As one of the top 10 cities in the world, Cape Town deserves a spot at the top of your travel itinerary. See what makes this city so special among tourist and locals alike, and be captivated by Cape Town's charm.
The Mother City, as Cape Town is affectionately known in South Africa, caters for tourists with varying expectations. Whether your ideal holiday involves breathtaking natural scenery and sightseeing, affordable shopping opportunities, beautiful beaches, wining and dining or simply a relaxing family holiday, Cape Town offers it all.
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Your holiday in Cape Town
Be prepared to gasp at the beauty that waits when your plane touches down at Cape Town International Airport.
Table Mountain, set against the deep blue hues of the Atlantic Ocean and the grey-green swells of the Indian Ocean, will greet you This beacon towers against the bustling city. Its table is often set with a tablecloth of a thin cloud layer, ready to dish every delight this city has to offer.
Diversity is the name of the game in South Africa and your holiday in Cape Town will be no exception.
You will experience Africa with every breath you take; the wide open skies, sunshine, rainbow nation people from all walks of life, townships and middle-class areas juxtapositioned with the most exclusive areas.
The very fabric of the people and the place will colour and flavour your Cape Town holiday. As the capital of the Western Cape
province, Cape Town is steeped in history as it was the first city established in South Africa some 400 years ago.
The laid back energy and friendly, easy-going nature of Capetonians underplay the fact that this city is one of the economic powerhouses of the South African economy.
There is always something to do in Cape Town. Visitors are spoilt for choice with some of the best restaurants and local wines of international acclaim; arts and theatre, shopping and relaxation; sightseeing, adventure and sports. In fact, anything you can dream of is possible in the vibrant Mother City.
Favourite suburbs among tourists
Bantry Bay is an exclusive suburb on the rocky Atlantic Ocean coastline. Enjoy uninterrupted views of giant boulders leading into the sea and watch the sun sink into the Atlantic Ocean after a long day. Bantry Bay is buffered from the city centre by Lion's Head, which is the eroded core of an ancient volcano and forms part of the Table Mountain range.
Camps Bay is the place to be seen. This trendy, upmarket seaside suburb is reminiscent of Miami beach with its palm-lined beachfront. It also offers soft white sand and glorious sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean.
The Mother City offers something for everyone - whether you're looking for markets, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theatres or museums - and the city centre, or central business district (CBD), is the perfect base for holidaymakers who like to be part of the action.
The trendy set meet in the City Centre to experience the city beat as Capetonians do, in the shadow of Table Mountain. This city is alive, both day and night.
Beach babes definitely prefer Clifton. This Atlantic Seaboard suburb offers four fabulously sheltered sandy beaches, ideal for sun tanning and cooling down in the refreshing ocean that laps onto the beach between large outsized boulders.
Mouille Point is a fun, friendly spot for holidaymakers who want to be in the middle of the action. Very close to the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town Stadium, the Promenade and also the city centre, it is an excellent coastal base from where to explore the city and surrounds.
Strictly suited to metro men and women, De Waterkant is where you will discover Cape Town's take on upmarket city living with majestic sea and mountain views and easy access to all places hip and happening.
If you can't stand the wind, opt for Fresnaye with stunning sea views without the breeze. Set high up on the slopes of Signal Hill, Fresnaye is an established suburb that offers easy access to the city, V&A Waterfront and all the Atlantic Seaboard beaches.
Step into the "Republic" of Hout Bay and become enamoured with this charming small harbour "town". Bring the family along to discover the harbour and town markets. Or simply spread out on the beach.
This quiet suburb without streetlights, shops and commercial activities is positioned between Camps Bay and Hout Bay, only 18km from the city centre on one of South Africa's most scenic ocean view drives. Llandudno's breathtaking beach is surrounded by large granite rocks and is a popular spot for surfing and beach sports such as volleyball and beach rugby.
Traditionally the place to be seen, with its Main Road lined with restaurants, pubs, diners and clubs, Sea Point never sleeps. The Promenade is a gathering point for locals and visitors, but also buskers and artists, from all walks of life.
Not only a shopper's paradise with its more than 4 000 retail outlets, the V&A Waterfront offers relaxed marine accommodation. Visitors can enjoy the harbour space without having to drive anywhere – whether visiting restaurants or bars – there are an excess of 80 eateries. The Robben Island ferry and various nautical adventures including yachts and catamarans depart from here. At the V&A Waterfront, the luxury of being will not escape you.
Things to do in Cape Town
Reach new heights
Table Mountain is one of the top attractions of Cape Town. It was voted as one of the seven new natural wonders of the world. Either take the Cableway or hike up one of the routes to enjoy breathtaking views from the top.
