By Jessica Russo
You're going to Cape Town?! Ugh, we are so jealous. Get ready for majestic mountainscapes, sparkling seas, colorful streets, and spirited culture. Not only does this unique destination boast laid-back beach vibes and jaw-dropping views, it's filled with hip, foodie-filled neighborhoods of local markets and world-renowned restaurants.
If you're flying all the way to the southern tip of Africa, you want to make sure you see everything while you're there. Of course, you can never see "everything" in one trip, but we've put together an expert list of the absolute must-see and -dos, so you don't miss any of the good stuff. Check off these sites and watch the trip of your dreams turn into a dream come true!
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1. Take a cable car up to the top of Table Mountain
Yes, you can hike up. If you're a seasoned adventurer, by all means, go for it! But, keep in mind that most of the trails are not exactly easy or quick. There's nothing wrong with taking the "easy route." Enjoy once-in-a-lifetime 360-degree views as you effortlessly glide to the top.
2. Sample small plates at Pot Luck Club
This is, hands-down, one of Cape Town's coolest restaurants. Located on the top floor of the Old Biscuit Mill, this innovative eatery will make you want to come back every day.
3. Hike up Lion's Head
Gaze out at the majestic Twelve Apostles and look down at the entire city below. This easy-moderate hike allows even those who are afraid of heights (or just not in tip-top shape) to experience unspoiled nature. If you're looking for a thrill with a beautiful payoff, try to find Wally's Cave. Or, take it up a notch and consider taking a full moon hike!
4. Snag some goodies at Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock
Wander around this adorable little village of markets, restaurants, and unique shops! Locals love to stop at the Neighborgoods Market that's open on Saturdays from 9am-2pm. This old lil' barn area is located in Woodstock, Cape Town's artsiest area. Be sure to explore the nearby streets filled with coffee shops and street art.
5. Take photos in Bo-Kaap
Nestled on the slopes of Signal Hill, this former township celebrated its freedom by painting its buildings in happy, bright colors! Snap tons of pics of these spectacular streets.
6. Eat (and drink) on Kloof and Bree Streets
These two streets are Cape Town's "it" streets. Filled with tons of trendy bars and restaurants, you won't want to eat anywhere else. Be sure to check out Black Sheep Restaurant, then grab drinks at Asoka and Yours Truly!
7. Bargain at Green Market Square
Head to this historical square for some of Cape Town's very best souvenir shopping. Cheap, authentic items made by locals? Yes, please. Sometimes, you can even watch locals craft goods right in-front of you! Meet friendly vendors and find that souvenir that you'll keep forever. Pro-tip: don't be afraid to bargain. If something is listed for R50, ask the vendor if they'll take R40. They expect this behavior, and it can never hurt, as long as you are respectful.
9. Wander around the V&A Waterfront
Mosey around this adorable seaside area of outdoor restaurants and artisan shops! Listen to the sweet sounds of locals playing marimba music, then take a sunset ride on The Cape Wheel. You'll fall in love with "the waterfront!"
10. Have dinner at Gold Restaurant
Get ready for a true South African experience in this vibrant, safari-themed restaurant. Listen to live drumming as you savor the flavors of the Cape!
11. Visit Langa township
It's important to remember that Cape Town isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Learn about the complicated history of pre- and post-apartheid South Africa and consider taking a township tour. Many travelers visit Langa, Cape Town's oldest and largest township, steeped in hisory of the Xhosa people. Meet locals and experience this community's culture and way of life.
12. Become awestruck at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Ya' know those places that make you stop and say whoa? This is one of those places. Gawk at soaring mountains and breathe in the fragrant scent of exotic plants. Put on your brave face and take a walk on the Tree Canopy Walkway! Pro-trip: stop at Moyo, Kirstenbosch's on-site restaurant, for lunch!
13. Lounge (and brunch) at Camp's Bay
Everybody loves Camp's Bay. Take in its unbelievable beach scenery - bright blue water against sky-high mountains. After you do some sandy sunbathing, grab brunch, dinner, or a drink at any of the popular restaurants that line the beach. On the weekends, this spot is buzzing with locals!
14. See the colorful huts on Muizenberg Beach
Yes, this is that beach with those cute little colored huts. Although Muizenberg is a 30-minute drive from Cape Town's center city, most travelers make it a point to go. With picturesque views, surfer-approved waves, and a cool town strip, Muizenberg is a great mini-day-trip. Pro-tip: when in Muizenberg, eat at trendy Tiger's Milk. This popular South African restaurant also has locations on Kloof and Long Streets, so be sure to visit one (or all) of the three.
