An In-Depth Travel Guide to Cape Town (Updated 2020)

This week, Natasha and Cameron from The World Pursuit share their advice for visiting Cape Town. It’s among my favorite cities on the planet and offers plenty of hiking, history, wine, and incredible views!

Dominated by the iconic Table Mountain, which serves as a backdrop all around the city, Cape Town is a mish-mash of cultures. Its appeal was apparent your day we arrived: we’d a monthlong apartment rental and various “must-see” sites, however the laid-back vibe of the town had us in no rush to take action.

After just one single hour of exploring, we thought to each other, “We will think it’s great here.”

After 8 weeks of soaking up sunlight, enjoying the outside, and eating delicious food, we still hadn’t were able to pull away from the town. The magic of Cape Town extends well beyond its beauty; it is based on what it could offer visitors.

Whether it had been looking into a weekend market, hiking, attending a jazz concert, canyoneering, or spotting some wildlife, we never ran out of things you can do. And you won’t either!

1. Have a Free Walking Tour

Start your visit off with a free of charge walking tour. It’s the simplest way to introduce yourself to the town and start to find the lay of the land. You’ll start to see the main sights, learn some history, and move on to meet an area expert guide who can answer all of your questions.

Free Walking Tours Cape Town offers free daily walking tours. Taking one is the easiest way to kick your trip off. Be sure that you tip your guide towards the end (that’s how they make their living).

2. Benefit from the View from Table Mountain

At over 3,500 feet above sea level, the views from Table Mountain will be the best in the town. Taking the famous cablecar up the mountain was among the first things we did. However, at 330 ZAR (USD $22 USD), it really is relatively expensive.

If you would like to hike up instead, the shortest trail takes about two hours. At the top, you’ll get to like a 360-degree view of Cape Town, the harbor, the mountains, and the beaches. The optimum time to go to is during sunset — hike up, bring some snacks, and revel in the view!

3. Drive Chapman’s Peak to Cape Point

Past Chapman’s Peak southwest of Cape Town is Cape Point National Park, where one can witness the collision of the Atlantic and Indian oceans at the Cape of Good Hope. The national park offers long hikes, coastal birdlife, and an opportunity to take in the tiniest and richest floral kingdom on the planet, the fynbos (a little belt of natural shrubland).

You will need to pay a 52 ZAR ($3 USD) toll to operate a vehicle on the highway; however, the scenic drive is really worth the price! The famous highway snakes along the vertical cliff faces of Table Mountain, leaving you wondering whether your vehicle find yourself in the Atlantic.

Be prepared to spend at least 250 ZAR ($15 USD) each day for accommodations car. The entry fee to the Cape Point National Park is 320 ZAR ($18.50 USD).

4. Visit Robben Island

Visiting the former political prison on Robben Island was on top of our list of things you can do. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned here 18 years and the website was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1999.

A former inmate personally guides everyone around the prison. It really is both sobering and inspiring to understand first-hand about the first black president of South Africa from individuals who actually knew him. We could actually hear their stories and sit in the same exact cells where prisoners who fought because of their rights were locked away.

It’s hard to take into account the victims of political oppression still in prison all over the world and understand that, despite what the news headlines may say, we’re a whole lot further along than simply 2 decades ago.

Ferries operate 3 x a day, starting at 9am (a fourth ferry operates through the summer). Admission is 320 ZAR ($22 USD) for adults and 200 ZAR ($13.50 USD) for anybody under 18 (tickets are the ferry ride).

5. Explore Hout Bay

On weekends in Hout Bay, artisans and vendors from around the town come to the Bay Harbour Market to market their goods: from fish stew, souvenirs, crêpes, jewelry, art, and even mojitos can be found, as are live bands.

You will get almost anything you can crave. We discovered the marketplace by happenstance: we’d come to frolic in the water with the seals in Hout Bay, and just followed the sounds of the buzzing market. We enjoyed it so much we returned multiple times.

The marketplace is open Friday evenings from 5pm-9pm and weekends from 9:30am to 4pm.

The bay and harbor are also home to a great deal of seals and seabirds. Between June and November, there are also migrating whales here. Right whales, humpback whales, Bryde’s whales, and dolphins are within abundance. If you wish to have a whale-watching tour, be prepared to pay around 900 ZAR ($50 USD) per person.

