Cape Town is South Africa's crown jewel and the most European city you will find on the continent. Founded by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, this was South Africa's first attempt to create a modern metropolis, earning it the nickname “The Mother City”. “Due to its strategic location at the southwestern tip of Africa, it has played an important role in world trade for centuries. Today it is one of the three capitals of South Africa. The metropolitan area covers 950 square miles and is home to 3.5 million people. The city's setting, a spectacular coastline in the shadow of Table Mountain National Park, is as scenic as its history is problematic. Like the rest of South Africa, Cape Town is still trying to recover from the apartheid era ended in 1994. Crime and corruption are still problems, in 2010 the city helped host the FIFA World Cup and tourism and has only grown since then.
Time Zone: GMT +2.
What is the best time to go?
Cape Town is worth a visit all year round. Having said that, it looks different every season. From the end of December to March, it is the summer in South Africa. This is when Cape Town is alive with tourists fleeing their winters at home and locals enjoying the good weather. It's sunny, dry and warm enough to warrant a dip in the ocean. The city's social calendar is packed with events, and while prices may be higher during this peak season, at least everything is open. If you are looking for lower prices and fewer crowds, visit during the winter, late June to late September. Bring a raincoat with you because winter rhymes with rain. If whale watching is your goal, head to the Hermanus Whale Festival which usually takes place in late September. However, July and August are also considered excellent months for whale watching. Finally, the shoulder seasons can be just as unforgettable. Spring, from September to early December, is when wildflowers are in full bloom. Fall, from late March to early June, is considered the best time for cage diving with great white sharks.
Things you go to know:
Currency: Rand (ZAR)
($1 USD = 14.27 ZAR; Check the current exchange rate).
Tipping: Tips are very popular in Cape Town. If the service is good, 10% is usual. Sometimes a tip is added in restaurants, especially for groups, so check your bill before you accidentally tip twice.
What language do they speak?
Language: Most sources indicate that there are 11 official languages in South Africa (some say 12). Xhosa, English and Afrikaans are among the most widely spoken. Having said that, most people speak English and all signs in Cape Town are in English. There is no need for google translate. However, it can be helpful to know some common terms.
Lekker: great or nice; "That was a lekker surf session."
Braai: outdoor barbecue; "If you're lucky, locals will invite you to their weekend braai."
Bru: friend/pal; "My bru works at a winery in Stellenbosch."
Calling Code: +27 21
What about electric outlets?
South Africa uses C, D, M and N type plugs. Pack an adapter accordingly or prepare to buy one in Cape Town. The voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50Hz. Therefore, you may also need to purchase a converter if you are using a device that requires more voltage.
Information if you want to get around?
Trains: Cape Town trains exist as the Metrorail, but they are not particularly reliable. If you ask the locals, they can also be dangerous. It is not recommended to drive alone, especially at night. If you want to catch one, the most popular line is the South Line which goes to Simon's Town. Tickets can be purchased at train stations or from Metrorail agents with ticket machines.
Buses: While there are several local buses and minibuses, mostly vans that shuttle between commuters, the best buses for visitors are the MyCiTi buses. They connect the airport and serve regular stops in tourist areas with heavy traffic. Fares are loaded on myconnect cards which can be purchased at station kiosks and at some retailers and vending machines. Another option is the City Sightseeing Bus. These HopOnHopOff buses also make scheduled stops at popular tourist destinations and include commentary in 15 languages. The red line covers the northern part of Cape Town and the blue line goes to Hout Bay in the south. Tickets can be purchased online.
Taxis/Rideshare: Ubers are everywhere in Cape Town. They are reliable, secure, and extremely affordable. A 45-minute Uber from central Cape Town to a Muizenberg can cost as little as $12. They are also used at the airport. If you don't have Uber and want to use a traditional taxi, try using a verified pre-call service.
Top 5 hotels (recommended to stay):
12 Apostles Hotel and Spa
Address: Victoria Road, Camps Bay
Phone: +27 21 4379000
It's hard not to miss this five-star beachfront property as it's the only building on its scenic drive stretch to Chapman's Peak. Each of its 70 rooms offers a breath-taking view of the 12 Apostles mountain range or the Atlantic Ocean, where it is not uncommon to see seals sunbathing or whales breaching. Between the adjacent spa and the food and drinks served in the fabulous Leopard Bar, guests never even have to venture into town.
The President Hotel Cape Town
Address: 4 Alexander Rd, Bantry Bay
Phone: +27 21 434 8111
This prestigious four-star hotel located in the peaceful residential community of Bantry Bay is just a few blocks from the beach. Dozens of shops and restaurants are within walking distance. The property, popular with business and conference travelers, also houses a restaurant, spa, lounge, gift shop, and large, long-lasting outdoor pool.
