Find out where is Cape Town, South Africa located and what are the best things to do and to see in this city!
The famous city called Cape Town, in South Africa, is super photogenic and colorful. It’s the legislative capital and the second most populous city in the country, behind Johannesburg only.
With a population of around 3.5 million, it has attractions and unique landscapes like Table Mountain, which in 2019 received more than 29 millions of tourists, and the Cape of Good Hope, the southwestern point in the African continent.
This is one of my favorites cities in the whole world, it is not by chance that I already visited it twice and on my last trip I stayed around for about a month.
To help you planning your trip which will certainly be unbelievable, I prepared this complete guide of Cape Town with lots of love, where I compiled everything I learned as a tourist and as a friend of locals in the past few years.
Here you will find out where the city is located, why it deserves to be part of your itinerary, where to stay and, in my opinion, the main thing: what are the best things to do in Cape Town during the day or at night, no matter if it is sunny or if it is rainy =)
What you need to know about Cape Town, South Africa
Let’s start by answering the main questions that travelers have about Cape Town:
Cape Town is a seaside city located in South Africa, a country that, as the name says, is in the south of the African continent.
Where is Cape Town on the map:
The best way to get to Cape Town, South Africa is often by taking a flight:
– From Johannesburg it’s a 2 hours flight.
– From Dubai it’s less than 10 hours flying with Emirates
– From Europe, there are many non-stop flights with around 11 hours of flight, like: KLM, from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam or Air France from Charles de Gaulle in Paris or even British Airways from Heathrow airport in London.
The main airport of the city, Cape Town International Airport (code: CPT), is 22km from the city center and has a good structure.
To reach the city center you may take a: cab, bus, transfer, uber or even rent a car.
Besides being a super colorful and cheerful city, Cape Town brings together nature, many tourist attractions, culture, wineries and a super diverse gastronomy.
It is almost always sunny and the city is very popular for those who wants to learn English, to do an exchange program or volunteer work. Ah, and it is also popular for honeymooners!
In addition, it is where Table Mountain is located, one of the 7 new Natural Wonders of the World and, for animal lovers, you may also dive with sharks or go whale watching.
Cape Town follows the pattern of the southern hemisphere:
From December to March it is summer, with with temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius and between May and August it is winter, between 8 and 12 degrees Celsius.
As it is a city full of beaches and natural attractions, it is most popular during summer, but bear in mind that the sea is cold and the wind keeps blowing all year round, which can give a feeling of a much lower temperature.
I have to confess that on my first visit I felt uncomfortable with some homeless people following me while begging for money, but it was not a problem, even being a woman traveling solo.
Either way, some precautions are highly recommended, such as:
– Avoid late arriving flights;
– Do not walk around the city at night (either alone or in company);
– If you request an Uber, make sure you check the license plate and the driver’s name before getting in;
– If possible, get a local SIM Card to have a communication option at any time.
Other important information and tips
- In addition to a valid passport, you must present your International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis with yellow fever vaccine upon arrival.
- Even though the country has 11 official languages, almost everyone speaks English in South Africa.
- South Africa’s currency is Rand (ZAR), so consider taking dollars or euros and changing it to the local currency when you get there.
- The voltage is 220V and they use the 3 round pin plug.
- Make sure you get a travel insurance! Check it out why we recommend World Nomads travel insurance.
Things to do in Cape Town, South Africa
Find out what are the best things to do in Cape Town during the day, at night or even when it’s raining!
Tourist attractions in Cape Town
Table Mountain is one of the biggest symbols of South Africa and is the highest point in Cape Town.
With a little more than 1000 meters high and approximately 3km long, it can be seen from almost any point of the city.
It is possible to go up and down the mountain by cable car or by hiking, but both times I visited I chose to hike upwards (starting around 2pm) and then I took the last cable car back to enjoy the sunset view from up there.
In my opinion, this is the best option for those who enjoy experiencing different things and to connect with nature as well.
