So you want to go to Cape Town? Well, you’re in the right place.
I have lived in the mother city for twelve years and I consider myself not just a local but a bit of a fangirl for this city. We were not named “The Best City in the World to Visit” by the Telegraph Travel Awards for 2023 for no reason, so if you are coming here you’re in for a treat! I have explored every nook and cranny of it and like to think I know it pretty well. The experiences I’m going to recommend here are the same experiences that I share with my friends who come to visit from other countries. So this isn’t going to be a list of the “Top 10 things to do in Cape Town” travel guide, but rather “Here’s where I would personally take you if you came to visit me”. Think of this guide as a local, guiding you to the best stay you can have in Cape Town.
A Locally Crafted Map To Help Plan Your Cape Town Trip
Explore Cape Town by Area
Here’s a summary of the best areas to visit in Cape Town:
- Camps Bay – Camps Bay is a must-visit area in Cape Town, offering beautiful beaches, beach volleyball, excellent dining options, and a chance to spot celebrities.
- Babylonstoren Farm – This working farm, known for its wines, restaurants, and luxury hotel, is a day trip worth your time. Explore the gardens, taste wines, shop for produce, and take a virtual tour. Entry is free for under 18s.
- Kirstenbosch Gardens – As a renowned botanical garden at the base of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch offers hiking trails, picnicking, the Tree Canopy Walkway, and summer music shows. Tickets are required for entry.
- Chapman’s Peak – This picturesque, toll road connecting Hout Bay and Noordhoek offers breathtaking scenery. Activities include biking, hiking, and photography, but hiking alone is not recommended for safety reasons.
- Nyanga – Nyanga is one of Cape Town’s oldest townships, known for its jazz culture. While it has issues with poverty and crime, tourists interested in the local culture can join group tours with local guides to experience jazz sessions, sample local food, and purchase crafts.
You can’t come to Cape Town and not spend a day at the least in Camps Bay. Whether it’s a day at the beach that you’re looking for, volleyball on the beach or it’s great food and cocktails, you will find it all in Camps Bay. In fact, you will be spoiled for choice here as the whole main street is a feast for your eyes and your heart as you are trying to decide where to eat or hang out. Camps Bay is popular for both locals and the high rollers, the rich and famous, and so if you’re hoping to spot some celebrities, or be seen, this is the place to be.
Babylonstoren is a working farm in the wine regions, where they farm lots of different kinds of produce. It is also well-known for its wines, the restaurants, and the luxury Babylonstoren Hotel on-site. You need to set aside a whole day to spend here, especially if you’re not staying on-site because it’s about 45 minutes to an hour’s drive outside the city, depending on your driving and traffic. Here you get to walk the gardens, sample the wines, shop for produce, visit the on-site perfumery, and take a virtual tour of the whole farm. It truly is one of the most beautiful experiences that you can partake in when you have a few days in Cape Town and are looking to explore not only the city but its surroundings as well. There is a 100 ZAR ($5.50) day pass fee payable at the front office but entry is free for under 18s.
Known as one of the great botanical gardens of the world, Kirstenbosch is not just a botanical garden but offers much more to its day visitors. It’s right at the foot of Table Mountain so it offers a couple of hiking trails up to the mountain. You have to purchase a ticket to enter and at the time of writing this the prices were 200 ZAR ($11) for adults for a day pass and 40 ZAR ($2) for children 6-17 years old. There are so many activities that you can do here from having a picnic on the lawns to walking the Tree Canopy Walkway, joining one of the hiking trails, and or attending a summer music show, which is undoubtedly my favorite activity. You can also participate in a virtual tour of the whole place. Kirstenbosch itself doesn’t have accommodation but there are many Airbnb’s in the area surrounding suburbs are Newlands, Claremont, Bishops Court (if you can afford it), Constantia, and Hout Bay a short distance away.
Chapman’s Peak is a winding road sandwiched between the mountain and the sea that connects the suburbs of Hout Bay and Noordhoek on the other side of the mountain. The road provides one of the most spectacular sceneries you will ever experience in your life but it’s not free. There is a toll fee that you have to pay at the beginning of the road on the Hout Bay side, and at the time of writing this it was 61 ZAR ($3.40) for a light vehicle which includes tour minibuses. Some of the activities that you can do here are biking, hiking and photography. The road is always populated especially in summer but I wouldn’t recommend hiking up the mountain on your own, for safety reasons.
Nyanga is one of the oldest black townships in Cape Town and like most townships here and in the country in general, it is characterized by poverty and crime and so it is not an area I would recommend to tourists. However, Nyanga and Langa, another smaller township not far from it, are well known for their jazz culture and they regularly host jazz sessions where local artists perform, and many tourists come to watch. If you’re really into the culture and want to learn a bit more about these communities, sample local food and buy crafts, hire a local guide and go in a group with a driver instead of completely missing out.
Places to Stay in Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is a holiday destination and because of that it’s very tourist-friendly meaning, there’s so much to see and do and you are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a home base from which to explore this city. There are so many options when it comes to staying here, but some are safer than others, so I’m going to recommend some of the safest areas in Cape Town to stay.
Located on the Atlantic Seaboard this suburb is very popular with the young and trendy and it’s very close to popular hangouts like the Grand Beach Cafe where you get to enjoy lunch and cocktails with your feet on the sand and views to die for. It’s also right behind the popular V&A Waterfront from where you can catch a boat to Robben Island. The whole main street is lined with restaurants and cafes and on any given day you can watch or join the joggers on the promenade. You can also hire a bicycle and cycle the whole promenade or all the way to Camps Bay, which is about a 15-20 minutes car ride away. Green Point is also home to the Green Point stadium which has hosted many big events including the 2010 FIFA World Cup. There is a Virgin Active gym and the Green Point Urban Park which is great for jogging, having a picnic or just for walks. There are many accommodation options here including the Rockwell Hotel if you prefer self-catering apartment-style living. Most of the accommodation here is mostly high-end.
