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31 Best things to see & do in Cape Town

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Last updated: 04 July, 2023
Expert travel writer: Richard Holmes
  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

view of a mountain popularised for abseiling during the daytime

Bucket List Experience

Abseil down Table Mountain

Thrill-seekers will love this unforgettable abseil – 360 feet (110m) off the summit of the world-famous Table Mountain. Behind you – heart-stopping views over the city and Atlantic coastline laid out below you.

Tours start at the top, so you take the cable car to the summit – or hike up. After your abseil, you’ll take scenic hike back to the summit on a lesser-known trail.

Adult price: £23

Min age 10

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 1 hour

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

View of the mountain range from an opposing island

Bucket List Experience

Table Mountain

Cape Town’s iconic flat-topped mountain is 1,085m (3,559ft) above sea level at its highest point, Maclear’s Beacon. One of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’, its name also derives from the thin layer of wind-blown cloud that forms over the flat summit before dropping dramatically over the edge like a tablecloth.

It’s now part of the Table Mountain National Park, set-up to protect the landmark but also the rare fynbos vegetation. The site is now a UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site.

Ride up in the aerial cable car to enjoy spectacular 360-degree views of the city, and wander the fynbos-fringed footpaths that criss-cross the serene and beautiful flat-topped summit.

If you’re reasonably fit, and a little adventurous, you can hike up to the summit rather than take the cable car. There are a number of different trails that you can do independently or with a guide. You can also abseil down from the summit.

Adult price: £18

Good for age: 8+

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

In the waters off Cape Town it’s the Great White Shark, carcharodon carcharias, that rules the roost, and admiring this remarkable predator in its natural environment – from the safety of a sturdy steel cage, of course – is a bucket list experience you’ll never forget.

Spacious speedboats leave Kleinbaai harbour (two hours’ drive from Cape Town) in the early morning, setting course for Dyer Island and the famous ‘Shark Alley’. Here, chum (fish bait) is released into the water, the cage is lowered and adventurers don their wetsuits. When a shark comes to investigate, it’s into the water you go.

Note – you don’t have to go in the water to enjoy this trip. Watching these majestic, and curious, creatures glide around from the security of the boat is also worth going for.

From the editor: at time of writing, sightings are less than they used to be following the arrival of two orcas (that prey on the great whites). No one is sure how long the orcas will stay… so check before you book.

Adult price: £100

Min age 6

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 5

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

The wine estate on a summers day

Bucket List Experience

Stellenbosch Wine Region

South Africa’s oldest wine route is home to more than 150 wineries, many of them still family owned, and the estates around Stellenbosch continue to produce wines that are internationally recognised for their excellent quality.

With a mild Mediterranean climate, proximity to cooling sea breezes and good clay soils, this region is becoming increasingly known for red wines – cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, Bordeaux-style blends, and pinotage.

With gourmet restaurants, gorgeous Cape Dutch architecture and superb art galleries, the route offers so much more than just wine tasting. And it’s not just for adults. Some of the wine estates have good facilities to keep the kids entertained, such as the outdoor playparks at Tokara and Warwick.

Min age 18

Good for age: 18+

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

View of the mountain from inside a cave during the daytime

Bucket List Experience

Hike up Table Mountain

Towering more than 3,000-feet above the city, Table Mountain defines the skyline of Cape Town. And while going up by cable car is an easy option for the unfit, hiking the mountain slopes is a far better way to appreciate the flora, fauna and fine views of this World Heritage Site.

There are dozens of routes on, up and around the mountain. The most popular, independently-tackled route is the well-marked Platteklip Gorge (a challenging 2- to 3-hour hike). If you want something more adventures – like the forested trails that lead up the eastern slopes above Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – book a guided hike. Guides will teach about the local fynbos and the Cape Floral Kingdom as you ascend.

The true summit is at Maclear’s Beacon, but keen hikers should allow time to discover the quieter trails that explore the ‘Back Table’ to the south.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 2-3 hours

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Aerial view of the island during the daytime

Bucket List Experience

Robben Island

One of the most poignant destinations for any visitor to Cape Town, this UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site and museum is an infamous prison island in the middle of Table Bay. During apartheid it held some of SA’s most famous political prisoners, including former president Nelson Mandela.

It remains as an important reminder of the evils of the apartheid era, brought home powerfully by the guides, some of whom are former inmates.

Adult price: £28

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 3.5

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

A vineyard blossoming in the spring

Bucket List Experience

Constantia Wine Region

The picturesque Constantia Valley is a compact wine route; home to some of the oldest wine farms in the Cape. Ten wineries are open for tastings, ranging from boutique cellars to grand estates.

Situated just 20 minutes’ drive from the city, it’s a convenient option for those lacking the time to visit Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. The valley’s ocean-facing location, cooled in the summer by steady sea breezes, results in vibrant white wines reminiscent of Bordeaux, alongside structured and elegant red wines. The valley is also increasingly becoming a culinary hotpot in the city.

Good for age: 18+

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Cape Town Township Tours

Bucket List Experience

Cape Town Township Tours

Townships – undeveloped, sprawling communities of small houses and shacks – are a blight on what is otherwise a gorgeous city. Home to the ‘non-whites’ during apartheid area, they remain a symbol of division and inequality. Aside from a few new satellite dishes, for most residents, not a lot has changed in the post-Apartheid era. Most houses are still made from cobbled-together corrugated iron sheeting for ceilings and walls.

Townships are integral to the city landscape, and to understanding Cape Town’s history, culture and post-apartheid challenges. No wonder then that so-called ‘Township Tours’ have become so popular. They offer a fascinating insight into the realities of life on the socially-depressed Cape Flats.

Perhaps surprisingly, rather than being a depressing experience, they can be uplifting – especially when you witness the ubuntu, meaning the spirit of togetherness, despite the hardships and challenges of daily life. There are many community projects on the go, with opportunities for sponsorship or a donation.

Locals are generally friendly, and you may even get invited into the local ‘pub’ to try some home-made beer.

Adult price: £35

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 4 hours

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

View of the coast from the nearby road on a sunny day

Bucket List Experience

Drive Chapman’s Peak

This 9km stretch of road, etched into soaring cliffs, with 114 curves and a 593m drop off to the ocean, ranks as one of the most spectacular drives in the world and should be on every visitor’s list.

‘Chappies’, as it’s affectionately known, also sees cyclists, bikers and runners enjoying the sweeping, staggering coastal views: think giant boulders, seal colonies, pounding surf, dramatic cliffs and miles of endless blue stretching into the horizon.

For an extra special treat, book a night at Tintswalo Atlantic, a romantic and alluring hideaway set in the ancient milkwood forest at the foot of Chapman’s Peak. Remote but spectacular.

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 3-4 hours

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Aerial view of the promontory during the daytime

Bucket List Experience

Cape Point

Treacherous seas, sandy coves and sheer cliffs characterise Cape Point, located at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, 60km southwest of Cape Town.

The 7,750-hectare reserve, which falls within the Table Mountain National Park, makes a great day trip for nature lovers, with its fynbos (the smallest yet richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms), antelope, baboons, Cape Mountain zebras and Cape clawless otters.

The drive there is lovely, and the penguin colony at Boulders Beach is conveniently on the way.

Be sure to climb up Cape Point’s lighthouse, 286m above sea level, for spectacular ocean views. To reach the lighthouse, walk or take the ‘Flying Dutchman’ – a funicular named after a ghostly ship that is said to sail around the point.

Adult price: £16

Good for age: 4+