Sir Francis Drake once described it as “the fairest Cape in all the circumference of the world”. And now, a few centuries later, it’s still difficult to argue with the intrepid seaman’s depiction. These days Cape Town is appreciated not only for its natural beauty, but also for its rich heritage and cultural attractions. And the fact that it’s fast establishing itself as one of the world’s top culinary destinations only enhances its appeal.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of things to do in Cape Town that showcase different elements of the Mother City. Whether it’s exhilarating outdoor adventures, sophisticated dining experiences, or a wonderful theatre experience you’re after, these are the things you must do in Cape Town (especially if you’re a local).
Please note Cape Town is in the midst of its worst drought in over a century. So, (first-time) visitors and locals, please help us to conserve water in our beautiful city.
Go Cycling on the Promenade
The Sea Point Promenade is to Cape Town what Las Ramblas is to Barcelona, and Central Park to New York: a beautiful public space where locals (and tourists) can enjoy the(ir) city in a safe and secure environment. The fact that The Promenade boasts spectacular views – of the ocean on one side, and Lion’s Head on the other – makes it even more special. The paved walkway, lined with palm trees, is perfect for cycling. Simply rent a bike at one of the Up Cycles stations (which are dotted at various points throughout the city, including The Promenade, V&A Waterfront and the Camps Bay strip) and return it by sunset.
Good to know Up Cycles rents out bikes every full moon for a night ride around the city. If it’s your birthday (and you have your ID to prove it), they’ll give you a free hour-long bike ride.
Opening times Daily (last rides depart 30 minutes prior to sunset)
Cost R70 – R130 (1-3 hours)
R200 (half day)
R250 (full day until sunset)
R60 (child seat)
Helmets and locks included
Contact 076 135 2223 or 074 100 9161, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The Pavilion on Sea Point Promenade
Silo 5 at the V&A Waterfront
Breakaway Cafe, Waterkant Street Fan Walk, Cape Town City Centre
Bay Hotel, Victoria Road, Camps Bay
Do Afternoon Tea at Mount Nelson
Leisurely, luscious and decidedly luxurious, high tea at the Nellie (now known as the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel) can be taken in the lounge, on the spacious terrace or in the exquisite gardens around the fountain. The formal yet leisurely ambience is conducive to enjoying the superb food and beautiful surrounds.
Included in the high tea price is bottomless coffee and hot chocolate as well as a variety of teas, including hibiscus, mixed berry, Earl Grey Blue Flower, Oriental spice and so many more.
Experienced waiters present your tea in see-through tea pots and let you know how long the tea needs to brew before you take your first sip.
Opening times Morning Tea: 9.30am – 11.30am
Afternoon Tea: 1pm – 3pm & 3.30pm – 5.30pm
Evening Tea: 6pm – 8.30pm
Cost Morning Tea: R285 (adults); R205 (children 4 – 11)
Afternoon Tea: R365 (adults); R205 (children 4 – 11)
Evening Tea: R365 (adults); R205 (children 4 – 11)
Contact 021 483 1000, email@example.com
Location Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, 76 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town
Explore the city at night during First Thursdays
Cape Town’s innercity is abuzz with activity on the First Thursday of every month when Capetonians (and visitors) wander through the various galleries and stores, enjoying the city’s rich cultural landscape, which has in recent years promulgated in the area between Wale and Strand streets.
To start off your evening, grab a map of the city at your first stop, which is any one of the participating galleries, and plot out your route. Some of our favourite participating shops and galleries include the Book Lounge on Roeland Street, 99 on Loop, Michaelis Galleries at UCT’s Hiddingh Campus on Orange Street, Chandler House and Ground Art Caffe.
Looking for some thirst quenchers and pick-me-ups along the way? We recommend Ash, Cábron Taco Bar, Marrow, Souk, The Hungry Herbivore, Cafe du Cap – all of which are featured on our Hottest New Spots in the city.
When First Thursday of the month, 5pm – 9pm
Location The area between Wale and Strand Streets, as well as a few galleries, boutiques and shops in Bree and Buitensingel streets.
Do a Sunset Yoga Class on Clifton Beach
Enjoy exquisite scenery and breathe in unadulterated fresh air, while increasing your flexibility, improving your posture and core strength at Victoria Csarmann’s outdoor yoga classes. (Also check out her Saturday morning classes in the Company’s Garden.)
