The best things to do in Cape Town

Cape Town is a city that seems to have it all: nature, culture, the beach, and nearly perfect weather. Choosing what to do in Cape Town can seem daunting only because there is simply so much to do there! Together with other bloggers, I’ve compiled the top 10 things to do in Cape Town that you can’t miss on your visit! If you’re looking for a guide, don’t miss this 3 day Cape Town itinerary.

things to do in cape town

In this blog post you’ll find a list of activities in Cape Town, fun things to do in Cape Town, and Cape Town tourist attractions. Before reading, if you have any concerns about safety, find out why South Africa is one of the safest places in Africa – but still do keep your wits about you!

Looking for more great adventures in South Africa? Check out these posts:

10 Cape Town attractions you can’t miss:

Sunset at Chapman’s Peak

Chapmans peak sunset
Chapman’s Peak is one of the best things to do in Cape Town
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in South Africa. Mountains drop into the cold clear Atlantic ocean. In the warmer months of October to April the sun sets late into the evening. The Cape Town sunsets are known to be some of the best in the world. Chapman’s Peak is a cliff that runs along the ocean from Hout bay to Noordhoek. Sunset at Chapman’s Peak is one of the best things to do in Cape Town.
There are many stops alongside the 9km cliff where you can pull over and witness some of the most beautiful views. The sunsets here are out of this world and never disappoint, making it one of the most romantic things to do in Cape Town.
It’s a great way to unwind from the day and meet friendly locals who make this view a part of their evening routine. To get to Chapmans Peak you can enter from Noordhoek side or Cape Town City, Camps Bay side. There is a small toll free but this is only for the upkeep of falling rocks which makes it well worth it!
For more tips on Africa from Lisa and Liza and where to visit, check out Soul Drifters.



Visit Robben Island

Murrays bay

We did not have a chance to visit Robben Island on our first trip to Cape Town and I wasn’t going to miss out on this tour the second time around. It is important to factor in weather conditions when planning this tour. You may want to schedule the early morning departure at the beginning of your trip just in case the ferry can’t make it out on your chosen date/time. The tour lasts 3.5 hours and it is worth every minute!

Considered a world heritage site, Robben Island is very rich in history and is known most recently as the place where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner. Robben island represents the struggle for freedom against oppression of basic human rights and a place where great men were held captive. There are two parts to the tour, when you arrive you are escorted to a bus that takes you around the island. Be sure to sit in the middle of the bus as this is where the guide usually stands. As you make your way around the island you’ll learn about the graveyard where people who died from leprosy were buried, the Lime Quarry, Robert Sobukwe’s house, the Bluestone quarry, the army and navy bunkers and the Maximum-Security Prison.

The second part, the prison tour, is given by a former inmate. Our guide was ZoZo, inmate 45/77. Listening to someone who was held prisoner for five years share their experience is far more impactful than listening to an audio recording. It was incredibly humbling to witness Zozo’s resilience and lack of resentment for the time he spent incarcerated. Instead, he took the time to educate us by sharing his story and the story of his fellow inmates. This tour is an absolute must! Visiting Robben Island is one of the best tourist attractions in Cape Town and one of the most romantic things to do in Cape Town. 

From Travel like a Chieff  check out her post on Cape Town here

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Visit Kirstenbosch Gardens

kirstenbosch gardens

A trip to Cape Town is not complete without a visit to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. I’ve been to a lot of national gardens, but this is amongst the most beautiful gardens I’ve seen. It is nestled on the slopes of the iconic Table Mountain. It is the first botanical garden in the world to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This 1,300 acres garden is home to over 7000 plant species indigenous to Southern Africa. Depending on your interest in botanical gardens you can easily spend a half-day there.

There are a plethora of things to explore, including a fragrance garden, a Braille trial, a kopje (hill) planted with pelargoniums, a sculpture garden, and medicinal plants. Walk the Boomslang, a canopy walkway that provides stunning panoramic views of the gardens. If you are up for a full day adventure, hike Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine, two trails from the gardens that lead up Table Mountain. During the summer season (September to March), live music concerts are held every Sunday. Visitors who prefer a structured stay can enjoy a free guided tour. Guides present the highlights of the season while also exploring the majority of the garden. Kirstenbosch’s hours of entrance varies by season.

