Cape Town Travel Guide

Cape Town Travel Guide

With great restaurants, spectacular scenery, perfect beaches and a Mediterranean climate, Cape Town encompasses everything you could need in a holiday destination:

An eclectic blend of cultures and traditions, Cape Town is a modern and cosmopolitan city located at the southern tip of Africa. Nestled between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town is often named among the world's most beautiful cities. Cape Town's many attractions include its postcard-perfect beaches, tucked away between fashionable cafes and multimillion-dollar beach houses; excellent restaurants and a lively nightlife that attract Hollywood celebrities; and the rolling hills of the nearby Cape Winelands, which offer decadent tasting experiences. Climbing at least one of the spectacular mountains in the city is obligatory.

In addition to the most famous tourist attractions, visitors can enjoy a traditional South African braai (barbecue) at lively township restaurants like Mzoli's, catch a rugby match at the historic Newlands Stadium, go on a pub crawl down Long Street, or browse the wares at one of the city's dozens of craft and food markets.

Cape Town is a melting pot of cultures, with African influences blending with Cape Malay, English and Dutch culture. Mix in a blend of residents and tourists from all over the world, and you have a fascinating city that never fails to enchant.

Best time to visit Cape Town

December to March (summer) is peak season for Cape Town, although the weather can be lovely in spring and autumn with crisp, clear days ideal for sunbathing and sightseeing. The December holiday season can be uncomfortably hot at times and tends to be crowded with local tourists. Winters in Cape Town can be cold and rainy and are usually avoided by travellers. Read more on Cape Town's Climate and Weather.

What to see in Cape Town

-Visit the District Six Museum for a peek into Cape Town's tumultuous history.

-Tour the infamous Robben Island prison, where Nelson Mandela was held for nearly 30 years.

-Say hello to the marine life at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

-Take a township tour through Gugulethu or Khayelitsha.

What to do in Cape Town

-Take a cable car to the top of the iconic Table Mountain for a spectacular view of the city.

-Sun yourself on the sand and cavort with penguins at Boulders Beach.

-Treat the kids to a ride on the rollercoasters at Ratanga Junction.

-Have a picnic and listen to a concert in the stunning Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Beyond Cape Town

Cape Town is well-situated to be part of a larger holiday in South Africa. Tourists can take a trip through the Cape Winelands, drive along the Garden Route, explore the beaches on South Africa's West Coast, or fly up to Johannesburg for a safari in Kruger National Park. Popular weekend getaways include wine-tasting in Stellenbosch, whale-watching in Hermanus, bird-watching in Knysna and shark cage-diving in Gansbaai.

Getting there

Cape Town International Airport is located 13 miles (20km) east of Cape Town, and there are buses and taxis available into the city. Flights to Cape Town are available from a number of major international airports, including Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, and Dubai. Many airlines offer flights with layovers in Johannesburg, however travellers should make sure they have plenty of time to clear customs. Get more information on Cape Town International Airport.

Did you know?

-Cape Town's two nicknames, the 'Cape of Storms' and the 'Cape of Good Hope', were given to it by Bartolomeu Dias, who discovered it in 1486.

-Every day except Sunday, the Noon Day Gun booms across the city to signal 12pm. The cannon is located on Signal Hill, and tourists can attend the ceremony.

-The world's first heart transplant was performed by Dr Christiaan Barnard at Cape Town's Groote Schuur Hospital in 1967.

Cape Town's V&A Waterfront © coda

The lure of a holiday in Cape Town lies in its spectacular setting and the beauty of its natural environment, as well as the rich cultural diversity of its people. The city has had a long and turbulent history, and the effects of colonisation and Apartheid still linger in the minds and hearts of the people. Transformation, however, has led to a feeling of hope in this new 'Rainbow Nation', which can be experienced in the cosmopolitan city centre of Cape Town. Flower sellers, business executives, parking attendants, office workers and shoppers all rub shoulders in a setting of both historical and modern buildings, backed by the city's most famous landmark, Table Mountain. The colourful Malay Quarter, the remains of District Six, St George's Cathedral, Government Avenue and the old Castle are historically significant, while world-class African and international restaurants tempt travellers with their culinary delights. Although an African city, Cape Town has a marked European influence and visitors can experience the excitement of Africa from the comforts of distinctly First World surroundings.

Cape Town's unique setting means that views of the city can be enjoyed from various spectacular vantage points: Table Mountain, Lion's Head, and Signal Hill provide breathtaking vistas over the city bowl and the Cape peninsula with its beautiful beaches; trips to Robben Island offer a dramatic sweep of scenery across to Table Bay; and harbour tours and old buildings await exploration at the cosmopolitan Waterfront. Many scenic routes meander along magnificent stretches of coastline and inland terrain leading to special places like Cape Point and Chapman's Peak, which boasts one of the most picturesque stretches of road in the world.

This vast combination of culture, history and scenery leads to an unforgettable experience. This is a special place with much to contribute towards its growing reputation as a favoured travel destination.

Our Travel Expert

An American expat currently living in South Africa, Anya Klaassen has travelled widely as a musician and writer.

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