Clifton 3rd Beach, voted the second best beach in the world in 2015, is the stunning venue for her 60-minute Vinyasa Classes, which take place every Sunday at 6.30pm (from November until the end of the summer season).
When Sundays, 6.15pm (from 5 November 2017)
Cost R50 (at the venue)
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 081 329 4543
Location Clifton 3rd Beach, Victoria Road
Enjoy a Cabaret Dinner Theatre at Gate69
Also known as the “Purple Palace” (have you seen the outside walls?), Gate69 opened on 87 Bree Street in September 2016. The Burlesque-meets-The Birdcage theatre is the first of its kind in the Mother City, and nothing quite like it exists elsewhere in the country.
Dinner tables in the theatre are fabulously dressed in gold and purple, with a dusting of glitter, while the waitresses are clad in outfits that match the theme of the evening’s performance. If you’re lucky, you might be served by the famous Trolley Dollies, who at nine-feet in heels and wigs will ensure your drinks come out faster than a Boeing at take-off!
The theatre only caters for up to 90 people, which means the audience never feels excluded from what’s happening on stage. It’s certainly an experience you won’t forget in a hurry!
Read our review of the Gate69 Cabaret Dinner Theatre.
Opening times Wednesday – Saturday, 6.30pm
Cost R450 (Economy Class, includes dinner)
R550 (Business Class, includes dinner)
R595 (First Class, includes dinner)
Contact 021 035 1627, 071 589 2915, email@example.com
Location Gate69 Theatre, 87 Bree Street, Cape Town City Centre
Reviewer Michelle de Bruin
Go foraging with a pro
The “forest to fork” movement has taken root at many of the Cape’s top restaurants, as chefs take their passion for fresh ingredients and provenance to new levels by sourcing them straight from our oceans, fields and forests. These tours – a collaboration between Jocelyn Meyers, executive chef at Table Bay Hotel, and famous forager Charles Standing – provide some insight into this emerging art form, as well as a glimpse into the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our ancient ancestors. The best part: guests get to join Jocelyn at the Table Bay Hotel, where she’ll use the foraged-for ingredients to prepare a three-course meal.
Contact Book through Sun International by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, or book a private tour with Charles Standing at email@example.com
Soar over fynbos forests, majestic valleys and thundering waterfalls, in this zipline adventure brought to you by Canopy Tours SA and CapeNature. Named by Lonely Planet as the second best new attraction in the world in 2015, there’s little to compare to the exhilaration of looking down into a gaping canyon as you slide along a steel cable (some of which run up to 320m long).
Based in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, about one hour outside of Cape Town, the tour kicks off with a 4×4 ride high into the mountains, where guests are supervised by professional guides as they attach themselves to cables that run from platform to platform. Once the high-flying adventures are concluded, guests are transported back to base camp where they can enjoy a meal.
Insider tip Cape Canopy Tours has started including free tour videos for clients.
Opening times Tours depart on the hour from 8am to 2pm, and each tour lasts approximately four hours.
Cost R895 per person
R855 per person with a Wild Card
Includes a fully guided trip, light lunch and rain gear for wet weather
Contact 021 300 0501, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, R321, Elgin
Do the MUSEUM MEANDER
There’s a small pocket in the Gardens that reminds us of the National Mall in Washington DC, because it’s populated with some of the city’s major museums and cultural landmarks. Take a stroll down Wale Street, making stops at the Iziko Slave Lodge and St Georges Cathedral, from where Reverend Desmond Tutu, the first black archbishop of South Africa, led numerous marches and campaigns to end apartheid. Then turn into Queen Victoria Street, where you’ll find the Iziko South African Museum and the Planetarium. Nearby, in Government Avenue, take a slow amble through the magnificent Company’s Garden, before heading to the SA National Gallery. The Cape Town Library, on the corner of Parade and Darling Streets, is housed in the Old Drill Hall, a historical building that was erected in 1884. Give yourself time to explore the SA Jewish Museum in Hatfield Street, where a walk around the Holocaust Centre comes recommended.
Cost Entry to the Company Gardens is free
Contact 021 423 2919, email@example.com (The Company’s Garden Restaurant)
Location Company Gardens, 15 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town
Taste the flavours Cape Town
The Cape Town Cuisine Route takes you on a culinary journey around the city to sample an array of Cape Malay, isiXhosa and (sometimes) pan-African dishes. This is a truly different experience that exposes you to the real Cape Town – not the travel-brochure destination. The tours include visits into ordinary people’s homes where you watch how the dishes are made before tucking into them.