Get a guide
Guided city tours provide an excellent way of seeing the city in a short period of time. There are guided tours available to suit your particular interest – whether you want to take a walk in history and discover the secrets of the Castle of Good Hope, or opt for a tour of contemporary history and / or art. You can even take a culinary tour to sample local delicacies.
Dare to go bare
Hop onto the topless City Sightseeing bus for a city tour from where you can see all the sights and experience a bird’s eye view of everything Cape Town has to offer. Informative audio commentary is available in 15 different languages and children are catered for too with a special kids channel. Your ticket allows you to hop on and off to explore interesting sights and locations.
Eat, drink and be merry
There are few places in the world where you will be able to satisfy your culinary desires as well as in the Mother City.
With hundreds of good restaurants, offering a variety of food from exquisite continental gourmet dishes to African and Asian-themed cuisine, traditional Cape Malay and even Boerekos*, you will find fabulous and affordable food around every corner.
When one eats, one should drink and Cape Town also has the answer for that. The portal to the magnificent Cape Winelands, Cape Town’s restaurants and bars offer varied and interesting wine lists where you can order anything from limited connoisseur wines and craft beers to wines from world renowned and award winning South African wineries.
*Boerekos – traditional dishes prepared by Afrikaans speaking South Africans
Wonder at the winelands
If you want to experience where wine is made, it is simply half a day or a day trip away. Constantia in Cape Town was the first area where vineyards were planted in South Africa and you can visit the wine farms here for magnificent tastings.
Travel to the Cape Winelands, a mere 45 minutes' drive from the City Centre, to experience a wide variety of wine farms and wine estates, from large estates to undiscovered gems, that make up the Cape wine culture. Most of these hospitable establishments offer tastings and sales of their wines and many have eateries where thirsty travellers can line their stomachs while indulging in the wine.
Shop 'till you drop
Shopping in Cape Town
is as varied as the city itself. You will find designer boutiques, craftsmen jewellers and speciality art galleries at shopping complexes such as the V&A Waterfront.
Cape Town also has plenty of small interesting shops and markets where tourists can buy extra special handcrafted souvenirs and gifts.
Dance the night away
If you have socialising on the agenda, Cape Town's vibrant and diverse nightlife
does not disappoint. This vibey city doesn't need much sleep and generally, the party in the city centre areas of Loop, Lang, Bree and Waterkant Streets start an hour or so before midnight.
De Waterkant, Green Point and Sea Point are also nightlife stalwarts where you will not be left all alone in the middle of the night.
Catch some sun
Who can ever get tired of the beach? Cape Town's beaches
are divided into three main beach areas, namely the Atlantic Seaboard, False Bay and West Coast.
The Atlantic Seaboard beaches are made for sun-tanning and socialising, while False Bay's beaches are popular among families, surfers and even penguin-watchers at Boulders Beach. The long, sandy beaches towards the North of Cape Town are known as the West Coast beaches and they're especially popular amongst kite surfers.
See if surf's up
If nautical adventures are your game, you have plenty of activities to choose from. Windsurfing and kitesurfing are big, especially on the West Coast side to the North of Cape Town.
Surfing spots at Muizenberg, Noordhoek and Kommetjie along the South Peninsula are very popular. Get on board a yacht or catamaran from the V&A Waterfront and sail off on a sunset cruise. You can also arrange scuba diving, shark cage diving and a myriad of sea exploits.
Adventure and sporting enthusiasts can abseil from Table Mountain or cycle around its base. Take a full moon hike up Lion's Head to experience dizzying sea and city views.
Visit Cape Town to participate in one of the many top sporting events the city hosts: whether the Cape Argus Cycle Race, the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon or any of a number of events, Cape Town will accommodate you.
Most visitors to Cape Town feel well just for the sake of being in this gorgeous city. However, that doesn't mean your health and wellness is not important.
A variety of excellent spas and gyms can be found in and around Cape Town, where weary travellers are sure to find well-qualified therapists and coaches to look after your wellbeing.
Table Mountain forms part of a nature reserve and as such, the huge variety of plants and in particular, fynbos* species, are protected. Hiking trails abound in the Table Mountain National Park and routes of varying distances are available to visitors, from quick loops to the Hoerikwaggo* hiking trails which allow visitors to overnight on the mountain.
Visit Silvermine to experience the unique coastal floral diversity and marvel at the fauna – anything from tortoises to dassies* and small buck are regularly spotted in the veld*. The mountain still houses large troops of baboons and the nocturnal Cape Mountain Leopard, caracals, genets and porcupines, although these species are not sighted often.
