Crowds head for Table Mountain on any given clear, summer’s day (the same holds for any other season too, but summer tends to be particularly busy in Cape Town). Voted one of the new seven natural wonders of the world, Table Mountain is the city’s icon. It is also inundated and even on a good day there are queues for the cable car.
For a fulfilled experience, get there first thing in the morning to avoid queues. Try to avoid late afternoon tours as the wind tends to come up and deck the mountain with its ubiquitous table cloth.
The City Bowl
Stay in the city bowl if you want to explore the inner city, its history and many attractions – places like Tamboerskloof, Green Point and Oranjezicht are particularly trendy neighbourhoods.
While each of Cape Town’s outlying suburbs have in them something to recommend, you can not beat the Cape Town city bowl for access (or its historical value as the oldest part of the city) – you can walk to many of the highlights, and your taxi fares, when you take one, will not break the bank.
If you want to view the city from an alternative high point to Table Mountain, take the sunset bus route to Signal Hill (only during summer), which leaves the V&A Waterfront outside the Two Oceans Aquarium at 18h00.
The Food Bazaar
Head to the Eastern Food Bazaar on Darling Street if you are after a quick and cheap, alternative to eating in restaurants. You’ll find it on the town side of City Hall – something of a food hall that resembles an alley-way and provides plenty to choose from including Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern in particular.
The Visitors’ Guide
Get yourself a copy of Cape Town Tourism’s Official Visitors’ Guide 2020, which can be easily found at any of the visitors centres.
Amongst the numerous other activities you can do, including paragliding; explore: Albert and Sir Lowry Roads in Woodstock – for a feast of design, art, furniture designers, and art happenings close to the city’s fringe – and the east and central city – the Fringe, Greenmarket Square and the Bo-Kaap – each with an accompanying map to make exploring easier.
On Government Avenue
The Company’s Gardens, a park and heritage site in the city centre where you will also find the Houses of Parliament, is a good space in which to enjoy a take-out lunch or cool off on the lawns or benches in the shade. If the people do not keep you entertained, then the squirrels certainly will; and there is a lovely tea garden.
The most popular are Atlantic Seaboard beaches, and you really do need to experience the beauty of either Clifton or Camps Bay at least once. However, if you take the train to Simon’s Town (Southern Line) from the Adderley Street station, and head to one of the False Bay seaside villages – like St James, Muizenberg or Fish Hoek – you will be able to enjoy a more sedate, less frenetic swim in amongst locals, rather than holiday makers. Again, head out early to beat the crowds.
Head to the Labia Theatre on Orange Street for independent, art house and foreign-language movies without the mall. It’s hip, if a little bit grungy (but nobody minds for it’s part of the charm of the place). Tickets and popcorn are reasonably priced.
Every visitor heads to the V&A Waterfront. Without intention to knock it down as an attraction, it is worth pointing that it can get tremendously busy and is rather ‘touristy’. For a more contemporary alternative, head to Woodstock (between the city bowl and Observatory) for the Old Biscuit Mill’s trendy Saturday market and a growing collection of quirky restaurants and coffee spots, in amongst the design studios, bicycle shops and bohemian boutiques.
Tour on the Sight-seeing Bus
Despite the touristy angle, the hop-on-hop-off double decker red bus is so worth it. The two-day, two-route ticket includes a free night tour (in season), and canal cruise, and it means you can explore Cape Town in your own time. Tip: Buy your ticket online and save.
Take on Long Street
One more insider tip for when you are travel weary: walk up to the top of Long Street to the Turkish Baths. The building is over 100 years old and the baths include a sauna, steam room, warm room and cold pool as well as showers and bathroom facilities. For a fee you get a towel, some soap and a day bed. Guaranteed, you will walk out of there clean, relaxed and able to take on another day of sightseeing. There are alternative days for men and women.