Seapoint is the neighbor of Green Point but compared to Green Point, it’s a mix of upmarket and regular, and the two enjoy the same facilities really; the beach, the promenade, and the restaurants. Here you are more likely to find budget accommodation but you will also find high-end boutique hotels and AirBnb’s. Seapoint is much more busier as it also has shopping centers, markets, and little boutique shops. It is also characterized by a vibrant nightlife, especially since the MOJO market located there often hosts live music shows.
The City Bowl
The City Bowl is a great choice if you want to be right in the middle of action, close to the famous Long Street and Kloof Street night culture. This is for those who don’t mind the noise and like the hustle and bustle of a big city. The whole of Long Street is lined with restaurants, cafes and nightclubs. So is Kloof street and Bree street which is known for its food culture. Here you can find accommodations of every type and budget from backpacking options to high end hotels and quirky options like The Grand Daddy hotel. The Grand Daddy offers various options from luxury boutique-style rooms to a fancy trailer park on the roof top!! The only one in the world, apparently. The City Bowl also houses Greenmarket Square, which has different accommodation options, is very popular with tourists and is a street away from the Cape Town International Convention Center. There are lots of museums and galleries in this area.
Tamboerskloof, Gardens and Oranjezicht
Of course if you still want to be near the action but in a quieter place I would recommend any of these areas. They are situated right above the City Bowl but within a walk or easy access to the city. They are also safer in terms of crime rates and all three have different accommodation types from backpacker style to luxury hotels. Here you will have easy access to theatres, museums, restaurants, and clubs as well as Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, and Signal Hill. Camps Bay is just on the other side of the hill, a 15-minute Uber ride. Traffic to Camps Bay is super-hectic during the summer months. Don’t drive yourself there if you want to avoid frustration. The queues to the cable car station for Table Mountain are insane and staying in one of these three areas will give you an added advantage to get there first.
De Waterkant is adjacent to Green Point. A trendy neighborhood with shops, boutiques, restaurants, and historic buildings, it caters to those who are looking for beautiful accommodations and vibey nightlife. De Waterkant is also known as the “pink district” as it is home to the gay scene and features clubs and a culture that caters to the LGBTQ community. This is where you will find Hot House, a high-end steam bath that has an adult store for the gay community. De Waterkant is also home to the Cape Quarter, a trendy shopping center with lots of boutiques, restaurants, and grocery shops. Accommodation around De Waterkant is available in rental apartments, hotels, and AirBnB as well as in the neighboring Green Point and Seapoint.
Things To Do in Cape Town | Plan Your Trip By Style of Travel
The Foodie’s Plan
The Foodie’s Plan in Cape Town:
- Neighborgoods Market – Cape Town is known as the culinary capital of South Africa, and the Neighborgoods Market in the CBD offers a variety of cuisines, from Indian and Turkish to local street food, all in one place.
- Food Foraging with The Table Bay – Join a food foraging expedition with The Table Bay Hotel at the V&A Waterfront precinct to learn about foraging, cook a three-course meal, and dine with a chef.
- Cape Malay Cooking Class in Bo-Kaap – Experience Malay-style cooking in the historic Bo-Kaap district, known for its spicy curries and rich Islamic culinary traditions.
- Old Biscuit Mill and Neighborgoods Market – Visit the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock on weekends to explore the Neighborgoods Market, offering a wide range of international foods and dietary preferences.
- Mojo Market – Located in Seapoint, Mojo Market is an indoor market featuring various food and drink stalls, including live bands, open from 8AM to midnight daily
First things first, Cape Town is the culinary capital of South Africa. Now allow me to back that up by showing you some of the activities or places that you can delight your taste buds at and test your culinary skills.
When it’s Indian or Turkish or a variety of local cuisine that you are looking for you will find it all under one roof. Street food served in a canteen style, almost similar to what you find in the food courts in the shopping malls across the world. Here you can find something to eat for as little as 50 ZAR ($2.70) for a vegetarian pizza or pay 60 ZAR ($3.30) for a bunny chow (bread with the inside scooped out and filled with curry). This is right in the CBD so a mere walk for those staying in the City Bowl or a short Uber ride if you are staying in Green Point, Seapoint or Oranjezicht.
If you prefer to be more involved in your food preparation why not join a food foraging experience with The Table Bay foraging expedition. Here you will earn about the basics of foraging for your own ingredients, participate in cooking your own meal with the chef and sit down to enjoy the three-course meal that you prepared. Table Bay Hotel is in the V&A Waterfront precinct.
To learn to cook like a local join the Cape Malay Cooking class in Bo-Kaap. There are a few of these cooking classes to choose from and here you will learn to cook Malay-style. The Cape Malay community is a Muslim community whose food preparation style is deeply steeped in the history and traditions of the Islamic culture. Think spicy curries, biryani, tomato bredies (stews), bobotie and sosaties (mutton or lamb kebabs). Fruit and spices are used a lot in this type of cooking.
Saturdays and Sundays are for visiting the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock because that’s when the Neighborgoods Market takes place. Open from 9AM-6PM on Saturdays and 10AM-6PM on Sundays you will find food from all over the world and for all preferences, under one roof. This is not an exaggeration – there’s Halaal, vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free, etc and the different stalls sell Turkish, Korean, Mexican, Greek food, you get the picture.