During the summer, Monday to Sunday hours of operation are 8 AM- 7 PM. During the winter (April to August), Monday to Sunday hours of operation are 8am-6pm. Entrance fees are R65 for adults, R15 for children (6-17 years old), and free for children under 6 years old. You don’t want to miss this cultural gem, which is one of the most fun things to do in Cape Town!

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Visit the V&A Waterfront

V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town is the cool place to be of the city. A shopping centre, the diamond museum, the Two Oceans Aquarium, a yacht marina and a series of villas built on the ocean. A visit to the V&A waterfront is surely a must if you are visiting the city. We visited in August, and therefore it is low season in South Africa. There weren’t huge crowds, but I imagine it is the other way round in the high season period.

Apart from the actual shopping centre the waterfront offers stunning views of the iconic Table Mountain. You can grab a ride on the Cape Wheel to admire the unique geography that characterises the mother city. The best restaurants are also located here at the V&A Waterfront and you have a lot of choice, from those specialising in seafood, to meat as well as cuisines from around the world. However bear in mind that this is the most expensive area of the city and if you are travelling on a budget there are surely excellent alternatives.

The waterfront is usually the point of the departure for boat rides towards Robben Island and also helicopter rides above the city. No wonder it has become South Africa’s most visited destination!  Don’t miss the V&A Waterfront, it really is one of the best tourist attractions in Cape Town.

From Lenise Calleja Photography

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Hike Signal Hill

signal hill

If you have been in the City Center or at the V&A Waterfront during lunch-time, you will most likely have heard a massive “boom” at noon. For first timers, this may be a bit scary but Cape Towners know this noise as the Noon Gun, fired every day at 12h00 on Signal Hill.

But a gun and loud noises aren’t the only things Signal Hill has to offer: Locals and foreigners alike enjoy the beautiful views over the city from here. The 350 m hill is one of the most famous spots to enjoy the sunset over Cape Town. The best time to head there is in the afternoon, when the sun is still up. Pack a few delicious snacks and a bottle of wine and watch the paragliders jump off from the edge of the hill. As the sun starts to set, more and more people flock in to enjoy the incredible views, making it another one of the most romantic things to do in Cape Town. 

In case you are also short on time and decide to make your way to the hill right on time for sunset it is best to use Uber instead of driving your own car so you won’t have any trouble with finding a parking spot.

If you feel more active you can also hike up the hill from Central Cape Town. The hike is easy with a total elevation of less than 350 m and will take around 2 hours, and the hike up Signal hill is one of the best activities to do in Cape Town. 

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Hike Lion’s Head

Hike Lion's head

If you’re not up for the torturous hike up Table Mountain (you can take a cable car up instead) hiking Lion’s Head is a great alternative and one of the most iconic landmarks in Cape Town. (Plus there’s no cable car for this one!) This hike is best enjoyed at sunrise, so hit the trail about an hour to an hour-and-a-half before sunset and make sure to bring a flashlight.

The five kilometer hike itself is not terribly difficult but does require a moderate level of physical activity. There are areas where the hike gets rather steep, and chains and ladders are there to assist in some light mountain climbing. The last part of the hike is the most challenging however the end result is more than worth it. Once you reach the top, the sights are unparalleled with views in every direction; from Table Mountain to the Atlantic Ocean and Camps Bay.

Take a rest as you enjoy the sunrise over the city with a light snack and plenty of water. This is the perfect opportunity to also engage in a photo-op so don’t forget to pack a camera. Remember to apply sunscreen before making your way back down, where the journey will be much easier and enjoyable as you take in the beauty scenery in the early morning light. Climbing Lion’s Head is one of the most exciting things to do in Cape Town, and one of the most adventurous things to do in Cape Town.

Read Mona’s post all about South Africa here

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Hike Table Mountain (or take the cable car up)

table mountain

No visit to Cape Town is complete without a visit to Table Mountain, Cape Town’s icon. Hiking up Table Mountain is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the natural landscape the city has to offer, and there are various routes up. The best route to hike Table Mountain is through Kirstenbosch Gardens, which will take you around 3-4 hours. If you’re not up for a hike, have no fear, there is also a (very impressive) cable car that you can take up Table Mountain as well.