*Fynbos - natural shrubland vegetation occurring in a small belt of the Western Cape
*Hoerikwaggo - a Khoisan word that means "Mountain of the Sea"
*Dassies – African rodents found among rocky outcrops
*Veld – a wide open rural landscape
Get to the point
Take a drive along Chapman’s Peak for stunning scenery and push along through Hout Bay and Noordhoek all the way to Cape Point. This place where the colder Atlantic Ocean meets up with the warmer Indian Ocean offers breathtaking natural beauty.
Cape Point, part of the Table Mountain National Park, has a tram ride on offer to take you to the top. You can also dine here in full view of the vast oceans below.
Lounge in the garden
The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a national treasure and displays hundreds of unique and indigenous plants, trees and shrubs.
In addition, Kirstenbosch doubles up as a very popular music venue. Visitors bring their own picnics to sprawl out on the lawn in the shadow of Table Mountain. On Sunday evenings in summer, the Summer Sunset Concerts offer the best lineup of local singers and bands.
Pop over to the island
A visit to Robben Island should be on your itinerary during your visit to Cape Town.
Take a ferry to the island, which lies about 8km off Table Bay, to see where political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela spent some of their time. A tour of the museum and prison cells reveals many soul-touching stories of pain, healing and forgiveness.
Find food for the soul
The Iziko South Africa Museum offers a very interesting natural exhibition and is an excellent place to view the South African animal kingdom and get a good perspective of the actual size and scale of the wild animals.
Integrated with the Iziko Museum, the Cape Town Planetarium is also worth the visit, as is the District Six Museum, Bo Kaap Museum and the Irma Stern Museum, which showcases artwork from this internationally acclaimed artist.
Take part in a feast
There is always some sort of festival taking place in and around Cape Town and visitors will delight in taking part in the variety of fun to be had – be it the Cape Town Carnival, one of many wine harvest festivals and grape crushing festivals, music festivals and concerts, design fairs and food festivals.
Cape Town offers plenty of excellent accommodation options to visitors with varying expectations.
The Atlantic Seaboard is an excellent position from where to explore Cape Town and surrounds. Self-catering holiday rentals, whether luxurious villas or upmarket apartments, are gaining popularity amongst visitors who want the freedom to explore.
Self-catering holiday accommodation in Cape Town
offers privacy, convenience and choice for guests to come and go as they please and to take meals, entertain friends and get to know the city as the local do.
Vacation rentals in Cape Town are on average 60% less expensive than equivalent hotel accommodation. - Western Cape Tourism Barometer report of 2011
Luxury self-catering apartments in Cape Town
If you want to be in the thick of things, seek out a holiday apartment in the city centre where you can almost touch the mountain or delight in harbour views.
Luxury self-catering villas in Cape Town
Secure your vacation villa on the slopes of Table Mountain to be near all the action while you can sprawl out in your mountainside mansion.
To feel the spray of the ocean on your face, secure an apartment or villa in Bantry Bay and experience the mighty Atlantic Ocean in your space.
Enjoy a real beach holiday by renting a vacation villa or apartment in Camps Bay, from where you can take a walk down to the beach to spread out in the sun every day.
Party all night with the trendy set and drag yourself home to your vacation villa or apartment in the City Centre to catch 40 winks before the party starts again at lunch.
In Clifton, holiday homes are known as beach bungalows. Upmarket and sleek, you will not tire of your view of the ocean and one of the four beaches that makes Clifton world famous.
Stay in Mouille point for amazing sea and mountain views, easy access to the Promenade, the V&A Waterfront and the city centre.
If an address is important to you, accommodation in De Waterkant will not disappoint to underpin your bohemian flair. Central and sassy, De Waterkant apartments put a new spin on easy living.
Seek out a villa or apartment in Fresnaye if you are worried that the wind may bring you down. Known as one of few Cape Town suburbs which escapes the wind, you will not tire from being high up on the mountain and enjoying your sea and city views.
Hout Bay is great place for families and people who like living close to nature to explore why this suburb calls itself its own "republic". It has a small, pleasant beach, plenty of restaurants and a lovely harbour to enjoy.
Llandudno's white sandy beach is surrounded by large granite rocks and is a popular surfing spot. Families flock to this quiet, secluded suburb every year to escape the city's mayhem and enjoy the stillness.
When it's important to be near the party, vacation villas and apartments in Sea Point offer excellent choices. Exercise aficionados will love the Promenade, where you can walk, run, bike or wheel around safely, day or night.
Elite and exclusive, accommodation in the V&A Waterfront's Marina lets you relax in this magical area where everything is available at your fingertips.
Cape Town weather
In Cape Town, every season has unique appeal and, to be honest, there is no best time to visit Cape Town
Summer days are long and make for great beach weather, while visitors from colder climates are often astounded to find warm winter days in Cape Town to match their hottest summer weather. Winter is the rainy season, which is great for snuggling up, getting cosy and sampling some excellent Cape red wine next to a wood burning fireplace.