Food lovers can also visit Mojo Market on Main Road in Seapoint. This is an indoor lifestyle market that has food and drink stalls of all types and taste, like a smaller version of the Neighborgoods Market, and it also features live bands. Street food at its best. It opens at 8AM everyday and closes at midnight.
The Nightlife Plan
The Nightlife Plan:
- Long Street – Long Street is the epicenter of Cape Town’s nightlife, with numerous nightclubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, and theaters. Notably, The Waiting Room offers stunning views, while Mama Africa provides African-themed entertainment.
- Camps Bay – For a more upscale nightlife experience, Camps Bay offers venues like Bungalow Restaurant, Paranga for fine dining, and Cafe Caprice for celebrity sightings. The Theatre on the Bay is also a great place for live shows.
- Woodstock & Observatory – If you’re into Bohemian chic, theaters, and comedy clubs, Woodstock and Observatory, a short Uber ride from the city center, offer a lively arts and music scene.
- V&A Waterfront – At the V&A Waterfront precinct, Cabo Beach Club (formerly Shimmy Beach Club) hosts music festivals and New Year’s Eve parties with live DJs. There’s also a beach restaurant for sunset views.
Long Street – If it’s the nightlife that you’re here for look no further than Long Street as your starting point. Long Street is always busy but night-time, weekends, and summer holidays take it to the next level. Don’t bother to come in winter as you’ll be the only one roaming the streets at night. Long Street is home to many nightclubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and theatres. Here you will find places like The Waiting Room, a lounge and rooftop bar that offers stunning views of the city, sea and the mountain. There is also Mama Africa for those who may be looking for African-themed entertainment with live bands and African cuisine.
Camps Bay- This spot is for those who are looking for something more ‘posh’. Here you will find Bungalow Restaurant for the most stunning sunsets, music, food, and cocktails, Paranga for four-star dining, and clubs like Cafe Caprice where you are most likely to spot a celebrity or two. But if you just wanna catch a live show then visit the Theatre on the Bay.
Woodstock & Observatory
Woodstock and Observatory – If it’s Bohemian chic, theatres and comedy clubs that you are looking for you will find it all just an Uber ride away from the city center. Woodstock is a 5-10 minute ride from the city center. Woodstock is known for its eclectic mix of the hipster set, the cultural savvy and the student vibe who all come together to enjoy all types of music, open mic nights, and emerging artists making their first appearances, or for those who just want to dance the night away at the various night clubs all lining up Main street.
V&A Waterfront – In the V&A precinct right behind the mall is a beach restaurant called Cabo Beach Club. Previously known as Shimmy Beach Club, Cabo often hosts music festivals and New Year’s Eve parties with live DJs. Or you can just go hang out with friends to watch the spectacular sunsets, have cocktails, and eat dinner. They have day beds on the sand and poolside cabanas where you can just laze around and have drinks and canapes with friends, or sit inside in the lounge area.
The History and Culture Nerd’s Plan
The History and Culture Nerd’s Plan:
- Robben Island – This UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-visit, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Take a 30-minute boat trip for a tour of the island, including Mandela’s prison cell and the quarry where he worked.
- Iziko Museum – Founded in 1825, this museum houses over 1.5 million specimens, from ancient tools to contemporary artifacts. It offers insights into human history and the natural world.
- Artscape – Cape Town’s largest theater complex hosts a variety of shows, from international musicals to ballet, opera, and drama. Check the calendar for what’s on during your visit.
- Zeitz MOCAA – Located at the V&A Waterfront precinct, this museum showcases contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. It features rotating exhibitions and offers free entry to African citizens on Africa Wednesdays.
- Norval Foundation – Situated in the Steenberg vineyards, this museum displays 20th and 21st-century visual art. It has a sculpture garden and a restaurant on-site, making it a worthwhile trip outside the city.
The island is a UNESCO World Heritage site. South African former President, Nelson Mandela spent 18 years on Robben Island as part of his 27-year sentence by the apartheid regime for fighting against apartheid, so if you are into the history of this country, or history in general and how it has shaped the world we live in, you will want to visit the island.
Located 12kms off the coast from the city of Cape Town, the island is a 30-minute boat trip and you should plan to spend at least half the day there as there are tours of the island itself once you get there. One of the things you get to see and experience for yourself is the prison cell that Pres. Mandela occupied, and the quarry where he used to do manual labor. It is quite an unforgettable experience.
Tickets to the ferry are available at the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island, a triple-story building at the Clock Tower in the V&A Waterfront. At the time of writing this tickets cost about 600 ZAR ($33) per adult for the return trip and 310 ZAR ($17) per child. South African residents pay a discounted fare.
Often mistaken as the confluence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Cape Point is a breathtakingly scenic landmark within the Table Mountain National Park, known for its rich biodiversity and historic lighthouses. However, the true meeting point of the oceans is Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, marked by treacherous waters and a storied history of shipwrecks. You can also see penguins here!
While you’re at Cape Point it’s worth seeing Cape Agulhas, the Cape of Good Hope and all of the things there are to see on Cape Peninsula.
For a deeper dive into the mysteries and wonders of these iconic locations, read the full article here.
Founded in 1825 the museum attracts millions of history and science enthusiasts as it boasts more than 1.5 million specimens of insects and animal fossils that are said to be 700 million years old to what’s living right now. You will also find tools and clothing that were used in ancient times including a T-shirt that was made this year. Visiting the museum is guaranteed to leave you with a better understanding of where we come from and who we have become/ are becoming. Entry fee is 60 ZAR ($3) for everyone from 5 years old and above and the fee is discounted for South Africans.
