Top 5 Things To Do In Cape Town

Cape Town, established in 1652, has grown from a settlement made up of three shiploads of employees from the Dutch East India Company, to a bustling city of 2.7 million people. Sir Francis Drake described it as ‘the fairest Cape in all the world’. First time visitors are taken aback by its varied beauty – a blend of stunning ocean views, high mountain peaks and bustling city life. If you have never been to Cape Town before and you don’t know where to start in terms of tourist attractions, read on. Here are our 5 top things to do in and around the city

1. Table Mountain

table mountain

You can’t miss it, either in seeing it from below or visiting the top. Going up Table Mountain is an absolute must for every visitor to Cape Town. The well-known image of Table Mountain is what makes Cape Town recognisable. It was honoured in 2011 by being announced (after 100 million votes) as one of the prestigious new “7 wonders of nature.” Looming 1km high above the city, it was first ascended by Antonio de Saldanha in 1503. These days, while there are many routes you can take to climb it, the easiest ascent is via a modern rotating Cable Car, that quietly and serenely lifts you upwards unveiling majestic views of Cape Town as you go. When you arrive at the summit, take a hike across the ‘table’ or sit and watch the sunset. Grab a bite at the self-service restaurant and browse the ‘Shop at the Top’.  The views are breath-taking. Best to book online and make sure you take something warm. When the wind is too strong, the Cable Car closes, so bear that in mind.

 2. Robben Island

robben island

A trip to Robben Island creates a lasting impression. Situated about 7km from Cape Town, in Table Bay, it is named after the many seals (robbe in Dutch) that frequent its waters. Robben Island became famous after its most well-known prisoner, late South African President, Nelson Mandela spent 18 years incarcerated on the island. The ferry sets out from the Nelson Mandela Gateway and arrives at Robben Island harbour about 45 minutes later. A simple bus tour follows. Your knowledgeable tour guide will open your eyes to some of the complexities of South Africa’s past. A visit to the cell Nelson Mandela occupied, almost always results in a feeling of humility and gratitude to Africa’s greatest son.

3. Cape Point

Cape Point

Cape Point is situated at the end of the Cape Peninsula in a protected nature reserve – part of Table Mountain National Park. Its tip is the second most southern point of Africa – the most southern being a few hundred kilometres up the coast at Cape Agulhas. The distance from Camps Bay to Cape Point is 62km, so should take you about one and a half hours by car. A large restaurant and curio shop will see to your refreshment and shopping needs. Be a little wary of any baboons that pass you by. While they look relatively innocent, they have been known to snatch bags in the hope of finding a free lunch. A funicular (named The Flying Dutchman) will take you up the steep hill to the lighthouse. If time permits, there are several walks in the area, suitable for both fit and not so fit visitors.  Try and pick a day that is not so windy. If it’s blowing in Cape Town, the wind at Cape Point will be a whole lot stronger. While the reserve opens at 6am, the restaurant and funicular only operate from 9am. Most of the year round, closing time is 5pm.

4. Castle of Good Hope

Castle of good hope

This is one of our favourite visits. Situated in the City Centre, it’s not far from Camps Bay and is a lovely morning outing. The Castle is the oldest colonial building in South Africa and dates back to 1666, when construction began. Originally it was situated on the water’s edge and was built as protectorate for the Cape. Steeped in history, look out for tours of both the castle and its dungeons. There is also a comprehensive photographic art display which traces the history of South African politics. The views from the turret top are dramatic and both amateur and professional photographers will enjoy the opportunity to snap the perfect picture of Table Mountain. The Castle is open seven days a week, except Christmas and New Year.

5. Two Oceans Aquarium

Two Oceans Aquarium

Another favourite for both young and old, Cape Town’s only aquarium is at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. A perfect outing for a rainy day, it’s a journey through a fascinating underwater world of colour and variety. Three thousand living sea animals inhabit the waters of the Two Oceans Aquarium. Watching the seals frolic, joining penguins for lunch or just browsing the many exhibits, you’ll appreciate how diverse are our river and ocean friends. One of the highlights are the sharks, where you get a close up view of these beasts of the ocean.  The more adventurous can take it to a whole new level and dive into the shark tank for a face to face encounter with one of the Cape’s most feared predators. A dive master will be at your side. The Two Ocean’s Aquarium is open daily from 9-30am to 6pm.

Cape Town has so much more to offer, but that’s for another day.