Cape Town is a gentle entry point for anyone wanting to experience the African continent for the first time. In addition to the traditional South African culture and sights, visitors will find international flair here and can experience a wonderful beach holiday.
The “Mother City” is the city from which travel dreams are made – because this is where breathtaking nature meets colorful city life.
The city on the Cape is a place of contrasts
Cape Town is often referred to as the “Mother City” (Afrikaans: Moederstad) because it was here that the first city of the South African colonial era was founded. The journey from the airport to the city center shows that Cape Town is not a perfect place. It leads along miles of townships where people live in very confined spaces and often in great poverty. No wonder, then, that the capital of the Western Cape Province is characterized by stark contrasts.
Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has gradually calmed down politically and over the years has transformed into a popular tourist destination. Cape Town is particularly attractive to many visitors. Because the city is not only the perfect starting point for a road trip along the famous Garden Route, but also has a lot to offer itself.
The V&A Waterfront is the heart of the city
The first port of call in Cape Town is often the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront . It is a real magnet for visitors and offers a huge range of entertainment. From bars, restaurants and street food to street musicians and amateur actors to countless shopping opportunities, there is nothing here that does not exist. Those who wish can visit the Two Oceans Aquarium (open daily 9:30am-6:00pm, Admission: R220 for adults, as of 2022) or book a helicopter tour over the Cape Peninsula.
One of the highlights of the V&A Waterfront is the seaport, where sailing yachts, excursion boats and fishing boats come and go. The most beautiful buildings include the bright red bell tower, completed in 1882, and the Time Ball Tower.
Shopping and feasting on the waterfront
Shopaholics will get their money’s worth at the V&A Waterfront. The huge Victoria Wharf Shopping Center (open daily from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm) houses not only the usual chains, but also smaller shops and boutiques with handicrafts, clothing and accessories in South African style. Also worth a visit is the Watershed Market (open daily from 10am-6pm). More than 150 dealers offer ceramics, textiles, furniture, fashion and jewelery here.
Last but not least, the huge gastronomic scene makes foodie hearts beat faster. The V&A Food Market (open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) offers a particularly large selection . More than 40 restaurateurs offer local products at fair prices. From hearty burgers to sushi and poke bowls to creative desserts, there is something for every taste.
Table Mountain: Experience Cape Town from the top
The 1086 meter high Table Mountain is also one of the city’s visitor favorites. It offers a sensational view over the city and the coastal region. Once at the top, visitors will find a beautiful circular hiking trail on which they can observe the dassis (dassies – similar to marmots) and colorful shimmering lizards that are typical of South Africa.
The ride on the cable car , which starts at the Lower Cable Station, is particularly uncomplicated . The return ticket costs R390 for adults (as of 2022). It is advisable to buy the tickets online in advance . In strong winds, the cable car remains closed. If you fancy a sporting challenge, you can explore Table Mountain as part of a hike. Depending on the weather, however, it can be very hot or extremely cold and windy, so good equipment is a basic requirement. There is more information about the different hiking routes here .
Fly non-stop from Munich to Cape Town with Lufthansa
Cape Town’s green lungs: The most beautiful parks in the city
Cape Town is considered the greenest city in Africa. On the one hand, because the “Mother City” constantly strives for a clean and sustainable lifestyle. On the other hand because of the many parks and gardens that run through the whole city like small green oases.
Green Point Park
Green Point Park (open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) is a little paradise in the middle of the city. It opened in 2012 and offers walking paths, playgrounds and fitness facilities. Capetonians like to spend their lunch break here in the shade of the trees. There are also occasional concerts and events, such as the Cape Town Pride Mardi Gras Festival in March.
The Company’s Garden
The Company’s Garden (open daily 7am-7pm) is the oldest park in Cape Town – it was laid out as early as 1650 by European settlers. Located right by Parliament, it is home to the South African National Gallery (open daily 9am-5pm, Admission: R30 adult, as of 2022), the South African Museum (open daily 9am-5pm Admission: R30 for adults, as of 2022) and the Planetarium (open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 – 14:30, as of 2022). The Company’s Garden Restaurant is also particularly beautiful with its unusual seating.
Probably the most unique park in Cape Town is Battery Park. It meanders from Lower Long Street across the city to the V&A Waterfront. Green areas alternate with sports fields, skate parks, cafés and cool shops. If you prefer to travel by water, you can hop on one of the water taxis. A very special experience is a paddle tour with the stand-up paddle board, which can be rented from SUP Cape Town .
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (open daily 8am-7pm) is the largest botanical garden in South Africa and definitely a must-see when visiting Cape Town. The countless indigenous plants and trees can be admired on beautifully landscaped hiking trails. A great experience there are the concerts that take place every Sunday from December to March. The hike up Table Mountain also starts from the Botanical Garden. Those who wish can take part in a free, guided tour Monday to Friday at 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Meeting point is the Visitor’s Center at Gate 1.
Colorful, colorful, Bo-Kaap!
Probably the most colorful district in Cape Town is called the “Malay Quarter” or “Cape Muslim Quarter”. Bo-Kaap (English: Over the Cape) is famous for its historical buildings that shine with all colors of the rainbow. The district is full of history and culture and offers a unique mix of different architectural styles.
The story of Bo-Kaap, on the other hand, is anything but happy: The flat-roof houses are so-called “Huurhuisjes” (rental houses), which were originally rented to Muslim slaves (Cape Malays) and all had to be white or brown. After their emancipation in 1834, most of them earned their living as craftsmen. According to legend, when the former slaves were finally allowed to buy their houses, they painted them in bright colors as a symbol of their freedom.