6. See Kirstenbosch Gardens

On a good spring day, we headed to the southern suburbs to look at Kirstenbosch Gardens. Set against the slopes of Table Mountain, the stunning botanical gardens are appropriately dubbed “the most amazing garden in Africa.”

Kirstenbosch offers visitors an opportunity to explore the fynbos and different floral kingdoms found over the African continent. Spanning over 1,300 acres, the gardens were actually established over 300 years back and so are home to over 22,000 types of plants. Make sure you do the tree canopy walkway — it provides amazing views.

This is hands-down was among our best outings and provided a welcome escape from the town. Admission is 70 ZAR ($5 USD).

7. Relax at Muizenberg Beach

Muizenberg is a southern suburb of Cape Town well-known for its boardwalk and surf. It’s a 30-minute car ride from the town center and the perfect spot to discover ways to surf. The laid-back neighborhood is a beach bum’s haven and includes a strong multicultural vibe that’s refreshing. A one-hour lesson with wetsuit costs only 350 ZAR ($20 USD) and produces a terrific way to get active on holiday.

If surfing isn’t your thing, a nearby can be home to several cultural events and yoga studios. We took a stab at a free of charge yoga class, accompanied by a wholesome wrap and smoothie along the beach. Afterward, we took photos of the famous beach stands that are painted in a rainbow of colors.

8. Hike Lion’s Head

While hiking up Table Mountain might take too much time for an evening hike, the adjacent Lion’s Head is a 45-minute climb to the very best. It’s basically the little sister to Table Mountain.

Ensure that you bring a camera on your own hike, because it’s the most photogenic spots in Cape Town. Rising high above the town skyline, it still provides incredible views of the town, sea, and Table Mountain. The evening we hiked up, we witnessed a rare show as a minimal blanket of clouds made all trace of man disappear.

Sunrise and sunset could be crowded times, as locals and tourists alike clamber up the mountain to take the impressive vista. Once along with the peak make sure you reward yourself with a classic African “sundowner” (a glass or two while you’re watching the sunset). Our personal drink of preference may be the classic gin & tonic; it complements a sunset on Lion’s Head perfectly.

Remember to bring a flashlight for the hike back off!

9. Start to see the Boulders Beach Penguins

This is near the top of our to-do list in Cape Town. So, we saved it for a particular occasion and made our way to start to see the home of a large number of African penguins (the colony houses over 3,000 penguins).

Visitors can properly view them from an elevated boardwalk, while still giving the massive colony their personal space. You’ll know where in fact the African penguin’s second name, “jackass penguin,” originates from when you hear them call.

Boulders Beach Park costs 152 ZAR ($9 USD) per person to enter, with the fee likely to the upkeep of the park and conservation of the penguins. Don’t make an effort to have a photo too near a penguin — they bite (I’m speaking from experience).

10. Wine and Dine in Stellenbosch

The most world-renowned wine regions is a 45-minute ride beyond Cape Town. There are a huge selection of privately owned vineyards around Stellenbosch, with tastings typically costing 60-75 ZAR ($4-5 USD) (food pairings can be found aswell).

In the event that you don’t have a car and want to have a tour, be prepared to pay at 1,000 ZAR ($68 USD) per person for a half-day tour. Many hostels in the town also run their own tours or have partnerships with local guides who may take you as well. Make sure you check around for the best price!

Additionally, browse the Vine Hopper, a hop-on, hop-off van with various vineyard routes. When you can only visit one vineyard, we’d recommend Lanzerac to taste the foundation of the region’s individual Pinotage variety.

11. Wander Bo-Kaap

Walking distance from the town center may be the colorful Cape Malay (Muslim) neighborhood of Bo-Kaap, the former quarters of the city’s slave population. However, as time passed, a nearby grew, and different communities have called it home.

Nowadays, the Cape Malay population resides in a captivating neighborhood. Don’t feel shy walking through and taking photos; the residents are friendly and used to presenting their homes photographed and posted on Instagram. We visited a nearby each morning to catch good light for photos watching a nearby stand out.

We finished up staying for two hours, looking into South Africa’s first mosque, Auwal Mosque, and eating at among the best Cape Malay restaurants in a nearby, Bo-Kaap Kombuis.

Afterward, we’d a lot of fun posing for photos before the bright orange, green, pink, blue, and yellow houses.

12. Visit Slave Lodge

Slave Lodge was built-in 1679 by the Dutch East India Company to accommodate their slaves. It’s among the oldest buildings in the town. Until 1811, over 60,000 African slaves were taken to the town, with 300 surviving in the cramped lodge at the same time.

