Things to do in Capetown
Any holiday maker who travels down to South Africa, will want to visit Capetown, as they should. There are things that locals and tourists alike would agree that one must see and do in CapeTown. I don’t expect us to agree on all the places that we recommend here, but most of these are without a question, some of the best places in CapeTown, if not South Africa.
As a sojourner, I always try to make up my mind about what each trip means to me. What is this trip about? Am I looking to rest? Am I out to party? Do I want to explore this land and its reach heritage? The last of these questions is usually the one that fuels most of my expeditions. I can always back at home, but I will not have the chance to explore Cape Town from my bed or couch.
As with most of the trips we cover in Southern Africa, we always advise travellers to rent a car for the duration of their trip. Nothing too fancy, you don’t want to attract the wrong attention. You just want to have something that will be reliable to take you to wherever you choose to spend your time, at whatever time of the day it is.
Let’s explore Cape Town! Make sure you try South African food. I would recommend doing all these places if you have about a week or so to spend in Cape Town, otherwise, you would spend most of your time rushing from one place to another. It’s not the number of places you see that counts, it’s the cumulative experiences and people you gather in that time. Here are some things to do in Capetown.
Just because we can, we will start us off on a historical journey. Robben Island is arguably the most famous of all the places that you will see in Cape Town. It was home to the most famous South Africa of all time, Nelson Mandela.
This of course wasn’t a home he chose or was particularly fond of. The goal here is never to bring sadness, but to give historical context to every place that we visit. History should be our greatest teacher. As they say, experience is the best teacher, but it kills all its pupils. History doesn’t kill her pupils.
Robben island is a descriptive name. It was named because of the seals that used to populate the shores. Robben is the Dutch name for seals. They can still be spotted on the shores, but the population has significantly dropped.There are various tour providers that can take you onto the island. It is located about 5 and a half miles off the cape coast. The prison history of the island stretches back all the way to the 17th century.
It was used as a place where political prisoners and other decedents where banished to. It served as a whaling station for 14 years at the start of the nineteenth century. This is the reason why it became a UNESCO world heritage site. It would also serve as a colony for lepers and other whom society deemed to be undesirable. It was not until 1961 that Robben island became a prison. Mandela spent 18 out of a 27-year sentence there. You will be told this as part of the tour that you take, so let me cut the spoilers.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is renowned as being the most beautiful garden in Africa. Having seen a few other wonderful botanical gardens across the continent, I am not sure how accurate this claim is. This place is gorgeous. It is one of the most glorious botanical gardens in the world.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens Opening Hours
Summer time: Between September – March: Monday – Sunday -: 0800hrs to 1900hrs
Winter time: Between April – August: Monday – Sunday -: 0800hrs to 1800hrs
Conservatory: Monday – Sunday -: 0900hrs to 1700hrs
What makes Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens special?
What sets Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens apart is the surrounding landscape. None of the other botanical gardens in South Africa have such amazing landscape to add to their beauty. This garden was established in 1913, with a vision of preserving the South African flora. Over the years, species have been brought in from across the country to be immortalised in this garden.
The entire estate on which the garden is, stretches over 520 hectares. The garden takes up 36 hectares of it. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens made history by becoming the first botanical gardens to be declared a UNESCO world heritage site! There are well established trails that one can walk as they take in the splendour.
I’d advise coming early in the day to make sure you don’t have to wait for parking spots, especially during peak periods. Your entry fee allows you to wander at your own leisure. It is a suitable place to have picnics as well.
Be mindful of that when preparing to come down. In hindsight, it would make a great backdrop for a date as well.It is only a few miles from Capetown city centre. If it is in your control, I would advise you to visit this place between late August and mid-October. We were advised that this is the time of the year when most flowers are in bloom. You will need your camera.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens Entry fee:
It will cost you:
• R35 for Adults.
• R20 for students (with student’s IDs).
• R10 for ages 6 -17.
• Free entry for those below 6 years old.
