Things to do in Cape Town

Must-see Cape Town sights

Cape Town is southern Africa’s most beautiful, most romantic and most visited city. If the landscape doesn’t take your breath away, its high-adrenaline activities from paragliding to kitesurfing should do the trick, and that’s before you’ve checked out the nightlife.

  1. V&A Waterfront
  2. Township tours
  3. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
  4. Zeitz Mocaa
  5. Cape Point
  6. The Bo-Kaap
  7. The Winelands
  8. Robben Island

Away from the thrills and pumping party scene, you’ll find a city boasting breathtaking beaches, rolling vineyards and fine museums – enough to keep you busy for however long your visit is. Despite this, most visitors escape the city to sample South Africa’s celebrated wines in the Winelands, and further east along the Garden Route, for whale watching and Big Game reserves.

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1. V&A Waterfront

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, known locally as the Waterfront, is Cape Town’s original Victorian harbour, with 19th-century buildings, shopping malls, waterside piers and a functioning harbour that all share a magnificent Table Mountain backdrop. If you’re wondering what to do in Cape Town that involves shopping with a view, the waterfront scene won’t disappoint. Redeveloped in the 1990s, it has gone onto become the city’s most popular tourist precinct for shopping, eating and drinking, and incorporates the Nelson Mandela Gateway – the embarkation point for unmissable trips to Robben Island.

Best for: Shopping and dining with stunning views.

While you’re there: Look out for Nobel Square, with its bronze statues of South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize-winners.

2. Township tours

The Cape Flats is the city’s largest residential quarter, whose African townships were historically set up as dormitories to provide labour for white Cape Town. One of the best things to do in Cape Town is a guided tour of one or two townships. Over the space of half a day, the tour includes a visit to a local home for some food, a creche, church or community centre, and often a sangoma (traditional healer). Other highlights include the Langa Heritage Museum and the Township Winery.

Best for: Seeing the reality of daily life for most Capetonians.

While you’re there: The Guga S’Thebe Arts & Cultural Centre has an outdoor amphitheatre.

3. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

The popular Table Mountain Aerial Cableway delivers dizzying views across town to Table Bay and the Atlantic. At the top, if you don’t want to walk far, you can wander the concrete paths stopping at the viewpoints; the upper-station area is undoubtedly one of the city’s best spots to watch the sun go down.

Best for: Photogenic views.

While you’re there: Buy an afternoon ticket, when the Cableway is quieter.

4. Zeitz Mocaa

Housed in a historic grain silo in the Silo District, the ambitious Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) is the world’s leading museum dedicated to contemporary art from across Africa and its diaspora, housed in over 100 galleries.

Best for: Seeing arty Cape Town.

While you’re there: Head up to the rooftop level for breathtaking views and a bite to eat.

5. Cape Point

Many people visit the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve , which is part of Table Mountain National Park, to see the southernmost tip of Africa and the place where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet at Cape Point. It’s an awesomely dramatic spot. Roam the treacherous rocky promontory south of Cape Town and experience one of the most dramatic viewpoints in the country. Cape Point really should be an integral part of any Cape Town holiday packages.

Best for: Flora, fauna and furry felons.

While you’re there: Take one of the several marked walks.

6. The Bo-Kaap

Minutes from Parliament, on the slopes of Signal Hill, is the Bo-Kaap, one of Cape Town’s oldest and most fascinating residential areas. Its streets are characterized by brightly coloured 19th-century Cape Dutch and Georgian terrace houses. The Bo-Kaap harbours its own strong identity, made all the more unique by the destruction of District Six, with which it had much in common.

Best for: Colourful Cape Town.

While you’re there: Visit the Bo-Kaap Museum.

7. The Winelands

The Winelands is a good excursion if you’re looking for things to do in Cape Town that ventures a little further out. An hour from Cape Town, the Winelands is all about indulgence – eating, drinking and relaxing. This is where you should go if you’re principally after a great lunch and a beautiful drive out of Cape Town.

Best for: Tasting South Africa’s wines

While you’re there: All the wineries are an easy drive from Cape Town; if you’re not staying overnight, you can easily visit four to six in a day.

8. Robben Island

Flat and windswept Robben Island, only a few kilometres from the buzz of the V&A Waterfront, is a symbol of the human spirit’s triumph over adversity. This key site of South Africa’s liberation struggle was intended to silence apartheid’s domestic critics, but instead became an international focus for opposition to the regime. From the17th until the late 20th centuries, it variously served as a prison and leper colony, and as a World War II military base Allow more than half a day for the trip, and book as far in advance as possible.

Best for: Visiting a smaller island.

While you’re there: Take a bus tour which stops at several historical landmarks.

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