Cape Town is one of Africa’s greatest places to visit and these are our picks for the very best things to do in Cape Town, South Africa!
Cape Town is not only beautiful, it is has world-class dining, beautiful scenery and a lot of adventure.
Our Favorite Places to Visit in Cape Town
1. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
Cape Town can attribute much of its beauty to Table Mountain as it towers over the beautiful colonial buildings, long sandy beaches and gorgeous waterfront. Table mountain is the imposing backdrop of any city on earth and taking the aerial tramway up to the top gives you a bird’s eye view of the scenery. The cable car is a thrill and there are a lot of adventures you can do once at the top from hiking up or abseiling down!
Combine your cable car ticket with a hop-on-hop off tour of Cape Town. Catch the bus directly to Table Mountain with the flexibility of this ticket for 14 days from first use. This is a must as the weather on Table Mountain can be very unpredictable.
2. Robben Island
Robben Island was where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during 27 years and is not to be missed when visiting Cape Town. The half-hour boat ride made me think of what little hope prisoners must have had as they were taken to isolation, surrounded by frigid shark-infested waters.
They could see freedom. Robben Island is located just 6.9 km (4.2 miles) off the coast of Cape Town, but there was no escape back.
About Robben Island
The guides are former inmates of Robben Island who make the experience that much more gripping. They told personal stories of their time there and on further conversation, our guide told us that “he uses this experience now as a sort of therapy and way of coming to terms with his experience.” These men are true heroes. It was amazing what they managed to accomplish from behind bars and eventually bring the end to apartheid.
Nelson Mandela’s Cell
We saw Nelson Mandela’s tiny cell in the maximum-security wing, the quarry where he chipped away with crude tools and where the secret meetings took place as well as the yard where he took fresh air. Our guide also told us that near the end of Apartheid, several guards were sympathetic to the prisoners.
They treated them well bringing them uncensored newspapers and they actually had to transfer guards often because they were so sympathetic to the prisoners. I think about how horrible it must have been, but also how happy they must feel to see that their sacrifice was not in vain. How often do freedom fighters actually live long enough to see change and to see what they are fighting for actually happen?
3. V&A Waterfront
A Great place to visit in Cape Town is the V&A Waterfront. It’s the cultural centre of the city! Go shopping, eat amazing seafood, or simply go for a stroll along the waterfront. We finished our cycling race down Africa here and instantly fell in love with the urban vibe. Make sure to take a ride on the Cape Wheel for fantastic panoramic views of the city.
We included Cape Town as a stop on our list of The Best Road Trips in the World. See where else was on the list.
4. Go Sand Boarding
You may not have known this, but Cape Town has some huge sand dunes just outside the city. If you go with Sandboarding Cape Town, they’ll pick you up in the city centre, drive you out to the dunes, and supply you with everything you need. There’s no experience required.
Dave and I thought we’d be pros since we’re snowboarders, but it didn’t work out that way. Sandboarding is completely different from snowboarding. Even if you’ve never strapped on a pair of skis, snowboards, or waterskis, you’ll be fine.
Book a sandboarding trip from Cape Town through GetYourGuide. Free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance.
Number 1 Money Saving Tip in Cape Town
Cape Town City Pass – The official City Pass lets you save 50% on Cape Town attractions, landmarks, and tours. Plus fast track entry to some of Cape Town’s top tourist attractions.
- Top Cape Town Pass includes:
- Table Mountain Arial Tramway
- Cape Peninsula Tour
- Hop on Hop off Bus
- Cape Town Township Tour
- Seal Island Nauticat Charters
- And more
- Get Your Cape Town City Pass Here
4. Paraglide off Lions Head
If there is one place on earth to go paragliding, it’s Cape Town, South Africa. Make sure to give yourself a few days to make it happen. Winds can be unpredictable taking off from Lions Head. We tried for 3 days and our Cape Town Paragliding experience kept getting canceled due to bad weather.
Lucky for us, we’ve done our share of paragliding, but we were still bummed we didn’t get to brag about doing this most iconic of Cape Town Adventures.