15. Get a "Gatsby" sandwich at Mariam's Kitchen or the Golden Dish
You haven't experienced real, traditional Capetonian food until you've had a gatsby. This signature sub-sandwich is filled with fries (or "chips," according to South Africans), cheese, and meat, and is then smothered in sauce. Check out these two gatsby spots that are deemed the best by locals.
16. Party on Long Street
It's loud, it's busy, it's funky - it's Long Street! This central street is filled with lively bars, souvenir shops, and vibrant restaurants (watch out, some of them are a little touristy). Its Victorian-style architecture makes Long Street feel like a South African version of New Orleans. At night, watch young locals spill out onto the street and have the times of their lives. Pro-tip: While Cape Town is generally safe, Long Street becomes a hotspot for panhandlers on non-busy nights. As long as you don't wander into quiet alleyways and don't walk off by yourself, you'll be perfectly fine. Like any city, just use your head.
17. Soak up some sun on Clifton 4th
Sugar-white sand, dizzying blue waters, and green palm trees, galore! This stunning beach is an absolute fan-favorite. While the "4th" is easily the most popular, the Clifton beaches are numbered 1 through 4. The second-most-popular is Clifton 3rd, Cape Town's party-vibe gay beach!
18. Eat at Foxcroft in Constantia
Take a quick 20-minute drive to Constantia, a beautiful wine-producing suburb of Cape Town. Treat yourself to an indulgent meal at this renowned restaurant!
19. Take a ferry to Robben Island
Not only is this day-trip an important interactive history lesson, it's also a stunning experience of natural beauty. As you sail away from the shores of Cape Town, you'll be able to look back at the "skyline" that Table Mountain and other landmarks create. Spot marine life during the ride, then look for penguins once you reach Robben Island! This island represents political unrest, race issues, and now, freedom. The former prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held, Robben Island is a fascinating place to learn about South Africa's past first-hand.
20. Hike to the Cape of Good Hope
Discover some of the most magical coastal scenery you'll ever see in your life! Stroll along walking paths on the Cape Peninsula and feast your eyes on rugged cliffs, deep blue waters, and lush greenery. Reach the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-western point of the African continent. Keep your eyes out for exotic birds and baboons along the way!
21. Visit the District 6 Museum
Learn all about District Six, a former mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, laborers, and immigrants, that was declared a "white" neighborhood during apartheid. Once this happened, the original mixed community of people was completely displaced, causing 1/10 of Cape Town's population to become homeless, devastated, and stripped of their possessions. Pro-trip: many of the District 6 tour guides were former District 6 residents! Be sure to inquire about that, if you decide to take a tour.
22. Sip on a coffee at Truth
Sip delicious, freshly roasted coffee at this steam-punk themed cafe! If you ask any Capetonian what they're favorite coffee place is, they'll say, "Truth, of course."
23. Go shark cage diving...
...if you dare! Take a boat ride out over the chilly ocean waters until you spot a mysterious fin. Along with your guide's assistance, jump in the cage and get up close and personal with a Great White predator!
24. Paraglide off Signal Hill
Calling all adrenaline-junkies! See Cape Town from a truly unique perspective - from above! Sail above this beautiful city, and get a thrill while you sightsee.
25. Attend a rugby match
South Africans are serious about their rugby. Treat yourself to a match at Newlands Stadium and cheer along with the locals!
26. Enjoy the food and festivities of a braai
A "braai" is the South African equivalent of an American barbecue. It, however, is about so much more than just food! Braais are fun parties where people come together to eat good meat, drink good drinks, and dance to fun music. Head to Mzoli's for an amazing braai experience! Bring good vibes and your appetite.
27. Enjoy cocktails at Tjing Tjing
You'll fall in love with this upstairs cocktail lounge. Tjing Tjing blends Cape Town's laid-back feel with trendy sophistication. Mingle with locals on the picture-perfect rooftop!
28. See adorable penguins at Boulders Beach
Drive down the scenic Cape Peninsula and stop at Boulders Beach - yes, it's really a beach filled with penguins! See these cute lil's guys in their natural habitats, and take tons of photos to make all your friends back home jealous.
29. Look up at the stars
Yes, Cape Town, like any city, produces light pollution. South Africa, however, produces some of the most amazing night skies in the world! When the sun goes down, head to the beach or a desolate wildnerness area. Gaze up at the world's beauty in disbelief and feel tiny against the vastness of the starry sky above you.