There are several tracks that can lead you to the top of the mountain. On my first trip, I took a trail starting from Camps Bay, which was the most beautiful and it took us almost 3 hours to reach the top.
In my second time there, I chose an easier trail (about 2 hours hike) which begins in the parking lot near the park’s entrance, where the cable cars are located.
LMTM Tip: I strongly recommend you to wear appropriate hiking shoes and to take at least 2 liters of water and some snacks with you.
And for those who want to take the cable car and avoid the ticket queue: it is worth buying it in advance on their website.
In 2020, the ticket costs R200 one way, R360 the round trip. For updated prices click here.
Lion’s Head is a mountain in central Cape Town and a great option for those who enjoy hiking and love to watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
This is the place where Wally’s Cave, the most popular cave in South Africa is located. But due to the high number of tourists accessing the cave, the region began to suffer from erosion and had to be closed indefinitely.
LMTM Tip: The trail to the top of Lion’s Head is not so accessible, it is necessary to do some climbing at the end.
If you hike up to the mountain’s top to watch the sunset, bring a flashlight (a head flashlight preferably) to use on your way back. Also, start descending before the sun goes down completely to ensure your safety.
Next to Table Mountain, Signal Hill also offers very beautiful views of the city and the difference is that it can be accessed by car.
For adventure lovers, the main platform for paragliding flights is located there and it usually costs around R1300.
This is a must-visit place in Cape Town: it has a beautiful view, many restaurants, a food market, shopping mall, a ferris wheel, lots of handicrafts and, to cap it all, there are often local artists playing their music at Nobel Square.
Two restaurants that I loved to visit and I highly recommend are The Harbour House, Willoughby & Co and Col’cacchio.
Nearby, there is a staircase painted with many colors and geometric shapes, typical designs of the Ndebeles tribe of South Africa.
The free walking tour is highly recommended around here, as it is not a good idea to walk alone and with cameras on hand at Bo-kaap.
The colorful houses are very beautiful and cute, but if you don’t have enough time in your itinerary, you will not miss much.
If you like local handicrafts and street music, Greenmarket Square worths a visit.
Around the square you will also find food and several souvenir options 😉
Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden
Declared as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, Cape Town Botanical Garden is a great place for those who like plants.
And for music lovers, from December to March the summer festival takes place there with performances every Sunday in the late afternoon.
The general entrance cost in 2020 is R75 for adults.
This is the most beautiful road in Cape Town, which runs from Hout Bay to Chapman’s Point with beautiful views of the entire coast and several stops with panoramic views.
If you want to learn more about the country’s history, this tour is a good choice.
Robben Island is famous for being the prison where Mandela stayed for 18 years. It is located about 20 minutes by boat from the V&A Waterfront.
The price in 2020 for non South Africans are R600 for adults and R310 for children, updated prices here.
LMTM Tip: Check the weather forecast before buying the ticket, as they usually cancel in case of heavy rain. And if you go on a beautiful day you will have a great view of the whole city during the boat trip.
Cape of Good Hope
This is the most southwestern point of the African continent. It was after going around the Cape of Good Hope that Europeans discovered that it was possible to reach the East by sea and thus expand the international trade.
The place is managed by Table Mountain National Park and the entrance costs R303.
In the same region of Cape of Good Hope is Cape Point, a narrow strip of land where there is a lighthouse at the most southwestern point of the continent.
You may go up to the lighthouse by hiking or by taking a funicular. I honestly recommend you to take the funicular at least on the way up.
You may check the prices here.
A small city near Cape Town that is very popular for its wineries. It is also the second oldest European colony in the country.
Special Tip: the native grape from South Africa is the Pinotage.
In 2017 I took a day tour to Stellenbosch that included lunch and wine tasting at several wineries with the company Wine Flies, in 2020 the tour costs R1075 and I loved it.
If you prefer to spend a few days around this region, some wineries have accommodation options.