Address: Dock Rd, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001
Phone: +27 21 431 5888
An urban resort that you would expect to find on a tropical island, OneandOnly offers Cape Town's most exotic accommodations. The property has several swimming pools, including the largest infinity pool in town. This pool houses two private islands with different suites ideal for families. In terms of other amenities, OneandOnly has a kids' club, spa, fitness center, and several destination restaurants, including Nobu.
Bliss Boutique Hotel
Address: 25 Albus Dr., Cape Town, 7441
Phone: +27 21 551 0441
A popular choice with couples and honeymooners, this boutique hotel has just eight rooms. But they are so well decorated that they even have pillow menus. The property is located along Sunset Beach (with exclusive beach access), 15 minutes north of Cape Town but close enough to have impressive views of Table Mountain. Facilities include private observation decks, a solar-heated swimming pool and paddling pool, as well as a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
La Rose Bed & Breakfast
Address: 32 Rose St, Schotsche Kloof
Phone: +27 21 422 5883
The hearts and minds behind this haven of peace belong to the husband and wife team of Adheera Bodasing, a South African of Indian descent, and Yoann Nicolas, a Frenchman who fell in love with South Africa in the age 20. Each of the nine rooms is unique, paying homage to different cultures through art and furniture collected by the couple during their travels. The property is located in the eclectic Bo-Kaap, formerly Cape Malay neighborhood.
Top 5 restaurants
Mojo Market (food court with local pop-ups)
Address: 30 Regent Road, Sea Point, Cape Town, 8060
Phone: +27 21 422 4888
Open seven days a week, Mojo Market is Sea Point's trendy indoor market where diners can find more than 15 local food stalls and “traders”. Choose from fresh mussels, artisanal pizzas, do-it-yourself burritos, sushi, and even Cape Town's only mac and cheese restaurant. Even though there is live music every night and lots of TV, the best entertainment here is people watching.
Mzansi Restaurant (African)
Address: 45 Harlem Ave, Langa, Cape Town, 7455
Phone: +27 73 754 8502
Reservations are absolutely required at this popular African restaurant ranked # 1 on TripAdvisor out of nearly 1,000 restaurants in Cape Town. The food is served buffet style with signature dishes which are tasty plays on traditional Xhosa dishes. If the restaurant serves specialties such as chicken's feet and sheep's head (on request), it is also vegetarian.
Die Strandloper (seafood)
Address: Jan Olfsen Str, Leentjiesklip, Langebaan, 7357
Phone: +27 22 77 22 490
Family owned and operated, Die Strandloper is famous in Cape Town for its 10-course seafood lunch or dinner served on the beach. Allow yourself at least three hours to enjoy everything from smoked angelfish to grilled mackerel and even kreef, the South African lobster. This restaurant requires reservation .
Wine Studio (wine pairings)
Address: Dock Rd, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001
Phone: +27 21 431 4511
Brand new from 2021, OneandOnly's Wine Studio presents the property's award-winning wine collection in a unique reverse-pairing experience. Chef Sommelier Luvo Ntezo hosts these exclusive private dinners with rare vintages, special guests from local wineries, and even the ability to create your own signature blend. Reservation to this restaurant is a must.
Café Caprice (contemporary café)
Address: 37 Victoria Road, Camps Bay, Cape Town, 8005
Phone: +27 21 438 8315
Ask a dozen locals where is the best place to have a cocktail and watch the sunset in Cape Town and at least half will mention Café Caprice. Open seven days a week, the café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. seen in Camps Bay, so dress to impress or at least be impressed.
5 Things to do at Cape Town
Surf at Muizenberg
Address: Beach Rd., Cape Town, 7950
Phone: +27 82 412 8781
The ocean around Cape Town is cold, but it's also home to one of the best beaches in the world for learning to surf. Muizenberg, a surfing community about 40 minutes from Cape Town, is famous for its colorful historic changing rooms. It also has great waves for beginners all day long. While there are a number of surf schools in Muizenberg, if you are staying in Cape Town it is worth going with a mobile school like the Stoked Surf School which includes round-trip transportation.
See the penguins at Boulder Beach
Address: Kleintuin Road, Sea Forth, Simons Town, 7975
Phone: +27 21 786 2329
Considered the only place where you can get up close to African penguins in the wild, Boulder Beach is a must-see if you're on the Cape side of False Bay. With a small entrance fee, visitors can watch the comings and goings of the colony living on this white sand beach named for its boulders transported by truck. It is also possible to swim with the penguins, but be careful; the water is frozen.
Hike in Table Mountain National Park
Address: 5821 Tafelberg Rd., Table Mountain, Cape Town, 8001
Phone: +27 21 424 8181 (aerial cableway)
Table Mountain is South Africa's most famous landmark and the namesake of this vast national park that stretches from the city to the Cape Peninsula to include Africa's southernmost point. In addition to amazing geological formations, it is home to incredible biodiversity, including distinct vegetation that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Hike one of the many trails to the top of Table Mountain (3,563 feet) or ride the cable car to the top where even more trails converge and offer scenic views for miles.