For interesting information and a glimpse of culture, visit the Bo-Kaap Museum (open daily 9am-5pm, Admission: R20 for adults, as of 2022). The building is furnished like a 19th century Muslim house. An interesting exhibition documents the history of Bo-Kaap and the successful struggle against the apartheid regime.
The most beautiful beaches around Cape Town
Cape Town not only offers big city life but also some of the most beautiful beaches in South Africa. They’re a bit out of town, but a little trip to the Cape region is definitely worth it.
Camps Bay is just a few minutes drive from the center of Cape Town. The beautiful seaside resort is often referred to as “South Africa’s Côte d’Azur” and enchants with its picturesque location between the “Twelve Apostles” mountain range and the Atlantic. Although the water here rarely gets warmer than 16 degrees, in summer sun-seekers plunge into the water in droves. You can end the day in the bars and restaurants on the palm promenade, which offer a great view of the sunset.
Another beautiful suburb is Noordhoek with its dream beach Long Beach on the west coast of the Cape. Coming from Cape Town via Chapman Peak Drive, the six-kilometre-long sandy beach is about three quarters of an hour outside of the city centre. However, it is less suitable for swimming due to the strong currents. A nice alternative are the horseback riding trips along the beach, which are offered by the numerous riding stables around Noordhoek.
One of the most beautiful beaches on the east coast is Muizenberg Beach, which can be reached from Cape Town in about half an hour. It is part of a 40 km stretch of beach that stretches along False Bay to Gordon’s Bay. Muizenberg Beach is an Eldorado for surfers – the conditions are often ideal for both beginners and advanced surfers. Typical of the beach are the colorful wooden bathing houses, which are known as “Edwardian Beach Houses” and are used as changing rooms or for storing surfboards.
Another half hour further south on the east coast is Boulders Beach. It is famous for its Caribbean colors and for the large penguin colony that occupies almost the entire beach. The colony of African penguins (“Jackass penguins”) has grown from a couple of penguins to around 2000 animals since the 1980s. They can be visited for a fee (R170 for adults as of 2022).
A day trip to the Cape of Good Hope
A fantastic day trip is the route from Camps Bay via Hout Bay, Noordhoek and Kommetjie all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope. In the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, which covers around 8000 hectares, a scenic road leads for around 15 kilometers to the most south-western point of Africa. Unfortunately, entry has quadrupled in recent years for international visitors and now costs R360 for adults (as of 2022).
Nevertheless, the visit is worthwhile, because there is an incredible amount to see at the Cape of Good Hope. For example the picturesque Diaz Beach, more than 1100 native plant and 250 bird species, antelope and with a bit of luck even whales that swim past Cape Point on their annual migration. Incidentally, there are 26 shipwrecks around the Cape that can be explored on the Shipwreck Path. More information on local activities can be found here .
Cape Town: South Africa at its best
Cape Town is not a perfect place – but a unique one. A dream destination for travelers who don’t want to choose between city, beach and breathtaking nature. A small paradise for foodies and connoisseurs. And a place of longing for everyone who wants to get a taste of Africa for the first time. Cape Town is not only the perfect starting point for a trip through South Africa. The “Mother City” also makes you want to get to know the African continent better, try out new things and immerse yourself deeply in an exciting culture.
Practical tips for a trip to Cape Town
- How long should you stay in Cape Town? Alone for Cape Town with its different districts, parks and markets you should plan at least two but better three full days. Four days is the minimum if you also want to explore the surrounding beaches and the Cape of Good Hope.
- Is Cape Town dangerous? After the security situation in downtown Cape Town had improved significantly in recent years, the situation has become a little more tense since the corona pandemic. Still, the city’s crime rate is well below that of Johannesburg and other regions in South Africa. During the day, people of all genders are generally safe to roam anywhere in Cape Town. At night, it’s better to avoid more remote neighborhoods outside of the touristy areas around Waterfront and Long Street on foot. Bo-Kaap alone is also not recommended after dark.
- Do you need a rental car in Cape Town? In Cape Town, visitors can travel safely and cheaply on public transport during the day. At night it is advisable to switch to registered taxis, which are also not expensive. However, a rental car is recommended if you want to explore the surrounding beaches and suburbs. Alternatively, travelers can book organized tours or book a driver relatively cheaply.
- Which accommodations in Cape Town are recommended? The Southern Sun Waterfront Cape Town offers cozy rooms, a small but nice pool and free parking . The 4-star hotel is located near Battery Park – the waterfront is within walking distance. Those who want to be right in the middle of the action are in good hands at the beautiful Long Street Boutique Hotel on the street of the same name.
- Is Cape Town expensive? In Cape Town and South Africa in general, prices have risen significantly in recent years. Compared to Germany, food, restaurants and entrance fees are still relatively cheap. On average, the cost of living is about 30 percent lower than in Germany.
- What is the best way to pay in Cape Town? In Cape Town you pay in South African Rand (R) – each Rand consists of 100 cents (c). There is a well-developed network of banks and ATMs on site. It is now possible to pay with a debit or credit card almost everywhere. Nevertheless, it is advisable to always have some cash in your pocket. You need it, for example, in markets, in very small cafes or at street stalls and for tips.
- What are the best restaurants in Cape Town? There are countless restaurants and cafés in Cape Town – you will rarely be disappointed. For example, the Grand Africa Café on the waterfront (Granger Bay 1 Haul Rd) offers delicious food and creative drinks with a great view of the sea . The Company’s Garden Restaurant (15 Queen Victoria St) in the park of the same name offers creative outdoor seating and a great atmosphere . For delicious coffee and healthy snacks, head to Newport Market & Deli (125 Beach Rd). Tashas Waterfront (Shop 7117) at Victoria Wharf Shopping Center serves delicious breakfasts and tapas between meals.