The Artscape theatre complex is the biggest in the city housing four theatres inside that feature different shows every night/week. These range from international musicals, comedy, ballet, opera, and/or drama, whatever you fancy you are more likely to find here. Check the calendar on their website to see what’s on when you visit and the ticket prices. Other smaller theatres include The Baxter situated in Rondebosch within the UCT campus, Theatre on the Bay (I mentioned under the Camps Bay nightlife), and Maynard Theatre in the Wynberg suburb, an open-air theatre where you can watch Shakespeare productions.
Zeitz MOCAA – Still within the V&A Waterfront precinct is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Arts Africa (MOCAA), a museum that collects, preserves, and features contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. Here the galleries showcase rotating temporary exhibitions of an international standard. Open from Mondays to Sundays the tickets start from 250 ZAR ($14) and African citizens gain free entry on Africa Wednesdays between 10AM-1PM every week.
Norval Foundation – If you wanna venture a bit out of the city Norval Foundation is situated in the Steenberg vineyards about 23kms from the city. The museum features 20th and 21st-century visual art from Africa and the diaspora. They also have the best sculpture garden and a restaurant on site. Tickets cost 300 ZAR ($17) for a day pass for international visitors 25 years and above, 100 ZAR ($5.50) for 18-24-year-olds, and 200 ZAR ($11) for African nationals. They are open Monday to Saturday 9AM-5PM, 10AM-4PM on Sundays and public holidays and they are closed every Tuesday.
Food In Cape Town – How To Find Amazing Food
Cape Town’s Food Scene in a nutshell:
- Seafood Haven – Cape Town is renowned for its seafood, with fish and chips being a popular street food. Look for “slap” (limp) chips, and visit places like Snoekies for the best fish and chips experience.
- The Gatsby – A super-long sandwich filled with ingredients like fries, steak, lettuce, and sauces. Originating in Cape Town, you can find it in various fast food places and fisheries.
- Bunny Chow – A spicy curry stuffed into a half or quarter loaf of bread, originating from Durban Indian street food. You can choose the level of spiciness, and it’s priced between 80 ZAR ($4) to 130 ZAR ($7).
- Braai Meat (Shisanyama) – South Africa’s favorite, it’s barbecue meat cooked over coals or a grill. Often served with boerewors (sausage), pap (maize meal), roosterkoek (grilled bread), salads, and chakalaka (spicy vegetable and bean mix). Expect to pay 70-120 ZAR ($3-$7) at a shisanyama venue.
- Seven Colors – A traditional African meal served on Sundays and at special occasions, featuring a plate with seven colors, including salads, yellow rice, and beetroot.
- Bredie – A Cape Malay stew made with meat, vegetables, and spices, often served with atchar (pickle) and pickled vegetables. Varieties include tomato, beans, or cauliflower bredie.
- Bobotie – A Cape Malay dish made with minced meat, curried spices, onions, dried fruit, and a baked egg and milk topping. A vegetarian option can use lentils instead of meat, and it’s typically served with yellow rice.
- Desserts – Popular desserts include koeksisters (pastry dipped in syrup or honey) and Hertzoggies (biscuits filled with jam and coconut). Koeksisters have both Afrikaner and Cape Malay versions, with the latter being spicier and coated in coconut. Hertzoggies are named after former South African Prime Minister JBM Hertzog.
Cape Town is a seaside city so that should tell you that we are a seafood haven. Fish and chips (greasy fries) is our street food. The chips are affectionately called ‘slap’ (pronounced slup) chips because they are fried until they are limp – ‘slap’ means limp in Afrikaans.
We have so many fish and chips takeaway places, or fisheries as they are called. One of the best fisheries in this city is Snoekies. I believe there is a number of them but in my opinion, the Hout Bay one is the most popular, that’s where you find tourists queuing for the whole day to find out what everyone is raving about. Expect to pay anything from 65-85 ZAR ($3-$5) for a packet at fisheries. You can pay up to 200 ZAR ($11) in an upmarket restaurant for this same meal.
Before I moved to Cape Town I had never heard of a gatsby! I had watched the movie “The Great Gatsby” but what does it have to do with a ‘gatsby’? Nothing!
A gatsby is a super-long sandwich filled with all types of ingredients including fries, steak, lettuce, and sauces and it is so big it can feed 2-4 hungry people! Word is, the gatsby was discovered by accident by Mr. Rashaad Pandy who owns one of the fisheries in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, however, you don’t have to travel all the way to the southern suburbs to partake in this indulgence, since these days you can find one in any fast food place or fisheries, in and around this city.
But if you really want to experience the best gatsby ever, head out to a Total Garage in Kuilsriver where “Vezz the singing chef” does the most extraordinary gatsby’s ever.
Don’t take it from me, check out his offerings on TikTok for yourself. Price-wise a basic gatsby that’s made of just fish and chips may cost around 65 ZAR ($3) but a “full house” one which has eggs and cheese on top may cost up to 200 ZAR ($11).
While we are talking about bread you may or may not have heard of a Bunny Chow – This too has nothing to do with a cute fluffy animal as you imagined it, but everything to do with a half a loaf of bread (or a quarter, depending on your need), that’s stuffed with the most delicious spicy curry you can think of. The curry can be vegetarian, chicken, lamb or beef, whatever you fancy. This is a favorite staple originating from Durban Indian street food.
Word on the street is that Indians who came to this country as migrant workers in the cane fields of Durban had to improvise when they found themselves with fewer spices than they were used to cooking with from back home, and that’s how the bunny chow was created. Most places that sell bunny chows (or bunnies for short) allow you to choose the level of spiciness as these can get very hot, as we know Indian curry to be. Bunny chows can cost anything from around 80 ZAR ($4) to 130 ZAR ($7).