Cape of Good Hope
“This is the most South-Western part of Africa,” says the sign at this location. This is the place where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.
Why is it called Cape of Good Hope?
We have it on good authority that, Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias is the one who initially named it “Cape of Storms”, after a voyage landing that almost ended in a shipwreck. It was renamed “Cape of Good Hope” by King Juan the Second.
The Afrikaners call it, “Kaap die Goeie Hoop.” Cape of Good Hope was named with a vision of finding a sea route from there, that would link Africa to India. This kind of trade route would be revolutionary.I’d advise allowing yourself a minimum of one hour to explore this place.
There are also some very good restaurants you must try while you are in the area. Food should always be an integral part of your tourism. Immerse yourself into every culture that you encounter. There is so much that you will learn about yourself while doing so.
The Cape of Good Hope is part of the Nature reserve, which also includes the Cape Point. The previous lighthouse was 238m high, and covered by clouds. The top of it couldn’t be seen in its entirety. The shipwreck of 1911 preluded the relocation of the lighthouse. The current lighthouse stands at much lower 87 metres above sea level.
Perhaps the one thing that you cannot miss in CapeTown is the magnificent Table Mountain. From the top of the Table Mountain, Capetown opens to you. The city can be seen far and wide from the peak of the mountain.
For the leisurely, or the “lazy” as some would refer to them, there are easily ways to scale the mountain. The most popular of these methods is the cable car. The ascent time on foot will depend on how experienced you are as a hiker, your level of fitness and the weather.Like most secluded parts of CapeTown, Table Mountain can also be very dangerous.
I am sure you have read or heard about crime in South Africa. The local police have really stepped up in this regard. After a flare of mugging cases, something had to be done to preserve the sanctity of this tourist attraction.There are several companies that offer group hikes. Some of these can be quite pricey. Whether or not it is worth it, will depend entirely on you. A group hike would avail more trails to you.
These are tried and tested trails. If safety is a concern, you should look at some of these. The route you take will determine what you will see. The weather can be quite variable. Being a seaside mountain, Table Mountain receives a significant amount of rain. It will also get very hot.
When it rains, it is not the ideal day to ascend the mountain. Warm days will require a good supply of water and time. I’d also advise wearing mosquito repellent, as this can be a huge issue. The higher you go up the mountain, the better the mosquito issue becomes. The altitude seems to be too much for them. The top can be quite misty.
Please allow yourself time to wander once at the top. There is a charming very close to where you would alight from the cable car. It is not every day that you get to eat from the top of Capetown.There is also the option of surveying the whole area from the comfort of a helicopter.
That one didn’t appeal to me on my visit. I wanted to be out there experiencing every bit of it.The average time one would require to get to the summit of Table Mountain, regardless of path taken, is about 2 and a half hours. Some more challenging paths may take up to 5-6 hours. Please make sure you know what path you are taking and the time that it will consume.
Boulders Penguin Colony
It’s not really CapeTown unless you experience the sea life. What is the point of going to an ocean side city and not experiencing what that comes with? The story has it that, penguins were first spotted at this colony in the 19th Century.
Penguins are not very common on this continent, so this is very special.The colony is located about 2.3 miles away from Simon’s Town. In a feat that is not very common in other parts of the world, the Penguin Colony affords you the opportunity to wander among the penguins. As civil as these birds are, it is not advisable to disturb them in any way whatsoever.
Do not use flash photography equipment or try to touch the penguins. The African penguins were classified as endangered species in 2010, after a massive drop of close to 83% of the pairs from the 1956 census. That’s massive for a period of 54 years. Habitat destruction, oil spills, over fishing and other irresponsible tourist activities have caused a continual decline in the population of the African penguins. per SanPark
Silverman Nature Reserve
Table Mountain National Park has a cluster of gems which include Silverman Nature Reserve. While you are in the Table Mountain National Park, you must visit this nature reserve. You have multiple hiking trails that you can choose to take. They will differ in time necessary to complete and what you will see while on them. This is a good basis to pick the one to take.