P.s.: We don’t recommend drinking and driving.
The best beaches in Cape Town
There is no doubt that nature is Cape Town’s main attraction, and the beaches cannot be left out of your itinerary.
Certainly the most famous and popular beach is Camps Bay and I really recommend you to watch the sunset over there.
The sight at the end of the afternoon is wonderful, and it overlooks the Twelve Apostles mountain, which is a rock formation at Table Mountain.
As a matter of fact, despite the name, in total there are 17 peaks and not 12.
Other beach options in Cape Town are:
Clifton Beach: divided into 4 parts by the stones, it is a beach with calmer waters and a little more protection from the winds. Ideal for families and is pet friendly.
Muizenberg Beach: this is the beach of the colorful houses and the good waves. Great option for those who enjoy surfing.
Boulders Beach: the penguins beach! It is possible to pay a fee (R70) to enter the park and see them up close. They are so cute that you’ll want to take them home!
P.s.: Please don’t feed, don’t touch and do not disturb the penguins while taking photos. 🤗
Hout Bay: with a little less structure, it is most popular on weekends because of the Bay Harbor Market, which takes place there on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays, with a lot of music, art and gastronomy.
Cape Town tours
White shark cage diving
Great white shark cage diving in Cape Town is one of the must things to do in the region.
White Shark Projects is one of the only two companies certified by Fair Trade Tourism as a Responsible Tourism company to carry out this type of diving, which is done inside a cage to spot white sharks safely.
We’ve got you a 10% discount for White Shark Cage Diving, check it out!
Boat trip & other dives
How about a boat trip to explore Walker Bay and spot whales and other marine species? Or go diving with blue or mako sharks?
One company that offers these tours is Majestic Cruising.
Another super interesting tour option is to see Cape Town from above with a helicopter flight.
The flight can take 15 minutes to 1 hour and you can see most of the touristic points of the city.
Tips from locals
The Old Biscuit Mill
A food market that takes place on Saturdays between 9am and 3pm in Woodstock neighborhood. I remember eating a delicious paella there, but there are also clothes and even art items for sale.
This is a place right in the middle of the city where you can rest, enjoy the nature and appreciate the local architecture.
Things to do in Cape Town on rainy days
A great option for rainy days is to enjoy the V&A Waterfront or the museums that are located in the city center which tell a lot about the country’s history:
- South African National Art Gallery
- Cape Town Diamond Museum
- The Heart Transplant Museum
- District Six Museum
- Iziko Slave Lodge
- Warrior Toy Museum
- The South African Jewish Museum (located on the same campus as the South Africa’s oldest synagogue)
What to do in Cape Town at night
Long Street is one of the main places for those who enjoy the nightlife, as there are many bars, restaurants and clubs located there.
The famous restaurant called Mama Africa and the Beer House bar are on this street.
For good music, the best option is is to enjoy the bars and restaurants of V&A Waterfront.
If you have enough time, take the opportunity to spend a night in Stellenbosch, a village with wineries, or in Hermanus, a very peaceful seaside city where you can watch whales and dolphins from the shore.
A beautiful but not well known place is the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, a park located 45 minutes drive away from Hermanus.
With many trails (R50 to enter), there we took a trail called Palm Trail and the whole route was breathtaking.
I only discovered this place because a friend of mine who was living in between Cape Town and Hermanus for over a year took me there.
Another option is to rent a car and self-drive through the Garden Route: a route with around 300km of natural landscapes between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
Where to stay in Cape Town
Cape Town is a very touristy and organized city, so there is a variety of accommodation that suits to all styles, but there are some particularities in relation to some locations.
Some neighborhood options are: Gardens, Sea Point, Waterfront and, of course, the city center.
We have another article with some suggestions and a more complete information about where to stay in Cape Town, South Africa.
And if you want to feel a bit of how was my trip to Cape Town like, check it out these highlights saved on our Instagram!