Braai meat / Shisanyama – The whole country’s favorite is braai meat ( braai vleis – in Afrikaans) or shisanyama as it’s called in Zulu. It’s so popular we even have a holiday called National Braai Day. Think barbecue meat prepared over hot coals or grill for those who are fancy. This type of food has its origins in this country’s townships. Shisanyama places – the word ‘shisanyama’ can also be used to mean a place that sells braai meat – are found pretty much in every street corner in the townships.
Braai vleis is usually eaten with boerewors (sausage) and pap (another South African staple cooked with maize meal), or roosterkoek, (a grilled bread roll), salads and chakalaka – a curried and spicy mix of cooked vegetables and beans. Expect to pay anything from 70-120 ZAR ($4-$7) for a plate at a shisanyama venue. You will pay almost double for the same meal at a sit-down restaurant.
Seven Colors – This is similar to what Americans call “soul food”. It’s a meal that’s usually served on a Sunday in African families in this country. It’s called “seven colors” because on one plate you will find seven colors, with different salads, yellow rice and beetroot. It’s also popular at weddings, funerals and other special celebrations.
Bredie – We mentioned Cape Malay cuisine earlier in the foodies itinerary. This is a typical meal served in many Muslim families. It’s basically a stew of meat and vegetables but what is different from other stews is the method of preparation which involves braising the meat with lots of spices and chilli flakes. Bredies can be tomato, beans or a cauliflower bredie and they’re served with atchar (pickle made of fruits and vegetables) and pickled vegetables.
Bobotie – Here is another Cape Town fave, a Cape Malay meat-based dish that’s made of minced meat, curried spices, onions, dried fruit such as raisins or sultanas, and milk-soaked bread. The dish is topped with an egg and milk mixture before it’s baked in the oven. The vegetarian option would be to use lentils instead of the minced meat. This dish is usually served with yellow rice.
Desserts – One of the most popular desserts here is koeksisters; a pastry that has been plaited and fried then dipped in cold syrup or honey. They originate from the Afrikaner community, thought to have been introduced by the first Dutch settlers in this country, even though there is a Cape Malay version as well. The Malay version is more ‘cakey’ in texture and spicier and covered in coconut and the shape is different.
Hertzoggies are another dessert that’s also very popular here. It’s basically a traditional biscuit that is filled with jam and coconut. Apparently, these got their name from former South African Prime Minister (1924-39) JBM Hertzog and a false promise he made to give equality to the Malay community, and in his honor they had named this dessert after him.
Most shops usually open from 9 AM and close at 10 PM. This goes for both takeaway and sit-down restaurants. Here are the times most restaurants serve:
- Breakfast: Until 11AM
- Lunch: Midday – 4PM
- Dinner: 6PM-10PM
Breakfast – Most places serve breakfast till 11AM and you can expect an English breakfast, a South African, and an American breakfast on the menu. It’s more or less the same thing really with eggs and bacon as the staple and little variations to distinguish the three types. A South African breakfast, for instance, will come with a boerewors on top, and chakalaka or beans as one of the sides. An English breakfast may have an English muffin instead of bread and an American breakfast may have flapjacks or a bagel instead. Most places are strict with serving breakfast only until 11AM but there are a few places that sell “all-day” breakfasts. Expect to pay from 90-150 ZAR ($5-$8) for breakfast in a restaurant.
Lunch – This meal is served from midday to around 4PM though you can still choose a meal from the lunch menu even outside of the lunch hours. The fancier restaurants may have a separate dinner menu that doesn’t include breakfast and lunch items. Lunch is usually pizza, burgers, wraps, sushi, salads, and depending on the type of restaurant, they may feature items like bobotie, bredies, seven colors and braai meat. A burger and fries meal or a pizza can cost around 150 ZAR ($8) in a sit down restaurant.
Dinner – Usually served from 6PM-10PM this can be anything like duck, pork, lamb cutlets, steaks, chicken, fish, or prawns all served with a side of fries, rice or salad. The upmarket restaurants may also serve the exotic meats like kudu and wildebeest. Thai food is also quite common and seafood is really big, and not cheap. A seafood platter for two which usually include some crayfish, line fish, prawns, calamari, oysters and fries can cost you 1500 ZAR ($85) in an upmarket restaurant. Most meat and side meals cost around 350 ZAR per plate.
Culture, Language & The People of Cape Town
Culture, Language & People of Cape Town:
- Cultural Diversity – Cape Town is a diverse city with a mix of cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities. English is the primary language for communication, but you’ll also hear Afrikaans, Xhosa, and various other languages due to the multicultural population.
- Historical Segregation – The city still bears traces of apartheid-era racial segregation, with suburbs originally designed for whites and townships for Africans and Coloureds. While Cape Town has become more integrated, some of these divisions are still visible.
- Festivals and Celebrations – Cape Town hosts a variety of annual events that showcase its vibrant culture, including the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, Cape Town Pride, the Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival, the Cape Town Jazz Festival, and the Two Oceans Marathon. These events celebrate diversity, music, wine, and athleticism.
- Friendly and Informal Atmosphere – Despite being a legislative capital, Cape Town maintains an informal atmosphere, and formal suits are rarely seen. The city’s service industry staff are known for their friendliness and accommodating nature, contributing to the relaxed vibe.
- Local Cuisine – Cape Town offers a diverse culinary landscape influenced by various cultures. Some local dishes to try include gatsby sandwiches, bunny chow, braai meat (shisanyama), seven colors, bredie, bobotie, koeksisters, and hertzoggies. Each dish reflects a unique aspect of South African and Cape Malay cuisine.