When Daily, 2pm – 6pm
Cost $120 (around R1 700) per adult
Contact 021 813 9829, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Coffeebeans Routes, iKhaya Lodge, 8 Wandel Street, Cape Town
Watch a movie under a starry sky
If the idea of watching your favourite flick under a starlit sky sounds wonderful, listen up. From October to April every year, Galileo Open Air Cinema screens a series of silver-screen classics (as well as some millennium favourites) at various scenic locations around the Cape, including the V&A Waterfront, Kirstenbosch Gardens and rotating venues in the Cape Winelands. Blankets and backrests can be hired, and delicious picnic baskets can be ordered when you book your tickets (and collected on arrival). Get there before the movie starts so you can enjoy the live music and festive atmosphere (it also helps to reserve your spot on the lawn).
Cost R89 (standard)
R110 (includes backrest and blanket)
R140 (per picnic basket)
R175 for VIP (includes premium seating, drink, blanket, backrest, popcorn and sweets)
Contact 071 471 8782, email@example.com
Location V&A Waterfront, Kirstenbosch Gardens and rotating venues in the Cape Winelands
Head to the Lourensford Twilight Market
Set on one of the most renowned (and picturesque) wine estates in the country, this market has over 70 vendors selling a vast array of fresh produce, art and crafts. Its layout is one of the nicest around – with food, craft and fashion stalls arranged in a horseshoe shape around a tree- and umbrella-shaded courtyard with plenty of seating and live music. With beautiful, award-winning gardens surrounding it, an interactive fountain and kids entertainment, there is little this market doesn’t have. It’s even dog-friendly.
When Friday, 5pm – 9pm (Twilight Market)
Sunday, 10pm – 3pm
Contact 072 284 1654, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The Lourensford Market, Lourensford Wine Estate, Lourensford Road
Climb the CITYROCK
This impressive indoor rock-climbing facility has been a popular playground for budding mountaineers for years, and now the owners are opening an exciting new gym in Paarden Eiland! The new CityRock is four times the size of the current one, and 900 square meters larger than the Joburg gym. Its world-class include a full fitness area with weight and cardio machines, and a double-lane speed wall where young athletes can train for the climbing Olympics in 2020.
Other facilities at the new complex include a 16-metre-high rope-climbing wall (the highest wall at the Observatory gym is only 10 meters); 750-square-metre floor area of bouldering (compared to 150 square meters at the original gym); 100-square-metre yoga studio (four times the size of their current studio); and a designated kid’s climbing section, and party area.
Please note The new CityRock opens on 13 January 2018. Until then, you can still visit the original CityRock in Observatory.
Opening times Mondays – Thursdays, 9 – 10pm; Friday, 9am – 6pm; Weekends & Public Holidays, 9am – 6pm; Closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day
Cost R150 (adults)
R110 (under 18)
Gear rental available.
Good to know City Rock also offers membership options for unlimited use of their facilities. Find out more about their rates.
Contact 021 447 1326, email@example.com for bookings and additional info.
Location 21 Anson Road, Observatory
The new gym will be at 9 Milner Street, Paarden Eiland, Cape Town. Click here to see directions from their current location.
Explore a Cave on Lion’s Head
This quaint little cave, above Lion’s Head’s busy main path, is the perfect picnic spot. It’s easy to get to, and makes for stunning pictures – of the setting sun, rising moon and the path winding up Signal Hill towards Lion’s Head. Once there, the spectacular views of Signal Hill and the harbour are simply breathtaking.
Good to know Although Lion’s Head is renowned for being a full-moon viewing spot, it is still dangerous to climb the mountain in the dark. So bring flashlights and very sturdy shoes if you plan on staying late.
Please note Always have your wits about you when hiking in the Cape, as robberies have been reported around many of the hiking trails.
We are aware that Wally’s Cave has been closed to the public as a result of damage to the path. However, according to the Kloofnek Office, Watchman’s Cave is still accessible as it is located above the main footpath.
Contact 021 422 1601 (Kloofnek Office)
Getting there From Cape Town’s city centre, drive up Kloof Nek Road and at the intersection with the turnoff up Table Mountain’s Tafelberg Road, take a right turn onto the Signal Hill Road. Park anywhere along the road. Your path starts at the steep dirt track with a boom in front of it. Watchman’s cave is just above the main path going up Lion’s Head at the part that looks directly onto Signal Hill.
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