Cape Town is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I’m sure it is. Table mountain creates an amazing backdrop to the city and the 12 Apostles stand majestic in Camps Bay. Cape Town equals beaches, colonial architecture, lively harbour areas, delicious wine, chic restaurants.
The city itself is not huge and a week only in Cape Town seems rather long. But Cape Town is usually much more than the city, as there are plenty of great day excursion destinations along the Cape Peninsula: Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point, Stellenbosch, Simon’s Town and the penguins at Boulder’s beach to name a few. And of course Robben Island – the home of Nelson Mandela for 18 years.
Renting a car, at least for a couple of days, is a brilliant option for getting around Cape Town and surroundings. As I mentioned in my South Africa Road Trip post, car rentals and petrol are rather cheap in South Africa, at least for us coming from the eurozone. But if a rental car is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of arranged excursions and trips around the Peninsula so not to worry. And of course the wine tasting trips are much more fun if you don’t have to worry about driving. The reason we have always chosen a rental car is independence. The freedom to choose the route and schedule we want.
If you have a week in Cape Town, I would recommend a day or two to visit Cape Point and the little towns around the Peninsula, a day in Stellenbosch, a morning or afternoon trip to Robben Island and the rest of the day in Victoria and Alfred Waterfront for example, a few days on the beaches in Camps Bay and Clifton if the weather permits, and the rest of your time just enjoy the spirit of the city. Don’t forget to visit the colourful Bo-Kaap and the top of Table Mountain.
Food: Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is full of restaurants, but in my opinion the best restaurants in town are clustered along Kloof Street downtown. My personal favourite is Cafe Paradiso, an Italian restaurant with a beautiful garden and breathtaking views to Table Mountain. You should definitely also visit number 18, Kloof Street. In this address you can find Bardelli’s: inconspicuous from the outside but very cosy on the inside and has by far the best pizzas in town.
Beaches: The views to the mountains are spectacular in Camps Bay and you can take your pick from a number of great restaurants. The beach is gorgeous, but rather crowded on a warm day. If you are looking for something more quiet and don’t need restaurants, you might want to visit one or more of the four Clifton beaches. Don’t necessarily expect to go swimming – the water is always icy cold.
Accommodation: for the most part I would recommend bead & breakfasts, there are a lot more of those than hotels so you should be able to find something in every price range. Clifton and Camps Bay have some of the most fancy ones with great views, but they are also more expensive. There is also a great selection of hostels and b&b’s around Kloof Street. If you don’t want to spend much money but would like to have ocean views, Milnerton might be your pick. But as you probably already guessed, it is further away from downtown so a rental car is almost a must.
Activities: Dine well, enjoy the scenery. Visit Robben Island and the top of Table Mountain at sunset. And all the other stuff I already listed above.
In all its beauty, Cape Town has two sides. 20 years have passed since the abolition of Apartheid but it’s ghost is still present. As in most towns in South Africa, there are two city centres in Cape Town. The original downtown and the one built for tourists. In Cape Town the original city centre is in the City Bowl and the tourist centre of the city is Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. If you are looking to experience the more authentic Cape Town, you won’t find it in Waterfront.
A greater division as the one between the two city centres is that between the city itself and the township of Khayelitsha – one of the largest slum areas in South Africa. Khayelitsha is home to over a million people and it is the fastest growing slum in South Africa. It is not advised to visit the are on your own so there are plenty of arranged excursions. Personally, I have decided not to visit the townships as I feel I would be intruding on people’s lives and homes going there just for touristic purposes.
All in all Cape Town is a gorgeous part of South Africa at its best – its scenery, history and culture. And it serves as an excellent starting point and final stop for a road trip.
No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. -Nelson Mandela