Whichever you prefer, there is a season in Cape Town that is cut out just for you.
Spring: September to November
Spring in Cape Town is when the floral kingdom is at its best. Not only does the natural fynbos burst into bloom, with Table Mountain supporting no less than 2 200 species, but indigenous flowers also appear in every nook and cranny.
Most wildlife give birth to their young in spring, so visitors stand a good chance of welcoming new babies (be they whales, small bucks, birds, or dassies and other small critters), to the world during their spring visit to the Mother City.
Spring is also arguably the best time of the year for outdoor activities and adventure enthusiasts will find plenty to do to fill their days.
Summer: December to February
In summertime, the living is easy in the Cape. Chill out on the beach, eat, drink and be merry.
You can expect crowds, so book and plan your days well ahead of time to avoid disappointment. The vibe in Cape Town during the silly season is incredible.
If you want to experience Table Mountain lit up at night, summertime is your season in the Cape. Christmas lights spread cheer in Adderley Street and the Cape Minstrels in their colourful garb maintain a general sense of festiveness during the holidays.
Autumn: March to May
When the first leaves fall, the South-Easter wind usually dissipates and sightseeing season arrives. This is the time to soak up the sun while visiting all the sites without getting stuck in the queues.
If you don't like crowds, also avoid the Easter school holidays, which will result in Cape Town getting busy with people flocking in from all over to enjoy the spoils that only this city can offer. The weather is usually still warm in autumn and it is a great time to take in the wide expanse of the African sky that spreads over the Mother City.
Great news for gourmands is that the month of May usually rings in the restaurant specials, where patrons can choose between two- and three-course options at special set rates.
Winter: June to August
The biggest secret about this season is that there are plenty of beautiful sunny days in between the rainy weather.
Experience the sun warming your back while you take in the sight of frolicking whales in the waves that come close to the Cape Town shores to give birth and mate during the winter months.
Winter is also a great time for wine tasting next to roaring fireplaces. It provides the perfect setting to get acquainted with South Africa's unique red wine cultivar, Pinotage. For a distinctive experience, sample this earthy red wine with tropical flavours in combination with South African game meats.
How to get to Cape Town
There are direct flights to Cape Town International Airport from no less than 30 cities worldwide, including African and Middle Eastern cities; London in the UK and various cities in Europe, as well as Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
Welcome to Cape Town International Airport
Cape Town International Airport has recently benefitted from substantial renovations in excess of R1 billion. The airport can accommodate 60 000 take-offs and landings and is well equipped with customer services and facilities.
Comprehensive banking and currency exchange services are available, while a dozen dining outlets will ensure you don't go hungry. There are around 30 regular and duty-free retailers and executive lounges.
Special facilities at the airport include an OSCA medical surgery, baby changing amenities and office space in the Premier Lounge.
Getting around in Cape Town
It is easier to get around in Cape Town than you might imagine and there are various transport options available to visitors.
Car hire is relatively inexpensive and a great way to enjoy your holiday by coming and going as you please. South Africans drive on the left side of the road, similar to drivers in the United Kingdom.
Visitors from Europe and the United States may find this slightly confusing, but our roads are generally good, wide and easy to negotiate. There are numerous car hire companies at Cape Town International Airport.
It's an easy 20km drive to get to the centre of Cape Town. However, parking in the city centre can be troublesome so make sure your vacation rental has an allocated parking bay if you are driving yourself.
From the airport, a metered taxi to the city centre will cost between R300 and R400. However, these fees may vary depending on the operator. Meter taxis are easily available and can also be used for outings and excursions.
My Citi shuttle bus
Cape Town recently benefitted from the introduction of the MyCiti shuttle buses. These buses take you from the airport into the city centre. They also operate on a variety of routes in and around the city.
Technology savvy visitors will simply love using Uber to get around. Download the cell phone app and find an affordable lift whenever you need it, wherever you are and wherever you’re heading. No money changes hands and your credit card is automatically debited.
Tipping in Cape Town
Tipping in restaurants is expected and between 10 – 15% is the norm, depending on the value of the service. Tipping is not necessarily expected by taxis and Uber drivers, but will always be appreciated. Porters, car parking guards and other helpers expect tips, so keep a few R10, R20 and R50 notes handy.
Visit Cape Town soon
Why don't you pick a season when you would like to get to know Cape Town and the amazing variety it offers?
Get your family and friends on board and come to Cape Town, one of the world's top 10 cities and the most charming city in South Africa. Discover its secrets, get acquainted with the African spirit and share in the action and fun of this world-class vacation destination.
Seek out the perfect spot for you and your friends or family to explore your interests and pursue your passions in South Africa's Mother City. She cannot wait to welcome you onto her shores.