Cape Town is a vibey, holiday city and you’d be excused for thinking you’re on a permanent holiday when you live here. It’s a very informal city so you hardly see people wearing formal suits though we are the legislative capital of this country. More importantly, the service industry staff is very friendly and accommodating.
This city is a bit of a melting pot with many cultures represented here, from South Africans of various ethnicities and races to people from all parts of the African continent, to foreign nationals from different parts of the world. The majority of these people have made Cape Town their home and are not just here on holiday.
English is the main language of communication especially in business, however, there is a huge Colored and Afrikaner (both speak Afrikaans) and Xhosa population here.
South Africa has 11 official languages across different ethnicities and although the different ethnic groups are concentrated in different provinces across this country, there is still a percentage of each represented here due to people moving around for work, etc.
We are also home to a large Nigerian and Zimbabwean community among other African nationalities, and so it’s quite common to hear other languages being spoken that are not South African languages. Although the city and the suburbs are mixed to a certain degree demographically, you will still see evidence of the racial segregation that was imposed by the apartheid government when you visit the suburbs and the townships, as the suburbs were created mainly for whites while the Africans and Coloreds were sent to live in the townships.
This city is very big on sports, music, and other types of recreation but allow me to mention a few events that it hosts each year.
The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Also known as the “Kaapse Klopse” the Cape Colored festival takes place on the 2nd of January every year. Klopse means ‘clubs’ or ‘troupes’. The festival features more than 10,000 colorfully dressed minstrels arranged in their “klopse” parading on the city streets and playing musical instruments while twirling their colorful umbrellas in different dance routines. This custom dates right back to the mid-19th century when the Dutch settlers used to have a big celebration on New Year’s Day and on the 2nd they would give the slaves a holiday.
The slaves then started celebrating this day as a “Second New Year”. They would dress up as minstrels and dance and be merry while playing different musical instruments. The tradition continues today as a celebration of life and freedom. The groups also compete and win prizes across different categories like “Best Dressed”, “Best March”, etc. The parade ends at the Green Point Stadium where the celebrations are held.
Cape Town Pride
This takes place in February to raise awareness of the issues around and celebrate the LGBTQ community. The festival usually involves a parade through the city streets followed by parties and other events around it. The festival also features local artists and is open to anyone who supports human rights and values equality.
The Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival
The Winelands are one of the things Cape Town is known for and this goes for the sparkling wine that is produced locally. Every year on the first weekend of December wine lovers from this city and country-wide gather in Franschhoek to celebrate and taste some of the best wines and champagne that we are known for all over the world. Each vineyard has a stall where they display their product/s at the festival and the patrons walk around tasting the different wines and buying to take home if they wish.
Franschhoek is a 45-60 minutes drive from the city center. Ticket prices change every year but could cost between 300-600 ZAR ($15-$30) this year, 2023. The ticket price includes sampling tickets and a branded champagne flute.
Cape Town Jazz Festival
This city loves its Jazz music and you see this in the many small venues all around the city and the suburbs that feature jazz artists all year through. The CTJF is a celebration of Jazz music though it features other types of music as well such as Fusion, Contemporary Jazz, etc. International and local artists perform on the various stages for two successive nights.
The event takes place every year on the last weekend of March and thousands of people from all over the world gather at the Cape Town International Convention Center where it’s hosted to listen to music, mingle, and celebrate life. Food stalls, drinks stalls, art exhibitions, and curios are sold at the event as well.
The Two Oceans Marathon (TTOM)
Touted as the “world’s most beautiful marathon” TTOM is the biggest running event in the continent. It is a 56kms (35 mi) ultra-marathon and 21kms (13 mi) half-marathon that is run every year on the Saturday of the Easter weekend. The ultramarathon runners run on Chapman’s Peak as part of their route except when Chapman’s is closed due to bad weather.
The event sells out every year with participants from all over the world, a total of 16,000 half-marathon participants, and 11,000 ultramarathon participants running each year. Entry fees are 2900 ZAR ($160) for the ultramarathon and 2032 ZAR ($112) for the half-marathon for international athletes. African nationals pay 970 for the ultramarathon and 778 for the half-marathon.
Transport Travel Tips for Cape Town
To get around Cape Town, there are 4 transportation options:
- Uber/Bolt: Uber is a popular and reliable form of transportation in Cape Town. It is considered safe and accessible. Bolt is another option. However, there are areas that Uber won’t go to for safety reasons.
- Local Taxis (Mini Buses): Local taxis, particularly mini-buses, are a common mode of transportation in townships and the downtown CBD. They are the cheapest option but often involve reckless driving and may lack good customer service. Vehicles are sometimes neglected and dirty. They also serve routes from the CBD to outer suburbs and townships. Taxi fares are inexpensive, such as a ride from the CBD to the Neighborgoods Market in Woodstock costing around 10 ZAR ($0.50).
- Buses: There are two types of buses in Cape Town: MyCiti Bus, owned by the city, and Golden Arrow buses, privately owned. MyCiti is considered the safest and most reliable option. It features security cameras at stations, runs on schedule, provides live updates, and serves most tourist destinations, including transportation from the airport to the city. A single trip from the airport to the city costs around 90 ZAR ($5). MyCiti uses a card system, and travelers can purchase a “myconnect card” for 35 ZAR ($2), load it with money, and use it for their stay. Golden Arrow buses are affordable but often crowded during peak commuting times. They travel to various areas, including those flagged for crime, making safety a concern, especially for tourists.
