20 Amazing Things to do in Cape Town, South Africa

Written By: The Planet D

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.

South Africa is one of our favorite places in the world and we never miss a visit to Cape Town when we are there. Check out why!

Things to do in Cape Town South Africa

1. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

things to do in south africa cape town
Table Mountain over Cape Town

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

visit robben island | what to do from cape town
Entrance to 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

nelson mandela's cell robben island | places to visit in cape town
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

things to do in cape town v & a waterfront
Stay or shop at the 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

what to do in cape town south africa - 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:

4. Paraglide off Lions Head

what to do in cape town paragliding
Paragliding is a great adventure

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

things to do in cape town clifton beach
dinner at 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

things to see in cape town penguins of simons town
See the penguins in 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

things to do in Cape Town Chapman's Peak
Stunning drive along Chapman’s Peak

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

things to do in cape town day trips  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

things to do in cape town south africa | cape pont
Cape Point South Africa

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

cape town thigns to do | helicopter tour
We love helicopter tours

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

dine at the twelve apostles | cape town things to do

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

what to do near cape town wine tastings

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

what to do in cape town 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

things to do near cape town
Franschoek

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”

Wine Tastings

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?

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

16 thoughts on “20 Amazing Things to do in Cape Town, South Africa”

  1. Didn’t knew that much about cape town but now i at least know that where to go and what to do there, although i have done paragliding before but love to do it again and agian

    Reply
  2. South Africa is really the stuff that dreams are made of. There is so much to see and experience here, that it is sheer indulgence for the senses. There is so much to see and experience beyond the wildlife for which it is famed.

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  3. Boulders beach in Simons Town is one of those “must do’s” when visiting Cape Town. Like marching soldiers, the penguins are a joy to watch for the whole family. I’m so glad you guys enjoyed our amazing city so much!

    Reply
  4. What looks cool penguins on the beach. What landscape, even Mother Nature was generous with us. Let us not mock it and to keep several days in the soul to enjoy all that nature gives us.

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  5. Seeing the magnificent views on your photos makes me want to have an escapade there if i could file for a leave. Work has been very stressful and I want to take a break as soon as I can. It will be nice to have some wine drinking in front of a beautiful view in africa.

    Reply
  6. Robben Island is an experience for every single South African. If you haven’t been, take the trip you won’t regret it. Standing in the cell of Mandela is a horrifying yet peaceful feeling. Great article

    Reply
  7. As of today, ComeToCapeTown.com is one of the few Cape Town accommodation providers that still has accommodation available for the upcoming Summer Season. As specialists in Camps Bay apartments, Waterfront Hotels & apartments, Clifton apartments, Camps Bay villas and Holiday Homes and other beach & waterfront accommodation in Cape Town, we are fortunate to have a wide pool of stock from which to draw.

    Reply
  8. Thanks for posting, I really enjoyed reading your most recent post. I think you should post more frequently, you obviously have talent for blogging!

    Reply
  9. That’s what I love about travel–the unexpected connections you make that sometimes make us think, “wow, it’s a small world contained in a big world…” (if that even makes sense!)
    Anyway, I have been dreaming of South Africa, so I hope I get to step in the Southern Hemisphere soon!!

    Reply
  10. Hi Debbie and Dave
    From now on I will be known as Anne Landsman’s aunt (in fact, I am her Aunt’s sister, but we will not be pedantic). When we sat next to the fire chatting I did not realise I was in the company of such accomplished travellers – It was great meeting you, and I can now keep in touch with you on your webstie!
    Good luck
    Grace

    Reply