood Goods Market

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

This Cape Town institution, set up in an Old Biscuit Factory in 2006, features food stalls from around the world, plus local artisans selling designer clothing, accessories and quality handicrafts. Live music adds to the atmospheric buzz and energy.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

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Exterior of the building during the daytime
Experience

Norval Foundation

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Set amid the Constantia Winelands, this contemporary gallery celebrates global and African artists in both indoor exhibition spaces and the outdoor sculpture garden. Excellent on-site restaurant.

Best for ages: 18+ | £9

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Woman Selling Fresh Local Vegetable at Farmers Market
Experience

Oranjezicht City Farm Market

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

A bustling food, wine and design market situated overlooking the ocean. Wonderful fresh produce and dozens of food stalls. Open weekends, 9am-2pm.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Cape Cadogan Boutique Hotel

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Central, romantic and boho-cool guesthouse, inspired by the decadence of Oscar Wilde.

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Camps Bay Retreat

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Hidden away in a private garden, this boutique hotel offers contemporary style and easy access to the popular Camps Bay strip.

Official star rating:

Ocean View House

Cape Town , Western Cape, South Africa

A luxurious boutique hotel close to glamorous Camps Bay beach, boasting contemporary sea-view suites.

Official star rating:

Vineyard Hotel

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

A great value boutique hotel set amid expansive gardens in one of the city’s leafy suburbs, in the shadow of Table Mountain.

Official star rating:

When to go

Cape Town is a year-round destination – but depending on what you want to do.

It’s is busiest in summer, particularly in December and January when South Africans are on holiday and many international travellers seek the sun. It’s at its most alluring in February and March when it’s less crowded but still buzzing and sunny. This is a great times for outdoor pursuits and anything involving swimming and beaches.

In winter, known as the Green Season, cold fronts with heavy rain are the norm with crisp, clear days in between, ideal for sightseeing. It might not be beach weather, but it’s a great time to secure value-for-money discounts on everything from accommodation to restaurants. This is a great time if you’re coming for Cape Town’s food, art and museums.

Getting there and away

Cape Town International Airport is situated just 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre, and offers direct air links to North America, Europe, Asia and regional destinations. Public buses link the airport to the city, while e-hailing and private taxis available are freely available at the terminal.

For something really special to start (or end) your trip, turn your airport transfer into a jaw-dropping helicopter flight. You can alight at the V&A Waterfront, Winelands and other points from the airport with Silvercross Helicopters.

Getting around

Cape Town’s CBD, including the V&A, is compact, making walking and cycling around easy. But most of the key sights are further afield, and with limited reliable public transport hiring a car is your best bet. Hiring a car doesn’t have to be boring. Cape Cobra Hire has classic car rentals, specialising in open-top sports cars.

Reputable taxi companies and e-hailing services are safe and reliable, and better for short city trips. Drinking and driving is not tolerated, so consider a guided tour or chauffeur for exploring the Winelands.

Bike and Saddle, Southern Africa cycling specialists, offer guided cycling tours of Cape Town, and bike rental (with delivery at pre-agreed drop-off points).

Where to stay

Picturesque Camps Bay, Bantry Bay and Clifton are the city’s top addresses for upscale local life and glamorous beaches. If shopping, culture, restaurants or nightlife are your thing, then stay close to the V&A and Green Point, or in the ‘City Bowl’ (which includes trendy suburbs like Gardens and Higgovale).

If you’re coming for wine and scenery, considering basing yourself in beautiful Constantia, still close enough for jaunts into the city. Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, while appealing to serious foodies and wine lovers, are both about an hour from the city.

Where to eat or drink

Bree Street in the city centre is a vibrant gourmet boulevard of wine bars, coffee shops and restaurants that’s best discovered on foot. The extensive coastline means there’s no shortage of sea-view eateries serving up fresh seafood. The winelands – Constantia and Stellenbosch – are peppered with outstanding restaurants serving exceptional food – in gorgeous al fresco settings inspired by Cape Dutch Architecture.

Where to shop

Wander the length of Long, Bree and Kloof streets to discover an array of local fashion and design boutiques. There’s a thriving art scene in Woodstock, with galleries and design hubs like the Old Biscuit Mill.

In Kalk Bay, about 30 minutes from the city, you’ll find boho-chic antiques, vintage and collectable shops rubbing shoulders with art galleries such as Kalk Bay Modern.

Local shopping aficionados Blue By You offer personally escorted shopping to the best shops, galleries, jewellers and craftspeople.

Our writer’s recommended itineraries for this destination

Cape Town 6-day Itinerary

South Africa

Where to go and what to see in Cape Town to get the most from your trip – a 6-day itinerary from destination expert and travel writer Richard Holmes.

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