The West side of Silverman Nature Reserve was closed when we visited. The east side was open, though. Silverman Nature Reserve is centrally placed in Table Mountain National Park. Unlike most nature reserves that we have visited, Silverman is wheelchair friendly.
This is so refreshing to see. The boardwalk goes all the way to the round to the dam. The river is a great place to walk if you are feeling particularly romantic or just in need of a place to delve deep into thought.
We met a few locals walking their dogs, and could see why this place would be great for doing so. The dogs have a wide area to run and just have a great time without being interrupted by people or vehicles. Barbecue or what the locals refer to as braai is also popular here.
The area close to the dam is a prime spot for this. I am not sure whether the equipment used is available to hire on site. You should probably buy your meat off-sight and bring it along with you.
We didn’t have anything to barbecue, so we just had a good old picnic, as you do. I will be the first to say that we didn’t swim. Although it looked amazing, we were not prepared for it, so we had to pass. It will certainly add an extra dimension to your visit.
Birdwatching is also a very popular activity here. We were able to spot a few birds, with a little help from the seasoned eyes that were on ground. I have it on good authority that you can spot, black eagles, kites, buzzards, malachite sunbirds, peregrine falcons and swallow, among other birds.
How much does it cost to get into Silverman Nature Reserve?
Booking and enquiries can be made over the phone: Tel: (+277)021 789 2457
District Six Museum
District 6 museum was opened in 1994, which is a very significant sign. This was also the year that Nelson Mandela stole the hearts of the world, as he stepped out of prison, and into world spotlight.
District 6, as it would have been known in the mid to late 20th Century was killed off by the apartheid regime. I stood in stark contrast to everything that apartheid sought to achieve. The natives and other locals were shipped out, so the area could be given to those privileged to have less melanin, as the government preferred.
At its height, District 6 was a hive of activities for the ones that society had marginalised. The natives, the Indians, the Jews and other immigrants. Like other desirable areas, it was declared a “whites only” area.
There are very few places in South Africa that you can go to get a true lesson of the history of the nation. It will certainly not be the biggest museum that you will see. The cultural essence is at stark odds with the shadow of apartheid that has not entirely been cast away. This is some of the things that the guide will open your eyes to.
The entry is cheap, and parking is easy to get. I’d allow at least an hour to wander around as well as take the guided tour. There is an option to tour surrounding townships, which is a must-do. It helps build on the perspective that apartheid would have already opened your eyes to.
Sea Point Promenade
It wasn’t too long ago when bloggers and other such publishers were going wild about Charlize Theron having taken a walk on the Sea Point Promenade. The international film star, who is wildly celebrated in her home country, South Africa, enjoyed this walk not too long ago. She was photographed with her mother and two female companions, and the usual bodyguards.
Look at me going tabloidy on you.
There is just something magically peaceful about walking next to a body of water. The sea point promenade is a beauty to be enjoyed by all. It stretches for what seems like miles on end. Infrastructure has been built to make the most of this beach side pathway. There are parks, where you will see people picnicking on a good day, kids running up and down, swinging on one of those things kids swing on.
Cyclists, joggers, walkers and others are on this route. Just so you are clear on what to expect. The path is intended for walking, so there are not a lot of restaurants or bars along the way. The same sort of things that you would expect to find on a cycle path.
If you are lucky, you will find small groups on one of the green areas, playing football (soccer), touch rugby or cricket. For the most part, you will be more than welcome to join them.
Distance between Sea Point and Camps Bay: 3.2miles.
V & A to Sea Point: 2.7miles.
The police presence along the promenade may be unnerving to start with, but it makes you pretty safe. After all the things that you may have read or heard about Cape Town, safety is paramount. Tell us what you make of the views along the way. Do not rush it, take your time to appreciate it all.
Due to the distance that the path spans, you will meet people from all walks of life. Cape Town is home to a lot of wonderful beings. Mingle!