The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway runs between 8-19hrs and R290 in the morning, and R275 in the afternoon. Even if you take the cable car, you’ll be able to walk around the shelf of Table Mountain when you get to the top, allowing you to get beautiful views over Cape Town.

If you decide to visit Table Mountain, whether hiking or on the cable car, be sure to visit when Table Mountain doesn’t have its famous “table cloth,” i.e. when it is not shrouded in cloud cover! Cape Town sightseeing doesn’t get any better than seeing the city from above.

Hiking in South Africa? Don’t forget to pack correctly! You’ll need to bring a pair of hiking boots, a day pack and a water reservoir.

Click here for more tips on what to do in South Africa

Do it for the ‘gram in Bo-Kaap

bo kaap

Bo Kaap is a multicultural neighborhood best known for its colorful houses. You’ve probably seen some of these coming across your Instagram feed from anyone you know who has visited Cape Town. Bo Kaap is actually one of Cape Town’s oldest neighborhoods, and was previously known as the Malay Quarter due to the high population of Malay peoples in Bo Kaap. As it was a traditionally Muslim neighborhood, Bo Kaap also houses the country’s oldest mosque.

There isn’t just one story about how the neighborhood came to be so colorful, but the most likely one is that the colors of the houses are linked to Ramadan and Eid, and Muslims would paint their houses these colors in celebration of Eid. Another theory is that the neighborhood was historically quite poor, so the people living there had to paint their houses with any paint they could find.

Either way, this has set the stage for Bo Kaap to become one of the most Instagram-able places in Cape Town. Bo Kaap is easily reached from Cape Town’s business district, so be sure to swing by if you are in the neighborhood. A visit to Bo Kaap is one of the activities in Cape Town that you cannot miss!

Check out this post from Story at Every Corner for more info on Bo Kaap


Visit Muizenberg Beach

muizenberg

If you haven’t had enough of colorful houses already, a visit to Muizenberg beach is another must do in Cape Town. Loacated on the False Bay coast, Muizenberg is known as the home of surfing in South Africa – gnarly, dude. From Cape Town CBD it will take you about 30 minutes to reach Muizenberg.

As with many beach destinations, there are loads of fun things to do here like learn to surf, kitesurf and SUP. It wasn’t so long ago that Muizenberg was run down, but locally the locals led a project to renew the beach back to its old glory. The colorful Victorian houses on the beach front are empty but the city is currently working on giving them a new life.

To reach Muizenberg from Cape Town by car, drive in the direction of Simon’s Town. If you don’t have a car you can still reach the beach by taking the MetroRail that runs between Cape Town and Muizenberg.

Chill out at Clifton Beach

borrowed from Wikipedia

Once you’ve had enough of all these things to see in Cape Town, make sure you pay a visit to Clifton Beach to relax on the beach. Rent a beach lounger and umbrella and spend your afternoon watching the waves roll in. Clifton Beach is one of those spots in Cape Town that makes you realize Cape Town really does have it all.  Clifton is one of the most expensive residential areas of Cape Town, to be sure to enjoy the view of the houses as well 😉

One of the best features of Clifton Beach, besides that it is beautiful, is that it is protected from the wicked Cape Doctor, or South Easterly wind. So rest assured, you can chill on the beach in peace without getting swept away!  Chilling out at the beach is also one of the best free things to do in Cape Town.

Looking for more South Africa travel tips? Check out these posts:

Did this post help you plan what to do in Cape Town? Let me know in the comments below! 

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24 Comments

  1. I’ve been to Cape Town twice and there are still things on this list I haven’t done yet! Hope to check a few off on our next visit! Thank you for putting this together! It’s really useful!

    • gab.grow@gmail.com Reply

      thanks so much for contributing to it Pamela!

  2. I was in Cape Town for Christmas this year and we did most of what you suggest. We hiked DOWN Table Mountain and I could barely walk the next day!! It’s a beautiful city. I hope to return.