You can book a tandem paragliding in advance. There’s free and easy 24 hour cancellation. If Paragliding is a bit much, book a sunset book a sunset hike to Lion’s Head for incredible views of Camp’s Bay Beach and Clifton Beach, the city of Cape Town and Table Mountain.
5. Clifton Beach
We made sure to drive out to Clifton Beach for dinner. It’s a great little community where surfers hang out on the sandy beach. Clifton Beach good for shopping and people watching.
This is where the rich live in Cape Town and it is a beach lover’s paradise. There are actually four amazing beaches in the area so you have your choice.
6. Take a Walking Tour of Bo Kaap
Bo Kaap is a former township that is one of the most famous places to visit in Cape Town. The former Malay Quarter’s colorful buildings attract photographers to capture its cobblestone streets and vibrant community located on the slopes of Signal Hill.
Take a cooking class here to taste the infusion of Mayal Cuisine with South Africa cooking. This cultural quarter was settled by Malaysian and Indonesian slaves in the 17th century that were brought over by the Dutch.
Book a Cooking class with lunch in Bo Kaap – learn to cook and sample traditional Malay meals and then go for a walk to see the iconic colourful houses. Get your Instagram feed ready for a ton of likes!
7. District Six Museum
To learn more of Cape Town’s apartheid history, a visit to the District Six Museum is an eye opener. District Six was a neighborhood that the South African government destroyed in the 1960s to honor the sixty thousand residents who were forcibly removed and relocated to the Townships.
The segregating Group Areas Act moved all nonwhite residents out of this desirable neighborhood to make room for white residents.
It was opened in 1994 and the museum contains handwritten letters and photographs from former residents. It is a reminder of the brutality of the apartheid era and restitution is still ongoing.
For an in depth immersion into local life and District Six, book a Townships Tour to listen to personal stories of the forceful removal. The tour combines a visit three different townships including Langa, the oldest formal township in South Africa. You also have a beer tasting included and meet with local entrepreneurs who are breathign life into the townships of Cape Town.
8. Townships of Cape Town
A good tour in conjunction with the District Six Museum is to explore the Townships.
Township tours have come a long way since our first visit to Cape Town in 2008. They are a great way to support the lcoal community and to learn of the rich culture and history.
It is totally personal, but if you book an ethical tour that supports the local community, I think it is a good way to give back while learning about the lives of every day citizens in Cape Town.
Cape Town Townships Half Day tour – Take a personal guided tour through life in the Townships. Visit the Guglethu Seven Memorial in Geglethu Township honoring the 7 young activists who died on 3 March 1986.
9. Simon’s Town
A great day tour is to head out to Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach to see the Penguin colony. Located in a sheltered bay of the Cape Peninsula, it is a wonderful places to spy on the African penguin colony that calls it home. From the safety of a wooden platform, you get to watch these little cuties in their natural habitat.
While in Simon’s Town, enjoy a seafood lunch in the harbor.
If you don’t want to rent a car, you can book a full day Cape Point and Penguins excursion from Cape Town. Stop at Boulders Beach to see the penguins, and then move on to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cape Point for a guided walk from Cape Point to the Cape of Good Hope.
10. Chapman’s Peak Drive
En route to Boulder’s Beach, we were thrilled to drive along one of the most scenic highways in the world. If you are comfortable, rent a car in Cape Town and drive Chapman’s Peak. It’s an iconic slice of highway located just outside of Cape Town.
When leaving Cape Town take the M63 to Hout Bay where the drive begins and then drives along a spectacular coast to Noordhoek. This toll highway is featured in many films and commercials and I can see why. The enormous cliffs fall into the water with a two-lane highway carved into its side. It is a breathtaking and thrilling drive.
11. Cape of Good Hope
Head farther down the coast from Simon’s Town to the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula. The Cape of Good Hope is one of the world’s most famous destinations. It is often thought of as the southern tip of Africa, but in fact, that title goes to Cape Agulhas.