Today, the lodge is a museum where one can find out about the hardships slaves faced within their daily lives in Cape Town.

Typical Costs in Cape Town

In comparison to other big cities all over the world, Cape Town is certainly affordable. Hostels and apartments will offer you the very best rates on accommodation, buses (albeit slow and inconsistent) are incredibly cheap, no good meal should cost you a lot more than 120 ZAR ($7 USD) unless it’s at an upscale restaurant.

We were never on an ultra-tight budget so we lived quite comfortably, with great food and entertainment for 25 % of what it cost in NYC. Our only splurge days involved excursions beyond the town, like canyoneering, whale watching, or bungee jumping — which cost between 900-1,400 ZAR ($50-80 USD) per person.

Overall, I’d say that you ought to budget 662-836 ZAR ($38-48 USD) each day if you’re a backpacker. If you’re more of a mid-range traveler who stays at cheap hotels and eats out often, be prepared to spend between 1,220-1,480 ZAR ($70-85 USD) each day

How exactly to CUT COSTS in Cape Town

That will help you save money throughout your visit, below are a few quick tips that helped us keep our budget intact:

Go in the off-season — Traveling during South Africa’s winter weather can help your wallet. Through the summer, locals leave the town to the tourists and South Africans from around the united states dominate.

In the wintertime, you have the opportunity to find cheaper apartments on Airbnb since there is less competition. We visited in September and could actually negotiate with several apartment owners for the best deal. It pays to look around!

Enjoy free activities — If you’re looking free of charge things you can do, then getting active is a superb solution. Climbing Lion’s Head, swimming at the beach, and running along the ocean Point promenade are free activities offering a good workout. Nearly every outdoor activity in Cape Town will offer stunning views of the ocean aswell!

Avoid shopping in touristy areas — Shops at the Watershed, in Camps Bay, and downtown offer handmade local products — however they aren’t cheap. They are probably the most visited areas in the town so prices are usually higher. If you’re seeking to spend less, don’t shop in the tourist areas!

Stay static in budget-friendly neighborhoods — Camps Bay, Sea Point, and the Waterfront areas are property hotspots: they are many of the most beautiful regions of Cape Town. Therefore they’re the priciest areas in which to stay.

For less expensive options try Muizenberg, Vredehoek, or Woodstock. We stayed in apartments in each of these neighborhoods, which offered their own sightseeing but we were still only an Uber ride from the primary sights.

Find cheap groceries — Shoprite and Checker’s will be the two cheaper supermarket options. If you’re cooking your own meals, shop at either of the two stores.

***

There is little reason to wonder why more and more people are attracted to Cape Town. The town has almost everything to provide: beaches, food, mountains, wildlife, history, culture, wine, and adventure sports.

Exploring Cape Town does take time. Life appears to move just a little slower in the Cape. The locals enjoy their city’s very laid-back attitude, and you’ll wish to accomplish the same. We stayed for just two months but still hear about things that people missed. We’re already plotting our eventual return!

Natasha and Cameron run your blog The World Pursuit, concentrating on adventure and cultural travel. You can follow their adventures on Instagram and Facebook.

Book Your Visit to Cape Town: Logistical Guidelines

Book Your Flight Look for a cheap flight through the use of Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite se’s, because they search websites and airlines around the world, which means you always know no stone has been left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld because they have the most comprehensive inventory. If you wish to stay someplace else, use Booking.com, because they consistently return the least expensive rates for guesthouses and hotels. The best places in which to stay Cape Town are:

  • The Backpack Cape Town
  • Ashanti Lodge Gardens
  • 91 Loop

Don’t Forget TRAVEL COVER Travel cover will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in the event anything goes wrong. I never embark on a trip without it, as I’ve had to utilize it many times previously. I’ve been using World Nomads for a decade. My favorite companies offering the very best service and value are:

  • World Nomads (for everybody below 70)
  • Insure My Trip (for all those 70 or more)
  • Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)

Looking to discover the best companies to save lots of money with? Have a look at my resource page to get the best companies to use when you travel! I list those I use to save lots of money — and I believe they will assist you to too!

Looking for more travel tips for South Africa? Have a look at my in-depth South Africa travel guide for more methods to save money, tips about what things to see and do, suggested itineraries, informational reading, packing lists, and far, a lot more!

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An In-Depth Travel Guide to Cape Town (Updated 2020)