- Trains: Metrorail operates trains in Cape Town and across the country. The service has deteriorated over the years, with limited availability in Cape Town, and specific routes. Safety concerns, including criminal activity like train burnings and cable theft, make trains a less desirable option for tourists.
Uber in South Africa is one of the most popular forms of transport in the city and easily accessible, I would say they are more reliable and safe. InDriver is also an option however safety might be a concern for some as they don’t have the same safety features. There are, however, areas that Uber won’t go to for safety reasons and those are the areas we’ve also listed as areas of safety concern. A 20kms ride on both Uber and Bolt could cost around 180-250 ZAR ($10-$14).
Local taxis (Mini busses)
Most popular form of transportation in the townships and in downtown CBD. Cheapest ride but the driving is not for the faint-hearted. The driving is reckless and don’t expect sterling customer service either. Most cars are also very neglected and dirty. It’s a cheap ride, so expect cheap and sometimes rude service. They also do routes from the CBD to the outer suburbs and townships. Taxi fare from CBD to the Neighborgoods Market in Woodstock (4kms) may cost 10 ZAR ($0.50).
There are two types of buses. The MyCiti Bus, which is owned by the city of Cape Town, and the local busses called, Golden Arrow.
MyCiti is the safest and most reliable form of transportation in this city. There are security cameras at all the stations, the busses run on schedule and if there are any interruptions you can view live updates on your bus, the fares are reasonable and affordable. On top of that MyCiti goes to almost all the places that you as a tourist may wish to visit including from the CT airport to the city. A single trip fare from the airport to the city costs around 90 ZAR ($5). It works on a card system so you have to purchase the “myconnect card” which costs 35 ZAR ($2), load it with money for the duration of your stay at one of the bus stations or participating retailers, and you are good to go. All the information that you need is also on their website or you can download their app or just ask a staff member when you get to the bus station.
Golden Arrow busses are privately owned by a local company. Probably one of the most affordable forms of transport and used by daily commuters so they are often crowded especially during peak times when people are going to work or school. They also have a very helpful website where you can see the various schedules and plan your routes. The safety of the busses is an issue because they also travel to all the places that have been flagged as crime hotspots which means they sometimes become a target for such crimes. I personally don’t recommend using them if you’re a tourist but locals do well with them.
Metrorail operates the trains in Cape Town and across the country. Over the years the service has been deteriorating steadily and in this city specifically, although they do run, they’re not available everywhere but only operate specific routes. Most of these routes are often targeted by criminals and there have been incidents where trains were burned down and cables stolen off the tracks, so safety is a big concern. My advice is – just skip the whole train experience!
Budgeting for Cape Town
So how much should you expect to spend while on vacation in this city? This is not an easy question to answer but I’ll do my best to offer some guidance based on my experience of how much things cost in this city. One thing I know about Cape Town is that it is not the cheapest city in this country, if not the most expensive!
Here is what you should roughly spend in Cape Town per day:
- Budget: 1200 ZAR ($70) – accommodation, food and activities
- Mid-range: 2700 ZAR ($150) – accommodation, food and activities
- Luxury: 4500 ZAR ($250) – accommodation, food and activities
Here’s how much food should cost you in Cape Town:
- Budget: 120 ZAR ($6) for breakfast including coffee, 150 ZAR ($8) lunch & 250 ZAR ($14) dinner
- Mid: 150 ($8) for breakfast, 250 ($14) for lunch & 400 ($22) for dinner
- High-end: 200 ($11) breakfast, 350 ($20) lunch & 600 ($33) for dinner (this excludes exotic meals of course and seafood platters)
On average I would say when it comes to food you can expect to spend around 100-150 ZAR ($5.50-$8) on breakfast at a sit-down place and this includes a meal and a coffee. There isn’t much difference in breakfast prices across the different establishments that serve breakfast, so whether you get it at a hotel or a basic coffee shop won’t make much of a difference.
Lunch at a sit-down venue may cost 200 ZAR ($11) for a burger and chips plus a drink but that could easily be the price of a salad or pizza only in a nice spot like Bungalow or the Grand Beach Cafe. However, if you go for street food like a gatsby you will spend much less on lunch. Of course, if you are on a tight budget you can always buy your bread (20 ZAR ($1) and eggs (30 ZAR ($1.6) for 6 ) and make your own if you stay in a self-catering place.
Dinner is where you see the real difference because you could get a pasta dish for 150 ZAR ($8) in a family restaurant like Primi Piatti but expect to pay around 350-400 ZAR ($20-$22) in an upmarket place for steak and fries excluding drinks, especially in a top-end restaurant like The Nines in Seapoint.
Here’s how much you should expect to pay for accommodation in Cape Town:
- Low-end: Expect to pay around 5,000 – 32,000 ZAR ($270-$1,800) per night
- Mid-range: You would more likely find that in the Oranjezicht, Gardens, City Bowl, Green Point and Seapoint area. For mid-range accommodation expect to pay from 16,000-40,000 ZAR ($888-$2,300) for a two-week stay.
- High-end: You can stay at a 5-star hotel like the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa on the foot of Table Mountain or you can rent a whole villa in Camps Bay or Llandudno. A villa would cost you 340,000 ZAR ($19,000).
For backpackers, you also have many options to choose from, both in the city as well as in the suburbs, for those who don’t mind staying outside the city. The Bloubergstrand area, for instance, is very popular with tourists as it’s on the beach, you get amazing views of the city from there and beautiful sunsets, plus it’s a 30-minutes drive to the city. This is a great place to stay for those who like to surf (alongside Muizenberg).