Visit Robben Island
Address: Private Bag Robben Island, Cape Town, 7400
Phone: +27 21 413 4200
Located in Table Bay, visible from almost everywhere in Cape Town, Robben Island stands out in the background as does Alcatraz in San Francisco. But this infamous island has 400 years of fascinating history. Once occupied by wildlife and indigenous people, it was important for trade and hunting during the Age of Exploration before later becoming home to everything from bandits to whaling stations and even an asylum. Today, this is where visitors can tour the old prison and see the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Other attractions on the island include a penguin sanctuary and a leper cemetery.
Visit the Cape Winelands
Address: Stellanbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl
There are hundreds of vineyards that grow grapes in Cape Town's fertile yard known as the Winelands. Most are within an hour's drive from the city and are open to the public for tastings and guided tours. This region, one of the oldest wine regions outside of Europe, is famous for its Pinotage, a bold red wine born in South Africa. Even if you don't drink alcohol, it's a scenic journey through pastoral communities including Stellenbosch, a 350-year-old college town rich in Cape Dutch architecture.
Shop till you drop!
Address: 19 Dock Rd, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001
Phone: +27 21 408 7600
A destination in itself, the V&A Waterfont is home to an indoor and outdoor mall with over 450 retail stores. Whether you're looking for Adidas, Armani, or Crocs, the Victoria Wharf Mall probably has it.
Address: Main Road, Kalk Bay, Cape Town, 7990
This quiet old fishing village that has become a popular day trip is about a 45-minute drive from Cape Town, but it's worth it if you like eclectic shops you won't find elsewhere. Spend the afternoon browsing independent bookstores or hunting for antiques. can be found on Main Road, but you never know what treasure awaits in an alleyway in Kalk Bay.
Address: Burg St &, Longmarket St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000
Since 1696, when the paving stones were laid, Greenmarket Square has been a popular meeting place. Today, this is where locals and visitors alike trade with vendors setting up shops, from formal stalls to makeshift tables, filled with African household items and crafts. open daily, but the first Thursday of every month during Cape Town's First Thursday celebrations is the best time to listen to live music and street entertainment.
Address: 373 Albert Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7925
A beautifully restored old cookie mill couldn't be a more perfect setting for this Saturday farmer's market. This is where buyers find souvenirs that are not mass produced. They are made by local entrepreneurs who sell everything from leather bags to soaps and sustainable fashion. Of course, there is also fresh seasonal produce and delicious street food.
Know thy Neighborhoods
City Bowl: Nestled in a natural depression between the coast, Table Mountain and Signal Hill, City Bowl is the heart of Cape Town. It is home to the central business district, impressive municipal buildings and many of Cape Town's oldest and most volatile streets. There is well-preserved Dutch colonial architecture on Long Street, colorful houses lining the hills of the BoKaap and the VandA where you can paddle the canals that meander through the bustling waterfront district.
Cape Flats: While most tourists never set foot there, it would be remiss not to mention Cape Flats. This lowland area is home to Cape Town's most infamous suburbs or townships. This is where black and colored populations were forced to relocate during the apartheid years. Most of the visitors start their walking tour from Imizamo Yethu to Hout Bay.
Atlantic Coastline: Informally referred to as the Cape Riviera, the Atlantic Coastline is a series of seaside communities on the west coast of Cape Town. This is where the most luxurious hotels are located (mostly boutique properties although there are chains like Radisson), luxury skyscrapers for rent and, of course, the eye-catching villas owned by the elite from Cape Town. Each beach-centric community has its own character, from the elegant Camp's Bay to the ambiance of the fishing village of Hout Bay.
Woodstock: Technically part of the City Bowl, Woodstock is like Cape Town's answer to Williamsburg in Brooklyn. If you're interested in art, theatre, or something hipster-like, this former industrial area is a destination in itself. It is still a little restless at edges, and you probably shouldn't be wandering the streets alone at night, but it's not to be missed. At the very least, in 10 years you can say you visited Woodstock before everyone knew how beautiful it was and real estate developers ruined it.
Weather at Cape Town
Cape Town has four seasons although they are not as distinct as the northern destinations. It has a Mediterranean climate. Summers are dry and not too hot, and winters are rainy but mild. The highest temperatures occur in February, when they can reach the mid-80s°F. The coolest temperatures occur in July, when temperatures are generally around 50°F. June is usually the month of the year wettest with about 14 rainy days. Cape Town is famous for its strong winds, and today they are ideal for kitesurfing. Hundreds of years ago they were the source of many historic shipwrecks.
Apps to download:
MyCiti App: Routes, schedules, live bus locator.
Uber: Ridesharing, food delivery.
Cape Town Tourism: "The official guide" to Cape Town, local recommendations.
VoiceMap: Audio walking and cycling tours, GPS navigation.
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