But the Cape of Good Hope is famous for its treacherous waters that claimed many a ship where sailors had to pass before the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
12. Cape Point
Cape Point is located just 10 minutes away from the Cape of Good Hope. It is higher than the Cape of Good Hope, offering breathtaking views of the rugged coast. Take the funicular to the lighthouse for a unique experience. The Flying Dutchman Funicular was named after the Ghost Ship of the Cape and is an easy and fast way to get to the top. But you can hike as well. There are hiking rails all long the coast.
Only a short time in Cape Town? See the best of the Cape Peninsula with this day tour. Stop at Camps and Clifton Bay, see the penguins, go to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Preserve and stroll through the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
13. Kalk Bay
This suburb of Cape Town has become a trendy stop for shopping for antiques and sampling seafood. It gained popularity when Forbes named it one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world in 2018. It’s a blend of relaxing fishing village meeting a bustling arts district. Watch seals lounging on the pier, swim in the Dalebrook Tidal Pool, sample the food or catch a dinner theatre show in the old Dutch Reformed Church.
14. Take a Helicopter Tour
As you know, Dave and I love helicopter tours. There is no better way to take in the beauty of a magnificent city than from the air. Cape Town is one of those cities that requires a view from above.From the incredible coast to Table Mountain to the Atlantic Ocean and the V&A Waterfront, this is a tour you’ll never forget.
15. Dine at the 12 Apostles
We fell in love with the Red Carnation hotel chain in South Africa. And the 12 Apostles lived up to the luxurious experience we’ve come to expect. Try a wine pairing dinner with wines from their very own South African Estate wines or join them for afternoon tea. Located in Camps Bay it sits above the Atlantic Ocean between Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles mountain range.
Book your stay at the Luxurious 12 Apostles and check reviews on Trip Advisor
16. Chill on Long Street
Long Street is the main artery running through Cape Town and the CBD (Central Business District). It’s the place for nightlife in Cape Town with bars, eateries and rooftop lounges.
Cape Town Travel has a great list of the best places to eat and chill out on Long Street.
17. Groot Constantia
Groot Constantia is the oldest winery in South Africa and its located just 20 minutes from Cape Town. Dating back to 1685, it was turned into a South African Cultural History Museum. There’s a vineyard, two restaurants plus beautiful scenery and Cape Dutch Manor House to explore.
Day Tours from Cape Town
If you only have a short time, you can book day tours from Cape Town to enjoy these areas. But we recommend staying a night or two in each as they are amazing.
18. Gainsbai for Great White Shark Diving
Sure it may be 2 hours outside of Cape Town, but this is your once in a lifetime chance to dive with Great White Sharks. This was a highlight of any of our trips to South Africa and we highly recommend it.
The drive to Gainsbaii is an easy one, but if you don’t want to drive, most companies will arrange transportation for you from Cape Town. Do it! You won’t regret it. Read all about it: Cage Diving with Great White Sharks
19. Whale Watching in Hermanus
Day tours can be booked from Cape Town to go whale watching in Hermanus just 90 minutes from downtown Cape Town. Hermanus is one of the greatest places in the world to go whale watching from June to November. From September to October, Hermanus hosts the whale festival where thousands of people come for the arrival of the Southern Right Whales to breed, and give birth.
You can book a full day Hermanus Whale watching tour from Cape Town that includes a whale watching cruise, wine tasting at Bouchard Finlayson and a visit to the Penguins at Stony Point.
20. Cape Winelands
Keeping our rental car for a week, we had an amazing time exploring all around Cape Town. South Africa has made a name for itself when it comes to wine and we explored Stellenbosch and its 100+ vineyards. We then made our way to nearby Franschhoek, the wine capital of the country with old vineyards scattered through the Franschhoek Wine Valley in the heart of the Cape Winelands. We stumbled upon the most charming Bed and Breakfast “The Centre Ville”
While in the region, you cannot go without doing a wine tasting and we went to Grande Provence for lunch. The meal was incredible and it was made clear why afterward. When we saw all of the awards on the wall.
Who would have thought that Ox Tail Ravioli would accompany sirloin filets so nicely? And the caviar tasted so sweet! It was voted as the 1 of the top 10 best restaurants in South Africa.
And these are the best things to do in Cape Town with some day trip ideas. When are you planning to go to South Africa?