Safety in Cape Town
So, is Cape Town Safe? Put shortly, Cape Town is a safe city to visit as long as you observe some guidelines and don’t visit the areas that are highlighted as crime hotspots. My advice is to not walk around with expensive cameras and cellphones in full view and easy access to anyone. Petty criminals are always looking for easy targets and unsuspecting tourists can find themselves at the receiving end of such crimes.
Most tourists stay in the City Bowl and surrounding areas like Green Point and Seapoint which have easy and quick access to all the nightclubs, the beach day and night shopping, and exploring the sites. Those who don’t mind not being in the city choose to stay in nearby suburbs like the Blouberg area and the southern suburbs – Woodstock, Claremont, Constantia, Hout Bay.
If you have to walk at night, stay with a group and carry an extra battery for your phone. If you want to explore the far-out suburbs and/or townships please bear in mind that they don’t have a good safety profile – hire a driver or go with a local friend. You will be fine as long as you observe these guidelines.
Arriving in Cape Town
If you are an international traveler you would arrive in Cape Town mainly by plane. Depending on your country of origin you could take a direct flight because Cape Town is an international airport, or most internationals land in OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg which is the main feeder, and a bigger airport than Cape Town. Then you would have to catch a connecting flight to Cape Town.
If Cape Town is not your first destination and you are touring other parts of the country as well you could arrive here by bus from one of the main cities like Durban, Johannesburg, and Durban. Port Elizabeth, East London, and Bloemfontein are the smaller cities but they are also on the bus route to Cape Town. So there are two main bus companies that operate these routes, Greyhound and Intercape. Both also connect South Africa with neighboring countries like Namibia and Mozambique. A Greyhound ticket from Johannesburg to Cape Town costs around 600 ZAR ($33) and Intercape costs from 500-900 ZAR ($27-$50) depending on the date and time of travel.
Shopping in Cape Town
Whether it’s luxury or budget shopping you’re looking for, this city has got it all. Here are some of the places to add to your shopping list as well as the type of shopping you can expect to get from each one.
Cape Town Shopping Highlights:
- V&A Waterfront: A massive complex with luxury hotels, a mall featuring over 450 stores, from budget to international brands. Also offers art, jewelry, and dining options. Open daily from 9 AM to 9 PM.
- Merchants on Long: A unique store with stylish clothing from top South African designers and items from across Africa. Price range varies.
- Anpa: An artisan jewelry boutique located 30 kilometers south in Kalk Bay. Offers custom pieces crafted in consultation with the designer. Open Tuesday to Saturday.
- Access Park: A shopping center with factory and discount stores for clothing, shoes, homewares, and more. Features well-known brands like Nike and Adidas. Located in Kenilworth and Bellville.
- Manova Ladies Shoes Factory Shop: Primarily a shoe shop but also offers beauty products, household items, and clothing. Perfect for shoe lovers. Based in Kuilsriver with a sister branch in Parow. Open weekdays from 9 AM to 5 PM and until 1 PM on Saturdays.
The Waterfront complex is quite huge and it’s made up of a number of complexes and very high-end hotels like the 5-star Table Bay Hotel, self-catering apartments that are built around a working harbor. Even the One & Only Hotel, which apparently is the only 6-star hotel in Africa is within a walk of the mall. The shopping mall itself has over 450 retail outlets where you will find clothing shops from budget clothing chain stores to the big international brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton boutiques. Here you will find leather goods shops, curios, art, jewelry, confectionary, food supermarkets and a wide range of restaurants. There is a cinema complex as well. The Watershed shopping center is adjacent to the mall and it also features food, clothing, jewelry and art stores. The mall is open from 9AM-9PM everyday. Just outside the mall is a ferry wheel for spectacular views of the city and there are often dance and music groups entertaining the crowds.
Merchants on Long
This store is one of a kind. It sells stylish clothing from some of the biggest South African designers and has goods from across the continent as well. They also carry shoes and homeware products. If you’re looking for something with a South African feel to it this is the place to visit. The prices may not be cheap though.
If you don’t mind driving out of the city, a distance of some 30kms (18.6 mi) south, that’s where you will find a quant fishing village called Kalk Bay and Anpa, an artisan jewelry boutique. Here you can consult with the jewelry designer who will then craft a unique piece for you or maybe to take back home to your loved one. They are open from Tuesday to Saturday.
When it comes to budget shopping this city is also a treasure trove of factory shops where you can shop till you drop especially if you’re carrying euros and dollars.
The shopping center has factory and discount stores of everything from clothing to shoes to homeware to kid’s apparel. It also houses some of the big brand shops like Nike and Adidas outlets. There are two branches, one in Kenilworth (13kms (8 mi) south) and another in Bellville, 23kms (14 mi) north of the city.
Before I moved to Cape Town I used to always set a day aside to go shopping at Access Park when I visit this city so I know it’s worth the trip.
The Manova Ladies Shoes Factory shop
Although mainly a shoe factory shop they also carry a range of beauty and hair care products, household detergents and clothing. If you’re a lady who loves her shoes and is a trendsetter, you should visit this place. They are based in Kuilsriver and they have a sister branch in Parow called Happi Shoes. They are open from 9AM-5PM on Mondays to Fridays and till 1PM on Saturdays.
Thola is a research psychologist who left the field in 2019 and has been writing professionally for various magazines including her own blog ZuluSingleandFab since then. She also writes as a ghostwriter for various clients and has published 5 books to date. Her love of writing started during the COVID-19 lockdowns when she created her website to share her travel stories and her health and fitness journey. A gym enthusiast and lover of healthy food, she published a book, “Fit and Fabolous at Fifty” on Amazon Kindle in 2020 and is currently in the process of writing her second book about her life experiences from leaving a powerful corporate job to working as a freelance writer.