    • gab.grow@gmail.com Reply

      oh wow, which way did you walk down? I was sooo happy we took the Cable Car! the way up was great but I was (very) sweaty

  3. Nice! I’ve never been to South Africa but Cape Town looks amazing! The views and the ocean are stunning! I heard you can dive with white sharks there ( don’t know if I’m brave enough).

    • gab.grow@gmail.com Reply

      yes you can! That is in Gansbaai which is just a short drive from Cape Town… I didn’t do it either, that is not my idea of fun!

  4. Cape Town looks amazing. The sunset view and the Hike Signal Hill looks stunning ! Would love to visit this destination. Nicely written too. Thanks

  5. Seriously- Cape Town looks amazing!!! It is on top of my bucket list and this is a great post to help us plan our trip on what to see!!!

    • gab.grow@gmail.com Reply

      ah I hope you get to visit soon! it is as amazing as it looks, I promise!

  6. Wauw, so many amazing places to see ? I haven’t been to South Africa yet, but this definitely made me want to go even more!

    • gab.grow@gmail.com Reply

      yes it is a great place to visit… Cape Town has everything a visitor could want!

  7. I have never been to Cape Town, but it looks like there are some amazing things to do. I love the colorful houses of Bo Kaap and Muizenberg Beach. Lion’s Head looks like it would be the ideal hiking setting for me. It would be so interesting to visit Robben Island (although it probably is a somber experience as well). Now, I’m ready to plan an itinerary for Cape Town.

    • gab.grow@gmail.com Reply

      glad this post inspired you! I hope you will get to visit, its a city that’s got it all!

  8. Fantastic posts really emoted reading it and seeing all your lovely photos, I have bookmarked this for future reference, your photos were really beautiful, what camera are you using?
    Can’t wait to visit Cape Town

  9. I loved visiting Cape Town and I completely agree with your list! You can even stay in Bo-Kaap we found a very decently priced hotel there!

  10. Denny George Reply

    Cape town is my favorite city in the world, period! I love everything about the place, including its serene beaches, awesome nature all around, the amazing people… the list goes on. I’ve done nearly everything on this list except hike signal hill or lion’s head. That would be a good excuse to return though. The only other couple of things I might add to your really well thought out list is Boulder’s beach, and Simon’s town

  11. I would absolutely love to do all the things you compiled here 🙂 I have heard so many great things about Cape Town – this piece just proves how true they all are. I would love to check out Muizenberg Beach or to ‘gram it up in Bo-Kaap. Those places are so colorful and cheerful. Congrats on this compilation.

  12. Clifton beach would be my first choice, I love your picture, those waters are breathtaking. Also, the sunset at Chapman’s Peak is magical and since I love chasing sunsets, looking for the best place to capture one, that would have to be on m list too. Such magical pictures (as yours) transport me to the city I am reading about, I am imagining myself hiking the table mountain already before going for a nice dip in the Muizenberg Beach.

  13. I’m very intrigued by South Africa these days so this article was perfect!
    The Kirstenbosch Garden looks stunning!!
    Everything look like a mix of all the great things that make a trip memorable! The colorful houses are wonderful, the view, the mountains, the beaches….
    Can’t wait to go there as well!!

    • gab.grow@gmail.com Reply

      Thanks Joanna! There are so many great things to do in Cape Town AND South Africa.. you will never be bored there!

  14. I’ve been living in Cape Town for 23 years and to me it is still the most beautiful city in the world
    I love reading your posts , they are beautifully and acurately written.
    The hike up Lion’s Head is one of my favourite things to do. The tradition is, as the first full moon of the year, to hike up before sunset, having a picnic while watching the extraordinary display of colours at the end of the day…..and then wait for the big yellow full moon to rise over the mountains behind Stellenbosch. Super special..
    There are two Big 5 Safari Game Reserves in close proximity to Cape Town for those interested. Fairy Glen Game Reserve is about an hours drive towards Worcester on the N1 and Aquila Private Game Reserve is 2 hours out on the N2 towards the Garden Route xx
    Enjoy our lovely city xx Herma

    • gab.grow@gmail.com Reply

      Thanks for the great extra tips Herma! I really loved Cape Town… I’m a bit jealous you live there 😉

  15. Pingback: 5 Of The Best Activities You Can Do In Southern Africa - Backpackingman

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